So here are the groups and the Frog's predictions:
- France, Mexico, Uruguay, South Africa. France find a way to squeak through. South Africa are the first host not get to knock out stages Uruguay will give France fits in the first game but just not enough quality behind their strikers. Mexico seem to be clicking, but will the number of pre-tournament friendlies cost El Tri?
- Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, New Zealand. Too bad this is not rugby for New Zealand. Italy, while a weaker side than 4 years ago, have an easy draw and I cannot see them not winning this weak group. Paraguay will do what they always do play hard and find a way to surprise only to get trounced in the next round. Slovakia and New Zealand are just happy to be here.
- Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, North Korea. Brazil will fatten up on North Korea in first game and force the other two teams to chase them in the standings. Ivory Coast have....Eriksson as manager...they are porous defensively already and bring in a tactical "genius" to be manager, bad formula (and Drogba might be out). Portugal are too savvy and will find a way to 2nd place.
- Spain, Chile, Switerzeland, Honduras. Anyone watch the Spain v Poland match yesterday? Get ready for more of the same as Espana have a cake walk in the group. Chile carries over its superb qualifying form into South Africa.
So based on my bold predictions the knock out stages will resemble the following:
France v NigeriaEngland v Serbia
Holland v ParaguayBrazil v Chile
Argentina v MexicoGermany v USA
Italy v DenmarkSpain v Portugal
So who advances?
- Nigeria will defeat France. That's right, the Super Eagles will carry the African flag and do so proudly. They are heading into a World Cup without the pressure of a continent on their shoulders unlike previous editions - that is falling to Ivory Coast this time around. They have a veteran squad and will go further than expected.
- England over Serbia. Two teams that I think are being vastly overrated will face off and knock on off. England have Rooney Serbia have...exactly.
- Holland over Paraguay. Just too much Total Football. Oranje set up a huge 1/4 final versus...
- Brazil over Chile. Chile played very well in qualifiers, finishing second to Brazil, even defeating the Argentines in the process. But they also got man handled twice by the Samba Boyz, make that 3 times after this match.
- Argentina over Mexico. El Tri do play their South American rivals well, but they will not have an answer for the offensive firepower of the Argentines.
- German over USA. There will be no controversial hand ball this time around, although I think the US will give Germany all they can handle, but in the end they will play 90 minutes and Germany will win.
- Italy over Denmark. The Italians will find a way to dive and flop to the next round, but sides will most likely play defensive football maybe even go to a shoot out. But the defending champs retain their title for one more day.
- Spain over Portugal. The Iberian Derby, could be the best game of this round. Spain is too strong, but will have a tough battle against their neighbors. Without Nani I do not see Portugal offering enough danger to knock Spain down.
Which sets up the following 1/4 finals:
- England v Nigeria. And the Super Eagles beat the Three Lions! Nigeria become the first African nation to get to a 1/2 finals. Unlike 1990 when England miraculously defeated Cameroon, luck will not shine on the 3 Lions this go around.
- Holland v Brazil. Wow, this would be a huge match. Where Oranje will defeat the Samba Boys. This Holland team is too well balanced and I think the spanking they took at the Euros at the hands of Russia gave them all a dose of humility and hunger which will serve them well in South Africa.
- Argentina v Germany. And so we meet again 4 years later...this time Messi will not be on the bench the entire game! Nor will there be cheat sheets suck in keepers' socks....nor will it go to shoot out. Argentina win easily, too much fire power, Germany too old.
- Spain v Italy. Euro champs vs World Cup champs...Euro champs win. Italy will play to go to PKs, but the magicians in the midfield for Spain will carve up an old and slow Italian defense.
The 1/2 finals:
- Nigeria v Holland. The Super Eagles magical carpet ride comes to an end. Holland are too much and advance to their 3rd World Cup final.
- Spain v Argentina. Another great match up. The world's greatest player against the greatest team. Winner - Messi. Spain will finally meet its match when it comes to creative play and offensive talent. The difference is they do not have Messi.
Repeat of the 1978 finals - Argentina v Holland.
Holland get their revenge! Van Persie, Robben, Van Bommel, Sneijder et al are too much for Messi and co. It will be one of the better finals we have seen. Holland 3 - Argentina 2.