Friday, June 09, 2006

Rule Britannia!

1966. 1966. It was a landmark year for a number of reasons not the least of which is that is was the last and only time that England has won the World Cup. The World Cup was held in England in 1966 and has not been back since. I think that might have something to do with the fact that England has not won the cup in 40 years. I'm not suggesting that the only way for England to win the Cup is for it to help in their home country, but 40 years is a long time for the world championship of football to stay away from the place of it's origin.

The heavy betting favorite for this years Cup is Brazil. They play the "beautiful game". The team is loaded with talent. They have skilled players at every position. They have imagination, talent and experience. Their defense is a little old and their goalie is not one the best in the world, but their midfielders and forwards are so ridiculously talented that they should make up for any shortcomings on the defensive end of the field. On paper they should win the tournament easily, but of course, games aren't' won on paper. Brazil has won two out of the last three cups and have made it to the final of all three. The also have the consensus "best player in the world". So why am I not picking them to win? Well, it could be all those drugs I did as a teenager. Or it could be all the alcohol and drugs I did in my twenties and thirties. But for some reason, I think these guys are going to get beat. Maybe it's complacency and maybe it's just because the breaks won't go their way this time. Much like baseball, the best team doesn't always win. Even when you have the best team, it may take a lucky bounce in a close game to guarantee victory. I think their luck is going south (pardon the pun) this year.

Germany is the second betting favorite this year. They're at home, they have a great squad, headed by the brilliant midfielder Michael Ballack. The reason I'm picking against Germany? Only two out of the last seven hosts have won the cup (Argentina in '78 and France in '98). While being home does provide an advantage, it's not one that is so historically significant that it will putsch (pun intended) them over the top. Plus it's Germany. They're reunited. We shouldn't give them any more reason to think that they are superior to the rest of the world. They might get ideas (You know what I mean).

I'm not going to go through the rest of field and lay out strengths and weaknesses. First of all, I have a job and I have to pretend to do some work today and secondly, what's the point? You know, I know and that American people know (ok maybe not the American people, because the majority don't care about the World Cup), that most of the teams don't have a chance. Do I really need to go over the strengths and weaknesses of Iran? Togo? Serbia & Montenegro??? I don't think so. I guess I should mention the US team. They're a decent squad, but they have a very tough draw. It would not be surprising if they didn't make it out of the first round. Italy and the Czech Republic are formidable opponents. They might squeak through on goal differential, but If I were a betting man (and I'm not), I'd bet against it.

So that brings me back to England. One of their star players is coming off a major injury (Wayne Rooney) and may not be available until the second round. He clearly isn't going to be in the best of shape whether he plays or not. The other major goal scoring threat (Michael Owen) is coming back from his own major injury. David Beckham isn't getting any younger and they haven't won the Cup in 40 years. So why am I picking them to win it all? They're due. That's it. They lost a bunch of games over the past 5 Cups in heartbreaking fashion. From Maradona's "hand of God" goal to shootout loses to Germany and Argentina and close loses to Brazil, they haven't gotten a break in 40 years. It's about time that things go their way. Plus the Cup is in Germany and I don't think that they've ever forgiven the Germans for their relentless bombing of London. It's payback time. After England wins the Cup, they will unleash the full power of world's 6th mightiest nation on Berlin. Ok, maybe not, but they will win.

Oh, by the way, I was born in England, but I don't want you to think that fact colored my prediction in any way. You believe me. Right?



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