Between working and watching the World Cup I’ve been slacking lately on the posts. I’m make it up to you with one post to rule them all, now let’s get it ON.
Let’s start by running down the other teams yet-to-be-previewed in rapid-fire succession:
Cameroon: With perhaps the best nickname of any team in the World Cup, “The Indomitable Lions” have proven to be extremely…domitable. Given the injuries to Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana, it looked like Cameroon could be the most prolific African team in the tournament. However they royally screwed the pooch in losses to Japan and Denmark and were one of the first teams eliminated. Oh and they still have to play the Netherlands. Nice work guys, you only let down your entire continent. It should also be noted here that their star player Samuel Eto’o, has proven himself to be an insufferable prick over the past two years, demanding a ticket out of Barcelona after one of the best seasons in the modern era, then threatening to sit out the World Cup after taking criticism from a former player in the weeks leading up to the tournament. He only agreed to play after the coaches agreed to name him captain, at which he has done an unbelievably terrible job. Et tu, Eto’o? Hope you enjoyed crushing the dreams of a nation.
Denmark: The Danes are coached by something called a Morten Olsen and have thus been nicknamed Olsen’s Eleven, which is fucking tremendous. They’ve turned a few heads in the tournament, which a convincing win over Cameroon a better-than-the-scoreline-suggests 2-0 loss to the Netherlands. Now it comes down to a win-or-go-home game against Japan later this week. 22-year-old Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner has keyed them on offense and goalie Thomas Sorensen has been done well leading a very organized defense. Second place in Group E may actually be far more enviable than first as Paraguay looks like the favorite to win Group F, which, in layman’s terms, means that Netherlands’ reward for dominating their group is a Round of 16 matchup against defending World Cup champions Italy. BASTAAARDO.
Japan: Group E keeps it coming with the outstanding nicknames as Japan is known as the Blue Samurai (aka NINJA SMURFS). Japan’s defense has been dominant throughout their two games, shutting out Cameroon and holding the Dutch to one very impressive goal by Wesley Sneijder. That being said, they’ve scored just one goal so far, a cross from Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsui (aka the most stereotypical Japanese baseball player name ever) to Keisuke Honda (OH a Japanese guy named after a car company…REAL ORIGINAL). All the Japanese need now is for a player to gut himself with a samurai sword after conceding an own-goal to complete the most stereotypical World Cup run ever. WORLD CUP 2010, COME FOR THE SOCCER, STAY FOR THE CONSTANT REINFORCEMENT OF IGNORANT CULTURAL FALLACIES! Things do look good for the Blue Samurai, however, as a win or a tie against the Danes would put them into the Round of 16.
Group E Prediction (with advancing teams in BOLD): Netherlands, Japan, Denmark, Cameroon.
New Zealand: It’s not all been stereotypical this World Cup, otherwise New Zealand’s team would consist of orks and quirky folk-pop duos. But they are nicknamed the All-Whites which is…awkward. New Zealand have been the darlings of the tournament so far, ranked 91st in the world according to ESPN, they’ve managed a pair of 1-1 draws with Slovakia, on a stoppage time goal, and the mighty Italians. Now, they find themselves dead-locked with the Azzurri for second in group F, with a match-up with first-place Paraguay remaining. If indeed the All-Whites can manage a win and beat out Italy for the a spot in the Round of 16, it will go down as the inspiring Cinderella story since a couple of lowly hobbits from the Shire defeated Lord Sauron by destroying the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom…wait, what?
Italy: Simply put, the Azzurri are BLOWING IT. Their defense has looked shaky, Cannavarro has gotten owned, Pirlo’s absence has sent their offense to a screeching halt, Buffon’s hurt, Montolivo sucks, they’re old as shit and they fake injuries more often than Earl Hebner. Besides that, things are GREAT in Italia. Personally, I actually like Italy and hope they advance in spite of all their bitching and diving, it’s not their fault the other teams hire snipers to take them out every time they’re in the box! That being said, an early exit from South Africa would certainly reek of karmic justice after their World Cup win in 2006. Right now, this team just does not look like a quality side- Their veteran players look too old, their young players look too inexperienced and they can’t seem to put it all together on the field. Head coach Marcelo Lippi probably made some mistakes when he left players like Francesco Totti and Jersey boy Frankie Valli Giuseppe Rossi off the roster. That being said, the Italians are as good as it gets when it comes to tournament play and it wouldn’t surprise me to see their veteran players make a Boston Celtics-like turnaround now that it’s win-or-go-home time.
Paraguay: The Paraguayans have put together a very surprising run so far, and are now in position to advance to the knockout rounds with a win or a tie against New Zealand. This all comes as a shock, especially after their top goal scorer, Salvador Cabanas, was ruled out of the tournament with what Wikipedia calls “a head injury”, and what everyone else calls “being shot in the head in a Mexican bar and almost dying.” In spite of their long odds, they’ve been undeniably impressive, looking every bit as capable as Italy in their 1-1 draw and getting the strong result they needed against Slovakia, with a 2-0 win. How far Paraguay can go once they reach the Round of 16 is still a major question, but their run in South Africa has already been a huge success for a soccer-obsessed nation.
Slovakia: Nicknamed “Repre” because the players are “repre-sentatives” of the their country, the Slovaks are masters of the obvious and not huge fans of nuance. What’s obvious so far based on Repre’s play is that they aren’t very good at soccer and are probably going to get rolled on by Italy in a couple days. What’s bizarre is that they scored a ton of goals in qualifying and beat the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland and the U.S. in the past year, but they have completely fucked the dog in South Africa, scoring just one goal and managing a single point. If they find a way to beat Italy, they could still advance to the group stage, but it’s unlikely, and Snorvakia is boring so let’s move on, shall we?
Group F Prediction: Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia
Group G: THE GROUP OF DEATH!!!!
Brazil: HEY guess what?! Brazil’s really good at soccer and they’re probably gonna do really well in the World Cup! Shocking right? …Well actually, it is. There’s been plenty of criticism throughout Brazil over the past year for head coach Dunga’s new defensive, counter-attacking strategy. The shift in ethos led to the exclusion of Brazilian stars like Ronaldinho, Adriano, Pato and Neymar in favor of more tactically (and mentally) sound players. However, the criticism may have been off-base as the team has looked like the Brazil of old thus far, dominating possession and scoring beautiful goals. Brazil is the only team in the tournament whose defensive players are as fun to watch as their strikers. Maicon and Dani Alves, their two right backs, are better offensively than 90% of the players in South Africa, as shown by Maicon’s ridiculous no-angle goal against North Korea. Right back Michel Bastos looks like Michael Jackson circa 1984 AND he plays like the legendary Roberto Carlos, all the way down to the erratic, 200-mph free kicks. And Lucio, fresh off a Champions League title with Inter Milan, is as intimidating of a center-back as you’ll get. Oh yeah and they have some good guys on offense too. (Sidenote: Luis Fabiano WILL lead the tournament in goals). Their new defensive style might make an appearance against some of the stronger teams deeper in the tournament and will likely help the Brazilians become an even more formidable opponent. An important aside here: Because Spain lost to Switzerland, the most likely scenario right now is a Brazil-Spain FIRST round match-up, which, at least on paper, is the game of the tournament.
Portugal: The Fighting Cristiano Ronaldo’s beat the ever-loving piss out of North Korea yesterday, which means that they’ll likely take second place in this Group of Death. Portugal is a quirky team, however, and they play terribly as often as they dominate. They struggled to even make the tournament and looked like the weaker side in a scoreless draw with the Ivory Coast. BUT, they have plenty of talent on their roster from Simao to Ricardo Carvalho, they’ve yet to concede a goal, and of course they put up a touchdown yesterday. Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the perennially-diving, constantly-complaining, hair-gelling, celebrity-banging superstar. He’s the uber-narcissist in a sport full of them. He’s the A-Rod of soccer, if A-Rod was even douchier. However, he’s also really, really good. Like A-Rod, you have to set aside your hatred of him to simply admire one of the greatest to play the sport. He’s fun to watch, even more fun to loath, and he provides an easy nemesis for every casual soccer fan. His goal yesterday (in which he completely cut off his own player to score) was his first in two years for Portugal, but as he goes, so will the Portuguese. With easy-to-root-against teams like England, France and Italy all on the ropes (or in France’s case, eliminated), Ronaldo and his band of merry men may represent the last good Team to Hate in the World Cup. Here’s hoping they keep things interesting by making a compelling run over the next couple weeks…that is if Kim Jong Il doesn’t hit their bus with a cruise missile first.
Ivory Coast: Les Elephants once again ended up with an unlucky draw that will likely cost them a spot in the knockout rounds. Drogba’s return after breaking his arm just days before the tournament was been nothing short of valiant, especially for a country that sees him as a national hero. Unless they can beat the North Koreans by eight or nine goals, or they get some serious help from Brazil, it’ll spell the end for what is arguably Africa’s best team.
North Korea: The Group of Death might end up being more than just a euphemism once PRK’s Dear Leader takes a look at yesterday’s box score. They looked solid against Brazil in their first game, a 2-1 loss, and even in the first half against Portugal, but their back line completely fell apart during the second half when they conceded six brutal goals. To make matters worse, it is believed that Tuesday marked the first time a national-team game was EVER broadcast live in North Korea…great timing guys. Now, they play a desperate Ivory Coast team who will be looking to make up a nine-goal deficit against Portugal. If I’m a North Korean player I’m packing my shit and getting the fuck out of dodge after Friday’s game because those players won’t exactly be coming back to a ticker-tape parade in Pyongyang.
Group G Prediction: Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, North Korea
Spain: Spain’s kind of blowing it across the board. First of all, their nickname is The Red Fury, which was also the nickname of my third grade basketball team. Second, Spain could very well end up being one of the strongest teams to ever fail to advance past the group stage. They dominated Switzerland, notching an absurd 30 shots, but they let their guard down for a moment and gave up a shocking goal and ended up falling 1-0. Now, thanks to Chile’s pair of victories and Switzerland’s impending match-up with lowly Honduras, Spain could find themselves on the outside looking in, despite six points. It’d be a shame if they don’t advance because, even with their loss, they’ve looked dominant. Spain has a history of blowing it in the World Cup (see: 0 World Cup titles), but this team especially should be able to score against anyone, especially the fucking SWISS.
Switzerland: I’m just gonna go ahead and say fuck this team. They’re boring as shit, their country is lame, their nickname is “Schweizer Nati” aka The Swiss National Team, their military has one job- to protect the Pope- and they SUCK at it. They’ve got nothing going for them as a nation, at least nothing cool. Oh Swiss banks? I’ll take my money to the Caymans thank you very much. Swiss chocolate? I like my M&Ms with AMERICAN chocolate thank you very much, they taste like freedom and excess. Swiss Watches? Sick Hanz, I’ve got a cell phone, as does fucking everyone else in the world, your top export is an anachronism. Fuck Switzerland, get in a war for once in your life.
Chile: Now Chile is a country I can sink my teeth into. Fun to watch? Yep. Scores lots of goals? Yes, sir. Home to a myriad of notorious ex-dictators? YOU BET. Chile kicks ass. And their sea bass is fantastic. THIS is a team I can get behind. If their coach dresses in camouflage, persecutes the innocent and constantly smokes cigars I’ll move there right now. BOOK IT.
Honduras: Honduras is killing it in the political strife department, but other than that, they’re not doin so hot. They’ve lost both their games, they’ve yet to score a goal and their nickname is The H, which sounds like a superhero on Sesame Street. They have no chance of advancing, but they can salvage EVERYTHING by getting a win (or even a tie!) against the Swiss and taking those cocky clock-making assholes OUT.
Group H Predictions: Chile, Spain, Switzerland, Honduras.