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Monday, June 05, 2006

6/5 World Cup of Coffee

OK, after reading Dignan's post, I think we need to start a Draft Dignan campaign. Not for Congress but for the US Men's National Team. World Cup glory is at stake! Today we'll start our group previews and predictions. For those unfamiliar with the format, 32 teams are divided into 8 groups. Each team in the group plays the other 3 teams, recording 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and O points for a loss. The top 2 teams of each group advance to the round of 16, where it turns into a single-elimination tournament. Prediction time...

Group A Order of Finish: 1. GERMANY, 2. POLAND, 3. ECUADOR, 4. COSTA RICA
The host Germans are under pressure to perform but a sense of impending doom hovers over their preparations. They aren't as good as past teams, but that was the case in 2002 when they went all the way to the final before losing to Brazil. Germany is a young, attacking team that is vulnerable at the back. Keep an eye on midfielder Michael Ballack as well as stikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski. Guaranteed or Dignan will shave his head: Germany will score with their head on a set piece. Poland is a young team without major star power, but they seem to be able to score goals through the likes of Maciej Zurawski. They can give up goals as well, however, and will battle it out with Ecuador for second place. Ecuadorian midfielder Edison Mendez will lead the attack, but I give the edge to Poland because this Cup is played on their more familiar European turf. Costa Rica has managed to lose to a German amateur team, a Spanish regional select team, the more respectable Czech Republic, and--in a 4-0 thrashing--to the Ukraine. They get to open the Cup against Germany, and 3 or 4 German goals sure seem likely...

Group B Order of Finish: 1. ENGLAND, 2. SWEDEN, 3. PARAGUAY, 4. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
It's always fun to watch English World Cup hysteria every four years. And what is it about these metatarsels? 4 years ago England breathlessly awaited news on David Beckham's broken foot and whether he would recover in time for World Cup glory. He struggled and England went out to Brazil. This time it is wonder striker Wayne Rooney, already at age 20 considered one of the best players in the world, whose broken metatarsal bone may keep him out of play. England still has enough talent to win the group with the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Owen, Beckham and the Coles. Let's not forget the new sensation Mr. Roboto (Peter Crouch), either. Sweden is always a thorn in the English side, and expect this Cup to be no different. They have several English-based players and also have the likes of world class striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I look for a tight battle for second with Paraguay, whose striker Roque Santa Cruz can also be deadly. Trinidad & Tobago will get thrashed. They're just here to enjoy the moment.

Tomorrow: Groups C and D.

DAILY DIGEST
Political correctness gone amuck, courtesy of the BBC. According to the Daily Mirror, BBC Radio One has banned songs with the word "England" during the World Cup lest they offend Welsh, Scottish and Irish listeners.

The U.S. already has to deal with Italy and the Czech Republic. But don't forget about Ghana, who some wrongly assume will be a pushover. They are talented and starting to gain momentum. Ghana impressively dispatched of 2002 semifinalists Republic of Korea 3-1. Uh oh...

P.S. Click here to read about our World Cup coverage and here for a World Cup history lesson.

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