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Thursday, June 15, 2006

6/15 World Cup of Coffee

What a day at the World Cup. Spain shows that they may shake that underachiever tag after all with an astonishingly dominant performance against the Ukraine. Lightly regarded Saudi Arabia and Tunisia provide some drama of their own with late goals in a 2-2 draw. But the highlight had to be the ferocious battle between Germany and Poland. There's a lot of unpleasant history and bad blood between these two. We saw a different Poland team from the one that lethargically got whipped by Ecuador. The tackles were flying and the attacks were relentless. It was about as entertaining as a 0-0 match can be, only to be topped off by a dramatic injury time winner for Germany. What a gutwrenching loss for Poland, who withstood countless German charges thanks in part to brilliant goalkeeper Artur Borac. But they acquitted themselves well despite lacking imagination in front of the goal. Things got ugly off the pitch as well, with German and Polish hooligans stirring trouble in Dortmund. This match moves us into the second batch of group matches. Tomorrow's games include...

ECUADOR vs. COSTA RICA
Costa Rica can throw themselves into contention for the second round while Ecuador can wrap it up with a win today. This is a difficult game to call. Costa Rica looked a little overwhelmed against Germany but still managed two goals. Ecuador was impressive against a flat Poland squad. The gap doesn't seem to be that huge between these two. I think Ecuador will defend cautiously but that both teams will nick goals. Costa Rica 1 Ecuador 1.

ENGLAND vs. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
England's dismal 1-0 win over Paraguay pales in comparisons to the debuts of Spain, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Italy, among others. But it's probably too much to expect Trinidad & Tobago to repeat their epic performance against Sweden. I will say this: T & T will not be intimidated. Many of their players play in England and are familiar with England's superstars, particularly old Premier League vets like Dwight Yorke and Stern John. But I suspect England will break through with several goals. I'm starting to think that Sven really doesn't have this team figured out or firing on all cylinders, though I wouldn't put it as harshly as this guy. England 3 T&T 0

SWEDEN vs. PARAGUAY
I gotta be honest. Thursday's slate of games don't excite me. I'll watch England, but the others may only get glimpses if I hear they'e exciting in the second half. This match is essentially seen as the battle for second in Group B. On paper, Sweden should win. But they seem out of sorts. I'll probably regret this but I'm guessing Paraguay steals an equalizer and thus second place will come down to the final matches. Sweden 1 Paraguay 1

DAILY DIGEST

"Every Soccer Pleasure Negated" : American soccer fans give their opinion of ESPN's World Cup Coverage. Paging "Michael" Beckham. Meanwhile U.S. winger Bobby Convey offers this unsettling assessment of the Czech Republic match: we "didn't know what to do."

The Togo World Cup experience continues its farcical descent. Very sad for the people of Togo to have their soccer federation, coach and players acquit themselves like this on the world stage.

How Soccer Explains the World Watch: Franklin Foer gives some geopolitical insight on the intermingling of Spanish nationalism, regional tensions and football success. And why this year really might be different...

Finally, one British journalist asks: "Why can't England pass the ball like everyone else at the World Cup?"

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