Before, I get on with the footbal, can someone please tell me who the %#$% is Taylor Hicks? I've never heard of this guy before and he has the number one song in America. Have I been living under a rock? Someone please inform me. Now on to the real business....
The real World Cup begins today. Now that the minnows like Togo, Saudi Arabia and definitely the U.S. have been sent packing we can really sit back and start enjoying high quality matches at every turn. The second round is not without party crashers, however, as Ecuador and Australia unexpectedly made it through the group phase. On to the matches.
Germany v. Sweden
Sweden looked like one of the better teams in the grou pstages. If they finished better they would have won all three of their games. Germany seem to be moving away from the old stereotype of Germans as boring calculating players. They're playing like South Americans.
Prediction: Sweden wins. I'm going out on a limb. I'm contradicting myself here because before the tournament started I picked Germany to win this matchup. They have done nothing for me to go away from this but I"m trying to be a genius here. From watching Sweden's games I think they play good positive football and so does Germany. The only difference is I think Sweden does a better job of doing it. I think Sweden have better players at eveyr position, except whoever has to match up with Michael Ballack. Klose has been converting his chances while Larsson and Ibrahimovic have not. I'm hoping they will get it together to win this game. Germany has homefield advantage which may propel them over the top. I try to stay away from intangibles and go with the team with the most talent and I think Sweden is a more talented team. Sweden should keep the ball out of the middle of the field because Michael Ballack will eat them up. Play it on the wings to Wilhelmsson and Ljungberg and let the good times roll.
Argentina v. Mexico
Mexico go home. Get your shinebox and go home. It's that simple. They have no chance. There's no need to analyze this. Argentina are better. They will win. Like ESPN's Michael Davies said, if they played this game 10 times Argentina would win 11. I agree.
Italy v. Australia
The Italians rigged the tournament to get a free pass to the semifinals. Who did Silvio Berlusconi pay off to get Australia in the second round and the winner of Switzerland v. Ukraine in the quarterfinals? The Aussies s hould be heading home with their tails between their legs after the Italy match. They've overstayed their welcome. The way they've played you'd think this was a rugby tournament. They've fouled more than any other team by my unofficial count. I think Italy wins this one effortlessly.
Ukraine v. Switzerland.
Yawn....Yawn....Yawn...This is the one game of the second round that I will not watch and I will not tivo. Ukraine has Shevchenko and 10 guys who nobody has ever heard of(Rebrov who most of us know is on the bench). Switzerland has, well, they have 11 guys nobody has ever heard of. Predictoin: the team with Shevchenko.
England v. Ecuardor
This should be a stroll in the park for England but these days nothing seems easy for England. The only back up forward on the team is a 17 year old who even the manager admitted that he has never seen play. Midfield is a crisis because Beckham hasn't had a good game yet this tournament. Gerrard and Lampard can't play together and Owen Hargreaves is the answer but the manager has opted for Michael Carrick instead. The recipe for victory: Give the ball to Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney and get out the way. Gerrard can be effective too but only if Sven lets. him. I got England 2-1.
Portugal v. Holland
The Portuguese are notorious Dutch killers. In 2001 they beat the Dutch in Rotterdam and tied them in Portugal to stop the Dutch from progressing to the '02 Cup. In 2004 the Portuguese eliminated the Dutch from the semifinals of Euro 2004. In 2006 the Portuguese will eliminate the Dutch from the Cup by the score of 2-0. It should be an exciting game with Robben, Ronaldo, Figo, Deco and Van Persie all on the same field. My money is on the Portuguese to send the Dutch back home to sniffing Tullips and hanging out in coffee shops.
Brazil v. Ghana
"1,2,3, Black Star shines eternally." Only a fool would pick Ghana. Brazil wins by many many goals. Essien watches from the sidelines helplessly as Brazil walk all over the Black Stars. Let me take this opportunity to apologize to Ronaldo. I said he was washed up and he should be benched then in the next game he scored two goals. Yeah, my bad. BUT, that was Japan and this is Ghana. You can't really get a good indication of where he is against these teams but he definitely shut me up because I didn't think he had it in him to tie Gerd Muller for most World Cup goals.
France v. Spain
Poor Spain. They finally are gelling and look impressive and they are paired in the second round against a French team out to prove they aren't the chokers that the Spaniards have always been. If I was picking solely on which team is in form I'd have to go with Spain. They looked impressive agianst the Ukraine and Tunisia then looked to be in cruise control against Saudi Arabia. They played 11 reserves. Joaquin looked unstoppable, but the rest of the team looked out of sorts. Spain lost momentum with this game, I think. It reminds me of my fantasy footbal league where one guy was 12-0 and then chose to rest all his starters. He lost all his momentum and ended up losing to me in the finals of the league when my team was only 10-6, I think. The moral of the story is when you have momentum you keep it. You don't squander it. I think Spain has bad karma. I'm picking, gulp, France. Allez les Bleus! I keep picking France b/c they have my favorite player in Henry. I'm keeping the faith.
That's it and that's all. I'm off to bed. I'll probably keep a diary on both games tomorrow. Let the games begin. The real World Cup is finally here.