How was that to whet your footy appetite? With two games already in the record books, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is upon us, and that means that everybody who doesn’t live in the United States is really excited. It also means that those soccer fans who are unable to make the trek to South Africa want nothing more than to share their World Cup predictions with you, which is why three soccer-obsessed writers–Charlie, Ryan, and Josh–have come together to share their predictions on the event that will render them completely unproductive for the next three weeks.
Prediction 1: A Stanford grad will step onto the field.*
*Disclaimer: A Stanford grad will not make it past the first round.
Josh: Sorry, Ryan Nelson ’01 (B.A. Political Science)—it’s just not happening for New Zealand this year. To reach the World Cup, Nelson and Co. defeated Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Bahrain—countries (except for New Caledonia, which is not even a country) whose existence I only know of because of Sporcle. New Zealand, did, however, land in Group F, which is far and away the easiest group. Italy, the name-brand soccer country of the group, is looking fairly washed-up these days; Paraguay and Slovakia, the other two teams, are not exactly teams you’d expect to waltz (or, for Paraguay, salsa) into the second round. The weaker competition, though, means that New Zealand might be able to score a point, which would save them from being the worst team in the tournament. That honor will go to North Korea, who have a painful three matches against Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast.
Charlie: I don’t foresee Paraguay and Slovakia pulling out of the tournament or getting kicked out, which pretty much means New Zealand will only have three group stage matches before heading home. At least they can root against the Aussies in the knockout stages. I wish Ryan Nelsen the best in the tournament, but I hope he can soak it all in quickly.
Prediction 2: Just like in the Revolutionary War, England won’t win its match-up with the United States.
Josh: There are two caveats to this prediction: one, that it will probably be a draw and not an outright US win; two, as a fan of the US, I perpetually have irrationally high hopes for the team. The US team, though, is looking better than expected going into the tournament, and England is struggling with underachievement and a defense that is suffering from injuries and interpersonal problems that occur when you sleep with your teammate’s girlfriend. If Team USA can do the following things, they will be in a good position to take the game:
–Keep Ricardo Clark from getting any playing time. This goes for all of the games in the tournament: Clark is just too slow and inaccurate to be anchoring the midfield.
–Don’t do stupid things. This seems fairly straightforward, but the Americans struggle with this every game. England’s talent means they will capitalize if they have the opportunity—the US needs to limit giveaways in the back, unnecessary fouls, and cards.
–Get Dempsey involved early. Dempsey is a force to be reckoned with, either up front or on the wing. It would surprise me if the US scores without Dempsey making it happen—so the quicker he gets into the mix, the better chance the US will have to get back into the game after conceding a goal caused by a stupid play by Ricardo Clark.
Charlie: Of course England are one of the favorites to win, but in such a weak group, a draw in the opening game might do both teams the most good. If we were Italians we would just rig the match, but seeing as we have integrity, expect the US to impress. It’s true that a loss for the US wouldn’t be the end of the world, so long as we make England work for the victory, but for the first time in history we have a genuine shot to get some payback for the Boston Massacre or the War of 1812. I predict England 1-2 USA because I’m a disillusioned youth who caught that contagious disease that spreads during the world cup: hope.
Prediction 3: The vuvuzelas will not be the most annoying thing at the World Cup, the American commentators will.
Ryan: You know that constant buzzing sound that will be emanating from your television during games? That would be the work of vuvuzelas, the infamous African horns. You know that annoying commentary and color analysis emanating from your television before, during, and after games? That would be the work of men like Alexi Lalas, John Harkes, JP Dellacamera and the rest of the American ESPN crew. There’s nothing worse than when Dellacamera stumbles over pre-written notes about the Premier League or when Lalas sounds off on how much he hates Wayne Rooney’s attitude. In part, the inability to find articulate individuals who can provide insightful thoughts on the world of football is a major reason why this country doesn’t appreciate “The Beautiful Game” as much as other sports. There’s a reason why ESPN hired Martin Tyler and others from across the pond to provide commentary for this year’s tournament.
Prediction 4: Maradona will not be running through the streets naked, or at least not because of the promise he made.
Ryan: For the sake of the people on Earth, I hope this prediction holds true. Arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, former Argentina legend and current head coach, Diego Maradona, promised to streak through the streets of Buenos Aires if La Albiceleste take the title. But there’s some grounding for this prediction other than just the sheer horror of seeing Maradona in his birthday suit. Sure, Argentina boasts a plethora of forwards: Messi, Tevez, Milito, Aguero, Higuain, but the dreaded 4-1-5 aside, the side can only field a maximum of three forwards at a time. Also, the top-heavy Argentina, who barely qualified for the finals, has some questionable players and a suspect backline, mainly due to odd selections by Maradona. After leaving Esteban Cambiasso and all-time caps leader Javier Zanetti at home, the coach proceeded to pick players like Ariel Garce and Nicolas Otamendi to fill the gaps. And if you couldn’t tell by his party promise and team selection, Argentina has a kook for a head coach. A strange man with a knack for the limelight, Maradona is not a footy manager and will ultimately prove more a liability than an asset in South Africa.
Prediction 5: Nobody has the guts to pick a Cinderella team to win, and neither do we.
Ryan: I’m going with the Dutch on this one. Yes, they’ll most likely have to get past the Brazilians in the quarters, but their attacking options are scary. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben are enough to spark any offense and adding an in-form and very fresh Robin Van Persie (my pick for the Golden Boot) into the mix completes a potent attacking triumvirate. If their questionable backline can hold it together and the team can remain healthy, the Oranje may have enough juice to claim the cup.
Josh: No matter how much I want the US to win, the top-tier teams are just too good for any team not from Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, or the Netherlands to win. Brazil and Spain are certainly talented enough to take the title, but don’t write off the German squad: even without Michael Ballack, the Germans have a solid contingent of young players plus a proven goal scorer in Miroslav Klose. I predict Germany wins. If not them, the Dutch could find their way somewhere near that ugly, ugly trophy.
Charlie: I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that either a South American or European team wins it. The most likely team from outside those two continents to grab the trophy is probably the Ivory Coast or the US. Yeah… it’s not going to happen. Since Torres got his aerodynamic haircut, I’d say Spain have to be favorites, but I can also see the Netherlands leaving Africa with some heavy luggage.
For an amazing schedule that organizes all the games for you click here.