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World Cup  Preview
10 July 06 from Ian Mathers 10
I didn't, at all, but holy shit what a game. That's the kind of moment (for Zidane) you get to live with for the rest of your life - I really think France would have scored before the end of extra time if not for that red card. Although full credit to Buffon and the Italian defence for some amazing work.
9 July 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
Credit to Rob for having the sense to minimize his chances of looking foolish by only making the minimum number of predictions, not to mention correctly guessing France's defeat of Brazil (albeit in the wrong round) and Germany's 3rd-place victory.  

Now, who bet on Zidane going temporarily totally insane, and France both living and dying by penalty kicks banging down off the crossbar?
9 July 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
The anthems are playing. My revised prediction, since my last one doesn't feel properly outlandish:  

France 3:2 Italy
5 July 06 from Michael 6
Yeah, of my top four picks, only one (Germany) made it to the semi-finals, and the best they can do is third. At this point I'm rooting for France, because, really who wants to see Italy win this thing? And Zidane and Henry and Makalele have been great (totally puzzled by Barthez' performance today, but he got away with it someway).
5 July 06 from glenn mcdonald 9
Good thing I don't gamble.  

Time to start over again:  

Portugal 3:2 Germany
Italy 2:1 France
5 July 06 from JosefK 5
Well, boy, does my last post sound dumb now :-)
30 June 06 from Steve G 8
Um, okay, so I picked exactly 0 out of 8 winners in the quarterfinals. Therefore, I at least need to re-predict for the rest of the way. (Someone could have made some good money betting against me. But I don't know if my "luck" can hold out, so I'm not specifically advising anyone to bet counter to my new predictions.) Without further ado:  

Argentina over Germany
Ukraine over Italy
Portugal over England
Brazil over France (to make sure I get at least one right, though having said that...)  

Argentina over Ukraine
Portugal over Brazil (can't help rooting for the underdog)  

Brazil over Ukraine for third place  

PORTUGAL over Argentina (giving the Cup a new home)
28 June 06 from JosefK 5
It's some sort of statement about what a dull world cup this is that none of our prediction upsets make for more exciting matches downstream.
25 June 06 from Steve G 8
Okay, I know it's technically too late to predict every game, but I'll give you my wish list, including the two games I got wrong today:  

Sweden over Germany (Someone send these guys home to their TVs)
Mexico over Argentina (Someone to represent CONCACAF a little longer, please!)
Ecuador over England (No more "Bigmouth Strikes Again")
Netherlands over Portugal (Despite the neon uniforms)
Australia over Italy (Gotta believe in the Aussies)
Switzerland over Ukraine (Okay, so maybe I'll get one right)
Ghana over Brazil (Take that! Go Africa! Shock 'em all!)
Spain over France (I'll get this one too, and au revoir to the Frenchies)
Hope over Reason (Without which, what is sport for?)  

Cheating here, since I know both of my first two picks lost:  

Argentina over Germany (homers lose, Argies playing great)
Netherlands over Ecuador (still despite the orange uniforms)
Australia over Switzerland (Aussies!)
Ghana over Spain (What the heck? We're not betting money here)  

Netherlands over Argentina (An orange revolution?)
Australia over Ghana (Tough call, this one. I'll stick with the 'Roos.)  

Argentina over Ghana (At least it's not for all the marbles)  

And by golly, "even long shots make it":  

AUSTRALIA over Netherlands (And the land down under goes kangaroo you-know-what!)  
 

Sorry I didn't get in on the round of 32. Then I could have made even more bad picks. Costa Rica? Good lord! (Motto: "Hey, it's not like we're Serbia and Montenegro.")  

Note: I live in Costa Rica, and am wearing my Selección Nacional jersey even as I write. Not too many folks jumping for joy down here, I can tell you.
23 June 06 from Michael 6
Germany over Sweden
Argentina over Mexico
England over Ecuador
Netherlands over Portugal
Italy over Australia
Switzerland over Ukraine
Brazil over Ghana
Spain over France  

Germany over Argentina
Italy over Switzerland
Netherlands over England
Brazil over Spain  

Germany over Italy
Brazil over Netherlands  

Netherlands over Italy  

Brazil over Germany  
 

Boring, sorry. I was disappointed that Sweden didn't win its group, because I thought they had a chance to go far. But lining up against Germany in Germany in just bad luck.
23 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
OK, about the best that can be said about my first-round predictions is I didn't pick both non-qualifiers in any group. But yeah, let's start again:  

Germany over Sweden
Argentina over Mexico
England over Ecuador
Netherlands over Portugal
Italy over Australia
Switzerland over Ukraine
Brazil over Ghana
Spain over France  

Argentina over Germany
Italy over Switzerland
Netherlands over England
Brazil over Spain  

Argentina over Italy
Brazil over Netherlands  

Netherlands over Italy  

Brazil over Argentina  

Hmph. We only disagree on one game. Boring.  

So here's another little bit of counting:  

S America: 4 teams, 6.25 points/team, 3 through (.75)
Europe: 14 teams, 5.64 points/team, 10 through (.7)
Africa: 5 teams, 2.4 points/team, 1 through (.2)
Asia/Oceania: 5 teams, 2.2 points/team, 1 through (.2)
N/C America: 4 teams, 1.5 points/team, 1 through (.25)
Asia itself: 4 teams, 1.75 points/team, 0 through
23 June 06 from JosefK 5
Reyna! For the love of god! That was unforgiveable, Michael. Against Italy he looked lazy, wouldn't run the extra half-step. And then that! He's lucky he's not flying back to a football-playing nation.  

You guys are heartbreaking precisely because you have talent and guts, but something is holding you back. glenn's choice of "conservative" was kind. "Unimaginative" may be more the word. I think Arena and Reyna are two people you'd be better off without.  

[Why did McBride slip so much, BTW? Does he need better shoes?]  

Okay, now that my last underdogs are gone, and there is no chance that Ahn will send Italy out again (ohhh, can you just imagine!), does anyone want to redo predictions?  

Ro16:
Germany beat Sweden
Argentina beat Mexico
England beat Ecuador (boo!)
Portugal beat Netherlands
Italy beat Australia (hiss!)
Switzerland...beat..(*yawn*)..Ukraine...(Zzzzz!)
Brazil beat Ghana
Spain beat France  

QF:
Argentina beat Germany
Italy beat Switzerland (boo!)
Portugal beat England (Yay! Yay!)
Brazil beat Spain  

SF:
Argentina beat Italy (Double Yay! Whee!)
Brazil beat Portugal  

Third Place:
Portugal beat Italy (Goodbye, jerks!!)  

And Finally, South American showdown in Europe:
Brazil beat Argentina 3-2
23 June 06 from Michael 1
Time to revisit the predictions. I had predicted:  

GROUP STAGE (winner of the group first, then second-place)
group A: Germany, Poland Result: Germany, Ecuador  

group B: Sweden, England Result: England, Sweden  

group C: Argentina, Netherlands Result, Argentina, Netherlands  

group D: Mexico, Portugal Result: Portugal, Mexico  

group E: Italy, USA Result: Italy, Ghana  

group F: Brazil, Croatia Result: Brazil, Australia  

group G: South Korea, France Result: Switzerland, France  

group H: Spain, Ukraine Result: Spain, Ukraine  

So basically, I got 12/16 teams to advance, but only got 7 of those in the correct slots.  

Regarding the United States, I had drafted a:  

TOP TEN FLAWS IN THE U.S. GAME AGAINST GHANA in no order)
1. Weak first touches on the ball
2. Lack of pace in passing
3. Terrible service balls to the 18' box.
4. Inability to take professional fouls and generate cards against the Ghanaians (Ghana registered 32 fouls, but almost none of them mattered — and Ghana took a lot of well-timed flops)
5. Poor decision-making on clearances (I will give Reyna a pass, since he was obviously hurt on a misstep before he was stripped of the ball, but Bocanegra's moonball inside the 18' yielded the killer PK)
6. Seeming lack of interest in shooting. (Landon Donovan held the ball at the 18' mark for about two weeks before turning around and tapping it weakly in the 83rd minute. Sheesh. Four shots on goal in the entire Group round?)
7. No skill or decisiveness on set pieces (the U.S. had seven corner kicks and still didn't get a decent opportunity)
8. Poor goalkeeping. (Keller played much better against Italy than he did Ghana. It's too bad, but that's the case. He made one good save.)
9. Poor use of substitutions. It looked like Reyna needed to go out after he lost the ball and the goal at 21' but he stayed in another twenty minutes at much reduced levels of effectiveness.
10. Overall bad coaching and player management. It's shocking that after a blowout loss to the Czech Republic and the hard-fought 1-1 draw with Italy that Arena kept the core of his starting lineup as long as he did. I thought bringing in faster, more physical players was an obvious choice against the Ghana squad, but it didn't happen. Didn't the U.S. play a 90 minute game against Italy ending with nine players just four days ago? That would seem to call for shuffling the lineups a bit more.
23 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
US players whose stock went up due to this tournament:  

Dempsey
Cherundolo
Bocanegra
Conrad  

In, I think, that order. And nobody else. Not all the rest of the players' stock went down, but some definitely did:  

Beasley
Reyna
Donovan
McBride
Johnson  

And probably Arena's went down a little, too. For me he made overly conservative decisions about both the roster and the lineups, particularly in going with a single striker so much of the time. Reyna is a conservative captain and playmaker, and with Arena coaching and Reyna captaining, the US midfield play is conservative by its nature.  

But really, play tends to be conservative in all of US soccer, not just the national team. This is why Dempsey is exciting, and why Eddie Johnson was exciting for a while in qualifying, and why Cherundolo is by far our most interesting defender: these guys walk onto the field looking for opportunities to make something happen. Most other US players, on this squad and back home in MLS, walk onto the field muttering to themselves "must not make mistakes, must not make mistakes". And so you get endless bail-out backpasses and slow roundabout flank switching, and "attacking" players looking for one more pass. We play scared. It doesn't help us win at this level, and it certainly doesn't make it any more satisfying when we lose.
23 June 06 from petrarch 7
Well, for the US, it was a bad play and a bad call.  

Reyna's miscue was hideous, and his injury made it look like he was trying to "cover up" his gaffe.  

The penalty kick was a bad call. The "flopping" in the World Cup is out of control--any contact at all and players are rolling around on the ground like they've been shot! I went to a NE Revolution game immediately after the US-Italy match and the difference was dramatic. The players actually stayed on their feet.  

None of that made any difference for the US anyway. In the tournament, their strategy was poor, and their execution was just as bad. They didn't have a chance.
22 June 06 from JosefK 5
*sigh*  

Well played, US. Better luck and better refs next time. But Reyna deserves a lashing for that.
21 June 06 from Michael 6
Well, nice to be at the top of a (small) list now, but I picked France, the USA, and Croatia to advance, and none of those look like brilliant picks right now. I could get lucky on some or all of them I suppose, but it doesn't bode well.
21 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
Well, so far Michael has 7 of 8 advancing teams right, and 3 exact places. Jeff has the same 7 of 8, and 3 exact places (only one the same as Michael's). I have only 5 of 8 advancers, but for small consolation I got the exact places for all 5. One of my picks for the other 8 is already eliminated, and of those 4 teams I erroneously picked to advance, I had 3 of them winning in the round of 16, and one winning a quarterfinal and the 3rd place game.  

But Brazil over Argentina for the final still looks pretty good to me.
16 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
I don't know why nobody is doing that. It sounds like a blast to do, and would definitely have helped me stay awake in the middle of the night if I'd been doing it in 2002.  

Let's see, I had Germany and Poland going through, and I had Poland making the quarterfinals, so my predictions are already starting to unravel. Michael had Poland, too, and Jeff had Costa Rica, but both of you had those teams losing in the next round. Hmph.
13 June 06 from JosefK 5
Okay, so here's a question: how come there don't seem to be any "independent" live commentary webcasts? Like, two nerds with an internet radio show watching the game on the telly and talking away? This could be really enjoyable if done by someone smart and decently knowledgeable (glenn!). So how come it doesn't exist? Technical reasons, or rights-related reasons, or what?
13 June 06 from JosefK 5
Croatia unable to contain powerful Kaka.
12 June 06 from Michael 1
None of us predicted Australia to advance in their group. We may be regretting that now.
9 June 06 from JosefK 5
Fair enough.  

I wonder if the day will come when most American employers start to accept (or indeed encourage!) World Cup absenteeism. My boss is European, and somewhat tolerant about this. But I can't ask for too much: hailing from a mothership that has never ever qualified and probably never will, I'm reduced to playing adopt-a-country every four years. Rather originally, I choose Brazil each time.  

But this year, my second choice--thanks to my need to root for a credible yet ultimately heartbreaking underdog--is definitely the US. Americans, I wish your team the very best of luck! Go US!
9 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
No!  

Four years ago the games took place during hours when I didn't have anything else planned, and I was single and reclusive enough that I could arrange to have watching soccer be more or less my only other plans for a whole month. I don't think my interest in the World Cup has gone down much since then in absolute terms, but my interest and involvement in a lot of other things, including a personal life I now share and a new job (which the games are mostly during, this time), has gone way up. So being my favorite world spectacle, still, will earn it an order of magnitude (or two) fewer hours of my attention this time around.
9 June 06 from JosefK 5
Are you planning to watch every match this time, too?
9 June 06 from Michael 1
Not that it matters, but I actually meant to say S. Korea would win their group, and France come 2nd.
8 June 06 from Michael 1
Since you were posting your full lists, I will do so as well:  

GROUP STAGE (winner of the group first, then second-place)
group A: Germany, Poland
group B: Sweden, England
group C: Argentina, Netherlands
group D: Mexico, Portugal
group E: Italy, USA
group F: Brazil, Croatia
group G: France, South Korea
group H: Spain, Ukraine  

ROUND OF SIXTEEN
Germany over England
Argentina over Portugal
Croatia over Italy
France over Ukraine
Sweden over Poland
Netherland over Mexico
Brazil over USA
Spain over South Korea  

QUARTERFINALS
Germany over Argentina
France over Croatia
Sweden over Netherlands
Brazil over Spain  

SEMIFINALS
Germany over France
Brazil over Sweden  

FINALS
Brazil over Germany 2-1  

THIRD PLACE
Sweden over France 3-1
7 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
I so want to believe the US can get out of this group. Must keep trying.
7 June 06 from jeff 4
GROUP STAGE
group A: Germany, Costa Rica
group B: England, Sweden
group C: Netherlands, Argentina
group D: Mexico, Portugal
group E: Czech Republic, Italy
group F: Brazil, Croatia
group G: France, South Korea
group H: Spain, Ukraine  

ROUND OF SIXTEEN
germany over sweden
netherlands over portugal
england over costa rica
argentina over mexico
czech republic over croatia
ukraine over france
brazil over italy
spain over south korea  

QUARTERFINALS
netherlands over germany (quite the blood match there!)
czech republic over ukraine
argentina over england (another classic, payback for recent cups)
brazil over spain  

SEMIFINALS
netherlands over czech republic
argentina over brazil (hey, why not?)  

FINALS
argentina over netherlands (netherlands fall just short again)  

MY THOUGHTS
Of course there's a great chance that Brazil will win, and I'm not really an Argentina fan, but I think they at least have a chance to knock them out. And I don't think Brazil will win twice in a row (even if they have before and are clearly still the best team around).
Sad to say that I don't think the US will make round two, though I hope I'm wrong! It would be great to build some momentum off of the good showing last time. Plus if they make round two it will be bigger news since BOTH the NBA and NHL (if anyone watches it anymore) will be over. At first, the cup will be competing with what has been a great NBA playoffs.
7 June 06 from Michael 1
It's striking how divergent people's opinions about the French squad are. Rod thinks they'll win the final; glenn doesn't think they'll get out of their group. I just want to see Zidane, Trezeguet etc. play well once more, and so I split the difference and assumed they'd get to the third-place game.
6 June 06 from Rod Begbie 3
Since Scotland got knocked out in the qualifiers, I don't care too much.  

But I reckon France will beat Brazil in the final, and Germany will beat England for 3rd. The US will make it out of the first round, but lose in the second.
6 June 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
Hard to bet against Brazil-over-Germany for the final. But I will.  

My guesses:  

Group A: Germany, Poland
Group B: England, Sweden
Group C: Argentina, Ivory Coast
Group D: Portugal, Iran
Group E: Czech Republic, Italy
Group F: Brazil, Japan
Group G: Switzerland, Togo
Group H: Spain, Ukraine  

Germany beats Sweden
Argentina beats Iran
Poland beats England
Ivory Coast beats Portugal
Japan beats Czech Republic
Switzerland beats Ukraine
Brazil beats Italy
Togo beats Spain  

Argentina beats Germany
Japan beats Switzerland
Ivory Coast beats Poland
Brazil beats Togo  

Argentina beats Japan
Brazil beats Ivory Coast  

Ivory Coast beats Japan for 3rd
Brazil beats Argentina
6 June 06 from Michael 1
So, any thoughts on the World Cup? I was just playing with the FIFA World Predictor Game at fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/e/predictor.html -- an Excel spreadsheet -- for guidance.  

Mine:  

Brazil over Germany for the championship
Sweden over France for third place  

I say U.S. gets out of the Group round but no farther. I think Sweden will be the big surprise, and I hoping (perhaps naively) that the great French and Dutch squads of the late 1990s can play well in one last Cup before they all step down.
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