It's World Cup time again, and as the competing countries prepare themselves for battle with war paint, drums, and itchy blogging fingers, I figured it was about time to post all of my predictions, from the opening group phase to the epic final in July. Before I begin, I should point out that I'm a political writer, nota sports writer. I strongly advise that no one place any bets based on my opinions here (but hey, if you win a ton of money, I wouldn't mind some cash!). Having said that, I'm mostly doing this for fun; analyzing each team's strengths and weaknesses by my own standards and guessing results based on that. With this in mind, and without further adieu, here are all of my predictions for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
I'm going to step out on a limb here and assume that most of the people that regularly read my column for my political rants aren't likely to be huge soccer fans. As such, let me explain how the World Cup works, for those of you who don't normally follow "the beautiful game." There are two stages: the "Group Stage," and then "Stage 2." During the Group Stages, four different teams face off against each other, with each team playing no less than three matches. For each match played, points are earned, with three points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. After all of these games have been played, the two teams with the most points in each individual group progress into stage 2. Stage 2 should be familiar to sports fans everywhere; there's a "round of 16," with winners entering quarter-finals, then semi-finals, and then a final.
The Group Stages
Here's how I see each country finishing in the group stages. The real shockers here for soccer fans will come by the way of Mexico out-scoring France and the United States beating out England... like I said, not popular predictions, and I never said I was definitely going to be right!
Group A: Mexico, France, South Africa, Uruguay
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, Greece, Korea Republic
Group C: USA, England, Slovenia, Algeria
Group D: Germany, Ghana, Australia, Serbia
Group E: Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Netherlands
Group F: Italy, Paraguay,Slovakia, New Zealand
Group G: Brazil, Portugal, Korea DPR, Cote D'Ivoire
Group H: Spain, Honduras, Switzerland, Chile
The Round of 16
The toughest match-ups to predict here include the United States vs. Ghana, Argentina vs. France, and Spain vs. Portugal. But, several cigarettes and Coca-Cola's into it, I think I've finally picked my winners here. I know that seeing Argentina beat out France is probably a shocker to serious soccer aficionados. My reason? Messi can't be underestimated!
Mexico (1A) vs. Nigeria (2B): Mexico
USA (1C) vs. Ghana (2D): USA
Denmark (1E) vs. Paraguay (2F): Denmark
Brazil (1G) vs. Honduras (2H): Brazil
Argentina (1B) vs. France (2A): Argentina
Germany (1D) vs. England (2C): Germany
Italy (1F) vs. Japan (2E): Italy
Spain (1H) vs. Portugal (2G): Portugal
Here's where some tough calls had to be made. The United States beating Mexico probably seems impossible, if not at least a bit improbable, but I think the USA has some great players, excellent management in the hands of the often-criticized Bob Bradley, and a yearning for some good finishing after suffering a long history of World Cup embarrassments. Will they get out of the Quarter-Finals alive? Not likely, especially when they're faced against Brazil. But hey, like I said, I could be wrong about all of this!
Mexico vs. USA: USA
Denmark vs. Brazil: Brazil
Argentina vs. Germany: Argentina
Italy vs. Portugal: Italy
These will probably be the least-shocking of all my predictions. I think Brazil will cream the United States (sorry countrymen!), and Italy will probably end up nudging out Argentina in a penalty shoot-out.
USA vs. Brazil: Brazil
Argentina vs. Italy: Italy
When it all comes down to the last game of the cup, who do I think is taking home to trophy? Brazil. You can sum up why I feel this way pretty easily: They've got it. That's right. Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Alves, Gilberto, Melo, Kaka, Julio Baptista, Fabiano, Robinho... and this doesn't count their call-ups, including Alex, Marcelo, Eduardo, Adriano, and the world-renowned Ronaldinho. Brazil is famed for World Cup glory and some of the most beautiful, passionate football anywhere, and they produce more household names than any other country in the world. This current lineup is no different. Brazil is going to win the World Cup. If there's one prediction I'm confident in, this is it.
Brazil vs. Italy: Brazil