Friday, June 23, 2006

World Domination

Heading into the second round of the World Cup, it's fair to say that most of the usual suspects are there. Ghana is a surprise second round entry, but for the most part, the teams that were expected to get to the second round are there. I think the elimination of the Czech Republic is probably the most surprising result of the first round. They came into the tournament as FIFA's #2 ranked team and handed the US an embarrassing loss in the opening game. That perhaps spoke more to the lack of quality on the US squad than to the quality of the Czech team. Losing to both Ghana and Italy showed that they were undeserving of such a lofty ranking. Once again the FIFA rankings are exposed for the joke that they are.

The most impressive teams up to this point have been Germany and Argentina. Argentina played a sluggish and uninspired game against the Netherlands, but there was nothing on the line for either team and players were rested to avoid picking up red cards. Germany has steamrolled through the tournament to date and have been inspired by the home fans. Spain and Portugal have also been especially impressive.

Less impressive have been the Brazilians, although they did finally breakout against Japan yesterday. Ronaldo (who has been called fat by the press in Brazil), scored two goals and moved into a tie for the most goals ever scored in the World Cup tournament. He will have at least one more game to try and break the record.

England, once again could not beat Sweden (38 years and counting). They gave up one of the softest goals of the tournament to date in the 90th minute of the game to allow Sweden to pull even in the game. Without Michael Owen, they appear to be in serious trouble at this point. They have lots of quality in the midfield, but are definitely lacking upfront. Wayne Rooney is trying to play himself back into shape, but has not been much of a factor at this point. Although they were my pre tournament pick to win it all, I would not be surprised to see them lose to Ecuador in the opening game of the second round.

It really is hard to say who is going to win the tournament at this point. If I were a betting man, I would have to put my money on a Germany - Brazil final game. However, I could just as easily see Argentina or Portugal getting to the final game. Spain has been a constant disappointment in previous World Cups and so I really expect that they will fizzle at some point before reaching the finals. In my mind it's still the Brazilians cup to lose. They are the defending champions and are unbeaten in nine straight matches. They do have one thing working against them, however. They are the #1 ranked team by FIFA and we have already seen what a kiss of death the rankings have been (ask Czech Republic or the USA).

Screw it. I'm still picking England.



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