Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World Cup stuff

I'll have a recap of my predictions maybe Friday after the first round. Still feeling OK about the picks though. My Semifinalists are still all a possibility. I'm still high on Ukraine - their path to the semis might end up easier than anyone's - but look out for Italy out of that segment too, if they get past tomorrow.

Tomorrow's matches are pretty damn interesting, even without the local draw. Italy knows they'd advance with a draw, but doing that risks putting them up against Brazil and in one of the toughest routes to the semis. Meanwhile, a win by Italy puts them up against either Croatia or Australia and with one of the easiest routes to the semis. The Czechs know they need a win. Ghana know they advance with a win, but are playing without two good scorers. The USA still haven't scored on their own, but I'm not counting them out. I'd love the US to advance just to fire up people, but really advancing only means an asswhipping by Brazil. In a way, I almost think that a solid win tomorrow by the USA but not advancing might be the best thing for soccer over here. Might leave us on a high note, instead of a low one. And I don't just say it because it'd make my predictions look awesome. I'd much rather be wrong than right when it comes to teams I root for, because I usually predict pessimistically.

But Group E might not be the nuttiest group. I think Group G takes that crown. There are multiple, reasonable scenarios where lots may have to be drawn to decide who advances. Also, I've spend an asston of time looking at it, and I think I can figure out the tiebreakers in a way that picks the two teams to advance, but I'm not sure the tiebreaker rules clearly dictate exactly who would finish first or second. I'm not making much sense here... I went into more detail in comments at Braves & Birds. What I mean is that when there are three teams tied for two slots, I think I can figure out how to select the two teams to advance, but I'm not sure which one tops the group of those two (is it the first won out of the three selected to advance or once you've figured out the top two do you re-do the tiebreaker analysis? Rules aren't clear...). Anyway, this group is all screwed up if the Koreans and Swiss draw. So I'm definitely pulling for that to happen.

The ball is definitely screwing with keepers. Definitely. If you don't believe me, watch Rebrov or Joe Cole's reactions after their 25+ yard strikes the other day in the Ukraine and England matches respectively. Both looked absolutely stunned that the ball actually went in.

Owen... that just sucks. Play Gerrard in a 4-4-1-1. Others have said it, but damn I'd be pissed were I Defoe or Jenas or whoever else.

And speaking of players left home, Fifa has a choice to make. Do they want to continue to instruct the officials to book someone every damn minute, or do they want to keep the size of the rosters the same? Seems to me that with cards being dealt the way they've been some team might end up having to start a match in the knockout stage with only 8 or 9 men. 9 cards were handed out in the Cote d'Ivoire-Serbia match today. 9 cards! In a match that meant nothing in terms of progression! And the referee didn't card the Serbian who handled the ball on the last Cote d'Ivoire goal.

One other thing that's been bugging me: the second equalizer in the Sweden-England game. I watched every replay at least 10 times, and I cannot spot where Larsson touches the ball (he claims it). In fact, I can't see where anyone touches the ball after the throw in. If nobody else touches the ball, that's not a goal. Even if it was incredibly embarrassing defense by Robinson (and everyone else). Did I miss a good angle? Haven't seen anyone in the English press bitching about this either. Guess it didn't matter all that much, but it's bothering me.

One of the big misses I had for predictions was Iran, but I stand by everything I wrote about Mexico. They suck. If CONCACAF is going to get a #1 seed in South Africa (and I'm not sure it should), that seed should be USA's.

A little more on the USA... I think the players who have played the best for the USA have been Onyewu, Reyna, Mastroeni (grumbling about the card and suspension), and to my surprise, Dempsey. I think he'd find a home in a lot of European leagues. Least impressed with McBride, Pope (grumbling significantly less about the card and suspension), and Convey. Don't know what USA will do about Essien, but I'm damn glad Gyan isn't playing. Dude was everywhere against the Czechs. He should not be playing in Serie B.

All right. That's enough. There's college football below, but I don't know if anyone who'd want to read that will get even this far.

Come on USA! Forza Italia!