10 June, 2010

We're The Lucky Ones

You have to make your predictions about the World Cup before the World Cup, clearly. As I worked my way through the draw I began laughing increasingly hysterically, as I realised how hypothetical it had all become. Here are my uneducated musings and hunches, for want of a better place to put them:

How much of a boost will African teams receive from this home World Cup? The climate will not be a particularly 'African' one, apparently. Three African teams have been seriously hurt by injuries to Chelsea players: Mikel, Essien and Drogba (who is still with the Ivory Coast squad but was meant to be seriously injured only recently - not good). Their absence would gut better sides. On quality alone, I think each of the African teams will struggle to progress from their groups - I hope I'm wrong, because without some home success this World Cup will suck. I think Cameroon may progress (Japan seem decent but fragile, Denmark solid but blunt, Holland with a question mark over the main man, Robben). South Africa are in a really tough group, while Ivory Coast need to beat either Brazil or Portugal. Algeria and Ghana are middling in middling groups, I feel.

I think Nigeria may make it past the group stage. They have some unpredictable quality up front and a good chance of beating South Korea and Greece. I'd also give them a chance of upsetting someone in the knockout round, France or South Korea, and England in the quarterfinals. But I'd be very worried about their midfield without Mikel.

European-based players are looking extremely banged up, including some players that are really depended upon to carry their team's attack: Messi in particular bothers me. Is Maradona really a good enough coach to win without him at his best? I rather doubt this. Then there's Robben, Nani and Drogba. I worry that European football's punishing and thoughtless scheduling may really give us the appalling World Cup we all deserve this summer.

The USA are meant to be really in the hat in this World Cup. But they might stuggle up front. Jozy Altidore is still somewhat green and a lot will rest on Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey (who I like a lot) and Michael Bradley. They'll give England a good game but might get shocked by a sneakily good Slovenia side and possibly Algeria.

England, in my brief runthrough, were in the same half of the knockout draw as Brazil. No chance, surely! But they should be aiming to win Group C, although it contains decent teams. I'm very worried about a possible second round game against Serbia. But England are still one of the talented teams in world football and in Wayne Rooney they have a global superstar at his peak. This isn't a great side, far from it. But good enough to support in hope of a miracle, certainly.

Spain have a really soft group, and they're currently playing the best football on the planet, but their second round game will be a tough one against Brazil or Portugal (or Ivory Coast. Maybe). France, Germany and Italy are in a similar place to England; good sides who may spark and win the whole thing or may whiff out embarassingly.

The three teams I find legitimately terrifying: Spain, Brazil, Argentina (in that order).
Three teams that could cause a shock: Nigeria, Slovenia, Serbia.

My Final prediction: Brazil 1 - 3 Spain