Yes, sports fans, this is the post you’ve been waiting for. First off, Mac users go get yourself a copy of Germany 2006 – World Cup. This will let you track the standings and, ultimately, see just how improbable a US advancement past the second round really is.
Next, prepare yourself for my barely-researched, not-to-be-trusted first round selections. As you may know, only two teams advance from each group. Allow me to tell you who I think is headed onward. Then you can mock me mercilessly either in the comments section or privately at home as is your constitutional right.
Here are the groupings with my picks to advance in bold:
GROUP A: Germany, Poland, Ecuador, Costa Rica
Germany is a lock to win the group, but Poland has no guarantees of advancement. Costa Rica with its new group of youngsters or Ecuador could definitely surprise.
GROUP B: England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden
England’s suffered a rash of injuries to its forwards, and if they’re not fully fit, there’s a decent chance they won’t make second round. Should the English play to their ability, they’ll lead the group. Otherwise it’ll be Paraguay and Sweden. All one knows for certain is that Trinidad and Tobago is going three and out.
GROUP C: Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia-Montenegro, Ivory Coast
Argentina’s seen a lot of injuries (including to rising midfield sensation Lionel Messi). If healthy, they take the group. Netherlands always brings lots of talent. Whether that talent gels is another matter. If not, look for Serbia-Montenegro to take second. Ivory Coast is the fast track home.
GROUP D: Portugal, Angola, Mexico, Iran
Vies for the “Weakest group in the tourney” award with Group H. The always underachieving Portuguese luck out this time and will make second round. Mexico, whose defense in the air was dreadful in World Cup warm-up matches, would have to suffer an amazingly tragic breakdown to do worse than second here.
GROUP E: Czech Republic, Ghana, United States, Italy
The Czechs are the second-ranked team in the world behind Brazil. Ghana is fast, but unlikely to move to second round given the talent here. The US will have to overcome some spotty wing defense in order to move on. Italy, beset with a gambling scandal, will either find the distraction enough to torpedo their hopes, or they have a good shot at the second round themselves. I would love to be wrong, but I think the US loses to the Czechs and to Italy.
GROUP F: Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Japan
It’s Brazil and somebody else, and figuring that somebody else is the challenge. I’m going with Japan, though Lord knows why. They make good cars, I guess.
GROUP G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo
France should win the group, but hey, that’s what everybody said in 2002 when they followed-up their successful 1998 campaign by exiting in the first round. I’m picking South Korea over Switzerland, and Togo to make a good sandwich.
GROUP H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia
What a sorry lot. Spain always underachieves, but nobody here has better talent. Regardless of who advances, I’d be surprised to see any of these teams left after the second round.
Tune in again for more highly questionable World Cup analysis and commentary.