With the World Cup kicking off in just a couple hours here are my predictions for the first phase.Group A
Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, EcuadorHow will the group play out?
Germany will take first place, but one of these teams will get a tie out of them. Costa Rica will surprise a lot of people when they manage a second place finish while Poland's fans will go home empty handed as another finals sees them exiting in the first phase. As far as Ecuador, they will get a point, but without the advantage of altitude, they will not have much success.Best match of the group
Germany vs. Poland (14 June) - neighbors fighting is always fun to watchTeams advancing
Me - Germany, Costa Rica
Wife - Germany, PolandGroup B
England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, SwedenHow will the group play out?
England is not yet at full force, but they have been gifted a relatively easy group. They should be able to win all three, but Sweden might pull of a tie as they are the biggest competition for England. Paraguay has an outside chance, but they are too weak in the midfield to move out of the group. T&T is the team all people hope moves on, but these first timers with only one big player is bound to go home after three matches.Best match of the group
England vs. Sweden (20 June) - Winner should take the groupTeams advancing
Me - England, Sweden
Wife - England, SwedenGroup C
Argentina, Côte d'Ivoire, Serbia and Montenegro, NetherlandsHow will the group play out?
This is one of the two 'Groups of Death' in the finals as any team could move along. Argentina is always good, and normally get out of their group, but they often under perform after that. Côte d'Ivoire is probably the best African team in Germany. but they will be hard pressed to get more then a couple points. Serbia and Montenegro had a good run in qualifying, but should be the 'easiest' team in the group. The Netherlands have all the makings of a big team in 2006 and with fans pouring in from next door, they should be able to make it out of the group in first place.Best match of the group
Argentina vs. Netherlands (21 June) - Their styles are different enough to make for very interesting playTeams advancing
Me - Netherlands, Argentina
Wife - Argentina, NetherlandsGroup D
Mexico, Iran, Angola, PortugalHow will the group play out?
Mexico was lucky to get a seed and even luckier to get this group as they match up well against all of them. Expect them to tie or lose one game. Iran is much better then 2002, but with all the political crap swirling around them, they might be distracted. It is great to see Angola in the Cup, but they are not of quality to walk away with more then a point. Portugal is always underperforming, but since they are playing on Europe, they should be able to get out of the group.Best match of the group
Iran vs. Portugal (17 June) - This should be the battle for second place.Teams advancing
Me - Mexico, Portugal
Wife - Mexico, PortugalGroup E
Italy, Ghana, USA, Czech RepublicHow will the group play out?
Here is the second 'Group of Death'. This might also be called the group of goalkeepers as USA, Czech R and Italy have three of the best keepers in the tournament. Italy has the hype, but they also have a rash of injuries and the scandal back home. If they come out weak, their fans will turn on them. Ghana will surprise someone in this group as they are the forgotten and they are too good to be tossed aside. USA brings a healthy team, yet one that is still a bit of a second though to most of the soccer world. Their hardest fight will be getting goals, but if Eddie Johnson or Donovan can start finding the net, they will shock the world. The Czechs missed their best chance in 2002 as they are now an old squad. With all there injuries and their slower speed, it will be difficult for them to live up to their ranking.Best match of the group
USA vs. Italy (17 June)- Could this be the meeting of new vs. old soccer power? Should decide the group, however all matches will be good.Teams advancing
Me - USA, Italy
Wife - USA, Czech RepublicGroup F
Brazil, Croatia, Australia, JapanHow will the group play out?
Brazil will win this group, but one of the three teams will give them a scare. Croatia's strength is their defense. If a team can crack that just once, they should get a tie, twice and they will win. Australia is happy to be here, but with Guus Hiddink, he might be able to pull this team through to the next round. Japan has not looked that great of late, but they always have the chance of beating teams with their speed. I think this will be the only group that does not see a European team move through.Best match of the group
Australia vs. Japan (12 June) - They are now confederation mates, so this should be the start of a great rivalry.Teams advancing
Me - Brazil, Japan
Wife - Brazil, JapanGroup G
France, Switzerland, Korea Republic, TogoHow will the group play out?
France is old and breaking down. They should be able to get out of the group, but they will take a knock. Switzerland had to fight France in the qualifying rounds and just like then, they will come in second here. South Korea had their moment in '02, but they team has a difficult time stringing together passes, so they will fall. Togo might pull off a surprise, but with all odds, it will be three and out.Best match of the group
France vs. Switzerland (13 June) - These two know each other, so it will either be a snore or ultimate excitement.Teams advancing
Me - France, Switzerland
Wife - France, SwitzerlandGroup H
Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi ArabiaHow will the group play out?
Can Spain actually perform in a World Cup? If they can't do it in this group, they never will. Ukraine looked good in qualifying, but they only have one offensive threat in Andriy Shevchenko. Tunisia are having injury problems, meaning their all ready difficult task just became near impossible. Saudi Arabia will do better then '02, but not good enough to move along.Best match of the group
Spain vs. Ukraine (14 June) - This game will set the tone for the group.Teams advancing
Me - Spain, Ukraine
Wife - Spain, Ukraine
Labels: US MNT