Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

World Cup Predictions

Every 4 years we get a stretch of sporting events which starts with the Winter Olympics and ends with the World Cup, encompassing the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Memorial Cup, the NBA playoffs, the beginning (the best part, many years) of the baseball season, the Masters, the French Open and Wimbledon, etc. etc. It's fitting that this stretch is capped off by the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup.

With the first round getting underway on Friday, it is time to submit my World Cup Pool Entry, so it's also a good time to make a fool of myself by predicting who will make the second round of the tournament.

Top 2 teams from each group advance, FIFA rankings as at May 16 in brackets - rank not given for teams not in top 50

Group A:

Germany (19)
Costa Rica (25)
Poland (28)
Ecuador (39)

Germany, Costa Rica

It's pretty unusual for a host country not to make the second round, and that would go double when the host is Germany.

Costa Rica can make a reasonable claim to having drawn a tough group at the last world cup. In the group stage they lost 5-2 to eventual champions Brazil, drew with eventual third place finisher Turkey and soundly defeated China, but were eliminated on goal differential (due to their entertaining, but ill-advised decision to try and outscore Brazil in a wide-open game). Turkey lost in the semis to Brazil so that group actually went undefeated in the tournament.

Group B:

England (10)
Sweden (16)
Paraguay (33)
Trinidad and Tobago (NR)

England, Sweden

England and Sweden should make it through here. T&T is definitely the weakest representative of CONCACAF (North and Central America), while Paraguay are a solid side but not likely to do much playing in a European time zone against England and Sweden.

Group C:

Holland (3)
Argentina (8)
Cote d'Ivoire (32)
Serbia and (for now) Montenegro (46)

Holland, Cote d'Ivoire

It would be boring not to take any upsets and Cote D'Ivoire is a good bet after winning a tough African group (which included Cameroon and Egypt) and playing in a home time zone vs. the Argentinians.

While they always find a way to lose at some point, the Dutch are too technically solid (and too bitter about missing the last world cup) to go out at the group stage.

Group D:

Mexico (6)
Portugal (8)
Iran (22)
Angola (NR)

Mexico, Portugal

Nobody in this group is going to roll over and Iran may be the best team in Asia, but Mexico and Portugal should have too much talent for them.

Group E:

Czech Republic (2)
Italy (14)
United States (4)
Ghana (50)

Czech Republic, Italy

Wow, tough group. Really, anything could happen here. While it would be nice to see Italy go out at the group stage, I'll stick with the Europeans here.

Group F:

Brazil (1)
Japan (17)
Croatia (24)
Australia (44)

Brazil, Croatia

It would be a shocker if Brazil doesn't qualify. Japan vs. Croatia will be a tough battle, and the Australians are a bit of an unknown quantity so this is a tough group to pick the second qualifier. With Croatia practically playing at home, I'll go with them.

Group G:

France (8)
Korea (30)
Switzerland (35)
Togo (NR)

Korea, Switzerland

Maybe I'm still remembering the last world cup too vividly, but I don't have much faith in the French squad. Henry is brilliant but will he get any support?

The Swiss make a good dark horse pick, in my uninformed opinion.

Group H:

Spain (5)
Tunisia (21)
Saudi Arabia (34)
Ukraine (41)

Spain, Tunisia

The Ukraine qualified impressively, but I think Tunisia will edge them out for the second spot. While Spain has a history of underachieving, it's fair to say they were robbed by the referees last world cup, and they will be hungry this time around. Saudi Arabia often qualifies, but if I had to pick one team I wanted drawn into a group with my home country (assuming my home country ever made a world cup) it would be them.

I guess we'll see, should be fun either way.


  • Don't underestimate the Americans. They are on the verge of becoming a soccer powerhouse. I am afraid there are going to be some very, very disappointed Italian fans in about two weeks.

    By Blogger Greg, at 8:10 AM  

  • Don't get me wrong. The Americans made the quarter-finals last world cup, beating Portugal and Mexico along the way, and they are likely a better team now than they were then.

    Like I said, anything can happen in that group, if the tournament was in the Americas or East Asia somewhere I would have picked the U.S. to go through, but with it taking place in Europe I went with the Europeans.

    By Blogger Declan, at 7:05 PM  

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