Posts Tagged ‘Torres’

On December 23rd, after a little over six months at the helm, Rafa Benitez agreed to part ways with Inter Milan.  I’m not a fan of Inter but they did the right thing by getting rid of Benitez.  Inter is currently in seventh place in the standing, thirteen points behind leaders Milan, unacceptable.  That’s not reason enough to get rid of him.  He deserved to go because upon winning the FIFA Club World Cup he decided to give the owner an ultimatum.  He told Massimo Moratti that either the club back him with new signings or they should consider whether or not they wanted to keep him in charge.  Inter chose the latter and they decided that his services were no longer needed.

That didn't last long

Where does Benitez get off making these demands?  Did he not realize that this team has won the last four scudetti (the fifth one was handed to them)?  Did Benitez also forget that Inter just came off a season where they also won the Champions League and Coppa Italia?  Does this sound like a team that needs new signings?  Jose Mourinho was able to get this team to them top so why couldn’t Benitez make it work?  Hell, if Roberto Mancini can win a Scudetto, anyone can.  This team has five titles in the span of one year (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup) but the players weren’t good enough for Rafa Benitez.

Proof anyone can win a Scudetto

Inter has 34 player on the roster.  How do you not win with the likes of Julio Cesar, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Wesley Sneijder, Sulley Muntari, Esteban Cambiasso, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev?  Throw in youngsters Jonathan Biabiany (France), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), and Davide Santon (Italy) and thats a pretty good team.  That’s only fifteen of the thirty-four players on this team.  Too bad Benitez had no use for Mario Balotelli (Manchester City) and Victor Obinna (West Ham), they could have really helped out this team.

Balotelli would've looked good in an Inter uniform....oh, wait

Who did he think he was going to sign?  I know the names of Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were being thrown around in the summer but why should Inter have to pay that much money to improve a team that has won so much in recent years?  Why couldn’t Rafa Benitez make do with what he had?

Sure, Rafa Benitez won a Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, an FA Cup in 2006, and two La Liga titles but what has he done lately?  That sounds harsh but in today’s game you have to win now.  Unless you’re Sir Alex  Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho, what you’ve done in the past doesn’t mean a thing now.  Benitez left Liverpool in ruins and wanted to change Inter in his own image.  Rafa Benitez might have been able to talk Gillett and Hicks into buying every player he wanted but Massimo Moratti doesn’t work that way.  You don’t tell Massimo Moratti what to do.  He does what he wants to do.  Benitez didn’t understand that and it cost him his job.

Massimo Moratti

Do you know who I am?

Where does Rafa Benitez go from here?  His name has enough cache that he’ll be in the running for some major jobs but teams will also be leery of giving him too much authority after seeing what he did with Liverpool and his actions at Inter.  There’s talk of Liverpool being interested in Benitez but that probably just talk.  No way the new owners of Liverpool hand the reins back to the guy who ruined it in the first place.  Roy Hodgson won’t make it through the season as the Liverpool coach but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see Benitez there again.  He’d be better off going back to La Liga and trying to find a team to wrestle the league away from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I thank Inter for giving him a shot because AC Milan was able to take advantage of his poor showing and find its way atop Serie A.  Thanks for the memories Rafa, we hardly knew ya.

This was a long time ago Rafa

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy the Giants won. We managed to get a win with Cliff Lee starting on the mound, the scariest opponent in the postseason in my opinion. But this was one of the worst games of baseball I’ve seen in a long time. The box score really doesn’t do an adequate job of explaining this game. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but today was a perfect game for a rant.

Box Score says 8 hits off Cliff Lee: I would love to say that the Giants got 6 earned runs and 8 hits off of Cliff Lee driving him out of the game before finishing five. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Lee in his true form and I already have his next start marked as a loss for the Giants. Lee didn’t have control of his pitches and when you’re a control and not a speed pitcher, that’s a bad spot to be in. The bright side of this: The Giants capitalized. Honestly, half the time I watch the Giants I swear they would strike out on a tee. They clearly know this (and how could you not? Everyone comments on their miserable offense) and their batting practice was evident. I’m not ready to say they took enough batting practice to be able to hit good pitching, but they did take enough batting practice to be able to hit mistakes. The recent offensive contributions from everyone on the roster not named Cody Ross have also been a welcome change. Hopefully this game was the confidence booster they needed to add continued run support.

Box Score says 8 hits off LIncecum: Lee had a bad game, but so did Lincecum. What was supposed to be an even better pitcher’s duel than last week’s Halladay vs Lincecum turned into a batting practice session.  Lincecum, known for being a strikeout pitcher, only rung up 3 today over 5.2 innings of work. He gave up a double to Cliff Lee. He issued a walk in the first with no outs and a runner on. He’s usually lights out once a runner is on. He luckily calmed down a bit after his first two innings of work and avoided the train wreck that was foreshadowed in the first two innings. He wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t the end of season Tim Lincecum. Unfortunately for Giants starting pitchers, I just don’t think we can win this if they’re anything less than perfect. Our offense produced today, but I don’t think we can count on that continuing. This team is undeniably built off our starting pitching and although it’s unfair to put all the pressure on them, it’s the situation they’ve been in all year. I expect a better outing from Lincecum the second time around…not that improvement from a 6.35 ERA today is an outstanding goal for a two time Cy Young winning pitcher.

Box Score says 6 errors: Thank God for both teams that baserunning errors aren’t included. Just about everything the Giants do on the bases is an error. For having such bad hitting, you would think the Giants would learn to be aggressive on the bases. Instead, they actually supplement their awful hitting with awful baserunning.  I guess I can’t be completely mad at him, going 4 for 5 today, but there’s still not much of an excuse for Freddy Sanchez. In the bottom of the first, a ball got away from Bengie Molina that should have resulted in moving the runner up. Sanchez didn’t even attempt to go to third. With one out, you especially need to take third base if it’s given to you for free so you can set up the sacrifice fly. To add to his baserunning upset, he got doubled up on the next play getting too far off the bag on a fly ball. I’ll give Kinsler credit, he made an amazing play, catching a ball over his shoulder and immediately spinning and throwing to nail Sanchez at second. Only thing is he would have gotten him whether or not he made an amazing play. Sanchez can say he fell, but he fell while three quarters of the way to third. What business does he have being three quarters of the way to third? With one out and a pop fly in potentially catchable zone, he should have been waiting. If they drop it, he’s making it to third even if he’s only a quarter of the way. I won’t go into it, but I also thought Andres Torres should have scored from first on the Sanchez double. As a leadoff hitter, you should have the speed and aggression to score on that when the outfielder is chasing a ball into the corner with his back to you. This also could just be the tipping point for me on Andrew Torres after he refused to steal second in the Phillies series when a ball got away from Carlos Ruiz (similar to Sanchez not stealing third today).

I don’t care if a pitcher can’t hit. Lincecum’s spin move the other day is about what I expect from a pitcher hitting. One thing they should know how to do though: sacrifice bunt. So why is Lincecum turning at the last second as if he’s bunting for a hit? Turning at the last second makes everything about a sac bunt harder; making contact with the ball, making sure your bat head is up, and cradling the ball, so that you’re not pushing It towards the fielders and making a play at second possible. From pitch one Lincecum was turning too late, so it’s no surprise that he popped out and ruined an opportunity to move up his runner.

In the other dugout, I think it was Kinsler, who made the most elementary of baserunning errors and threw away his infield single. After running through first, he made a move towards second before realizing that the ball hadn’t gotten past Aubrey Huff. Heads up fielding by Huff to immediately tag Kinsler out.

Box Score says the Giants used 5 pitchers in the final 2 innings: For a bullpen that gets as much credit as the Giants, I am a bit sad that Bochy used so many pitchers to close out the last two innings when we had a four run lead going into the eighth and a 7 run lead going into the ninth and there’s a game tomorrow. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk of having a sore bullpen.

Bright sides to the game:

It was nice to see some 3-2 counts. A characteristic swing happy team finally worked the count and got Lee out early. They were disciplined and made Lee throw over 100 pitches before getting retired.

Santiago Casilla came out hard after struggling a bit with Philly. No issues today.

Freddy Sanchez hitting 4 for 5. Our number 1 and 2 hitters are finally producing and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Juan Uribe. The following is a quote from a gchat conversation I was having with a friend around the fourth inning.

Me: “Uribe wants a homerun or nothing. Bad hitting.”

Friend: “It’s Juan Uribe. Of course it’s bad hitting.”

This friend is a Dodgers fan, so I was thrilled when he jinxed Uribe for the better and Uribe made it to those fences he was swinging for. Although his 4 at bats today included 3 swinging strikeouts (the true box score of someone looking for a homerun), I couldn’t be happier with the timing of his hit. Just as the Rangers pulled Cliff Lee hoping that that would be the end of their woes for the day, Uribe crushed it and kicked them while they were down. Wonderful and much appreciated.

Taking the first game was huge for the Giants, and more important is making sure they win as many home games as possible since it’s not gonna be easy in Texas.

I would love to see the Giants bring a championship to San Francisco, but I’d really rather see it in a good series. Tomorrow I’m hoping for the good starting pitching this series promised and less than 6 errors.

I would just like to conclude by responding to another comment made to me earlier, and say that I still don’t believe Cliff Lee is human.

I repeat: NOT HUMAN

Sand-Rant

The World Cup is over and Spain are your new Champions.  First Euro 2008 and now this?  I guess we have to respect Spain in international competitions now and not wait for them to eventually choke.  The Final was probably one of the best deciding games since I can remember (1982).  Both teams wanted to win and not just play conservatively, hoping they could put the ball in the net while not really going forward.  Both teams gave it a go but one goal was all it took.  Thank God we didn’t go to penalties because this game was just too good to be decided like that.

Spain: Your 2010 World Cup Champions

On to the game:

Netherlands – Spain (0-1 aet)

Goal – Iniesta (ESP) 116’

Red Card – Heitinga (NED) 109’

Before the match, referee Howard Webb’s wife said she was surprised her husband got the call to be the Final’s ref because he can’t even control his kids at home.  Funny, but she was right.  He was not in control of this game.  The players cared very little if they were getting a yellow card or not.  It’s the Final and there’s no tomorrow so if you have to foul, foul hard and don’t worry about jawing at the ref, all he can do is give you a yellow.  Webb was giving out card like they were going out of style, fourteen in all, including a red to John Heitinga (Everton) for his second yellow of the game.  Webb had no control of a game that most referees would’ve had trouble with.  Did he do a good job?  Kind of.  A red earlier in the game would have put an end to the chippy play.  Otherwise, he did about as good as anyone could have in same situation.

The statistics say Spain had 57% of the possession but watching it I thought it was much closer than that.  Spain would go on runs where the Netherlands couldn’t put anything together and then the Netherlands would control the ball and have Spain on it’s heels.  Spain had more shots, 19 to 13, but the actual shots on goal were only 6 to 5 in favor of Spain.  Maybe it was that sixth shot that made the difference.

Both teams looked as if they could’ve played another ninety minutes but as soon as Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) scored at 116’, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the rest of the Dutch players had a look of disbelief and all the energy was sucked out of them.  Robben lay on the ground, shaking his head and looking like a man defeated.  It didn’t matter that four minutes plus injury time were left on the clock.  They just didn’t have the will to fight anymore.  One second more was one second too much.

Iniesta will probably never have to buy another drink in Spain, ever.

I don’t understand what Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk was thinking with his substitutions?  Now’s the part of the post where I second guess the coach and tell you how I would’ve done things better.

The first substitution was Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) in for Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) at 71’.  So a forward playing as a midfielder was taken out for a forward who likes playing midfield.  Why?  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) was the only true forward on the pitch for Holland and he managed to get all of one shot on goal and it wasn’t even on target.  Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Robin were doing all of the work of front and Van Persie was along for the ride.  Why not bring in Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan).  I know I extolled the virtues of Elia in an earlier post but that was then and this is the Finals.  Huntelaar is a proven goal scorer who actually scored in one of his sub appearances.  Maybe Kuyt was spent but Van Persie needed to go at that point.  Kuyt probably worked as hard as anyone this whole World Cup.

Substitution number two was Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) for Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) at 99’.  So a holding midfielder was taken out for an attacking midfielder.  Why?  Again, why was Van Persie allowed to stay on when he obviously wasn’t doing anything except accusing the Spanish players of diving.  In the twenty-eight minutes since Elia came in, Robben and Sneijder were still carrying Van Persie.  I’m not saying De Jong should’ve stayed in but Huntelaar would’ve worked in that situation also.

The third and final substitution was defender Edson Braafheid (Celtic) for defender Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) at 105’.  Van Bronckhorst was probably out of gas by then but why bring in unused Braafheid when you have proven defenders in Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven) and Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) on the bench?  Both played well when they were called on to start in earlier games.  Puzzling call.  Not to say that Braafheid caused the Netherlands to lose but I would’ve went with a more experienced player at that time of the game.  Braafheid doesn’t see any action all World Cup and then you expect him to play in the last fifteen minutes of the whole tournament.  Again, why?

Congrats to Spain.  The shook off an opening game defeat to Switzerland to win the whole thing.  No way this team was the best team in the tournament but they played like it.  You’d think a team with this many great names would’ve scored more goals but whatever they did was effective.

One question for Vincente Del Bosque, how many times were you going to let Pedro (Barcelona) do nothing on the pitch before you decided that maybe Fernando Torres (Liverpool, for now) should’ve started instead.  Pedro is a good player but not in this tournament.  Plus, the first sub for Spain was forward Jesus Navas (Sevilla) for Pedro.  Jesus Navas?  You have Torres, Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao) and Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia) and you choose Navas?  Really?  Torres finally came in at 106’ for a nearly dead David Villa (Barcelona).  A bit late don’t you think?  Luckily Iniesta bailed him out or he would’ve had to explain why he made or didn’t make those moves.

In the Third Place game, Germany beat Uruguay 3-2.  I won’t talk about it much because the Third Place Game really doesn’t mean much unless your from Uruguay or Germany or whoever is involved in this game.  Germany fought back from 2-1 down to win the game.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) scored one for Uruguay and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) got one back for Germany.  With that, Forlan wins the Goldon Ball for tournament’s MVP and Mueller wins the Golden Boot for the World Cup’s leading scorer (five goals, three assists).  Mueller also picks up the Best Young Player award.  Teams are lining up to sign Mueller, who’s only twenty years old.

We're gonna be hearing alot from Mueller for years to come

All in all it was a great World Cup.  South Africa should be proud.  There were no glaring problems and the tournament went off without a hitch.  Hopefully the vuvzela can be banned before the next World Cup.  Interesting note:  New Zealand is the only team not to lose a game in this tournament.  Good for you All Whites.  I picked you to be one of the worst teams coming in.

See you in four years time.  Look for my preview somewhere around June 1, 2014.  Thanks and I hope you enjoyed following this tournament with me.  I saw all sixty-four games and they weren’t all great but it was fun writing about them.  Thanks to Aidan and Joe S. for all the feedback.

I can't believe I have to wait four years!

The Semi-finals are over and we will have an all European Final and a first time winner.  Uruguay held on as long as they could against the Dutch but Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) couldn’t win the game by himself.  Germany was missing Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) and couldn’t get over on Spain.  Both very good games and the Finals should be must see.

On to the games:

Uruguay – Netherlands (2-3)

Goals – Van Bronckhorst (NED) 18’, Forlan (URU) 41’, Sneijder (NED) 70’, Robben (NED) 73’, Pereira (URU) 90’+2

I don’t know how many people outside of Uruguay actually thought Uruguay would win this game.  It would have been a nice story but realistically the Netherlands were just too strong.  Even if Luis Suarez (Ajax) wasn’t suspended it would’ve been hard for the South Americans to advance.  The Netherlands are clicking and even though you may only be hearing about Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), this team is stacked and everyone has played fantastically.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) is doing a lot of work that goes unnoticed when you don’t score.  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) is attracting defender which leaves more space for Sneijder and Robben.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich) is starting everything from the midfield.  All great stuff but you only get your name in the highlights and the stories if you score.

The main statistics were about even with the Netherlands holding a slight advantage in time of possession.

With Luis Suarez missing, Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was in as the other forward to compliment Forlan.  Cavani is mainly a forward but has been playing more of a midfield role when Suarez has been in the games.  No big deal there except Suarez is slightly better but it probably didn’t make much of a difference.

The Netherlands were without defender Gregory Van Der Wiel (Ajax) and midfielder Nigel De Jong (Manchester City), who were both sitting out due to yellow card suspensions.  Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) took over in defense while Demy De Zeeuw (Ajax) was in the midfield.  Boulahrouz played well but De Zeeuw, not so much.

Goivanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) put the Netherlands on the board before the twenty minute mark with what has to be the best goal of the tournament.  He ripped in a shot from at least thirty meters.  Nice!  Not to be outdone, Diego Forlan drew Uruguay level right before the half with a long shot that Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax) got a hand on but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

The second half was all Oranje and the late Uruguay goal from Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica) really didn’t matter.  The Netherlands had the game in hand by then.  This game could’ve very easily been 4-2 or 5-2.

Just a note, how far has Ryan Babel (Liverpool) fallen?  He can’t get on the field at Anfield and somehow he makes this team only to never see the light of day.  He needs a switch.  He should leave Liverpool and go to a team that would give him quality minutes.  He’s only twenty-three and his career is at a stand still.  On the other hand, with Fernando Torres most likely leaving Liverpool will Babel get more playing time?  Just a thought.

Germany – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Puyol (ESP) 73’

Spain had the greater time of possession, more shots and more shots on goal.  How?  Germany was only missing one player, Thomas Mueller, but they looked like a completely different team.  Germany was lost and how does that happen.  Germany was flat.  That should not happen to a German team.  As good as they were throughout the World Cup, this game tarnishes that.  Sure Mueller was a big loss but that doesn’t erase having Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen) and Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) on the pitch.  How does a team with that time of midfield creativity and firepower only manage two legitimate shots on goal?  Shocking!

It’s just me but why didn’t Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) play in place of Mueller instead of Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV)?

Thanks to Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) this game wasn’t 4-0.  Spain kept coming and coming but Neuer was always up for it.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen) and Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV) looked ordinary.  They were employing the England and USA technique of giving guys too  much space.  Ouch!

Manuel Neuer was the only German player who did any real work

Pedro (Barcelona) got the start over Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and I’m not convinced it was a bad thing.  Torres has been average in this World Cup.  I wonder who will get the start against The Netherlands in the Final or will Spain go with one, lone forward in David Villa (Barcelona)?  My feeling, Spain would be wrong to think that they can be effective with only one forward against The Netherlands.

Sunday it’s Netherlands – Spain and I’m not really that excited.  I was hoping for a Netherlands – Germany matchup and Spain winning took away most of my excitement.  Will I watch the game?  You better believe I wouldn’t miss a World Cup Final for anything.  The only time I would consider not watching is if the USA were in the Finals but we all know that’ll never happen.  Expect to hear a lot of Clockwork Orange references in the buildup to the game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Netherlands beats Spain 3-1.

The Netherlands have great fans

The first round of group games are done and now things start to get interesting.  All the games on tap promised to be good and they delivered.  Spain showed that even though they won Euro 2008, they still know how to fade in big games.  The refereeing continues to be better than expected.  This World Cup has really entertained me and we’re not even a week in.

On to the games:

Honduras – Chile (0-1)

Goals – Beausejour (CHI) 34′

Chile’s Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa continues the odd of coaches sitting one of their best, talented players for someone talented but lesser know players.  Can someone tell me why Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) was sitting on the bench and only came in at 87′.  He was only in for about six minutes but he was all over the place.  I noticed he was a bit of a ball hog but this is the World Cup, everyone is.  Honduras’ Columbian coach didn’t want to be outdone so he left David Suazo (Genoa) on the bench for the whole game.  Ridiculous!

Good enough to play in Italy but not good enough to play for Honduras

Chile deserved to win this game.  The had the edge in posession, shots and shots on goal.  Honduras played well but they just aren’t as talented as Chile.  I didn’t realize that Chile hasn’t won a World Cup game in about a century.  I thought the Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano teams had some success in World Cups past.

Spain – Switzerland (0-1)

Goal – Fernandes (SUI) 52′

Spain OWNED this game in every way but found a way to lose.  I get that this team wasn’t gonna go 4-3-3 but couldn’t Spanish coach Vincente Del Bosque find a spot for one of Pedro (Barcelona) or Fernando Torres (Liverpool)?  Along with David Villa (Barcelona) one of those two would make the Spanish front line as feared as any in this tournament.  Instead, Spain comes out in a 4-5-1.  Smart!  One goal would have probably gotten Spain at least three in this game against a not so hot Switzerland.  Now Spain are looking up at Chile and Switzerland and wondering why they didn’t win this game.

Good enough to play anywhere in the world, except for Spain

Switzerland didn’t play well but a lucky bounce to Gelson Fernandes (Saint-Etienne) and Switzerland got the only goal they would need.  A shots by Spain, a post by Spain, and Switzerland almost making it two and the game was over and Spain is left pondering what should’ve been.

South Africa – Uruguay (0-3)

Goals – Forlan (URU) 24′ and 80′ penalty, Pereira (URU) 90’+5

Red Card – Khune (RSA) 76′

Uruguay was on fire in this game.  Time of posession was the same, shots were close but Uruguay was just better.  They looked smoother.  Diego Forlan’s (Atletico Madrid) long range shot was off a deflection but it was awesome.

I know I said the refereeing was good but the linesman have not been so good this World Cup and they made another mistake in this game.  At 76′ Luis Suarez (Ajax) was taken down by keeper Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs) and Uruguay were awarded a penalty which they converted.  The referee had no choice but to show Khune the red.  The only problem was that Suarez was offsides when the ball was passed  to him.  He got the ball all alone in front of goal and Khune had to do what he had to do.  Play should’ve never happened if the linesman did his job.  He was in position but he flat missed it.  Uruguay would’ve probably won anyway but instead on 2-0 Uruguay at 80′, it’s still 1-0 and everything to play for.

Khune should have never seen red

Uruguay look the goods and their next game with Mexico should be very interesting.  That game, in my opinion, will be for top spot in the group.  Nice to see that South Africa’s Coach Parreira came to his senses and started Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa) over Lucas Thwala (Orlando Pirates) in defense.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (1),  France (1), South Africa (1) – Mexico/France still to play second game.

Group B:

South Korea (3), Argentina (3), Nigeria (0), Greece (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand (1), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (3), Ivory Coast (1), Portugal (1), North Korea (0)

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

The World Cup is finally here and I’m here to get you up to speed on what’s gonna happen in South Africa.  Remember to come back after every matchday to get my thoughts on what’s going on in the World Cup.

I don’t think there’s much excitement from the other contributors at Reverse Oreo Sports but my excitement level is at near Wrestlemania levels.  As I stated in my preview to this preview, I haven’t missed a minute of the World Cup since 1994.  I watched a ton of games between 1982 and 1990 but they didn’t always have every game on or I would have been all over them too.  I’m already planning my sleep schedule around these games because living in Korea means we’ll have games starting at 8:30 pm and the latest game starting at 3:30 am.

There are so many great players in this World Cup but it seems to me that there are not that many great teams.  Before writing this post I was all over England and germany doing well in the tournament but looking at the groups and the games more closely, I’ve had a change of heart.  I want England to win but I just don’t think they can.  Fabio Capello might be able to get more out of England than any other coach but it may not be enough.  Italy shouldn’t do well but somehow they’ll manage.  So many storylines and that’s what makes the World Cup so great.

World Cup 2010 in South Africa should be interesting.  The venue makes it even more interesting.  Will there be problems?  I hope not.  Africa deserved to finally host this prestigious tournament and South Africa was probably the best choice.  I’m sure there will be minor glitches but there always are, except at Germany 2006 because the Germans know how to get things done.

I grew up watching Italy because the family is from there so they will always be my team but this team is annoying the hell out of me.  For the past eight years this team has been so whiney and annoying that it’s been hard for me to root for them but I always do and always will.  I’m looking forward to the new generation of Italian stars.  Maybe they’ll be more tolerable than this one.

Let me drop some knowledge on you.

Group A (France, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay):

France

As we all know, France shouldn’t be in this World Cup but they are and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t make it out of this group.  They’re stacked but this team won’t go too far.  Hugo Lloris (Lyon) is one of the top keepers in the world so he should be solid.  On of my favorite players, Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), is on this team but the player to watch might be midfielder Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux).  He was with AC Milan for a bit but they let him loose (too soon).  Everyone wants him and he should be moving on to bigger and better things later this summer.

Mexico

My sleeper team in this World Cup is Mexico.  I have them making some noise in this tournament.  They’re a young team with a surprising amount of European based players.  It’s probably the most European based players Mexico has ever had going into any World Cup.  Giovani Dos Santos (Galatasaray) should be the star and he can make things happen.  I saw Mexico beat Italy last week in a friendly and Mexico just looked faster, quicker and had more energy than the Italians.

Giovani Dos Santos will make some noise

South Africa

South Africa are the hosts but that might be all they have going for them.  No host nation has ever failed to make it out of the first round.  This might be the year it happens.  Steven Pienaar (Everton) is the brightest star on this team but the rest of the squad is so-so.  There are sixteen South African League based players and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  Anyway, thanks for hosting.

Uruguay

I want to like Uruguay but they might not have enough to get themselves to the second round.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) should give teams fits but the midfield is where they might not stack up.  I hope Palermo’s Edinson Cavani gets a chance to show his stuff but most likely England is in his future.

Group winner:  Mexico

Runner-up:  France

Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece):

Argentina

How does a team as stacked as Argentina limp into the World Cup?  Somehow Diego Maradona is a big help and a huge hinderance to this team.  Hopefully he can keep it together through the tournament without hitting or shooting anyone.  The Inter duo of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso are huge omissions but let’s not forget that the greatest player in the world is on this team.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) should OWN this World Cup.  If he struggles, so does Argentina.  If Diego Milito (Inter) is his strike partner, they should be unstoppable.  Will Carlos Tevez (Man City, for now) get the nod over Milito?  Tough choices for El Pibe de Oro.  By the way, Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) and Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) are also forwards on this team.  That’s a nice problem to have.

The king of the (soccer) world

Nigeria

This team should do well but will they?  Playing on African soil doesn’t hurt.  Nigeria has a lot of good players but not great ones and that’s what will keep them down.  Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) is key for this team.

Korea Republic (the good one)

South Korea has a ton of talent but most of it is in the midfield.  Park Ji Sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung Yong (Bolton), and Kim Sung Yeung (Celtic) will control the game for the Reds but who’s gonna put the ball in the net?  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) is on the big stage playing in France but he only had eight goals in twenty appearances in Ligue 1.  An aging Ahn Jung Hwan (Dalian Shide) is on this team but it may only be for sentimental purposes.  Lee Seung Yeoul (FC Seoul) probably be the player to pick up the slack.

Greece

Sure Greece won Euro 2004 but what have you done lately?  This team doesn’t scare me one bit.  Georgios Samaras (Celtic) and Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) are probably the best players on this team.  I would tell you about more players but I don’t want to type all those a’s, o’s, i’s, u’s, s’s and t’s.

Group winner:  Argentina

Runner-up:  South Korea

Group C (Algeria, England, Slovenia, USA):

Algeria

At first I thought this team was France II but, looking at their roster, I was wrong.  Algerian players are all over Europe, not just France.  They play in nine different European leagues.  Algeria was good enough to beat African powerhouses Egypt to make it to the World Cup but not good enough to make it out of the first round in South Africa.

England

This England team is very good but it will only go as far as their goalkeeping will take them and that’s the problem.  David James (Portsmouth) is shaky, Joe Hart (Birmingham City) is young and Robert Green (West Ham) is new.  If Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) continues his hot form, this team will be fun to watch.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) is out but that’s not the biggest loss to this team, Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United) is.  Hargreaves was by far the best player for England in Germany 2006.  He could play anywhere and came up huge when the team needed him.  Sadly, he hasn’t played much in the last 19 months due to an injury.  Versatile players are gold to a team.

You will be missed Owen Hargreaves

Slovenia

This team usually does not play good defensively but Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble) will be their rock on defense and it should improve.  This is a very young team.  I don’t know why but this team will make some waves in this group.  I’m a sucker for teams that have players whose last names end in ic.  Maybe that’s why I also like Serbia in this tournament.  Samir Handanovic (Udinese) is a proven keeper in Serie A and that could be the difference between them finishing second or third.

USA

As much as I’m not a fan of USA Soccer, this team has talent.  Not just mediocre MLS talent but talent with real European experience.  I hope they’re not expecting too much from Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), seeing as how he missed the entire Serie A season due to an injury.  Plus, he just wasn’t that good when he was healthy anyway.  Is Jozy Altidore (Hull City) the answer?  He didn’t do much in England this year.  I’m sure the big fish in a small pond, Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) will get a lot of face time.  Whatever!

One of the reasons why I like the World Cup is because it’s the time every four years when the US pretends to care about soccer and vow to take it to the next level in the hearts of all Americans.  Not so much.  They forget that four years ago the level of interest was exactly the same, no more, no less.

Group winner:  England

Runner-up:  Slovenia

Group D (Australia, Germany, Ghana, Serbia):

Australia

Australia has a lot of players you may have heard of but none that really scare you.  Tim Cahill (Everton) is their biggest weapon but he’s struggling to be fit for the opener against Germany.  Don’t expect too much from this team.

Germany

Germany is a machine when it comes to big time competitions.  Michael Ballack (Chelsea) is out but I’m sure this team will be just fine.  Expect big things from Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne) and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich).

Bastian will be Germany's BMOC

Ghana

Because of their quickness and pace, Ghana did a lot of damage in the 2006 World Cup but this team might not be as good as that one.  The loss of Michael Essien (Chelsea) is a big one.  Sulley Muntari (Inter) and Stephen Appiah (Bologna) will have to carry the load.  Another African team that won’t go far.

Serbia

Serbia, formally known as Serbia and Monetenegro, formally known as Yugoslavia, are very talented.  Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio). Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Dejan Stankovic (Inter) and Nikola Zigic (Valencia) are all big stars in Europe and they can get this team out of the first round.  The only problem I see is that they have a retread in Radomir Antic at the helm.

Group winner:  Germany

Runner-up:  Serbia

Group E (Cameroon, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands)

Cameroon

You never know which Cameroon team will show up to the big games.  This team is very young.  Even Samuel Eto’o (Inter)  is only 28 years old.  Cameroon might do better in another group but Denmark and the Netherlands are better.

Denmark

This team should have a pretty good defense with the likes of Christian Poulsen (Juventus), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Simon Kjaer (Palermo) and Per Kroldrup (Fiorentina).  That’s formidable.  Forward Nicklas Bendtner (Liverpool) likes like he’ll be back from a groin injury in time for the opener.  Not too many people are talking up Denmark but this is a solid team.

Japan

Most likely a down tournament for Japan.  Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) are the stars but there is little else to be excited about.  They were beaten at home 2-0 by South Korea in a friendly in late May.

Netherlands

This team is filled with talent but the injury to Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) casts a big shadow over the team.  He’s surely out of the opener with Denmark.  I think they might be able to do without him for the opening round of this weak group.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) can pick up the slack until round two.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) should be lethal up front.  Huntelaar is my pick to be among the top scorers in the tournament.

I can see this guy scoring a lot of goals

Group winner:  Netherlands

Runner-up:  Denmark

Group F (Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia)

Italy

How Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria) and Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo) didn’t make this team is beyond me but coach Lippi has his “guys” and who are we to change his mind?  There has to be a reason why Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) is on this team.  It just can’t be the fact that he plays for Juventus.

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) looks like he’ll be ready for the opener but he might still sit out just to be safe.  He suffered a groin injury in a friendly against Mexico last week.  He’s key.  This team is an older team and don’t expect them to repeat.  They’ll get lucky like they always do and go far but no more magic.

New Zealand

This team should be happy to be here.  If Australia stays in the Oceania region then the Kiwi’s are just watching this tournament on television.  New Zealand is probably one of the worst teams in the World Cup.  There are quite a few local players on this team and that’s not good (see South Africa).  Plus, there are two players who aren’t even attached to a league team anywhere.  How does that happen?  Not much to say.

Paraguay

Looks like a solid team and hopefully Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) can knock off some the rust and make a difference for this team.  Paraguay likes to grind out games and they’re not big on scoring in the World Cup.  Let’s hope they can be more interesting this year.  They’re lucky to be in this weak group.

Slovakia

As far as I can tell, Marek Hamsik (Napoli) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) are the best players on this team and everyone else is “good”.  Not good enough for this World Cup but this is a really young team.  Watch out for the Czech Republic’s less popular sister at Brazil 2014.

It's too soon for Hamsik but at Brazil 2014, watch out for Slovakia

Group winner:  Italy

Runner-up:  Paraguay

Group G (Brazil, Ivory Coast, Korea DPR, Portugal)

Brazil

No Ronaldinho, no problem.  Brazil is just Brazil.  They got younger and are just as good as ever.  Kaka (Real Madrid) is the key and it doesn’t matter who’s playing alongside him because they’re all good.  They’ll probably coast in the last game of round one because it won’t mean much.  Champs?

Ivory Coast

Before the tournament everyone tries to figure out which African team will go the furthest.  How about none of them?  They all don’t make it out of round one.  This is the best African team in the tournament but not the best African team out there.  Egypt would have done well had they been able to beat Algeria in the one-off game to get into the World Cup.  Too bad Didier Drogba (Chelsea) will be limited because of an elbow injury sustained during a friendly against Japan.  As Drogba goes, so does the team.

Korea DPR (the bad one)

Don’t know much about this team except that they only have three players who ply their trade abroad.  The rest of the players come from the PRK League and I have a feeling that league isn’t one of the strongest in Asia.  They had a ton of trouble with Nigeria in a friendly last week.  I’ll be surprised if they score a goal.  On a side note, I heard that the North Korea games will be shown in the DPRK only if they win.  Looks like North Koreans won’t get the chance to see World Cup soccer.

Win or don't come home

Portugal

If Portugal can take time away from diving to actually play good soccer, they will have no trouble in this group.  The Brazil-Portugal match-up will be one of the marquee games of this tournament.  Too bad it’s the last game in the group and won’t mean much.  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) will own the center of the midfield and Nani (Manchester United) should be causing trouble over on the right side.  Defensively they’re solid.

Group winner:  Brazil

Runner-up:  Portugal

Group H (Chile, Honduras, Spain, Switzerland)

Chile

Chile will make it out of this group because they’re better than Honduras and Switzerland but not much further than that.  Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) and Humberto Suazo (Zaragoza) will team up at forward and should be able to punish everyone except Spain.

Mark Gonzalez should be enough to get Chile over

Honduras

Honduras has some quality players.  Wilson Palacios (Tottenham), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), David Suazo (Genoa), and Victor Bernardez (Anderlecht) have made it in Europe but I’m not sold on the rest.

Spain

Remember when Spain was supposed to go into World Cups and European Cups and be great, only to fade early?  I do.  Am I supposed to forget about that since they won Euro 2008?  Looking at this team, maybe I can.  Will Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, for now) be fit?  That’s huge.  David Villa (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool) should score lots of goals.  This team goes far.

Switzerland

Switzerland has a collection of good but not great players.  No one really excites me enough to choose Switzerland over Chile.

Group winner:  Spain

Runner-up:  Chile

Round 2 (Round of 16):

1A v 2B – Mexico v Korea – Winner:  Mexico

1C v 2D – England v Serbia – Winner:  England

1D v 2C – Germany v Slovenia – Winner:  Germany

1B v 2A – Argentina v France – Winner:  Argentina

1E v 2F – Netherlands v Paraguay – Winner:  Netherlands

1G v 2H – Brazil v Chile – Winner:  Brazil

1F v 2E – Italy v Denmark – Winner:  Italy

1H v 2G – Spain v Portugal – Winner:  Spain

Quarterfinal:

Netherlands v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Mexico v England – Winner:  England

Argentina v Germany – Winner:  Germany

Italy v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Semifinal:

England v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Brazil will be too fast for England.

Germany v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Germany will want to try and slow this game down but they might not be able to stop Spain

Final

Brazil v Spain

If this final happens it will be one of the best finals ever.

Champion

Brazil

This team is just too stacked to not win the World Cup.

Top Scorers:

Lionel Messi

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

David Villa

World Cup MVP:

Kaka

I didn’t mention them but I hope the referees don’t ruin this World Cup.  Be consistent and don’t try to be an important part of the game.  If you go through a game without noticing the referee, that’s a good referee.  Unfortunately, Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal is one of the referees in the tournament.  I mentioned him in February and said he shouldn’t get another big game after his performance in the AC Milan – Manchester United Champions League, round of 16, first leg match.  Somehow, he’s in South Africa.  Roberto Rosetti of Italy is also in the World Cup.  Why?  Is this the best Italy can produce?

Enjoy the World Cup.  I know I will.

Looks like the trophy will be headed to Brazil. Hopefully no one steals it, again