Crawl Across the Ocean

Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup First Round Recap

Well the first round is over, so I should revisit my predictions for the first round.

Group A

Predicted: Germany, Costa Rica
Actual: Germany, Ecuador

Obviously I overrated Costa Rica, they're not the same team they were four years ago, which I guess is good news for Canada's next qualification effort (although it doesn't say much about our failure this time around).

The real question is whether I underrated Ecuador or not. So far the jury is out on whether they were very impressive in beating Poland and Costa Rica and then took it easy against Germany, or whether they did well against weak opponents and then their weakness was revealed when they played Germany. I guess England supporters are hoping for the latter scenario.

I guess I fell for the conventional wisdom that Ecuador only succeeds at home when they play at altitude. Although it seemed like a reasonable conjecture based on their record. And I've played soccer at altitude - it's not easy!

Group B

Predicted: England, Sweden
Actual: England, Sweden

This group played out pretty much as expected with the difference between England and Sweden being Sweden's inability to score against Trinidad and Tobago.

Group C

Predicted: Holland, Cote D'Ivoire
Actual: Holland, Argentina

Well, I don't feel too bad about this one. Cote D'Ivoire probably would have qualified in almost any other group (except maybe E) but Argentina has looked very strong so far. Any team which can keep Messi on the bench for the most part, is a team which is pretty dangerous.

Group D

Predicted: Mexico, Portugal
Actual: Mexico, Portugal

This was probably the weakest group in the tourney, as demonstrated by the fact that Angola still had a chance to qualify until their last half of football. I was a bit disappointed with the Iranians.

Group E


Predicted: Czech Republic, Italy
Actual: Ghana, Italy

I commented that anything could happen in this group, and that turned out to be a fairly accurate assessment. After I criticized Italy, they came back and played an excellent game against the Czech Republic. We'll see what happens next time they actually have to play a full game against 11 men - although we probably won't see that during the game against Australia. I think the Americans maybe suffered a little from their poor international reputation a little. While they didn't play well enough to deserve to advance they certainly weren't done any favours by the referees.

Credit to Ghana for taking 6 points in a tough group.

Group F


Predicted: Brazil, Croatia
Actual: Brazil, Australia

It looked like Croatia might get through briefly, but a late equalizer from Australia sent them on their way. Brazil can play better than they did, and they probably will. Having said that, the only other teams to get 9 points were Germany, Portugal and Spain.

Group G


Predicted: Korea, Switzerland
Actual: France, Switzerland

Again, I was right in principle, if not in result, as the French were underwhelming, relying on second half goals against Togo to get through in second place with a meager 5 points. The Koreans battled hard, and I didn't see the game against Switzerland, but I guess they'll have to live on the glory from 2002 for another four years.

Group H

Predicted: Spain, Tunisia
Actual: Spain, Ukraine

Hard to know what would have happened in the Tunisia-Ukraine match if Tunisia hadn't had a man sent off somewhat inexplicably just before half time, or if the referee had given the obvious handball against the Ukraine in the box or if he hadn't given a fairly marginal penalty to the Ukraine at the other end. Still, it seemed like the Ukraine was (just slightly) the better side, so its fair enough that they went through.

As an aside, what's with all the defenders sticking their arms up and touching the ball in the box?

Overall I went 10/16, and I'd have to characterize my predictions as fairly poor, I called a few upsets, most of which almost but not quite materialized. For second round predictions I think I will go with all favourites and then maybe we'll see some more upsets...

Knockout Stage Predicted Winners:

Germany (over Sweden)
Argentina (over Mexico)
England (over Ecuador - despite playing in the middle of the day and having to endure the blistering mid 20's temperatures of a German summer)
Holland (over Portugal - should be a good game)
Italy (over Australia - quite the contrast in styles, expect to see Italians rolling all over the pitch, and some of it may even be genuine injuries)
Switzerland (over Ukraine - both teams will feel they got lucky with the matchup here)
Brazil (over Ghana - could be entertaining)
Spain (over France - Spain don't get much of a break for their 9 points in the group stage - at least they should be rested after most of their regulars sat against Saudi Arabia - even if they win this one, it's probably up against Brazil in their next match - if they want to make the semis they'll have to earn it.

5 Comments:

  • I was pretty disappointed in the U.S. effort. They didn't look like the same exciting team of four years ago. I think there was just too much off the field drama going on and the team never "jelled".

    By Blogger Greg, at 7:02 AM  

  • stop trashing the italians. "too many dives" is the lamest thing you could have said - at least be astute enough to diss the catenaccio! id be more offended if i didnt totally whallop your arse at predicting. im 1st place in my world cup pool at work!!

    i hope a non-european team wins it in europe. its about time.

    By Blogger angela, at 11:41 PM  

  • Greg - Agreed, I expected a better performance from them as well, perhaps off-field problems were the cause (certainly Togo didn't look too good!)

    Ainge - I *have* stopped trashing the Italians (for the moment, anyway) - didn't you read this post - my comment about them being on the ground was really a dig at the Australians, who are quite the clumsy challengers sometimes.

    Still, you're right about the dives, there are lots of teams that take lots of dives, the thing which has turned me against the Italians above all else over the years is that they have some of the most talented players in the world, yet they insist on playing a very defensive style and not taking advantage of their talent (this was quite evident in the game against the U.S. when they started putting in all their defensive players early and then couldn't adjust when they ended up with an extra man, which was part of why I was so critical of that performance).

    I could see if they were Greece and their lack of offensive talent forced them to play that way, or I could see it if it was a successful strategy for them, but it isn't. Almost inevitably, they end up losing some close game on PK's or in extra time whereas if they had played more positively they would most likely have been ahead after 90 minutes.

    Somehow they have yet to figure out that low scoring soccer favours the less talented team by making the outcome more random, and the less talented team is typically Italy's opponent.

    France played the same kind of game against Korea (after they scored early they tried to protect a one goal lead for 80 minutes) and it ended up costing them as the game ended 1-1, which could easily have lead to a penalty loss in the knockout stages.

    We'll see if Italy can avoid making a siilar mistake this time around. I heard positive things about their performance against Ghana (but didn't see that game) so maybe my expectations were raised and that is why I was so disappointed to see the same old cynical, defensive type of performance against the U.S.

    I'm kind of hoping for a non-European team to win in Europe on principle, but with Mexico eliminated all that leaves is Brazil, Argentina, Ghana, Australia and Ecuador. I don't really want to see Brazil or Argentina win (Argentina wouldn't be too bad - I'm tired of Brazil) and they seem the most likely candidates.

    I'm probably most rooting for Spain at this point, they are overdue to have some success (on any continent), although certainly I'll be cheering for Australia against Italy :)

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:14 AM  

  • Start bashing the Italians again. The Aussies wuz robbed.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:59 AM  

  • australia went back to the swimming pool where they belong. sorry.

    "I'm kind of hoping for a non-European team to win in Europe on principle"

    hey, i bet on brazil and argentina to reach the quarterfinals, but i guess soccer hasnt heard of globalization. now the dudes are beating me in the world cup pool, and ive pushed gambling feminism back about 20 years with my miserable predictions.

    By Blogger angela, at 11:57 AM  

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