I realize that I made my World Cup predictions in an earlier post, but I wanted to put out some thoughts on the most overrated teams, teams most likely to disappoint and the teams most likely to surprise. Some of this I have already discussed in prior blogs:
Most Overrated Teams:
- Ivory Coast: Um the Elephants have been picked by many a pundits, some that know football some that do not, to surprise the world and head to the semi finals or even the finals. Um okay. Can you name their starting keeper? How about their manager...that one is easier...Sven Goran Eriksson. Does anyone realize they are in the group of Death? Having to face Brazil and Portugal?? Oh one more thing what is the Ivory Coast historical World Cup record...anyone....1 win and 2 losses. That is correct this World Cup will be their SECOND ever. Oh and finally did anyone watch the Elephants during the African Cup of Nations? Defense was terrible, criminal really. I think Nigeria and even Ghana have a better chance to go further than the Elephants.
- England. Ok this happens every time the Three Lions qualify for a major tournament. Let us face it, the English press gets over heated and over hyped with the English team. Can you tell me how many times England have made it to the semi finals of a World Cup? We all know they only major title they have is the 1966 World Cup crown at home...no European titles to their credit. They have been to 2 semi finals! 1966 and 1990 (I will argue that the 1990 semi finals was highway robbery when they defeated Cameroon on 2 dubious PKs) Some perspective - France have a World Cup title 1998, 2 European Cups 1984 and 2000, 2 Confederation Cups 2001 and 2003, an Olympic Gold medal 1984 and add to this another 4 World Cup semi finals. England head into this tournament as many's favorites. Why? Capello is the main reason, fine. But there remains the issues of who is the holding midfielder? How will Gerrard and Lampard coexist? Who will partner with Rooney? Oh and Ferdinand is out...finally Calamity James remains the #1 choice in goal. They were better 4 years ago, even with Sven at the head. But I guess when you "invented" the game you are always the favorite.
- Serbia. This one was a surprise for me. Some have them winning their group over Germany! Hmmm. Did anyone watch their qualifying campaign? They were outplayed at home against a 10 man France team. Their goalie is shaky AT BEST. They might have a decent defense with some interesting players up front like the giant Zigic. Maybe pundits have mistaken Serbia for Croatia circa 2008.
- Italy: The defending champions have a very good chance of crashing out early. I would actually pick them for potentially pulling a France 2002 and not even getting out of their group, were their group not so weak. I think that Lippi's team will find a way to squeak through but might very well fall against a Dane team in the first knock out round. The real reason is that Lippi seems to have decided his team from 4 years ago was good enough to have another go....um ok.
- France. Hey any team with Domenech has a great chance to lay an egg. I have always said that Les Bleus could finish anywhere from 1st to last in the group. I will try to keep my optimist hat on, but deep down inside I can see Dumbenech train wreck this team once again, similar to Euro 2008.
- Spain. By no means do I think Espana could crash out at the group stages, but there is no other nation that is facing so much pressure. After winning the Euros and with the absolute absurd level of depth this nation has they deserve to be planted as one of the heavy favorites. However, short of a final appearance, I think that Spain and all their fans will be heavily disappointed. Can Espana get this last monkey off their backs?
- Nigeria. As much as many tout the Ivory Coast as carrying the flag for the African continent, I think the Super Eagles might be the nation that goes the furthest. They have had much success at the youth level and have a decent World Cup pedigree. This is also the first World Cup they are not entering with all the eyes of Africa on them to do well.
- United States. Granted living in the US I am starting to buy into the hype, but I think that the group set up is favorable to the Yanks. I think they could spring the surprise against the Three Lions this Saturday and could even hope to find themselves as top of their group. Unlike 2002, I do not think they will catch anyone by complete surprise. While I am not ready to say that the US will win a World Cup soon, they are no longer the door mat of world football. But they could surprise and gasp could make another 1/4 final run if all falls into place.
Allez les Bleus!