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World Cup Preview: What to Expect in the Group Stages

With a little over a month until we kick off the 2010 World Cup, it is time to take a look at what we can expect to happen during the month long tournament that will be highlighted by a final game between the two best teams in the world on July 11th in Johannesburg.

Group A

South Africa (90)

Mexico (17)

Uruguay (18)

France (10)

Unfortunately for the host nation, most of the glory of the tournament will be showing off their stadiums and their country to the world. This grouping will be a three team competition between France, Mexico, and Uruguay. By the time the tournament starts, France will be back on top of their form and over the Thierry Henry handball incident that snuck them into the tournament and they will win the group. The second team to advance will come down to Mexico vs. Uruguay. Whoever is able to win this game, will be the other team to advance out of Group A.

Prediction: France and Mexico advance

Group B

Argentina (7)

Nigeria (20)

South Korea (47)

Greece (12)

Argentina comes into the tournament with one of the best combinations of strikers in the tournament with Messi and Tevez. Greece has struggled in international play ever since their 2004 Euro championship, but this looks to be the best team they have had since then. South Korea is far better than their 47th world ranking leads you to believe, but will struggle against some of the top teams in the world compared to their performances against other Asian countries. Nigeria will be Greece’s biggest challenge in advancing to the elimination rounds.

Prediction: Argentina and Greece advance

Group C

England (8)

United States (14)

Algeria (31)

Slovenia (23)

If England hopes to advance as far in the World Cup as many experts are predicting they should, they better hope Wayne Rooney comes back from his ankle injury.  They also better hope Rooney does not need a game to shake off the cob webs as they open the tournament against the United States, England’s biggest threat in the grouping. The Americans come into the tournament looking better then ever and the people of the United States are more excited about this years World Cup than any World Cup then I can recall in my lifetime. Expect the Americans to not only advance to the round of 16, but to do so by beating England and winning the group.

Prediction: United States and England advance

Group D

Germany (6)

Australia (20)

Serbia (16)

Ghana (32)

Germany comes into this years World Cup looking as good as any team out there and has hopes of improving on their third place finish in 2006 and winning the tournament. Their first tests will come in the group round as they face Serbia and Australia, two teams who are not viewed as teams that will go deep into the tournament, but have a history of giving great teams trouble. Look for Australia to also surprise Serbia and win second place in the grouping.

Prediction: Germany and Australia advance

Group E

Netherlands (4)

Denmark (35)

Japan (45)

Cameroon (19)

Watch out for the Dutch team in this years tournament. I expect them to exceed expectations and possibly make an appearance in the championship game. The team that will give them trouble in this group round is Denmark, who has beaten the Netherlands five out of the last six times they have played each other. Cameroon barely qualified for the tournament, but with a striker who has the abilities of Samuel Eto’o, any result is possible.

Prediction: Netherlands and Denmark advance

Group F

Italy (5)

Paraguay (30)

New Zealand (78)

Slovakia (38)

Italy will have the easiest road to the round of sixteen of any of the countries in the tournament, as their toughest competition will be a Paraguayan team.  Paraguay finished third in qualifying in the South American region.  With New Zealand and Slovakia being content on simply making it to the World Cup, you can expect them, along with the defending champion, Italy, to make it out of the group stage.

Prediction: Italy and Paraguay advance

Group G

Brazil (1)

Ivory Coast (27)

North Korea (84)

Portugal (3)

Most people view Group G as the “Group of Death” in this years tournament, and for the Ivory Coast and North Korea, it is. Unfortunately, those two teams do not have any shot in advancing over top ranked Brazil team and a Portuguese team led by Christiano Ronaldo and Co. The match up between Brazil and Portugal will undoubtedly be the best match in the group stage and could possibly be a preview of the championship game.

Prediction: Brazil and Portugal advance.

Group H

Spain (2)

Switzerland (40)

Honduras (38)

Chile (15)

Spain comes into the tournament as one of the biggest threats to win the whole thing and, if it were not for a loss to the United States in the Confederations Cup, they would be entering the tournament as the top ranked team in the world. Chile, Honduras, and Switzerland all have a realistic shot at of placing second in the group. The team that advances will likely be whoever is able to beat or play Spain to a draw. If any of these teams are able to do that, they will likely only need to beat one of the other two opponents to secure second place in the group.

Prediction: Spain and Chile advance

Have an idea of who you think will advance out of the group stages?

Post your predictions in the comment section.

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Categories: Soccer, Sports

USA shocks Spain!

By:  Michael Dunham

When I heard that the USA was playing Spain I figured I would watch and get a good laugh at the pounding that would ensue.  The only thing is, despite my enourmous American pride, I thought I would be laughing at the pounding those dirty Spaniards would put on America.  Instead, I saw one of the greatest performances under extreme duress I have ever seen.

The game started just as I figured it would, Spain, the number one ranked team in the world, was constantly in the American third of the pitch, shooting shot after shot at goalie Tim Howard.  Every time the U.S. would attempt to move the ball to the other side of the pitch it would get stolen back and the barrage of shots would continue.

Finally, in the 27th minute, Clint Dempsey succesfully moved the ball to the Spanish third where he fed Jozy Altidore who fought off Spanish defender Capdevila’s best attempts at the ball and found the back of the net.  GOAL!  I was stunned.  Was the fourteenth ranked team in the world actually beating number one?! All of the sudden, America had a chance.

After the chaos of the goal completed and Altidore put his shirt back on after his yellow carded celebration, I realized, ‘America is still playing Spain, the number one ranked team in the world.’ I chuckled at myself for thinking that America could win and continued watching the game.

The Spainish attack continued as strong as before, but still, no goal.  The halftime whistle blew and the teams went to their locker room where I figured Bob Bradley would make some adjustments to help his defence out and put some more pressure on the Spanish side.

Instead, the opposite happened.  Spain made adjustments and their offense was even stronger than before.  I have never seen a game where a team was winning the game and their defence looked amazing, yet the commentators talked about how the United States would loose if they did not change their tactics.

When Spain’s pressure seemed to be at its peak, the US broke into the Spanish third and, just like before, found a way to make the most of a hopeful situation and score again.  After a cross by Donovan, Sergio Ramos chose to take a touch before clearing the ball and Clint Dempsey snuck in and poked the ball off Ramos’ foot and into the back of the goal.  Now the US really did have a chance!  2-0 over Spain! WOO!!  Then again, I realized they were playing Spain and there was still about 20 minutes left in the game.

The game continued as before in a fashion of:  Spain shot, Spain shot, clear, Spain shot, then it would all repeat again.  It was only made tougher when, in the 86th minute, Michael Bradley was red carded on a play that was a questionable yellow at best.  The next 10 minutes where likely the longest in the lives of most of these United States soccer players.  Think about this situation; you are playing the number one team in the world, they are on a 35 game unbeated streak, although you have a 2-0 lead, you have been outplayed in every facet of the game, if the amount of pressure being applied were to be weighed, it would make a sumo wrestler look in shape, and let me repeat THEY ARE THE NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE WORLD!  If I were any of those players out there, I would have broken down and cried.  Luckily for America and viewers worldwide, I was watching the game on my couch like the rest of you.

87th minute: 2-0

88th minute: 2-0

89th minute: 2-0!

90th minute: 2-0?!

91st minute: 2-0!!

92nd minute: 2-0!!!!

93rd minute: 2-0!!!!!!!!

The Americans have done it!  U-S-A! U-S-A!  I think i did a backflip while celebrating.  This is the most incredible thing I have ever seen!  I am screaming like a schoolgirl who just got the latest gossip feed!  This is the best gossip I have ever heard!!  HAHA Spain in your face.

I know that anyone else who watched the whole game was doing something similar if the watched the game start to finish.

When I think about the game I can’t help but think of the similarities between this game and the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice.’  Both games were against teams ranked number one in the world while the common thought was that the Americans had no chance.  Both games were in the semi-finals of a major international tournament; granted the Olympics or the soccer equivalent World Cup is on a different level than the Confederation Cup, it is still a similarity none the less.  Most importantly, the United States won both games.

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Categories: Soccer, Sports