Friday, June 23, 2006

48 down, 16 to go 

Pretty good column from J.A. Adande of the LA Times about how Team USA was, is, and will continue to be (at least for now) an afterthought in Germany. Contrary to what the Nike commercial featuring Eric Cantona may say, the world very much disregards us on the pitch.

We're into the knockout stages! Round of 16 kicks off tomorrow. I plan on hitting the King's Head pub in Santa Monica on Sunday morning for the England v Ecuador game. Should be a madhouse with all the ex-pats there. It's going to be awesome.

Ten of the sixteen teams are from Europe. Three hail from South America and there is one each from Africa, North/Central America, and Oceania. Asia has 0 reps in the second round -- the second time in the last three World Cups that has happened. For what it's worth, I picked 12 of the 16 second round teams correctly.

Germany v Sweden - Current form says to go with the hosts, but I'm sticking with my upset pick of Sweden. They're certainly capable of knocking off an overconfident German team.

Argentina v Mexico - Argentines win by three.

England v Ecuador - Should be a good one. Who knows how England will look game-to-game? They're obviously more talented than Ecuador, but will they be present mentally? I say, yes. Barely.

Portugal v Netherlands - The Portuguese have an advantage at head coach, but the Dutch are more talented and have played better in this tournament while also facing stiffer competition than Portugal. Going with the Orange.

Italy v Australia - Guus Hiddink has taught the world several times over never to underestimate his teams. Italy will not take this game lightly, and for all their fight, the Aussies succumb to one of soccer's superpowers.

Switzerland v Ukraine - A surprise quarterfinalist, either way. The Swiss have looked good so far and are playing consistently well on the defensive side of the ball. Ukraine looked erratic and unfocused in the group stages. So why am I picking Ukraine to advance to the quarters?

Brazil vs Ghana - How can you pick against the champs in this game? You can't. The Africans play admirably, but still lose by two.

Spain v France - The traditional underachiever versus a fading power. I think if the Frogs stick with the Henry/Trezeguet pairing upfront with Ribery giving service, the Spanish (untested 'til this point) will be going home early yet again. Picking the French here is actually a bit of an upset. Strange.

I like Argentina, Italy, Netherlands, and Brazil in the semis.

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