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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

6/21 World Cup of Coffee

Yesterday we entered the third and final round of group matches with a new time and format. At 10 AM and 3 PM (EST) we have two matches each, both from the same group (for the sake of fair play). Let's talk about the matches we didn't see: Poland beat Costa Rica and sadly, Trinidad & Tobago fell short to Paraguay. Moving on, Germany won with surprising ease over an Ecuador team that rested starters and seemed to be looking forward to the next round. Germany is playing well and seemed to have shored up their back somewhat. Still, they are going to face some real challenges in the next couple of matches. We'll see if an easy group built their confidence or hid weaknesses.
What to say about the England-Sweden match? First, it's heartbreak for Michael Owen, who will miss the rest of the tournament with a serious knee injury. It's hard to say how damaging that will be for England because his form hasn't been that great. But it's a shame for him. You absolutely must watch Joe Cole's wonder goal, if you missed it, at the FIFA World Cup official site. Just a marvelous individual effort. Competing with Argentina's 24 pass build-up for best goal of the World Cup thus far. But England looked terribly shaky at the back, particularly on set pieces. Sweden's second equalizer was a howler of a defensive effort. England needs to stop even speculating about winning the World Cup and focus on formation and line-up problems as well as their defensive struggles before facing Ecuador. I say bench Lampard and cut Gerrard loose. Sweden moves on to face the hosts, Germany. Now as for today:

On paper, this should be a very entertaining match. But Big Phil Scolari is probably going to rest key players with cards. I suspect he'll turn it into a dreary affair and settle for the draw, all Portugal needs to win the group. Mexico has been disappointing so far. They struggled against Iran and were unable to crack Angola. These two teams will play Argentina and Holland in the next round, though Angola technically is still alive. But I see Portugal 1 Mexico 1.

Yes, Angola has a chance. They need to win, have Portugal beat Mexico, and reverse a serious goal difference in the process. The draw against Mexico was a great accomplishment, as was holding Portugal to one goal. They have done well. But they are limited in attack. I look for them and Iran to score one here. Angola 1 Iran 1.

Again, this should be a battle of the titans. But we will see if starters are rested due to cards. Hopefully, this one will entertain. The Netherlands have infused their team with youth and it's worked. Argentina has been the team of the tournament so far, and but I think both teams will play it relatively safe. Argentina 1 Netherlands 1.

Both teams are eliminated, but Ivory Coast must feel pretty good about how they competed against Argentina and the Netherlands. Still disappointing to come away with no points. But at least they didn't get beat 6-0 like a disenchanted Serbia & Montenegro did. Yikes. I think Ivory Coast will get a victory to close out their tournament. Ivory Coast 2 Serbia & Montenegro 1.


More examples of international insanity over the World Cup.

It's simple: you must score a goal to win, but the US hasn't scored yet in this World Cup. Soccernet's Jeff Carlisle examines our finishing issues. Meanwhile SI's Grant Wahl speaks with US assistant coach Curt Onalfo about scouting Ghana.

Wayne Rooney's new ad raises eyebrows. Also, I just found out that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is blogging the World Cup. Check out the Professor.

Japan's squad is not feeling the love from their fans who showed up at their practice session. Speaking of not feeling the love, the folks over at TNR's Goal Post are embarking upon a crusade against ABC/ESPN color analyst Marcel Balboa.

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