08 June 2010

Tuesday Football: The Cat's World Cup forecast

With less than three days before the first kickoff, it's time to tell you which national teams will succeed this month in South Africa, which ones will crash, and which one will win it all.

In a competition like this, which starts with eight qualifying pools, I find this Sherlock Holmes quotation useful:
How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
Keep it in mind as I go through the groups.

Group A:  Uruguay is just average, South Africa is just awful, and France is just a mess.  That leaves Mexico, a team I smacked two weeks ago, to win the group in shockingly easy fashion.  The hosts will advance, too, thanks solely to the power of the mighty vuvuzela.  That's "mighty" as in, "That brass section that infests every Southern Cal football game is mighty annoying."  France and Uruguay will prove no match for the tens of thousands of vuvuzelas blowing on Bafana Bafana's behalf.
  • Through:  Mexico, South Africa.  Out:  Uruguay, France (which doesn't even get a draw).
Group B:  It's possible that temper-prone Diego Maradona could coach Argentina out of the tournament, but at the group stage, it's not likely.  In the first place, the same could be said of Mexico's Javier Aguirre; more importantly, Barcelona star Lionel Messi won't let it happen.  The rest of the group looks pretty even, but I think Nigeria squeaks past its defense-oriented rivals.
  • Through:  Argentina, Nigeria.  Out:  Greece, South Korea
Group C:  Back when the draw happened in December, I thought that England and the U.S. were the obvious choices to advance.  On further reflection, Slovenia may be tougher than I thought.  With those three sides beating each other up, the stage win will come down to who can most comprehensively blow out luckless Algeria.  That side might actually be the United States.  Shockingly, it's England that crashes out -- done in by Slovenia, not the U.S.
  • Through:  United States, Slovenia.  Out:  England, Algeria
The other groups follow the fold.

Group D:  The world has already given Group G the Group of Death, so let's call this one the Group of Taxes.  Australia, Ghana and Serbia are all good enough for the second spot.  Normally, I'd call Germany a sure thing, but goalkeeper and striker issues mean that they'll have to hustle, too.
  • Through:  Germany, Australia.  Out:  Ghana, Serbia
Group E:  The question isn't whether the Netherlands will win their group; it's how prematurely they'll crash out of the knockout stages.  Japan, at the other hand, has fallen quite a bit since even 2006.  In between, Samuel Eto'o will lead Cameroon just barely past Denmark.
  • Through:  Netherlands, Cameroon.  Out:  Denmark, Japan.
Group F:  For Italy, this is (with a hat-tip to Eddie Izzard) the Group of Cake.  Paraguay will also advance, but it's hard to tell how good it'll be without lead striker Salvador Cabanas, who miraculously recovered from a point-blank gunshot to the head.  Slovakia and New Zealand will be on hand for comic relief.
  • Through:  Italy, Paraguay.  Out:  Slovakia, New Zealand.
Group G:  This set may have the Group of Death label, but injuries to forward Didier Drogba and winger Nani just made life more difficult for Côte d'Ivoire and Portugal, respectively -- and easier for Brazil.  The two teams that advance will probably be the ones that pound North Korea the hardest.
  • Through:  Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire.  Out:  Portugal, North Korea.
Group H:  Spain and Chile are the easy choices, but Switzerland usually makes someone's life miserable, so they're worth a look, too.  Honduras fought hard through CONCACAF to reach this stage... so they could get creamed three times this month.
  • Through:  Spain, Chile.  Out:  Switzerland, Honduras.
Round of 16:
  • Nigeria beats Mexico as Coach Aguirre melts down again; the U.S. powers past Australia.
  • Germany and Argentina blast Slovenia and South Africa, respectively.
  • Brazil handles Chile, but Italy falls to Cameroon.
  • Côte d'Ivoire shocks Spain while the Netherlands take out Paraguay.
  • It's Coach Maradona's turn to blow up as Germany sends Argentina home.  Meanwhile, the U.S. dismisses Nigeria, shocking the world (and stupefying most of its own populace!).
  • Côte d'Ivoire becomes this year's South Korea, eliminating the Netherlands.  Brazil makes Coach Dunga look good as it cruises past Cameroon.
Semifinals:  Midnight strikes as both the U.S. and Côte d'Ivoire take decisive losses.  Traditional powers Germany and Brazil move on to a rematch of the 2002 championship match.

Finals:  1. Brazil, 2. Germany, 3. Côte d'Ivoire, 4. United States.


Matty Boy said...

Germany-Brazil. The classic we all dream of. You have some exciting possible upsets predicted on the way to the most obvious conclusion.

I have to say I like the European squads a little more than you do.

Abu Scooter said...

Point well taken. Spain, Holland, Italy, Portugal and England are all solid choices to go deep. But the first two consistently underachieve in the WC, while the others, in my projection, just get unlucky.

I also think the African crowds will give a huge boost to every African side except (Arab) Algeria. That could cross up the Europeans, too.