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Friday, June 30, 2006

6/30 World Cup of Coffee

And then there were eight.

Well folks, it's time to rev things up again. We've got two quarterfinal matches today and two Saturday. Once again, I will be traveling on Saturday--this time on a family reunion/beach trip. But I will have computer access. The big problem for me will be figuring out how to see matches on a roadtrip with wife and kids in tow....

We could have some pretty amazing semifinals if form holds. Argentina or Germany vs. Italy. England or Portugal vs. Brazil or France. Or Ukraine could do scoreless matches and penalty kicks all the way to the final. Ack! Here's the final four nobody wants: Germany, Ukraine, Portugal, France. By the way, since Italy is one of the coolest countries on the planet, why is it so hard to pull for their national team? It's the diving, flopping, and willingness to sit back that do it, I'm afraid. Although for quality's sake, I do hope they get to the semis.

On to the matches:

This is an epic match-up to kick off the quarters. It's a shame they have to play so early, but there you go. Germany is playing fantastic football right now. Their relentless attacking has masked vulnerabilities at the back, though they may have shored those up a bit. We'll certainly find out today, as Argentina will patiently, efficiently pick apart weaknesses at the back with their pinpoint passing and ability to maintain possession. Argentina looked vulnerable themselves in a hardfought win over Mexico, relying on a Maxi Rodriguez wondergoal to win. But it sure is nice when you can bring the likes of Tevez and Messi off the bench, isn't it? Argentina has the edge in quality, but Germany's self-belief, momentum and homefield advantage are huge factors. I'm going with the highest scoring affair of all quarterfinal matches. Germany 3 Argentina 2 in extra time.

Why couldn't this have been on Saturday when I'm driving? Sheesh. It's hard to see how this match will live up to the other three quarters, but maybe they'll surprise us. Italy will be missing some key players, including Nesta. But I just can't see the Ukraine breaking them down. Shevchenko plays in Italy (or did until moving to Chelski before the WC) and will be very familiar with the competition and eager to get a good result. But Italy will defend comfortably, counter effectively, and create off set pieces as well. Ukraine can be pleased with a run to the quarters. Italy 2 Ukraine 0.


Here are the expert picks for the quarterfinal matches:
BBC's Mark Lawrenson
Fox Sport's Jamie Trecker
SI's Thomas Rongen

The World Cup as a solution for Guantanamo troubles! Tell inmates not to riot and they get to watch the World Cup. Unfortunately, the only offerings were Saudi Arabia matches...

Hey, what is that World Cup magic spray, anyway?

Finally, the race issue continues to follow the French national team around. First, the Spain-France match recalled the incident where Spain coach Luis Aragones once called Thierry Henry a 'black s---.' Now ultranationalist presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen complained that France's team is too black. Veteran defender Lilian Thuram responds. Money quote:

When we take to the field, we do so as Frenchmen. All of us. When people were celebrating our win, they were celebrating us as Frenchmen, not black men or white men. It doesn't matter if we're black or not, because we're French. I've just got one thing to say to Jean Marie Le Pen. The French team are all very, very proud to be French. If he's got a problem with us, that's down to him but we are proud to represent this country. So Vive la France, but the true France. Not the France that he wants.

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