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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6/6 World Cup of Coffee

Yesterday we called for Dignan Reyna to be included on the US roster and previewed Groups A and B of the World Cup. Today we move on to Groups C and D...

Group C is this Cup's winner of the title "Group of Death." Amazingly, any of these 4 teams could advance to the second round. Argentina looks to make up for a disappointing 2002 performance and recapture the glory days of Maradona. Keep an eye on the point guard of their attack, midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, in addition to Barcelona FC teenage prodigy Lionel Messi. Holland have an unusually good chemistry this year and a nice blend of youth and experience. Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy and keeper Edwin Van der Sar hold up each end of the field while the young midfielders Robben, Van Persie and Van der Vaart attack. The Ivory Coast has become a hotbed of talent for European teams. Arsenal defenders Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue shore up the defense. The midfield is led by St. Etienne's Didier Zokora while the strike force includes Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Paris St. Germain's Bonaventure Kalou. Serbia & Montenegro topped highly regarded Spain in their qualifying group, led by a defense that remarkably conceded only one goal.

So here's your first shocker. I am picking the Dutch, who some see as a potential tournament winner, to fail to advance to the second round. It's insane, but no less insane than this absurdly strong group. So why a ridiculous third place for the Dutch? Injuries, youth, and a nightmare slate of matches. Holland have key players in doubt due to injuries, in part thanks to a brutal 1-1 draw with Australia in a recent friendly. The infusion of youth brings fresh talent, energy and chemistry, but it also introduces inexperience at the world stage. And then there's the whole Group of Death thing. So here's how I see it playing out: First, expect Serbia & Montenegro to play physical with Holland and force a draw. Then watch the Ivory Coast surprise Argentina with an entertaining, goal-scoring draw. In the second set of matches, I like Argentina to find a winner against Serbia & Montenegro and for the Ivory Coast to upset the Dutch. In the final matches, Holland will only manage a draw against Argentina while Ivory Coast manage a draw against Serbia & Montenegro. Argentina and Ivory Coast advance. Gulp. Now watch Holland win the whole thing.

Group D Order of Finish: 1. PORTUGAL, 2. MEXICO, 3. IRAN, 4. ANGOLA
Not as much intrigue here, I'm afraid. There is the question of who will top the group: Portugal or Mexico. But Iran is a longshot and Angola a no-shot. I will say this: Iran is better than people think and Mexico better be ready for that opening match. If a surprise occurs, it will be Iran overtaking Mexico. If Iran was able to pull the upset on Mexico and dispatch of Angola, six points would surely see them through. I feel like Portugal is safe money because they have an elite coach in Big Phil Scolari, who led Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002. They have a nice blend of talented veterans like Figo and young stars such as Christiano Ronaldo. Mexico very badly wants to make that long-awaited breakthrough. They are solid with veterans Barcelona's Rafael Marquez at the back and top-notch striker Jared Borghetti leading the attack. We don't know much about Iran, but by all accounts the talent pool has improved and this team can score goals. But they will leak goals as well. Speaking of which, Angola may score in this World Cup, but their opponents will definitely score more against their porous defense. Enjoy the moment, guys. Portugal and Mexico move on.

Besides the home team, which teams will you cheer on? I'd like to see England do well as I follow their league. I'm also for France and hope Thierry Henry has a tournament for the ages. But some Germans won't even pull for the home team.

This will be the last World Cup for Serbia & Montenegro. Ever. I guarantee it. Because, um, Montenegro declared independence...

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