Sunday, October 17, 2010

Euro 2012 Qualifiers

First off, I want to apologize for not writing in a while and for interrupting my best of the 90's posts, but I just finally read my brothers Premier League breakdown. First off, I want to commend him for a great piece of writing, and I felt I would keep up with his soccer motif and write about the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Outside of the World Cup I would have to say that the European Championship is the most exciting competition in the world (yes, more than the Summer Olympics). Europe has the best concentration of talented soccer countries in the world, which was reflected in the 13 teams their continent sent to the world cup in 2010 (the next best continent, Africa, sent 6, including hosts South Africa).

Like the World Cup, The European Championships are held every four years, and teams face a grueling qualifying campaign that began this past September for most countries (Estonia and Faroe Islands had a qualifier in August, but neither country played in the World Cup), and runs through next October. For those that are familiar with the qualifying process for UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) teams for the World Cup, it is a very similar process for the Euros. The main exception being that 16 teams participate in the Euros and 13 qualified for the World Cup (starting in 2016, 24 teams will participate in the Euros). The countries are drawn into into 9 groups according to power rankings. The group winners and best runner-up will automatically qualify, and the remaining eight runners-up play a home and away playoff. In the playoffs the team who wins on aggregate score goes through. If the aggregate score is tied, the winner is determined on away goals, then a penalty shootout.

Every team has played at least three qualifiers to this point, and there have been some real shocking results, as well as some great underdog stories. I will go into a few brief game summaries, followed by the current group standings and my predictions for where teams finish.

Here are a few upsets by round that stood out before I post the current tables:

First Round:

First, was France losing to Belarus in Paris 0-1. The troubled French squad hoped their disastrous World Cup saga wouldn't carry over into the Euro qualifiers, but this loss did little to settle the French about Les Bleus. Belarus have been in good form to this point, (fun fact about Belarus: they are the only country in Europe to be on the US Treasury List of sanctioned countries).

The next shocker was a 4-4 draw between Portugal and the island nation of Cyprus who were ranked 63rd in the world at the time (they jumped 20 positions following the result), compared to Portugal's 8th.

Second Round:

First, was The Czech Republic coming off of a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign losing to Lithuania at home. The Locomotive, as the Czechs are affectionately known to their fans...insert clever pun about derailment here.

Second, was Portugal losing on the road to surprising Norway. The 1-0 result has propelled Norway in their group hoping to earn themselves a spot in the competition for the second time in the nations history.

Third Round:

Slovakia had a surprisingly strong World Cup qualifying campaign in which they clinched an automatic berth ahead of The Czech Republic and runner-up qualifiers Slovenia. A 3-1 thrashing in Armenia was a surprising result the Slovaks hope won't keep them out of another major competition.

Serbia was another team who had a strong qualifying campaign leading into the World Cup, finishing ahead of France. Serbia lost at home to Estonia, also by the score of 3-1.

The next result was a tie between Northern Ireland and Italy in Northern Ireland, a nil nil draw.

Fourth Round:

Turkey got trounced by Germany 3-0 the week before they were slated to play Azerbaijan. The Crescent-Stars of Turkey hoped this would be a good bounceback, but their nightmare continued in a 1-0 loss in Azerbaijan.

England looked to continue their strong qualifying against Montenegro at Wembley, but were frustrated despite outplaying The Brave Falcons, whose performance truly lived up to their name. In fact, they almost stole three points, but a late effort rang off of the crossbar leaving both sides with a point after a 0-0 draw. Even more impressive is that Montenegro is tied with England atop the group with three wins and a tie.

That does it for the upsets, but I wanted to mention the fact that after 6 minutes in the Italy Serbia game, the match was abandoned due to crowd control issues (namely, masked Serbian fans straddling the glass and throwing flares onto the field. If you get the opportunity, check this out on youtube. UEFA are investigating the incident.

Standings (All teams have played four games unless noted otherwise)

Group A
Germany (12 Pts)
Austria (7 Pts)*
Turkey (6 Pts)
Belgium (4 Pts)
Azerbaijan (3 Pts)*
Kazakhstan (0 Pts)

Germany should run away with this group. Look for Turkey to have a strong last six games and finish second, but don't count Austria out with a 1 point lead, and a game in hand over the Turks.

Group B
Russia (9 Pts)
Ireland (7 Pts)
Armenia (7 Pts)
Slovakia (7 Pts)
Macedonia (4 Pts)
Andorra (0 Pts)

This is an intriguing group where every team has at least one loss. No team has shown any real dominance. Armenia have been the surprise team, and Ireland have only taken 1 point from their last two matches against Russia and Slovakia, they will need at least 4 pts from those two countries in their next matches to avenge their heartbreak in World Cup qualifying. My Prediction is Russia barely winning, Ireland second, with Slovakia third, and Armenia falling a distant fourth despite a surprising first four games.

Group C
Italy (8 Pts)
Slovenia (7 Pts)
Estonia (6 Pts)
Serbia (5 Pts)
Northern Ireland (5 Pts)*
Faroe Islands (1 Pt)**

Italy have not lost yet, but they also haven't buried their opponents. They tied Northern Ireland and were given a tie by UEFA for failing to control the crowd in their match against Serbia. Despite poor play by Italy in the World Cup, this group should be a cake walk for them, look for Italy first, and Serbia second despite a poor start.

Group D
France (9 Pts)
Belarus (8 Pts)
Albania (5 Pts)
Bosnia Herzegovina (4 Pts)*
Romania (2 Pts)*
Luxembourg (1 Pt)

France needs to continue to play well after their loss to Belarus. Belarus have shown that they are dangerous, and Bosnia and Herzegovina made it to the playoff leg of qualifying for the World Cup, but lost out to Portugal. France will take this group barely ahead of a surprising Belarus side.

Group E

Netherlands (12 Pts)
Hungary (9 Pts)
Sweden (6 Pts)*
Moldova (6 Pts)
Finland (0 Pts)*
San Marino (0 Pts)

Netherlands didn't lose one qualifying game for the World Cup, and lost in Extra Time to Spain in the World Cup Final. They will easily take this group, which has no other country that qualified for the World Cup. Sweden will finish second.

Group F

Greece (8 Pts)
Croatia (7 Pts)*
Georgia (6 Pts)
Israel (4 Pts)
Latvia (4 Pts)
Malta (0 Pts)*

Greece had a rough showing at the World Cup after an impressive playoff win over The Ukraine. Croatia had a lackluster qualifying effort in the World Cup, but are undefeated to this point in the Euro qualifiers. Croatia will finish first and Greece will finish second, no other teams will pose a threat in this group.

Group G

Montenegro (10 Pts)
England (7 Pts)*
Switzerland (3 Pts)*
Bulgaria (3 Pts)*
Wales (0 Pts)*

This is one of the toughest groups. Montenegro are playing great ball and England are one of the world's best. Switzerland are much better than they have played and Dimitar Berbatov and Bulgaria are no pushovers. England were unlucky not to defeat Montenegro, as they outplayed the Brave Falcons. This is not to say Montenegro are not a formidable opponent, they have beaten everyone else in the group so far, and showed some serious courage drawing with England at Wembley. England will finish first and Switzerland will barely edge out Montenegro.

Group H

Norway (9 Pts)*
Portugal (7 Pts)
Denmark (6 Pts)*
Cyprus (1 Pts)*
Iceland (0 Pts)*

Norway have been impressive so far getting the maximum 9 points in three games. Portugal are in trouble, but are no where near out of it. Look for Norway to get an automatic bid for finishing first continuing in their impressive form and Denmark and Portugal to battle out for second, but Portugal coming out on top.

Group I

Spain (9 Pts)*
Czech Republic (6 Pts)*
Scotland (4 Pts)
Lithuania (4 Pts)*
Liechtenstein (0 Pts)*

Spain appear unstoppable at the moment as should have little trouble winning this group. A young Czech Republic side with some veteran leadership shouldn't have many more mistakes like their loss to Lithuania on their way to a second place finish.

*Indicates team only played three matches so far
**Indicates team has played five matches so far

I will try to update this as the rounds progress.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seriously ?

This is a trailer for a show on the Animal Planet. A show that apparently has been on for one season already (I have no idea how), it is called "Pit Boss" and I'll let the trailer do the talking.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Promising Trailers

Keep an eye out for these movies to hit your local theater.

"Flipped"



"Somewhere"



"Get Low"



"Nowhere Boy"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nike's version of the Madden Curse

I don't know if you saw the 3 minute commercial that Nike debuted before the World Cup (why they created a 3 minute commercial I'm not sure), but it seems that it helped seal the fate for many of the star players in it. The video, called "Write The Future," featured international soccer stars such as Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney, among others. Now, as the World Cup continues on to the Quarterfinals, it seems that none of these players are actually left in the tournament (Ronaldinho didn't even make it to South Africa)! Below I've included the original, kick-ass video (which costs about $30 million to make...no big deal or anything) as well as a funny fan video that outlines this phenomenon. John Madden would be proud.





Props to Jeff Klein for pointing out this situation, but I felt it too good not to share.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Beginner's Guide to the English Premier League

When the United States got knocked out of the World Cup, most Americans were resigned to the fact that they will not watch another soccer match until June, 2014. That is when the next World Cup kicks off in Brazil. For those Americans who want to continue watching the beautiful game at its best, this post is for you. This post will help beginners dive into the wonderful world of English Premier League Football. It is a team by team breakdown of sorts. It will help you to find the club that suits you best as a fan.

The Recently Promoted:

Blackpool F.C.

Briefing - The Seasiders are the biggest surprise of the three newly promoted team. Despite finishing 6th in The Championship (the second highest league in England), Blackpool won the play-off in dramatic fashion to find themselves in the EPL. Blackpool plays their home matches at Bloomfield Road, a small stadium that can has a capacity of 12,555.

Redeeming Quality - They are going to come into this season as one of the biggest underdogs in recent history, could make for a nice story.

Buyer Beware - Becoming a fan of any newly promoted club is a risky call. Especially with Blackpool, who are not expected to have a very long shelf life in the Premiership. However, if one does choose 'Pool as the team of his or her liking, they can look at Stoke City for an example of a team that has stayed in the Premiership after most thought they'd go right back down.


West Bromwich Albion

Briefing - Since 2000, the Baggies have been back and forth between the Premier League and The Championship several times. They are having trouble finding their place in top flight football. Under former Italian international, Roberto Di Matteo, Albion hope to finally find that elusive niche.

Redeeming Qualities - Besides having a great nickname, Albion also have an intense rivalry with two premiership sides, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton.

Buyer Beware - Can not find a way to stay in top flight football.


Newcastle United

Briefing - Newcastle had never been relegated from the Premier League until 2009. After a debacle of a season that was filled with ownership issues, managerial problems, and terrible play, the Magpies found themselves in The Championship in 2010. They showed why they had never been there before though, and earned automatic promotion in record time.

Redeeming Qualities - One of only a few teams in the North of England, the Toon Army is a great fan base with few bandwagoners. They have a great rivalry with Sunderland, and were spotlighted in a movie called Goal: The Dream Begins.

Buyer Beware - Definitely not the most stable of clubs at the moment.

The Pack

West Ham United

Briefing - West Ham is one of five teams that play their home matches in London. They also have one of the great developmental academies in all of the EPL. Because of this they are known as the "Academy of Football." They have been in the Premiership since gaining promotion in 2005, but have not finished above 9th since.

Redeeming Qualities- The developmental academy is definitely something to brag about. Like Newcastle, the Hammers also have been featured in a motion picture. The movie Green Street Hooligans focused on the club's notorious hooligans. Playing in London can't hurt either.

Buyer Beware - West Ham finished one spot above the relegation zone in the 09/10 campaign. Also, Robert Green - the goalie now known for his gaffe against the USA, is the goalkeeper for West Ham.

Wigan Athletic

Briefing - The youngest club in the Premier League (formed in 1932), Wigan Athletic have been in the top flight since 2005. While this is their only spell in the top division, they have shown that they can hang and have not really shown any signs of letting up.

Redeeming Qualities - Their nickname, The Latics, is pretty fly. They have a pretty intense rivalry with Bolton and play in Manchester.

Buyer Beware - Wigan had the lowest average attendance in the EPL. They also lost two games by more than 8 goals last season, a 9-1 dismantling to Tottenham and an 8-0 drubbing versus Chelsea.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Briefing - Wolverhampton are playing their second straight season of Premier League Football. They play their matches out of the city of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. They finished 15th in the 09/10 campaign.

Redeeming Qualities - Wolverhampton is a pretty cool name for a city. They have a cool nickname, Wolves, a great kit, and a wild history of hooliganism. Lastly, Marcus Hahnemann, an American goalkeeper, plays for Wolves.

Buyer Beware - Although Wolves did stay in the EPL last year, they haven't shown yet that they are going to be able to stay in the top division.

Bolton Wanderers

Briefing - Bolton have been in the Premier League since 2001. They play their home matches at Reebok Stadium in Greater Manchester.

Redeeming Qualities - Bolton have players from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States on their roster. They have been around the top flight for a long time now, and are a stable club.

Buyer Beware - Bolton have spent a total of 71 seasons in the top flight without ever winning a championship, most of any club. With Manchester United and Manchester City nearby, they do not get much attention from the media.

Sunderland

Briefing - Sunderland are one of the northernmost teams in the EPL. They play their home matches at The Stadium of Light. Since Niall Quinn took over the team, they have had an influx of Irish players, sometimes being called "Sund-Ireland."

Redeeming Qualities - Awesome nickname. Awesome kits. Awesome stadium name. They also have a raucous fan base. Big rivalry with Newcastle that culminated in several Sunderland fans making fake bids to buy Newcastle when they were put up for 100 million pounds.

Buyer Beware - They haven't finished above 13th since being promoted in 2007.

Fulham

Briefing - Fulham are another one of the clubs that play out of London. They play their home matches at Craven Cottage. They lost in the UEFA Europa League Final in extra time to Atletico Madrid this past season. They have been in the EPL since 2001.

Redeeming Qualities- Besides having a cool nickname, The Cottagers, Fulham are notorious for signing American players. Brian McBride captained the team in the past, and Clint Dempsey is a current fan favorite.

Buyer Beware - Have flirted with relegation while in the EPL. In 2007/2008, they got by on goal differential. Fulham have a rivalry with Chelsea, and they are usually on the wrong side of the rivalry.

Stoke City

Briefing - Stoke were promoted two seasons ago and were picked by bookmakers all over to go right back down. However, the Potters surprised everyone and have finished mid-table in both of their seasons in the EPL.

Redeeming Qualities - Stoke have a lot going for them in our eyes. Especially for new fans looking for a team they could call their own. They have a great stadium, a great nickname, a great kit, and a general likability about them. They have a great fan base and regularly sell out Brittania Stadium. The Potters also have one of the most infamous firms, a firm is a hooligan group or militia, called the Naughty Forty. In 2003 the BBC described Stoke City as having "one of the most active and organised football hooligan firms in England".

Buyer Beware - The Potters have only been in top flight football for two years, so they still are not cemented in the EPL.

Blackburn Rovers

Briefing - Since 1995, only one team not named Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea has won the Premier League. That team? Blackburn Rovers.

Redeeming Qualities - Blackburn have been in the Premier League since 2002. They have a solid manager in Sam Allardyce and a great captain in Ryan Nelsen. They have bitter rivalries with Man Utd., Man City, and Bolton.

Buyer Beware - Blackburn have not shown the same promise since the '95 title. They also have the worst attendance record in the EPL, which has a lot to do with the fact that it is very hard to get to Ewood Park, their home grounds.

Birmingham City

Briefing - The Blues were promoted before last season. They not only staved off relegation, something they had trouble doing in the past, they surprised many and finished in 9th place, their best since 1951.

Redeeming Qualities - Birmingham City have a lot of momentum coming into the new campaign. They have a great fan base, called the Blue Noses, which is pretty cool too.

Buyer Beware - Still only one season fresh off their promotion, one has to tread carefully with the Brummies.

The Challengers

Everton

Briefing - The Toffees are my favorite team, and have been since 1998 when I took a liking to the EPL. They play their home matches in Liverpool at Goodison Park. Because of this, they have a great rivalry with Liverpool, known as the Merseyside Derby.

Redeeming Qualities - Everton are known as "The People's Club." They are not the most successful club, but they own the longest streak of playing in England's top flight at 108 years. Everton has one of the best managers in the game in David Moyes and also have one of the best academies in the league. Their goalkeeper, American hero Tim Howard, is one of the tops in the league. Add one of the league's most passionate fan bases to all of this, and you have a great club.

Buyer Beware - Everton never seem to have the resources to make that final push into the top 4.

Liverpool

Briefing - Liverpool are the most successful team in English Football. They have won more trophies than any other team in England.

Redeeming Qualities - Liverpool are one of the most famous clubs in England. They are well represented around the world with many fans in every part of the world. They also have a great captain in Steven Gerrard.

Buyer Beware - Big time bandwagon. The Reds finished a disappointing 7th last year.

Aston Villa

Briefing - After Everton, the Villains have been in top flight football the longest of any other team at 100 years in a row. They play in Birmingham and are the most successful team in that city.

Redeeming Qualities - Villa is one of the teams that have no threat of a band wagon, and also are not really a threat to be relegated. They have solid a solid rivalry with Birmingham City called "The Second City Derby."

Buyer Beware - Nothing too bad here other than the fact that they can't make that final step into the top 4.

Manchester City

Briefing - Known as Manchester's "other team", the Citizens have been working hard, and spending harder to make sure that moniker disappears soon. With a rich Sheikh owner, City has bought some of the biggest names in football in the past few years.

Redeeming Qualities - Definitely one of the most talented teams in the league. They have a fierce rivalry with Man Utd. Every game is an adventure to watch with City, because of all their talent.

Buyer Beware - They have decided to start buying rather than developing are quickly turning into one of the league's biggest villains.

The Top 4

Tottenham Hotspur

Briefing - Spurs are another London team and play their home matches at White Hart Lane. They have qualified to play in the UEFA Champions League for the upcoming campaign.

Redeeming Qualities - Playing Champions League Football certainly is a plus and Spurs are the only team in the Big 4 that won't have a big bandwagon. Being a London team, Tottenham gets a good deal of attention from the media. They have a fierce rivalry, known as the North London Derby, with Arsenal.

Buyer Beware - Spurs fluctuate within the league and are known as one of the more inconsistent clubs.

Arsenal

Briefing - The Gunners have won 13 titles in the top division. They have also won 13 FA Cups. They are another one of the London sides. They play their home matches at Emirates Stadium in North London.

Redeeming Qualities - Arsenal seem to be the most well-liked of any of the "Big 4" by fans of other clubs. They have a lot of young talent which they develop and run a solid, classy club. They do have a loyal fan base.

Buyer Beware - Big time bandwagon and a lot of "pseudo" fans.

Manchester United

Briefing - The most recognizable name in the EPL. They have won the Premier League more than any other side, and have one of the best coaches of all-time in Sir Alex Ferguson. Their home ground, Old Trafford, is one of the most recognizable stadiums in the world.

Redeeming Qualities - They win. A lot.

Buyer Beware - Don't even think about it.

Chelsea

Briefing - The Blues are the defending Premier League and F.A. Cup champions. They play their games at Stamford Bridge in London.

Redeeming Qualities - They aren't Manchester United.

Buyer Beware - Bandwagonry!

There you have it. The 20 English Premier League teams broken down, and simplified.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The World Reacts



Dear Ghana and the World,

The Yanks Are Coming.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Deserve This.

Citizens of the World,

We deserve to be happy. And the following will make us happy!












And now, back to your regularly scheduled Oil Spill/Greek Economic Travesty/North Korea & South Korea about to go to war/Jamaican Drug War/Kyrgyzstan Ethnic Cleansing/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Predictor

With the world cup kickoff less than twenty-four hours away I am going to make my predictions for the tournament. I am going to take into account qualifying, injuries, and friendlies leading up to the world cup.

World Cup Predictions:

Group A:

In this group, are host nation South Africa, France, Uruguay, and Mexico. Conventional wisdom would have most people saying France should come out on op of this group with Mexico and Uruguay battling out for the second spot. This year, however, France saw a lackluster qualifying campaign, barely eeking by Ireland in a playoff that will remain one of the most controversial games in World Cup qualifying history. This game may also lead to the institution of instant replay or extra officals in future qualifiers. All this and the fact that France lost to 82nd ranked China at home have the French very nervous about their chances in the group stage. Mexico are one of the most dynamic and dangerous squads in the world right now. Their fast paced play and relentless attack have the potential to beat most countries in the world. They have had one of the most rigorous friendly schedules in the world with games against Chile, England, The Netherlands, and Italy. Three of those four matches were played in Europe where North American teams traditionally struggle. El Tri lost close matches to England and the Netherlands, but then shocked Italy 1-0. They also beat Chile at home before these games. Uruguay are a wildcard, they have played very few tune up matches, and squeaked into the World Cup after a playoff with Costa Rica. They netted three away goals against a staunch Swiss defense en route to a 3-1 win, and beat Israel earlier this week. No host country has ever failed to exit the group stage. A few short months ago not many people expected Bafana Bafana to have any chance at getting through the group. With new coach Carlos Alberto Parreira the South Africans will look to keep this trend going. They have strung together wins against Guatemala, Colombia, and most recently a dark horse Danish side. Look for Bafana Bafana to feed off of the home energy to get through with a 1-1-1 record.

Prediction:

1. Mexico 3-0-0
2. South Africa 1-1-1
3. France 0-1-2
4. Uruguay 0-2-1

Group B:

This group will see a more clear cut frontrunner, but the second spot is up for grabs. Group B includes Argentina, Greece, Korea Republic, and Nigeria. Argentina are the heavy favorite in this group despite narrowly winning the fourth and final qualifying spot in a much anticipated match in Montevideo, Uruguay between bitter rival countries. Led by one of Argentina's most beloved players Diego Maradonna, people have questioned his coaching ability with all of the qualifying struggles. Since qualifying for the World Cup Argentina have had a number of soft tune up matches, but also beat Germany 1-0 on the road. Greece were another European playoff winner over the slight favorites, Ukraine, but they have not won a match since. The Pirate Ship have followed their currency into the dumps losing matches to Senegal and Paraguay and they tied North Korea who are the lowest ranked team in the tournament. Nigeria also played a friendly against the North Koreans, but were 3-1 victors. They also racked up ties against Saudi Arabia and Colombia. Nigeria are playing on their home continent, so look for a slight edge against their competition. The final team in this group are South Korea, who have been disappointing since their improbable semifinal run on home turf eight years ago. They have shown some promise in qualifying matches with wins against Ecuador, and an away win against continental rival Japan. They also dropped an embarrassing game to Belarus, but bounced back last week with a close 1-0 loss against power house Spain. Every year a powerhouse limps into the tournament only to dominate competition, and I believe that team will be Argentina this year. They should easily win this group. Greece will in all likelihood finish last unless they can turn their countries economic woes into a rallying point. It will be a very interesting battle for second and third between Nigeria and Korea, with the last game coming between these two countries, it really could go either way, but I feel like the fast paced Nigerians will be able to break through the methodical South Koreans.

Prediction:

1. Argentina 3-0-0
2. Nigeria 2-1-0
3. Korea Republic 1-2-0
4. Greece 0-0-3

Group C

For Most Americans this is the most important group. It will include England, Algeria, Slovenia, and the United States. England are the favorites in this group. They dominated qualifying in their European group, and have shown no signs of slowing down in their tune up matches. The only real dark spot is losing Rio Ferdinand who was slated to be Captain after the very public stripping of John Terry as a result of an affair with a teammates former girlfriend. The English people are hoping that the Three Lions can finally hoist their second cup after a forty-four year drought. The English will look to their talented striker Wayne Rooney and level headed, playmaking Captain Steven Gerrard to lead England to this lofty goal. The United States are coming off of one of their most disappointing finishes in the country's limited World Cup history. They were highly overranked going into the tournament (fourth in the world), but will look to bounce back with a bevy of young talent, who up until very recently looked rather disorganized following their runners-up finish at the Confederations Cup one year ago. The come from behind victory against Turkey and convincing win over Australia are showing that the Americans mean business. The only question will be whether the weakened U.S. defense can hold up against their opponents. Algeria have not performed well of late, but had surprisingly strong campaigns in their previous two world cups. This included one of the more controversial exits in World Cup history in which West Germany and Austria cooked up a scheme to allow the two nations to advance on goal difference sending the Algerians packing. As a result of this game, final matches in the group stage have to be played at the same time. The Algerians will more than likely finish fourth, but don't count them out as they beat one of the most decorated African sides, Egypt, to qualify. The Slovenian side will be eerily reminiscent of the Czech Republic from four years ago. They had a stronger qualifying campaign than many anticipated, and beat heavily favored Russia to book their trip. They have not played a strong tune up schedule, but will have the advantage of playing Algeria in their opening match. Look for the first game between England and the U.S.A. to decide the winner of this group, and if England does win, do not count out the Slovenians especially since the English will in all likelihood go into the final match not having much to play for.

Prediction:

1. England 2-0-1
2. U.S.A. 2-1-0
3. Slovenia 1-1-1
4. Algeria 0-0-3

Group D

One of the tougher groups out there, Group D contains Germany, Serbia, Ghana, and Australia. Germany are the heavy hitting favorites out of this group, but they have lost gritty veteran Michael Ballack to injury. Germany's only real test in getting ready for the world cup was against Argentina at home where they lost an 0-1 result. The Germans still have a strong team, but do not expect them to trounce their competition. Ghana was a surprise in 2006 to exit the group of death, but were also considered a dark horse to get out of the group. They held their own beating the Czech Republic and United States after an initial loss to Italy. They are also missing their star in Michael Essein. Ghana has had a lackluster qualifying campaign, enduring a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of the Dutch, and a loss to European playoff losers Bosnia-Herzgovina. They did have a win over Latvia, but losing Essein may prove to be a serious blow. Serbia had a trememndous qualifying campaign beating France for the automatic berth in their group. Qualifying has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for the Serbs, but their last game will provide hope with a win over Cameroon. Australia's Socceroos had a great 2006, losing out to eventual champions Italy, in a controversial match. The Socceroos have a very large team, and a serious attacking threat in the embodiment of Tim Cahill. They put together a very steadfast back, and are very dangerous on set pieces as a result of their size. Germany should come out of this group on top, but it will not be a cake walk. The second spot will go to the hungriest team. It will be interesting to see the very attack minded Serbia and Ghana go against the strong defense of Australia.

Prediction:
1. Germany 2-0-1
2. Australia 2-1-0
3. Serbia 1-1-1
4. Ghana 0-0-3

Group E

This is another one of the more clear cut groups, but more often than not, the groups that seem simple turn in some of the most shocking upsets. Group E includes The Netherlands, Cameroon, Japan, and Denmark. The Netherlands have been one of the best footballing countries in the world, and were it not for their propensity for underachievement in international competition I think many would be saying that the Dutch and Brazilians would be the odds favorites to win the Cup. Wins over The United States, Mexico, Ghana, and Hungary in friendlies have shown that the Dutch are in top form after dominating their group in qualifying, winning every game and conceding only two goals. Cameroon have not won a friendly leading up to the World Cup, but have had some very encouraging and close matches against quality opponents including, but not limited to tying Italy 0-0, a closely contested 3-4 loss to Serbia, and a 1-3 loss to Portugal. Look for Cameroon's high powered, fast paced offense to feed off of the energy of playing on their home continent. The Danes are one of the dark horses of the tournament and are led by the longest tenured coach in the World Cup, Morten Olsen. Although their qualifying campaign has not been what they would have hoped for look for the Danes led by Nicklas Bendtner to pose a threat. Japan have lost most of their qualifying games leading up, and are looking to be the odd man out in this group. The last time they made it out of the group stage was as the co-host eight years ago, losing to Turkey in the round of 16. Look for the Netherlands to move forward with a plethora of talent as they try to shake the ghosts of past iniquities. Cameroon and Denmark will fight for second with Cameroon making it through on their home continent.

Prediction:

1. Netherlands 3-0-0
2. Cameroon 2-1-0
3. Denmark 0-2-1
4. Japan 0-2-1

Group F

This group has defending Champion Italy alongside New Zealand, Slovakia, and Paraguay. Italy could not have asked for a much easier trip back to the knockout stages than this group. Slovakia and Paraguay are both great sides, but neither pose the kind of threat Italy do. Italy are defending their world title with one of the best keepers in the game in Gianluigi Buffon, as well as one of the best defenses in the world. The Azzurri will run through this group with few problems despite a sloppy friendly campaign leading up to the World Cup with a loss on European soil to Mexico and a tie with Switzerland. The Slovaks stunned their qualifying group including their former countrymen the Czech Republic. The Slovaks handily defeated Costa Rica and tied Cameroon in friendlies. The match against Paraguay will in all likelihood determine who moves on with Italy. Paraguay qualified ahead of Argentina in South America finishing third in their group overall (behind Brazil and Chile respectively). Paraguay have beaten Greece and only narrowly defeated North Korea leading up to the World Cup. They drew against Ivory Coast and lost to Ireland. New Zealand were the Oceania group winner now that Australia have moved into the Asia group. New Zealand will in all likelihood finish last in this group, but don't expect them to get pushed around as they have faired well against a number of strong teams including a 1-0 victory over Serbia.

Prediction:

1. Italy 3-0-0
2. Paraguay 1-1-1
3. Slovakia 1-1-1
4. New Zealand 0-0-3

Group G

The group of death; this group includes Brazil, Portugal (two of the top three FIFA ranked teams in the world), Ivory Coast, and Korea DPR. This group includes three teams that many people would say have a realistic shot at challenging for the title, and one of them will not even make it out of the group. It was eight years ago that Portugal didn't get out of their group, but four years ago they lived up to the hype with a fourth place finish. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most dynamic players in the world, and has the ability to control the flow of a game. He also gets very emotional when he plays though, and if he takes himself out of the game emotionally it could spell disaster for Portugal. Brazil are the most dominant footballing nation in the world, they have won the most world titles (5), and have three players coming off of a the European Champion Squad. They are the favorites to win the tournament in the eyes of most. Ivory Coast was dealt a really tough blow earlier this week as Didier Drogba went down with a fracture in his arm. He told teammates he would not be able to play, but there is some optimism he may be able to play in some capacity. The cards unfortunately are stacked against them as if they were in any other group they would be able to get through group play and have Drogba join up in the knockout phase. Even if they had Korea DPR in one of the first two games it would be better, but it is their last match. Don't count this team out, but without Drogba they are missing considerable firepower. Korea DPR are a shocker to be in the tournament, but they have performed surprisingly well in their qualifying matches. They have had close losses to Nigeria and Paraguay (3-1 and 1-0 losses respectively). They have also tied hosts South Africa and the reeling Greeks (currently ranked 13th in the world). Conventional Wisdom would have Brazil and Portugal to move on, but the Elephants of Ivory Coast are a great squad, and I think they could put together wins against Portugal and Korea DPR.

Prediction:

1. Brazil 2-0-1
2. Ivory Coast 2-1-0
3. Portugal 1-1-1
4. Korea DPR 0-0-3

Group H

The final group in the World Cup has the reigning Europeans, Spain, with Chile, Honduras, and Switzerland. This is another group that sees a powerhouse country with two (maybe an outside shot at three) teams who will be hotly contesting the second place position. Spain have been as dominant as ever culminating in a 6-0 dismantling of Poland yesterday. They do not have as easy of a trip to the knockout phase of the tournament as Italy do, but it would be a huge upset if they did not at least pass the group stage. Chile finished second in qualifying, just behind heavy favorites Brazil in South America, and are a very dangerous squad. Chile's only real test during the friendly schedule was Mexico, which ended in a 0-1 defeat. They have won every other match during their tune up phase. The Swiss are an enigma they have the ability to be contend against some of the best countries in the world, as shown when they won their group in Germany in 2006 (with France in it) and in their 1-1 draw with Italy, but they also didn't make it out of the group phase when they co-hosted the European Championship two years ago. The Swiss are built on a strong defense and methodical ball movement, as many European squads are. If Switzerland can keep Spain close in match one look for a close match against Chile, but if their first game gets out of hand look for them to fold. Honduras landed their automatic berth when the United States scored a late winner against Costa Rica in qualifying. Honduras have not faired well in matches leading up to the World Cup, but never count a gritty side like theirs out.

Prediction:

1. Spain 2-0-1
2. Switzerland 2-0-1
3. Chile 1-2-0
4. Honduras 0-0-3

Since these are only predictions I will reserve in depth analysis for the knockout phase until after the group stage is complete. I will just write in my predictions for winners.

Mexico vs. Nigeria
Argentina vs. South Africa
England vs. Australia
U.S.A vs. Germany
Netherlands vs. Paraguay
Italy vs. Cameroon
Brazil vs. Switzerland
Spain vs. Ivory Coast

Mexico vs. England
Netherlands vs. Brazil
Argentina vs. U.S.A.
Italy vs. Ivory Coast

England vs. Netherlands
Argentina vs. Ivory Coast

Argentina vs. Netherlands

Winner= Netherlands

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Watch Out Red Coats

Things That Go Well Together Part 6

Today we bring back our exclusive series called "Things That Go Well Together." Today's pairing is inspired by a relatively new trend, especially in urban areas.

People Toting Dogs In Hand Bags




and

A Firing Squad

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