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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

6/28 World Cup of Coffee

Today's a first at the 2006 World Cup: no matches. Now we let the dust settle a little bit and take a look at eight teams--how they got here and where they're headed. First, a quick word about yesterday's matches...

Man, did France make me eat my words or what? The old vets Zidane and Vieira--both of whom I suggested shouldn't be in the line-up--came up huge against a young, hungry and talented Spain squad. Thierry Henry was a marginal figure in this match, as the vets dominated and young Franck Ribery got into the action as well after a nice set-up from Vieira. So what happened? Hard to say other than Vieira and Zidane seemed rejuvenated, France closed Spain quickly in the midfield, the defense held ground, and France created chances of their own. Perhaps experience did come in handy considering the youth of Spain, who must now endure four more years of being told they are underachievers. Now we have a rematch of 1998 finalists France and Brazil. Can Les Bleus do it one more time? At first glance I'd say no. But I better think about this one.

Meanwhile Brazil continue to cruise despite not playing their best. Ghana couldn't put one in the back of the net despite their attacking (particularly in the first half). They sure could have used Michael Essien today.

Here's what we've got left:
Friday: Germany-Argentina
Friday: Italy-Ukraine
Saturday: England-Portugal
Saturday: Brazil-France

Seven heavyweights and the Ukraine is the first thought to come to my mind. Germany's looked outstanding and enjoy homefield advantage. Can they knock off Argentina? I think they can but want to sleep on it a couple of days. Italy-Ukraine could be unwatchable if both teams sit back. Here's hoping not. England-Portugal seems pretty even except for Deco and Costhina missing due to cards. England has the talent edge, Portugal has the coaching edge. Brazil and France could be very tight if France can reproduce yesterday's form. I smell disaster for Fabien Barthez, however. He's due for an inexplicable goal allowed. We'll break these down more in upcoming posts, but what do you see happening?

DAILY DIGEST

Well, it looks like Fats Ronaldo isn't so bad after all.

The quarterfinals are all about the traditional powers, with Ukraine being the only exception. Check out capsules of the eight remaining teams and their prospects.

FIFA will send officials home who followed instructions a little too closely. Meanwhile Spain and Ghana complain about calls in their respective matches. Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira offered these sympathies to Ghana: That is what losers do, they whinge and they cry.

England Excuse Watch: Lackluster play can't be blamed on the Wives and Girlfriends policy, David Beckham's struggles, and bad referees. No, the problem is those dry pitches. Whatever the case, England are happy to win ugly...though it may doom them in their familiar status as a Nation of Quarterfinalists.

Finally, faithful Dignan's 75 Year Plan reader r.johnson offered some interesting thoughts on American expectations for Landon Donovan to which I wanted to respond (tomorrow). Check out his insights here.

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