Remember how I was talking about having a lot of blog posts planned but not written? Well in the interim, they started the dang World Cup before I could get my predictions up! Thanks for nothing, FIFA!
Group A: Mexico, France, South Africa, Uruguay After months of deliberation over who I'd be supporting during this Cup, I've decided to split my allegiance between Mexico and Honduras. CONCACAF forever, baby! Along those lines, Mexico is my pick to win the group. I hesitate to pick France for second place because a) I'm pretty sure they were cursed by a banshee following their cheap win over Ireland in qualifying and b) they don't deserve to be rewarded following that horribly boring 0-0 draw with Uruguay on Friday. But still, France is too good a side. South Africa makes history by becoming the first host country to not advance past the group stages, while Uruguay cannot rise beyond being a butt of Homer Simpson's jokes.
Group B: Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria, Greece Man, again I wish I had written this in advance of the actual tournament. I saw South Korea's win over Greece coming a mile away. Don't sleep on the Korea Republic, they're a solid side. Not solid enough to overtake, say, Argentina, but still good enough to advance. If you're the Greek team, you might be better off in going to the other three sides and offering to throw the match in exchange for loans for their bankrupt country. That's how bad it's gotten for Greece --- I'm seriously proposing that they go to even Nigeria with hat in hand.
Group C: England, United States, Slovenia, Algeria This group seems pretty set in stone, with the only question being which of the top two will finish first and which of the bottom two will finish third. Let's be honest, England is pretty clearly better than the American team, despite Robert Green's tomfoolery. Barring a revelation that John Terry has slept with every WAG on England's team, the Three Lions should still end up at the top of the group.
Group D: Germany, Ghana, Serbia, Australia Toss-up of a group. The only thing you can be sure of is that ze Germans will finish on top, though any of the other three teams could upset them. Ghana gets my pick as the runner-up based on....well, pretty much just a coin flip. Literally, I flipped a coin between them and the Serbs. This is truly some high-powered analysis here.
Group E: Netherlands, Cameroon, Japan, Denmark You can almost throw a tarp over Group E and pick any two teams you wish to advance. Sure, the Dutch are the favourites on paper, but they have a history of coming up short at the World Cup. Maybe not quite as short as missing the knockout round altogether, but hey, Holland might want a new way to break their fans' hearts. In the end I went with Cameroon under the spurious logic that they'll be inspired by playing in their home continent.
Group F: Italy, Slovakia, Paraguay, New Zealand Slovakia is kind of a dark horse. Did you know they straight-up won their European qualifying group over the likes of Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic? And San Marino! SAN MARINO! Ok, San Marino is terrible (laces out!), but still, I like Slovakia. They're pretty evenly matched with Paraguay, but I'll go with Slovakia otherwise this whole first paragraph will be pointless. Italy wins the group, obvs. As for New Zealand, sorry lads, I have to slate you for last. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings. Seriously, I hope I didn't.
Group G: Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, North Korea This group became a lot less intriguing in the wake of Didier Drogba's arm injury. There were rumours that Drogba's arm was actually broken last week, which would seem to make it impossible that he could play so quickly, but I guess depending on the type of break, he could always play in a cast. Drogba could even take a page from Cowboy Bob Orton's book and smack his opponents on the head with said cast. But until we know how Drogba is, I'll just go the safe route and pick Brazil and Portugal to emerge from the group. North Korea, by the way, is going to be eating three lopsided losses. Drogba could probably break a leg and shatter a pelvis and I'd still pick Ivory Coast to beat the KDPR.
Group H: Spain, Chile, Switzerland, Honduras The Chile vs. Switzerland game on June 21 will determine which of the two finishes second, since a win would pretty much clinch things for either side. Spain is clearly the top team in the group and Honduras (despite my support) are clearly the underdogs. I can see Honduras maybe stealing a draw against Chile or the Swiss, but that's about the limit of my expectations for them. Then again, Spain has a long and proud history of crapping the bed at the World Cup. Don't put it past them to somehow miss the knockout stages. Just as nobody expects the Spanish inquisition, everyone expects the Spanish implosion come World Cup time.
Knockout stage.... * Mexico over South Korea. Argh, two of my favourites clashing! * England over Ghana. Pretty straight-forward. * Slovakia over Netherlands. Ah, now HERE is where the Dutch usually lose it. * Brazil over Chile. Again, pretty straight-forward. * Argentina over France. Lionel Messi's latest opportunity to show why he's the best in the world. * Germany over the USA. Even when talking about soccer, that's just an unsettling result to write. * Italy over Cameroon. The defending champs last a bit longer. * Spain over Portugal. Wow, two neighbouring underachievers facing off. The headliner of the round.
* England over Mexico. I may be a sucker for buying into the always-overwhelming UK media hype, but I really think that this England team has a chance to actually contend in this tournament. It's been a surprisingly smooth ride for England ever since Fabio Capello took over, Terry/Bridge drama aside.
* Brazil over Slovakia. With no disrespect at all intended to the Slovak side (and really, I've picked them to the quarter-finals, so no disrespect should be inferred), I wonder how many of them would make the Brazil team if they were eligible.
* Argentina over Germany. This one is a real toss-up. Germany seems to be somewhat of an underrated power in world football, just in the sense that people recognize they're good, but few realize just how good. Since winning the World Cup as West Germany in 1954, their worst finish at the Cup has been the second round. Their WORST finish! Overall they have three Cups, four second places, three third places, a fourth, and three quarter-finals. Yikes. And yet I'll still pick Argentina because I'm a sucker for the sideline reaction shots of Diego Maradona. They're fascinating. First of all, Maradona is very animated. Second of all, he is slowly morphing into Orson Welles what with the beard, gut, memories of past genius and the possible drunkenness.
* Italy over Spain. I honestly think that Spain right now is a better team than Italy. But this is the World Cup. I cannot ignore the long histories of both teams in the competition. The Azzurri always step up, and Spain always falls back. It shall come to pass.
* Brazil over England. I'm not THAT swayed by the UK media hype. England comes up short again and we all get to enjoy four more years of hand-wringing.
* Argentina over Italy. Ah, what the hell. Now I'm just getting silly with my results. Honestly, Argentina probably loses to Germany, but now I've got them beating not just Germany but Italy as well? Is Lionel Messi really that good?.....oh wait, yeah, he is. Unless Maradona does something totally goofy like have Messi start at goalkeeper, I predict a shootout win for Argentina over the Italians.
* Brazil over Argentina. So I seem to have gone this entire preview and picked Brazil to win without spending barely 10 words talking about them. That's because Brazil is eternal. I don't have to tell you that their side is as stacked as ever. They're so good that a method of pubic hair removal was named in their honour. And, as is often the key element in sports, Brazil has geography on its side! No European team has ever won a World Cup when the tournament is held in the southern hemisphere, which is just the kind of goofy statistic that I love to believe in. So that leaves the southern hemisphere clubs as the favourites, and of that group, who better than Brazil and Argentina. South America shines in South Africa, and in the end, Brazil takes home World Cup #6.