Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Draw is Over, Let the Speculation Begin

I hope your World Cup draw festivities were as fun and wonderful as mine. But now that all the merriment is out of the way, let's take a look at what happened.

Here are the groups.

Group A: Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador

Group B: England, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden

Group C: Argentina, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro, Holland

Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal

Group E: Italy, Ghana, USA, Czech Republic

Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Australia, Japan

Group G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo

Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Germany got a relatively friendly draw, however, I'm sure the police are a little concerned about facing Poland. The Germans should be able to get past all three of these teams. Costa Rica could surprise, but Poland or Ecuador have better chances.

England has to be happy with their group. England beat Paraguay 4-0 earlier this year in a friendly, so they should be on mark to do it again in Germany. Sweden is an obvious pick for second place in this group, but if their offense fails, Paraguay might just push by them. Trinidad & Tobago are my sentimental favorites, but it is hard to imagine them getting out of this group.

Argentina find themselves right back in a 'group of death.' I thought that any group that got the Netherlands would get the 'death' notice, so this is not a huge surprise. I expect these two to move on, but I would not be shocked to see one of them miss out.

Mexico found themselves in a good group, but they will need to watch out for Portugal and a shock from Iran. Angola will need luck to run their way if they are to have any hope. All and all, I think Portugal is going to win this group with Mexico fighting it out for second.

Italy and the other 'group of death.' I know most folks are looking at group C as the death group, but I think E can make a strong case for such a name. Italy is a team that is underappreciated by most non-European media while the USA is underappreciated by everyone (except for hardcore US fans). It's going to take amazing defense to shut down the Czechs and a strong midfield to cool the Italians, but I think the US might just be able to do that. Yes, this is a hard group for America (almost a worst case scenario), but it is also a group that could earn us a great deal of respect. It will be difficult, but I think it can happen. Italy and the Czechs are the favorites, but it is not the difficult to see one of them being replaced by the USA.

Brazil should be able to make it out of their group, but they do have three good opponents in Croatia, Australia and Japan. I think Croatia is going to have the hardest time in this group, but Japan will need to figure out their scoring problems if they want to get to the knockout phase. As far as Australia, this is a perfect fit for them. They will fall to Brazil, but they can beat both the other teams (but will they be able to do it?).

France is a team that I think will have trouble in Germany, but thanks to this draw, they should get out of their group. South Korea should also be thrilled with this outcome, as they are better then the Swiss most of the time. That said, if the Swiss can figure out their backline, they might not get rolled. For Togo, it will be great to be there, but I don't think they should book a month long stay.

Luck has a new name and it is Spain. There are no easy games in a World Cup, but this is the easiest group. Spain should be able to pull it together long enough to see off a couple of these sides, but this group really could go any which way. I could see Ukraine, Tunisia or Saudi Arabia going on a run just long enough to get one of the top two spots or I could see them dropping games like crazy. Spain is the favorite, but that might cause them to under prepare.

There you have my first bit of speculation. I'm sure I will change my mind about 182 times between now and the start of the cup, but for now, this is what I think.


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