Tag Archives: Brazil

Who Will Win the World Cup?

Note: click here for my informal USA-Belgium review.

Someone will win the World Cup. It’s a fact. Someone will have to win it. You probably knew that. But in case you didn’t, it’s a fact. Though the soccer-haters criticize the sport for being communist where there is almost never a winner and winning is punished by having to spend time cleaning bird waste off the statue of Karl Marx that sits outside Wembley Stadium, none of that is actually true. Soccer is a sport like any other (only better) and someone will lift the trophy in less than two weeks’ time.

Let’s analyze the eight countries still alive in the competition, and why they will or won’t win the World Cup:

Brazil

Why they will win: they’re at home…they have Neymar…they have some other fairly good players.

Why they won’t win: they’re not as good, talent-wise, as other teams…there’s too much pressure…they’re one-dimensional (it’s Neymar or Fred nothing).

Colombia

Why they will win: James…confidence…local fan support without nearly the pressure of Brazil and the like.

Why they won’t win: they play Brazil next…they lack quality outside of James and a few others…this is as far as the nation as ever gotten in a World Cup; they’re probably getting a nosebleed.

France

Why they will win: they’ve looked great in their games so far…they’ve made the final in every other World Cup for my entire life.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…they play Germany next…remember 2010?

Germany

Why they will win: they’re probably the best team in the world…they’re due winning something…Lahm was forced to play at full-back last game; move him to left-back and it’s a team with no weaknesses.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…after France they have Brazil or Colombia…someone will figure out that 4-3-3-0 at some point.

Netherlands

Why they will win: they have good players…Van Gaal is leaving, he wants to do good for them, they want to do good for him (Ray Lewis Effect).

Why they won’t win: they never do.

Costa Rica

Why they will win: they have momentum…they have no pressure whatsoever…CONCACAF goalkeepers have done great in this World Cup; Keylor Navas is the last one standing.

Why they won’t win: not enough talent to compete with the big boys; all of their wins have either came against a team lacking their best player, a team that just played in Manaus, or Greece.

Argentina

Why they will win: Messi…Messi…Messi.

Why they won’t win: very, very one-dimensional…no defense.

Belgium

Why they will win: loads of super-talented players who have never yet lost a World Cup game.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…very little World Cup experience.

 

I will genuinely be surprised to see anyone win this World Cup. I mean, I know that someone has to, but it seems so unlikely for any of these teams to win.

I mean, if Brazil wins it they’ll totally revise history and say “from start to finish we all knew they would win; they dominated; oh, how boring!” and if Germany wins they’ll say “yeah, we knew that they were the best. Brazil? Ha!” and if Argentina wins they’ll say “of course; the team with the best player wins, especially with that talent around him.” But we’ll know the truth. Don’t you all just love parity? MLS has more parity than any other sports league that I know of. And I’ll talk a lot about MLS here after the World Cup (actually, I might start on it next week).

Predictions for today:

France 0-2 Germany

Brazil 1-2 Colombia

 

Any thoughts? Questions? Requests? Threats? Predictions of your own? Respectfully add them in the comments below. Hopefully I’ll get back with a report tonight.

Round of 16 Thoughts

First of all, I want to apologize for slacking off the last few days. See, I mentioned before that I have something that makes writer’s block look like eating a cookie. That hasn’t changed. It’s like a combination of writer’s block and depression. There’s also guilt, and anger; anger mainly because none of it makes sense whatsoever.

But this is a soccer blog. I think that I’m ready to talk about soccer now. So I’ll do that.

They’ve done three-quarters of the Round of 16 of the World Cup. So I’ll talk about that. Let’s go:

-The first game was a nice one. In case you don’t remember, Brazil and Chile drew 1-1, and then the host nation won on penalties. We were very, very close to seeing Brazil be knocked out of this World Cup before the quarterfinals–the same World Cup that they have enormous pressure to win. Normally anything less than a tournament win is considered a failure for the five-time champs, but due to being at home the pressure is magnified.

-Chile did very well. In other parts of the draw Chile would’ve made the Semifinals.

-My thoughts on Brazil? I have one. They aren’t that great of a team. I kind of noticed this before, but it would’ve been weird to say “this isn’t really a good team” after they thrash Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final. But you know what? Thrashing Spain is apparently easy, now. And Brazil haven’t yet beaten a team that has made the knockout stage in regulation. They beat Cameroon, they dubiously beat Croatia, they drew Mexico, and they narrowly drew Chile in regulation, and beat them in penalties. They’re fair game to criticize right now.

-Let’s compare this team, player-by-player, to Germany:

ST: Müller vs. Fred – are you kidding? Germany 1-0.

AM: Götze vs. Neymar – at club level it’s probably even if not in favor of Götze, but Neymar is very good for Brazil and this is the World Cup. 1-1.

AM: Özil vs. Hulk – huh, both of these players have been booed by their own fans. Which teams’ fans only booed the guy because they’re pessimistic Europeans? Germany 2-1.

AM: Schweinsteiger vs. Oscar – it’s kind of hard to compare teams like this with different formations, but it’s what I’m doing. Oscar is probably Brazil’s 2nd best midfield/attacking player. But still, Schweini. Germany 3-1.

CM: Kroos vs. Paulinho – one of them plays for Bayern, the other plays for Spurs. Do I need to elaborate? Germany 4-1.

DM: Lahm vs. Luiz Gustavo – yeah, even out of position I’m taking Lahm over Gustavo. You can say that Lahm took Gustavo’s place at Bayern Munich, and it’s obvious why. Germany 5-1.

LB: Höwedes vs. Marcelo – this is Germany’s weakness, which could be fixed if they move Lahm to LB. But Marcelo isn’t the crème de la crème either. I’m in a generous mood, however. Germany 5-2.

RB: Boateng vs. Dani Alves – Boateng is better defensively, while Alves is better in the attack. This is a tricky one. Germany 5.5-2.5. Yeah, I did that.

CB: Hummels vs. Thiago Silva – Hummels is great, but I still say that Thiago Silva is probably the best defender in the world. Germany 5.5-3.5.

CB: Mertesacker vs. David Luiz – Mertesacker isn’t likely to pick up any “defender of the year” awards, but David Luiz is always a costly error waiting to happen. Germany 6.5-3.5.

GK: Neuer vs. Julio Cesar – yeah, Cesar plays in MLS (well, he did last half season–he’ll probably re-join QPR for next season) and he was the hero last game, but Neuer is probably the best goalkeeper in the world. Germany 7.5-3.5.

So…best team in the world? Not Brazil. Then how come they are still the logical favorites? Because at home, for the national team, they seem to perform. Neymar, David Luiz, and many of the other players do much better for the national team than their club. This is very rare (think Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney; all better for club than country).

Also, homefield advantage plays a role. If the Brazil-Chile game would’ve been played anywhere other than Brazil, I’m pretty sure that Chile would’ve won.

-Another note: in the national anthems, they made a mistake to cut the sound on the Chile one. Yeah, against any other nation we heard the sound of the Chile fans belting their national anthem, but against Brazil, with a majority Brazilian crowd, it was drowned out by boos. You can question the merits of booing another country’s national anthem, but still, FIFA messed up (what? No way!) by cutting the sound on Chile’s.

-Let’s talk about Colombia. JAMES!!!! Or, phonetically, HA-MEZ!!!! This guy is crazy good. I’ll talk about him more later, but this guy would win the Golden Ball for best player in the tournament if it was to end today. He’s done better than Neymar, better than Messi, and better than everyone else as well.

-You could certainly say that Uruguay would’ve had a much better chance if Luis Suarez was still there. And you’d be right. But I’m not sure if even with Suarez Colombia would have been beatable. I mean, Colombia are arguably the best team of the tournament so far.

-Before I continue talking about actual soccer stuff, I want to say this: I’ve had at least one page view from every continent except Antarctica (should I have more penguin-themed articles? Hmmm…). I haven’t had one from every Confederation though; I’m still missing an OFC view. New Zealanders? Tahitians? Fijians? I won’t bite.

-My thoughts on Netherlands vs. Mexico? Well, Mexico played very well. The Dutch are Colombia’s competition for best in the tournament, and Mexico looked like the better team for 87 minutes. The Netherlands attempted to play a possession style, because someone had to. Both teams have played a counter-attacking style for most of the tournament. Mexico stayed back and responsibly defended, and then hit hard on the counter attack.

-My thoughts on the penalty? It was probably the right call. Yeah, Robben looked quite floppy, but Marquez stepped on his foot. You can’t do that. And you know what? Earlier in the game there was a clear PK on Robben that wasn’t called. So complaining that the referees were biased is just whining for no reason.

-Watching Mexico is like a win-win situation for me as a US fan. If they lose I play the arch-rival card, and if they win I play the CONCACAF card.

-Costa Rica vs. Greece? The interesting thing in this one is that either way it’s a feel-good story. Yeah, Greece play defensively, but smart tactics is no reason for me to hate a team. Costa Rica play defensively, too (the Dutch will be forced into possessing the ball again in the Quarters). Costa Rica won on penalty-kicks, by the way. See, both teams already had a good World Cup by just making it out of the group stage. They’re playing with house money. And now Costa Rica will face the Netherlands in the Quarterfinals; while Spain, Italy, England, and Portugal were all eliminated in the group stage. The World Cup of unpredictability.

-Now, how about today’s first game: France vs. Nigeria. The Nigerians did well, although France forced two mistakes out of them which became goals. Watching Paul Pogba is like listening to a great song and then realizing that they haven’t recorded all of the parts. He’s only 21! He’s said that his weakness is heading. He just scored on a header in the World Cup. This guy is legit.

-Germany struggled against Algeria, needing to take it to penalties, but they came through in the end with Andre Schürrle and Mesut Özil goals. Algeria got one back, but it wasn’t enough to keep us from seeing Germany-France, an intriguing quarterfinals battle of Western European nations.

 

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll have a US-Belgium preview up fairly soon. And I’ll do other stuff as well.

Power Rankings + USA-Ghana Poetry

If you’re only going to read one thing, make it the poetic review at the end. But my next section should not be ignored either:

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Last ranking in brackets.

1(2)-Germany

This team is a soccer machine. They tore apart Portugal with efficiency. Only Germans can be that efficient. They have so many talented players that even with Marco Reus out injured, they were able to leave Klose, Podolski, Schürrle, and even Schweinsteiger (Schweini!) on the bench and still have a world class starting XI. You can make a team out of Germany’s bench and win the World Cup. But can they pull it off in Brazil? I’m not sure.

2(1)-Brazil

It didn’t take long for the host nation to drop their first points, and some will argue that they also didn’t deserve a win in the first game. They have 4 points, and they should still qualify out of their group with ease (Cameroon are the only team they have left to play–easy win…right?) but they haven’t looked dominant at all.

3(3)-Argentina

Against Bosnia (I’ll get to them) this team looked completely disjointed in attack. But Messi is a player who can change the game. Everyone talks about Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo has been the crème de la crème for the past year and a half, but Messi could very well prove why he’s the best at this World Cup. They have an easy draw to start, but Messi needs better help to win the World Cup.

They only started attacking well when Messi moved further back into the midfield in the second half allowing him to get on the ball. However, he then had further to go to get to the goal, which created enough time for Bosnia to close down on him, forcing him to pass to one of his teammates. It normally didn’t go well. Argentina need to get that star-studded attack working well.

4(4)-Italy

5(5)-Spain

6(6)-Netherlands

7(7)-Belgium

Nothing will come easy. At some point I will probably write an article talking more about Belgium (I would’ve wrote one for yesterday but I got a headache after the US game, and then the headache was made worse because I was upset because I had a headache), but for now, I want to leave it at this: you can’t become title-contenders in one cycle. Nothing comes easy.

8(8)-Colombia

9(9)-Chile

10(11)-Bosnia-H

Throughout the build-up and now during the actual tournament, I’ve heaped praise on the World Cup debutants. If Messi wasn’t playing, they probably would’ve won, or at least got a draw. Also, you must consider that their own goal was fluky. It counted, of course, but if that same game would’ve been played 20 times, it’s something that wouldn’t have happened more than once or twice. If Messi was Bosnian, it would’ve been 4-0. That’s how good Messi and all of Bosnia were compared to the rest of Argentina. They defended very well, and I have little doubt that they’ll handle Nigeria and Iran.

11(15)-France

Likely Round of 16 opponents for Bosnia, the French are in a great year. How do I know that? In 1994, France didn’t make the World Cup. In 1998, France won it. In 2002, they went out in the group stage. In 2006, they came excruciatingly close to winning it again. In 2010, they imploded. Based on the pattern of being horrific one tournament and excellent the next, this should be a good year for Les Blues.

12(12)-Uruguay

13(16)-Mexico

This Mexico team has proven that they are much better than the 2013 team. They will still probably need a result against Croatia to make it through, but a draw would cut it due to their impressive 0-0 draw vs. the mighty Brazil. Oh, and they should’ve beat Cameroon 3-0 instead of 1-0. This team has been very good so far.

14(13)-Croatia

15(18)-USA

There are still some issues, and Jozy Altidore’s injury is worrying, but this team does have quality, and most importantly an ability to get results.

16(14)-England

Yeah, I intentionally put the US right above England.

17(10)-Portugal

Man, they looked terrible. Half of their backline is gone (Pepe suspended for the next game, Coentrao out for the tournament with injury), their striker is gone (Hugo Almeida injured for the next game), and their star player (Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been struggling recently) was a non-factor against Germany. But then again, it was against Germany.

18(20)-Switzerland

The Swiss, I think, have a good chance to make it out of the Group of Life. Unless they mess up against Honduras, they should be able to afford a poor result in the next game against France, as long as the other teams also do so.

19(19)-Russia

They needed to pick up 3 points to have a sizable chance to win the group. They failed, but if they can hold on they can make it to the Round of 16.

20(21)-Ivory Coast

21(22)-Costa Rica

22(17)-Ghana

The Ghanaians are very one-dimensional in attack. They prefer to play on the counter. The US defended deep, not pressing too much in order to protect space in behind, so they forced Ghana to break them down. They couldn’t do it. Their next task is the team that just beat Portugal 4-0.

23(23)-Nigeria

They should’ve gotten more than a point against Iran, but I’ve already written them off anyway. Bosnia is a good team, and you’re either ignorant or Nigerian if you thought they weren’t favorites to join Argentina out of the group.

24(25)-Korea

The Koreans just got a point against the best team they’ll face in the group stage that doesn’t have Eden Hazard. They absolutely have a fairly good chance to make it out of the group stage.

25(24)-Ecuador

They got close, but they couldn’t last the whole game. They have a shot if they can get an upset against France, but it’s looking unlikely.

(26)-Greece

(27)-Japan

(28)-Cameroon

(29)-Honduras

As I said, France are good this year. Everyone will drop points against France. Honduras need to get points against Switzerland and Ecuador. Possible, but not at all easy.

(30)-Australia

(31)-Iran

(32)-Algeria

Maybe 32nd was harsh, but they couldn’t hold their lead. Again, I have no idea what I’m doing.

 

Remember, I said it was “Totally Inaccurate.” That wasn’t a joke at all.

USA-Ghana: Poetic Review

(Forgive me for it sounding bad. I don’t make poetry that often.)

The Black Stars were sloppy as the game was beginning.

But Dempsey was ready, and focused on winning.

In half a minute, the US were in control,

A third World Cup for Deuce with scoring a goal.

Ghana looked nervous, and frantic as well.

Their World Cup’s start wasn’t too swell.

While the US wasn’t good in possession,

Ghana couldn’t rule the game with oppression.

They tried and tried, but failed to break them down.

Every Black Star attack ended with frowns.

Altidore hurt, and then Besler, too.

Is it over-training that Klinsmann should rue?

Fiftieth, sixtieth, seventieth minute.

America looked quite like they would win it.

But with a moment of brilliance, the lead was gone.

Andre Ayew the goal, assisted by Gyan.

It was tied up, and it looked without hope.

“We’re still in in the game!” says the US coach.

Fabian Johnson won a nice corner kick.

The US with a chance, but the clock moving quick.

Here comes the sub, Graham Zusi to take it.

Brooks with the header, trying to make it.

And then in a moment not to forget,

The ball went into the back of the net!

“GOAL!” they all shouted, jumping up and down.

Brooks, stunned, just fell to the ground.

Relief, excitement, and much jubilation,

To everyone all across the nation.

Next up is Manaus, with many piranhas.

But for now, it’s the joy of beating Ghana.

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for more later on. I’ll be here for the whole World Cup and beyond. Annoy everyone you kind-of know with emails about my blog. The more people reading this the more motivated I am to do better.

The Imperfect Game: a Take on Brazil-Croatia, the 2014 World Cup, and the Philosophy of Soccer

As promised, I have a piece here on Brazil’s penalty:

First of all, I want to tell you that in no way whatsoever was that a penalty kick. Not at all. I am not trying to say that it was a penalty kick, because I can tell you assuredly that it wasn’t. I have seen things that were much more penalty-y rightly not be called. I have seen many, many bad calls, but few of them in which everyone can tell, from the moment of the foul, that it absolutely wasn’t a PK. You didn’t need a FIFA license. In the ref’s defense, he had the second worst possible angle (head-on; the worst angle would be behind the Croat where you couldn’t see Fred). But from any angle, that’s clearly not a penalty.

Second of all, did Fred really dive? Again, it totally wasn’t a PK, but does it have to be one or the other? It almost looks to me like he just lost his balance and fell over. See, these guys aren’t really thinking about proper balance, but they’re thinking about scoring a goal. It looked like he slipped. Again, it wasn’t a penalty. But I’m not convinced it was a dive.

Even if it was a dive, how many people would’ve done different? I will tell you, that if I was a striker, playing in the World Cup, and I didn’t see much else to do, and I could’ve maybe sold it, I would’ve gone down. Maybe that makes me a terrible person, but 95% of soccer players would go down given the circumstances. They’re playing game theory. They stay up? Best case scenario, nothing. The play is over, they can’t create a chance. Worst case scenario: again, nothing. They go down? Worst case scenario: yellow card. Big deal, just don’t get another and you’re okay. Best case scenario? You win a very good chance at goal for your country. The choice is simple.

Is that right? Probably not. Is that the reality? Yes. What if they increase the punishment? Well, that might help, but then what if they get it wrong? What if diving becomes a red, a player gets legitimately fouled, and then wrongly sent off? It opens up many new channels for controversy, and dare I say match fixing. What if they retro-ref? As in, suspend a player after reviewing the game? Well, how does that help the team that the player dove against? In this case, if Fred was suspended, Croatia would actually be hurt if Brazil are without their starting striker against Mexico, who are rivaling Croatia for a spot in the Round of 16.

There is no perfect answer. Not even one close. It’s soccer, and like life, it isn’t anywhere near perfect.

And that is what we have learned so far in this World Cup.

 

This World Cup, and last year’s Confederations Cup, have both been marred by protests. Advertised has been a festival of joy and samba, while in reality the joy and samba is overshadowed by the fact that this country has too many problems and too little money to have to worry about a World Cup.

South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and Qatar (past, present, future, scandal) have all had intense controversy, for either being too poor to afford to host a World Cup (note: it’s a myth that World Cups improve economies, they don’t) or human rights violations (i.e. invading other countries or enslaving people).

FIFA is really bad at what they do. Of all non-governmental entities, FIFA is probably the worst at doing what they do. I mean, they’re terrible. Don’t believe me? Re-read the paragraph before this one.

Anyways, so, the Brazil World Cup. We were promised joy and samba, we got poverty and riots. Brazil-Croatia: we were promised the home nation’s Jogo bonito, the beautiful game, we got the game being arguably decided on a very soft call.

See the connection?

Brazil were supposed to win, yes, but not at all like that. The nation of joy and samba and yellow shirts won by deceit, whether planned or not, and ultimately a broken system that cannot be fixed.

Life isn’t perfect. Most of you probably know that. I could make a separate blog listing reasons how life isn’t perfect, but it would make everyone utterly depressed. Even in first world America, most of us are sad, restless, upset, or a combination thereof, either the majority of the time or at least a sizable portion of it.

Soccer is life with a ball. Life isn’t perfect, and soccer isn’t perfect. There are many flaws to the game, the people who play the game, and the systems in which the people who play the game play. These flaws are epitomized by FIFA, who are very corrupt (I’m kicking them while they’re down).

Soccer isn’t perfect, but yet we keep watching. Life isn’t perfect, but yet we keep living. We come back for more of the good moments; and there are good moments. Wonderful goals, skillful passing and dribbling, amazing saves, even defending and the tactics of the teams can be enjoyable to observe.

You know how they say to look on the bright side of things? Look on the bright side of soccer. You always see the analysts talk about the bad things. A goal is scored? My, what terrible defending. An incorrectly called foul? Let’s spend 30 minutes talking about it!

Throughout this World Cup, there will be moments that drive you insane. Moments of cheating. Moments of bad decision-making. Some players will get hurt. Protests will continue. But there will also be moments that make you happy, amused, interested, or at least can take your mind off things that make you angry. Think about the positives. Yeah, that foul should never have been called, but Oscar scored a nice goal. And yeah, the defending was poor, but look at the attacking.

Life isn’t perfect. Soccer isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t need to be perfect to be enjoyable.

World Cup Report: Day 1: Much to Talk About

The first day of the World Cup is in the books. And it was a doozy. Table of contents:

-Super-brief recap of Brazil-Croatia.

-A Few Takeaways.

-Mexico-Cameroon preview.

-Group B preview.

-Spain-Netherlands preview.

-Chile-Australia preview.

-Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings.

Yeah, whatever. Let’s go:

In Case You Missed It

-Croatia was better in the first 10 minutes.

-Croatia scored, Marcelo own goal.

-Neymar scored, to tie it up.

-Halftime.

-Penalty on Fred. Yeah, I’ll talk about it a lot. Bad call.

-Neymar puts it home. 2-1.

-Oscar gets the insurance late on. 3-1.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia: A Few Takeaways

This is the meat of the World Cup Report sandwich. (I save the PK talk for last.)

Croatia played well

This is Brazil that they just played against! Brazil! The team that has entered the tournament as favorites. This Croatia team were better in the first 10 minutes, they scored, and then they defended well for most of the game. This team will play Cameroon and then Mexico, and they’ll have Mario Mandzukic, their best striker, who was suspended from this game.

Brazil didn’t play well

They looked sloppy against a team they should’ve beaten. They only scored one goal in regulation time from the run of play (which is an insanely loaded stat, but okay).

The first 10 minutes was bad. The next 80 minutes was a mix of mediocre and good.

Was Croatia’s goalkeeper terrible?

Kind of. Everyone is used to seeing Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois and Iker Casillas make all these crazy saves, but Pletikosa, Croatia’s 35-year-old goalkeeper, isn’t anything near World Class. He plays for an average Russian team. In no way is he World Class.

Did he mess up? Yeah, sure. Goalkeepers mess up all the time, especially against Brazil in Brazil in the first game of the World Cup. He did good stuff, too.

And you can’t blame him on the penalty. He did everything right except actually gripping the ball. Most goalkeepers would not have gotten to that.

The penalty kick

It was a terrible call. I’m 75% sure that Fred dived. The other 25% says that he clumsily fell down. I know that it wasn’t a PK.

I’ll serve up a full-length piece on that call, and the entire World Cup, for tomorrow.

Mexico-Cameroon preview

-Mexico will have Chicharito on the bench, with Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta starting up top.

-Cameroon will have Old Man Eto’o, who is by far their best player. Any chance they have to make it out of the group is based on how Eto’o can play.

-I’m very interested in seeing how Mexico can do. They were terrible last year, but under Miguel Herrera they’ve done well. Generally Mexico shows up for the big tournaments. Will they show up this year? They have a chance to set the tone against the weakest team in the group.

-Prediction: 2-1. Eto’o is good, Marquez is slow, Mexico will get a lot of chances, waste them, Chicharito will come on off the bench and help the team score twice.

Group B: The Group of Death: Revenge Edition

There are three groups of death in this tournament. Group D is notable due to three former champions (oh, and it could get Englandy!), Group G is notable due to no real weak teams, while Group B is notable because two of the teams in the group, who play each other tomorrow, faced off in last year’s final.

Without further ado, the teams:

Spain

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: WINNER! 2010.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 3 out of 3: Serious Title-Contenders!

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque (completely expressionless).

Key Players:

-Andres Iniesta (#6, pos: MF, age: 30, club: Barcelona)

He scored the winning goal in the last World Cup. A lot of people think he’s regressed, and maybe that’s partially true, but he’s still really, really good.

-Diego Costa (#19, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Atletico Madrid)

The soon-to-be Chelsea player was born in Brazil, but he plays for Spain. The Brazilian crowd will not be too happy with him, and I have my doubts that the Spanish team will be all too happy that he’s there. In addition to being Brazilian, and in addition to being an injury doubt, his style of play seems very anti-Spain. Not tiki-taka, but more “I will shove you and then kick you and if you try to hit me back I will go down really easily.”

This could be Spain’s ticket to the final, or Spain’s ticket to an early exit.

-Cesc Fábregas (#10, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Barcelona)

Fábregas will join Costa at Chelsea. He’ll look good in blue, eh? Fábregas, Hazard, and Oscar? On one team? This would be really exciting if I didn’t think that Costa would be a flop.

And yeah, I put Cesc into here just so that I could talk about Chelsea. Apologies.

Outlook:

This Spain team won last year, but can they win again this year? It’s arguably the last tournament within their “championship window,” considering that many of their key players are getting older. They have good talent coming up in the ranks, but they may never again have a team that can win 3 straight major championships. Can they extend that streak in Brazil?

Netherlands

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: Runner-up. Three times (ouch).

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Louis van Gaal.

Key Players:

-Robin van Persie (#9, pos: FW, age: 30, club: Manchester United)

The former Arsenal star has had some minor injury problems (because he’s RvP and that’s how he rolls) but he looks likely to lead this Dutch team. Which RvP will we see? The one who won the 2012-13 Golden Boot in the EPL? Or the one who was another dull part of the dull 2013-14 Manchester United season?

-Louis van Gaal (manager, age: 62, club: Manchester United)

Yeah, I totally could’ve talked about Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich star winger, or Wesley Sneijder, who had a great World Cup in South Africa, and I certainly could’ve done 3 “key players.” But instead, I talk about Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal (Wikipedia says it’s his real name), who will take charge of Manchester United after the World Cup. The Dutch will be interesting to watch if only for that.

Outlook:

It’s a hard group, everyone.

It could get Netherlandsy.

Chile

Confederation: CONMEBOL (South America)

Best Result: Third, 1962.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Key Players:

-Alexis Sanchez (#7, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Barcelona)

The young Barcelona winger/striker, as Ray Hudson says “ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!!!” will certainly be the key for Chile’s attack. He’s shown the ability to score goals, but for Chile to have a shot at a great World Cup, he’ll need to be elite.

-Arturo Vidal (#8, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Juventus)

One of the premier box-to-box midfielders in the game today, Vidal is a major injury concern. Will he play? Probably, but he’s very likely to sit out the first game.

Outlook:

This Chile team is considered dark horses by everyone. They have a very hard group, but they can certainly do it in their home continent. How far can they go? I’m not sure.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

Australia

Confederation: AFC (Asia)

Best Result: Round of 16, in 2006.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 0 out of 3: Snowball’s Chance in Qatar.

Coach: Ange Postecoglou (Greek origin).

Key Players:

-Tim Cahill (#4, pos: MF/FW, age: 34, club: New York Red Bulls)

The MLS star is in most likely his last World Cup (his third, and only the third World Cup that the Socceroos have qualified for in his lifetime) can play up front or in midfield, and he can score goals; he’s Australia’s all-time leader in scoring. Can the former Millwall and Everton man make any noise in Brazil, in a very hard group?

Outlook:

If they do well, they can get a point. Maybe multiple points, but that would be very hard considering that the second team of their opponents would be highly favored against them. Spain’s third team would be favored against Australia.

Prediction

Chance to make it out of the group (rounded to 5s):

Spain 80%

Chile 60%

Netherlands 55%

Australia 5%

Both Chile and the Netherlands are certainly quality teams. I think Spain not making the round of 16 is more probable than Australia advancing.

Schedule:

13th: Spain-Netherlands

13th: Chile-Australia

18th: Australia-Netherlands

18th: Spain-Chile

23rd: Australia-Spain

23rd: Netherlands-Chile

This will probably come down to the final game.

Spain-Netherlands Preview

-Rematch of the 2010 World Cup Final!

-Will Diego Costa play?

-Will the Dutch kick the Spanish again?

-Prediction: 2-1 for Spain. Diego Costa dives, and his Chelsea teammate Fábregas puts it away. Instant villains to the Brazilians.

Chile-Australia Preview

-How will Chile adjust to not having Arturo Vidal?

-How well can Australia defend, and can they get anything on the counter?

-Prediction: 2-0 for Chile. ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!! with a brace.

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Go back to Day 0 if you want to get all of my blurbs. I’m just blurbing the teams that I’m changing, right here, with a couple exceptions. And one of my key rules (no moving up teams that lose) is explicitly broken. Remember, I have no idea what I’m talking about:

1. Brazil (0)

Sure, they only barely won, but they won nonetheless. They’ll need to improve if they want to win the tournament, but 3 points isn’t enough to do anything more than make them a softer #1.

2. Spain

If they convincingly beat the Dutch, I’m moving them to #1. Just a little extra motivation.

3. Germany

4. Argentina

5. Italy

6. Uruguay

7. Belgium

8. Portugal

9. Chile

10. Netherlands

11. Colombia

12. Bosnia-H

13. Croatia (+3)

They looked good against arguably the best team in the world. They have Cameroon next, followed by a Mexico team that would’ve just played Brazil at that point. And they get Mandzukic back. This team seems likely to make the Round of 16.

14. England

I know, it worked so well to have England at #13. Oh, well. They’re still #13 in spirit.

15. France

16. Ghana

17. USA

18. Russia

19. Switzerland

20. Mexico

21. Ivory Coast

22. Nigeria

23. Ecuador

24. Greece

25. Korea

26. Japan

27. Cameroon

28. Costa Rica

29. Honduras

30. Australia

31. Iran

32. Algeria

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for my detailed report on that penalty and the 2014 World Cup itself, and soccer itself, and, well, life itself, and then stay tuned for the Day 2 report Friday night. All right here on Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.

World Cup Report: Day 0: And So It Begins

Hey, does anyone know what will start tomorrow?

World_Tea_Cup

Wait…is that what Miguel Herrera meant when he said that Mexico could win the World Cup?

Anyways, in case you missed it:

THEWORLDCUPISCOMING

AREN’T YOU EXCITED? I’M EXCITED!!! TO THE PREVIEWS!!!

(Note: I will basically be your World Cup tour guide. I will be telling you facts and opinions of the world’s biggest single-sport event for the whole tournament. Your welcome.)

Group A: the Group of Passive Interest + Brazil

How excited can anyone who isn’t a fan of one of these teams be for this group? I mean, yeah, Brazil is the host and they’re really good, but outside of that what is there? But it isn’t a bad group, either. Mexico is fascinating, Croatia is a dark horse with great uniforms, while Cameroon has already had their share of drama. But is it as intriguing as Group B (Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia), Group D (Uruguay, Italy, England, Costa Rica) or Group G (USA, Germany, Portugal, Ghana)? No way. While this group can’t be ignored, outside of the Brazilian team I doubt it will dominate the headlines much at all.

Let’s go team-by-team now, shall we? We shall:

Brazil

Confederation: CONMEBOL (South America)

Best result: WINNER! 5 TIMES!

Chances in this year’s tournament: 3 out of 3: Serious Title Contenders!

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari (Big Phil to me, and yeah, he’s won one of these before.)

Key Players:

-Neymar (#10, pos: MF/FW, age: 22, club: Barcelona)

This guy is legit, as he proved in last year’s Confederations Cup. He came in with the weight of the host nation on his shoulders, and he stole the show. He’s had a shaky first season with Barcelona, but everyone on this Brazil team seems, to me at least, to do better for Brazil than they do for their club teams.

-Thiago Silva (#3, pos: DF, age: 29, club: Paris Saint-Germain)

The PSG center-back, and Brazil captain, is often times rated as the best defender in the world, because he is. Considering that Brazil have full-backs who like to get forward, and Silva’s partner in central defense, David Luiz, is inconsistent defensively, Silva will need to come up big in his home nation to shut down the many great attacks they will have to get past.

-Julio Cesar (#12, pos: GK, age: 34, club: Toronto FC/Queens Park Rangers)

Yeah, okay, maybe central attacking midfielder Oscar or striker Fred deserved to be in this space instead of Cesar, but this guy has been playing in MLS! The starting goalkeeper for the Brazil National Team has been playing in Major League Soccer! In Canada, no less! CANADA! Has anyone ever won the World Cup while playing in Canada? I DON’T THINK SO!!!

(Note: he’s on loan to TFC, and since his parent club, QPR, have achieved promotion back to the EPL, he will probably return to London after the World Cup. But where did he go to get playing time? MLS!!!)

Outlook:

This Brazilian side are very good, and they seem confident (especially their young star, Neymar) but the pressure that they are under is huge, and winning the World Cup is never an easy task.

And no, I’m not going to talk about the 1950 World Cup final. If you haven’t heard it, then you must be living under a rock. Or at least not following soccer very closely. Medium-story-short: Brazil, at home, had a chance to win, they lost, everyone was sad, except Uruguay because they won, the end.

About a year ago this Brazilian team was under scrutiny. I remember reading an article in which they were compared to England. England! Things have changed, they won the Confederations Cup convincingly, and now they’re undeniable favorites to win it all.

But just because they’re favorites doesn’t mean they’ll definitely win. Spain, Argentina, Germany, and several other countries have teams almost as good, or, indeed, just as good, as Brazil’s. You can also look at the fact that Brazil’s attacking 4 are all either coming off bad seasons (Neymar, Oscar) or play in relatively weak leagues (Fred, Hulk).

But if Brazil can channel the dominance of the Confederations Cup win last year, they’ll be just fine.

Mexico

Confederation: CONCACAF (North America)

Best Result: Quarterfinals twice (both at home).

Chances in this year’s tournament: 1 out of 3: Uh…Anything Can Happen!

Coach: Miguel Herrera (Master Selfie Taker–no, seriously, he took a selfie of the entire Mexican national team and the President of Mexico! With minimal casualties!)

Key Players:

-Oribe Peralta (#19, pos: FW, age: 30, club: America)

The former Santos Laguna striker lit it up for El Tri last year, as he’s scored 12 goals since last August. “El Cepillo” (The Brush) was clearly the most important player on the Mexican team last year, scoring 5 of the 9 goals in the two-legged win over New Zealand, to get to the World Cup.

-Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (#14, pos: FW, age: 26, club: Manchester United)

Chicharito (“The Little Pea”–see, his father was given the nickname “The Pea”) had a bad season for Manchester United, and he hasn’t been too productive for Mexico in the last year-or-so. But at his best he’s arguably Mexico’s best player, and he has a world-class knack for scoring goals. Which Chicharito will show up in Brazil?

-Rafa Marquez (#4, pos: DF, age: 35, club: Leon)

He’s old, slow, and…maybe he’ll kick people?

Outlook:

This time two years ago, Mexico were considered “dark horses” alongside Belgium and Colombia. The U-23 + 3 team won the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal. But 2013 Mexico was bad. Really bad. They finished 4th in World Cup qualifying, needing Graham Zusi’s help to push them over the line past Panama (de nada!) and then they needed to go to playoffs to face New Zealand. They won. And that’s why they’re here.

In 2013, Mexico went through 4 coaches. Their coach to begin the year, Jose Manuel “Chepo” de le Torre, was close to being fired for most of the year. And then he was fired. There were two other guys who aren’t important, and the current guy, Miguel Herrera, made an interesting coaching decision for the New Zealand game: he dropped the foreign-based players.

The domestic squad did well, but as many of the best Mexican players play abroad, it will be an interesting challenge for El Tri to combine the domestic-based players with the foreign-based ones to create the best team possible.

Serious question: how in the world can they fit Chicharito, Gio Dos Santos, and The Brush all into the same team? Or do they bench one of them? Fascinating questions indeed, and soon we will learn the fascinating answers.

Croatia

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best result: 3rd Place in 1998.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 1 out of 3: Uh…Anything Can Happen!

Coach: Niko Kovac

Key Players:

-Luka Modrić (#10, pos: MF, age: 28, club: Real Madrid)

This guy is a starting central midfielder on the team that just won the Champions League! He’s a somewhat deep-lying playmaker, and the former Spurs man is the best non-Brazil player in the group.

-Mario Mandzukic (#17, pos: FW, age: 28, club: Bayern Munich)

Oh, and this guy scored in the 2013 Champions League final! He’s a target striker, and while he might not be as captivating to watch as Messi or Ronaldo, the man scores goals. He’ll probably leave Bayern Munich, but many top clubs could use a player like Mandzukic.

-THEIR UNIFORM!!!!

Croatia NASA

Yeah, okay, that guy was the one who was banned from this World Cup for, you know, being a Nazi. And yes, it’s obviously his NASA picture from the 1990s, where he got mixed up and wore his soccer gear instead of his astronaut gear. But still, great uniform.

Croatia not NASA

Okay, this doesn’t get the full thing, but it’s better in some ways. Wikipedia didn’t give me that many options. For some reason they decided to show all the pictures of people in their Croatian National Team garb be in the away jersey, but I don’t know why. I mean, this one has checkers! It’s clearly the best jersey in the World Cup. CHECKERS!!!

Outlook:

Like Mexico, Croatia needed to go through the playoffs to qualify for the World Cup. The likeable minnow that they faced was Iceland, not New Zealand, and they were able to get a win over two legs.

Their coach, former club legend Niko Kovac, was appointed in the middle of the qualifying campaign (the last guy didn’t do so well) and he led them into the country’s 4th World Cup (he was a member of the 2nd and 3rd ones, and would’ve played in the 1st if it wasn’t for injury).

Croatia have some good players; Modrić and Ivan Rakitic alongside youngster Mateo Kovacic in the midfield, Mandzukic in the attack, and captain Darijo Srna in defense; but they aren’t really that deep from 1 to 23; understandable considering the size of the country (the Seattle metropolitan area has more people than Croatia).

Cameroon

Confederation: CAF (Africa)

Best Result: Quarterfinals in 1990 (38-year-old Roger Milla, anyone?)

Chances in this year’s tournament: 0 out of 3: Snowball’s Chance in Qatar.

Coach: Volker Finke (one of the four German coaches).

Key Player:

-Samuel Eto’o (#9, pos: FW, age: 72, club: Chelsea)

The legendary forward, and captain of the Indomitable Lions (is that the best team nick-name ever?), will leave his club team Chelsea, but he will stay with Cameroon to attempt to add to his record 56 goals for his nation (he’s scored 3 in the World Cup).

Outlook:

African teams quite often seem to have disputes over pay. Nigeria had one in last year’s Confederations Cup, while Cameroon had it in this World Cup. They refused to board the plane until the matter was straightened out, and even though it was, it doesn’t bode well at all for their chances, especially considering that they’re the weakest team in the group.

Predictions

Chance to make it out of the group (rounded to 5s):

Brazil 95%

Croatia 55%

Mexico 40%

Cameroon 10%

Both Croatia and Mexico are unpredictable, but I expect that Croatia will most likely be the better team in this World Cup.

Schedule:

12th: Brazil vs. Croatia

13th: Mexico vs. Cameroon

17th: Brazil vs. Mexico

18th: Cameroon vs. Croatia

23rd: Cameroon vs. Brazil

23rd: Croatia vs. Mexico

That last game could decide it all.

Brazil vs. Croatia Preview

-The Brazilian team is really good.

-Croatia is also good, but Mario Mandzukic is suspended for the first game. Nikica Jelavic will probably start in his place. Thiago Silva vs. Nikica Jelavic is a total mis-match.

-Brazil is at home. All the fans will be cheering for Brazil.

-Croatia has Modrić and Rakitic and Kovacic, but Brazil more than enough players to out-class the Croats.

-Prediction: 2-0 for Brazil.

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

1. Brazil

They’re arguably the best in the world. They’re at home. They won the Confederations Cup convincingly.

2. Spain

They won the last World Cup, and the last two European Championships, and they’re very good.

3. Germany

One of the best teams, talent-wise, in the World Cup. But they haven’t won anything since the 90s, and I doubt they’ll become the first European team to win in the Americas here. But they have a very good team from front to back.

4. Argentina

Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Higuaín. This team is dynamite in the attack, and they’re playing at their home continent. But they’re weak defensively.

5. Italy

They were second in the last Euros, and they have Pirlo and Balotelli, one of the best in the world along with a volatile striker who performs well for Italy. Do they deserve to be 5th, though? I’m not sure. Did you read the part where I said “Totally Inaccurate?”

6. Uruguay

Suarez, Cavani, Forlan. They’re elite in attack, but weak defensively. Like a slightly poor man’s Argentina.

7. Belgium

This team has many star players, but they have only one who has played in a World Cup. That’s because they haven’t qualified since 2002. I think that the lack of experience will be why they won’t win, but they can still make some noise, and they’re contenders to win future tournaments they compete in.

8. Portugal

They have Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s arguably the best player in the world, and has certainly lived up to that billing for the last year-and-a-half-or-so. Not counting CR7 they have other good players, but nothing amazing, but with him they have an outside chance.

9. Chile

Alexis Sanchez leads this Chilean team’s powerful attack. They’re certainly a dark horse, but they have a hard group and if they don’t surpass both Spain and the Netherlands they could face Brazil in the round of 16.

10. Netherlands

Of all the teams in the World Cup, the Netherlands was one of the most punished by the draw. In most other groups they would advance, but in this one it seems very hard, and almost an impossible task to make the quarterfinals. Oh, and they’re the Netherlands. It could get Netherlands-y.

11. Colombia

No Falcao, but they’re still a solid team. I’m going to try to keep the blurbs short from now on.

12. Bosnia-H

Edin Dzeko is in charge of this dangerous attack, and they’re fairly safe at the other end with Asmir Begović.

13. England

This team has quality players, and promising youngsters, but they’re so…England-y. And no, I didn’t intentionally put them 13th. But it works out nicely.

14. France

They are without Ribery, but they’re still a good team. And they have an easy group. I’d be shocked if they make it past the quarters.

15. Ghana

The Black Stars were a Luis Suarez handball away from being semifinalists last year, and for good reason. They’re a good team.

16. Croatia

This team has good players, as I said, but they aren’t really close to favorites to win. Well, to win anything other than a Best Uniform contest.

17. USA

Wait, by putting the US below the other 3 group G teams, am I saying that America won’t qualify?!? Not really, but 17th seems about right. And that’s a very hard group. In sports, anything can always happen.

18. Russia

Fabio Capello has gotten Russia playing well as a team, especially in the defense. They won a qualifying group against Portugal. But they don’t have enough talented players to go very far, I don’t think.

19. Switzerland

The Alpine nation was certainly the worst of all the seeded nations, so everyone wanted to be in their group, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a bad team. They’re overlooked, but they’re a good team in an easy group. Don’t sleep on the Swiss.

20. Mexico

I’m just not sure what to expect from this Mexico team. #20 is either very mean or quite nice.

21. Ivory Coast

Yaya Toure is really good. If he is healthy, and there are doubts, the team will be at least somewhat good, especially if Didier Drogba is playing well.

22. Nigeria

Other countries are better, but the African Champions certainly shouldn’t be slept on.

23. Ecuador

This is certainly the worst South American team, and you can say that the only reason why they won any World Cup Qualifying games was because their home stadium is way above sea level. But they aren’t a bad team, they did qualify for the World Cup, and they’re in their home continent. Oh, and they have an easy group.

24. Greece

The Greeks haven’t done much since their Euro 2004 win, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll do anything here.

25. Korea

This team has talent, but I don’t think they’re good enough.

26. Japan

(See: Korea) (Also see: I have no idea what the heck I’m talking about). Shinji Kagawa’s good. David Moyes disagrees.

27. Cameroon

This team has talent, and Old Man Eto’o, but the whole money dispute thing scares me, and I also don’t think they’re good enough overall.

28. Costa Rica

This team is good, but without Alvaro Saborío (or even with him) I sadly don’t think they can make it out of the group.

29. Honduras

They aren’t quite as good as Honduras, but they have a much easier group.

30. Australia

Tim Cahill’s team has a terrible draw: Spain, the Netherlands, and Chile. They just aren’t good enough to make it out. A point would be great for the Socceroos.

31. Iran

There isn’t really a bad team in this World Cup, but the Iranians aren’t all that good.

32. Algeria

As I said, it’s the World Cup, and there are no bad teams. But Algeria is pretty close.

Power Rankings Guidelines:

1. When a team wins, I’m not allowed to drop them in rankings.

2. When a team loses, I’m not allowed to raise them in rankings.

3. I will move teams around every day, if they play, and I will only write blurbs for the ones who have just played and were thus just moved.

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for daily World Cup updates from here on out. Are you ready?