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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

6/14 World Cup of Coffee

I just noticed that my last NINE predictions miss the goal margin by one. Please keep that in mind when you place your bets. Anyhoo...
Brazil didn't overwhelmingly impress yesterday. Overall, they had the edge in play and a great goal from Kaka. But Croatia acquitted themselves just fine and surely are lamenting their inability to finish. Ronaldo is a little chubby, isn't he? But truly unimpressive--and catastrophic to my brackets which I made weeks ago and forgot to revise before the deadline--was France. Yikes. Hate to say it, but Thierry Henry did not play well. He was in good company, as the French looked slow, old, and dispirited. Barthez looks like the guy in the park who plays a pick-up game and throws down a brewskie or two. Zidane just isn't the magical Zidane of old, er, young. The Swiss are a solid side, but still. Domenech needs to forget egos and deference to past-prime veterans. Shuffle that line-up or it's a quick trip back to Paris.
Tough loss for Togo, I hear. They get an early goal but do down to 10 men and the Koreans capitalize. I still think Switzerland and France survive, but the Republic of Korea can't be too terrified of France, can they? On to today's matches...

SPAIN vs. UKRAINE
You may recall that I picked Ukraine to win this group. They've played well in qualifying and friendlies while perennial underachieving, talent-laden Spain has struggled. What makes this match difficult to forecast, however, is the health of world-class Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko. If he doesn't play, my prediction is in trouble. But I'm going to assume that he plays, that Spain struggles to find the net, that Ukraine impresses in attack. Ukraine 1 Spain 1.

TUNISIA vs. SAUDI ARABIA
Of all the matches to fall on my lunch break. Sheesh. I may eat lunch at 9:00 AM instead. I picked Tunisia as a tricky team in this group, but word on the street is that injuries are starting to pile up. Like about a third of the teams here, Tunisia is led by a Brazilian transplant, Francileudo Dos Santos, who will miss this match due to injury. This is a steady, well-coached, veteran bunch going against the Saudis, who aren't expected to do much but are at their fourth straight Cup. Closer than expected: Tunisia 1 Saudi Arabia 0.

GERMANY vs. POLAND
These Group A teams play their second match in the late tilt. Poland will be desperate to get points after their dismal performance against Ecuador. No doubt playing Germany will provide extra motivation as well. But the Germans have already shown their ability to score goals. I'm going out on a limb here and pick an exciting goal-filled game. Poland's going to show some heart and find weaknesses in the German defense. But Germany, with Ballack back in the line-up, will prevail. 3-2 Germany.

DAILY DIGEST
Just noticed that Fox Soccer Channel's Bobby McMahon is blogging games. Always enjoyed the Scotsman's wit and winsomeness back when I had cable. Meanwhile, SI's Grant Wahl says it's time for Brazil to bench Ronaldo. Oh, and here's his take on the fallout from the US defeat.

German tabloid offers truly tasteless assessments of David Beckham's family. The England midfielder strikes back. Would poetic justice be a Beckham free kick knocking the Germans out of the tournament?

Miss any highlights while at work? FIFA is showing them for free on their website. Nice to see Kaka's goal clearly after watching my grainy Univision...

Finally, the Times of London selected Trinidad & Tobago keeper Shaka Hislop to write articles chronicling his World Cup experience. Little did they know he would be rushed into the starting line-up due to starting keeper Kelvin Jack's pregame injury. Hislop produced a game for the ages in the stunning draw with Sweden. Here is his memorable account of that day.

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