Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

So, I'm an emotional guy. Anyone who knows me or has spent a decent amount of time around me knows this. I get a little choked up singing the Star-Spangled Banner. It should come as no surprise then that I have formed an emotional bond to this US team. I haven't cried after the victories as some people have. I have felt the pull and the patriotism, but I haven't broken down. Maybe it was being so far from home and far from so much national reaction, but the tears just didn't come. Until I saw this...

That about did it for me. The sense of community and spirit is the thing that drives it home the most. Obviously it is only a game, but as people keep saying, this team plays with the American spirit. They play for each other and never let adversity detour them. I could write for hours about patriotism in the face of politics. I find it sufficient enough to say how proud I am to be American, and how being away from home constantly reinforces my love for my country and all the positive things that our country stands for.

Match Day 15- The Rumble in the Jungle, The Bongo in the Congo, The Shakedown in Capetown.

I give you Portugal v. Brazil. All hyperbole aside, this should be fun. Ivory Coast need a miracle to advance and if anyone can give them that kind of help it certainly is Brazil.

Group G:

1. Brazil 6 points+3 GD
2. Portugal 4 points +7 GD
3. Ivory Coast 1 point -2 GD
4. North Korea 0 points -8 GD

Brazil and Portugal can draw and advance, but both will want to win to ease their path to the quarter-finals. Ivory Coast need a 9 goal swing if they are to have any hope of advance after Portugal's absolute thrashing of North Korea. While possible, the likelihood of that happening are about as great as the entire Portuguese team coming down with the runs. That being said, Ivory Coast will attempt to make Portugal's beating of North Korea look like a pillow fight. North Korea may bunker back down after what can only be described as a major error in tactical application.

Best Guesses:

Brazil 3-2 Portugal.
This should be a fun back and forth contest with Portugal trying to rest control of the group while leaving defense as a slight afterthought. This will be the first real test for Brazil especially when you consider Kaka is out for this game on a red card suspension.

Ivory Coast 3-1 North Korea.
I don't think North Korea will let the same thing happen twice in a row, but Ivory Coast won't get the same kind of production we saw from Portugal. I also think that North Korea might pull out at least a goal so they go back home with some pride intact.

Brazil and Portugal move on with Portugal likely awaiting Spain in another heavyweight showdown.

Group H:

1. Chile 6 points +2 GD
2. Spain 3 points +1 GD
3. Switzerland 3 points 0 GD
4. Honduras 0 Points -3 GD

This is the fun group for me tonight with a tons of scenarios. Chile and Spain should be a blast with both teams trying to blow each other out of the water. Chile really only need a draw, but Spain need to win to guarantee anything. Strangely enough, Honduras is still not out of this despite having an absurdly low number of shots on goal. Even stranger, Chile could get eliminated if Switzerland turn the Honduran back line into a ski slope. Switzerland needs to break Honduras over it's knee if they want to outpace Chile or Spain. Okay, here we go...

Chile to advance:
1. Win against Spain
2. Draw against Spain.
3. Loss to Spain without Switzerland recouping goal differential in possible win.

Spain to advance:
1. Win against Chile and overcome goal differential to take group.
2. Win against Chile and maintain a goal differential over Switzerland.
3. Draw against Chile with Honduran win over Switzerland.
4. Draw against Chile with Switzerland drawing Honduras and not recouping goal differential.
5. Loss to Chile with Honduras beating Switzerland and not overcoming goal differential.

Switzerland to advance:
1. Win against Honduras, overcome goal differential of Spain or Chile with Spain win.
2. Win against Honduras with Spain loss or draw.
3. Draw with Honduras with Spain loss.
4. Loss to Honduras with Spain loss compensating goal differential, and Honduras not overcoming goal differential.

Honduras to advance:
1. Win against Switzerland, with Spain loss and overcoming goal differential.

Wow, that was exhausting just to type.

Best guesses:

Spain 2-1 Chile.
Spain looked good in their last game and Chile doesn't play a great defense, so I think Spain pulls out the win.

Switzerland 1-0 Honduras.
Switzerland wins but doesn't have the offense to break the balance between Chile or Spain.

A couple of thoughts from last night's (this morning) late games. I really need to trust what my eyes see instead of going with generally accepted philosophy. I could have and should have told you Japan was going to take Denmark out. Japan have played so well. The warm-up games were a bit of an aberration and didn't indicate what this team was capable of. In addition, Keisuke Honda is the real deal. This kid looks to be the next big thing coming out of Asia. I'm still kind of flabbergasted by his amazing free kick that he knuckled in like 40 yards. The ball moved at an insane speed and had virtually no spin, so it knuckled back to the left totally catching the Danish keeper off guard. The third goal was entirely his making as he slit the Danish back line like paper and then dished it off for the goal. Denmark have been sporadic at best. Their size meant absolutely nothing because the Japanese defense swarmed them once they got into their area.

Tomorrow, all safety nets get yanked. No more point combinations to rely on. You don't win, you go home.No goals at the end of 90 minutes means golden goal sudden death. After that, if nothing is decided, we go to the dreaded penalty shootout. The downfall of many an excellent team has come at the cost of poorly executed shooting.

Let's go USA.

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