Picking up where I left off, it’s time I give out my predictions as to how the Win-Or-Go-Home games will go down.
Round of 16
49 – (1A) Mexico vs. (2B) Nigeria: Mexico’s success in a tough group will increase their confidence, which will help elevate their level of play in this stage. It won’t be easy, but I see Mexico moving on, perhaps by just a one-goal difference.
50 – (1C) England vs. (2D) Serbia: I’m gonna ride Serbia’s defense on this one while anticipating a letdown by the Englishmen. 2-1, Serbia wins, and we now have two surprise teams moving on to the Top-8.
51 – (1D) Germany vs. (2C) USA: When it’s all said and done, this will be the upset of the tournament. USA advances. It’s not that they are the better team, it’s just that on this day the cards fell their way.
52 – (1B) Argentina vs. (2A) France: You better get your popcorn ready for this one, I like a 2-2 game to go to penalty kicks, Maradona’s team moves on.
53 – (1E) Netherlands vs. (2F) Italy: In my initial mock I also have this match-up taking place in Round of 16, but that was with Italy winning their group and the Dutch finishing second in theirs. Some things change, some things stay the same. The match-up will be the same, but the result will change. Netherlands moves on.
54 – (1G) Brasil vs. (2H) Chile: this is an intriguing match-up because both teams know each other so well. I have to go with Brazil on this one, especially after how I picked them to roll through the ‘Group of Death’.
55 – (1F) Paraguay vs. (2E) Cameroon: a very underrated match-up might result into one of the best games in the whole tournament. Cameroon in overtime.
56 – (1H) Spain vs. (2G) Ivory Coast: Les Elephants’ offense, speed, and physicality will present a strong challenge for the Spanish, but Spain will step up to the challenge. 4-2 Spain.
57 – (W53) Netherlands vs. (W54) Brasil: I feel an Orange Machine at full force on this one. The Dutch offense does just enough to score on Dunga’s team while their defense keeps the ‘joga bonito’ in check.
58 – (W49) Mexico vs. (W50) Serbia: Mexico has won me over, I’m predicting that for the first time in their history they will advance past quarterfinals into a top-4 finish. Another one-goal win.
59 – (W52) Argentina vs. (W51) USA: containing Messi will be too much of a challenge for the Americans, they just do not have anyone they can match up with him, nor an answer to their deadly strikers. Argentina wins 3-1.
60 – (W55) Cameroon vs. (W56) Spain: back-to-back African opponents on African soil will certainly be a rough challenge for Spain. However, they match up very well against the Indomitable Lions, and they move on to semifinals.
61 – (W57) Netherlands vs. (W58) Mexico: Netherlands potent offense is a sizable mismatch with Mexico’s defense. Netherlands moves on to the title game for the first time since doing so twice back in the 70’s.
62 – (W59) Argentina vs (W60) Spain: If there’s ever a defense that can control Messi, Spain’s can definitely be the one. Del Bosque’s team plays one of its finest games as Spain moves on to the title game for the first time in their history.
Third Place Game
63 – (L61) Mexico vs (L62) Argentina: in this scenario, I expect Mexico to be more motivated in this game as it will be the first time they would be able to place for a medal in the World Cup. Mexico gets a 3rd-place finish with a 2-1 win.
64 – (W61) Netherlands vs (W62) Spain: I have honestly gone back and forth on this one so much it has almost given me a headache. A tightly contested match-up will take us to penalty kicks. I’m taking Spain on this one, I can see myself picking against them in any other scenario but this one. Netherlands record in World Cup finals will run to 0-3. The Spanish Fury finally become world champions!
MVP: Xavi Hernandez
Wow, doing this was funner than the first time around, I hope you enjoy it, and as always your comments are more than welcomed!
And as I finish this entry, we are less than seven hours away from the first game. These next 31 days will be filled with excitement, good luck to all of your teams!
Hello everyone and welcome back to Bay Area Sports Blog. It’s been awhile.
While I will soon give you my thoughts on some Bay Area topics, I feel compelled to finish something I started early in December of last year, and that is taking a shot at guessing how the 2010 World Cup will play out. Breaking news for those of you who have been away from all sources of media outlets for the past month or so: it starts tomorrow.
Six months ago I took a shot at guessing how the World Cup would play out if it started back then. A lot of time has passed since then, and some things have changed while other have stayed the same:
- Italy, my pick to win it all six months ago, looks hardly ready for their first game, so much that as of this morning they still didn’t know what their starting eleven will be for their debut this coming Monday.
- Injuries have taken over the headlines prior to the start of this magnificent event: Michael Ballack, David Beckham, Michael Essien, Rio Ferdinand, Luis Carlos Almeida de Cuhna (also known as Nani), and Rene Adler (the young, talented and promising goalkeeper for Germany) among others are out of the event due to injuries. Other such as Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, and Jozy Altidore look like they will play coming off of recent injuries.
- Did you think that list of player missing the World Cup was horrible? Check the list of players who will be watching from a TV because they were not selected to their squads’ final 23: Ronaldihno, Juan Roman Riquelme, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti, Francesco Totti, Luca Toni, Karim Benzema, Patrick Viera, Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The list goes on and on.
- Did I say some things have stayed the same? Spain looked like the strongest squad then, and they still do now. In my honest opinion, they are hands-down the best team in this 2010 World Cup, but being the best team doesn’t always equal winning it all.
But enough, this is about me trying my best to predict what will happen within the next month starting tomorrow, so here I go ….
South Africa v. Mexico: 1-2
Uruguay v. France: 1-2
South Africa v. Uruguay: 2-2
France v. Mexico: 1-1
Mexico v. Uruguay: 3-1
France v. South Africa: 2-2
(1. Mexico, 2. France) Breakdown: Mexico comes into this tournament with arguably their best squad since France ‘98, when they went undefeated in a group that also included a very talented Netherlands team (which finished in 4th place). They lost 1-2 in the Round of 16 against Germany after they led with with 15 minutes left. Mexico possesses a young, fast, and talented front line with great chemistry, along with a mix of veterans and youngsters in the midfield and defense. I expect Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Guillermo Ochoa to land the starting gigs for this team. France may have stumbled into this tournament, unfairly and all, but they are way too deep and talented not to move on to the next round. Uruguay (good enough talent) or South Africa (host nation) can definitely surprise us and grab one of the two spots. I actually consider this group the hardest one to predict.
Argentina v. Nigeria: 3-1
South Korea v. Greece: 1-1
Greece v. Nigeria: 0-2
Argentina v. South Korea: 2-1
Nigeria v. South Korea: 1-1
Greece v. Argentina: 1-2
(1. Argentina, 2. Nigeria) Breakdown: Argentina is missing a few stars on their roster, but fortunate for them they still have a team filled with elite players, highlighted by the top player in the world right now: Lionel Messi. I still have a lot of doubts about Maradona’s squad and about whether he can lead them to glory, but I expect them to impress in their first game and then start to run into some trouble in their last two group games, winning by the minimal difference against the bottom two teams of the group. Nigeria backed up an undefeated qualifier stage with a third-place finish in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, they have the talent to advance in this group and maybe make some noise in the elimination rounds.
England v. USA: 2-1
Algeria v. Slovenia: 1-2
Slovenia v. USA: 0-2
England v. Algeria: 5-0
Slovenia v. England: 0-1
Algeria v. USA: 1-3
(1. England, 2. USA) Breakdown: I want to say the U.S. can pull off the upset, I really do, but England is just too talented. I won’t be in shock if it happens though. For the purposes of my mock, I think England’s win over the Americans gives them a boost that is reflected in the result of their next game. I expect them to rest some players in the final group game. The United States comes into the tournament with arguably their best squad since they hosted this even back in 1994. Landon Donovan is starting to live up to the expectations, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are peaking at the right time, and their secondary players are very underrated. I really, really like the way Edson Buddle’s game compliments Altidore’s, and I hope he plays as a starter from the get-go.
Germany v. Australia: 2-1
Serbia v. Ghana: 3-2
Germany v. Serbia: 2-1
Ghana v. Australia: 2-2
Ghana v. Germany: 0-2
Australia v. Serbia: 1-2
(1. Germany, 2. Serbia) Breakdown: No injury may affect a team as severely as Essien’s injury affects this Ghana team. He is that much of a difference-maker for the Black Stars. A part of me thinks that their fast-paced game may be able to help them reach the Round of 16, but it’s doubtful. Part of that has been Serbia’s resurgence coming into this tournament. I like Nikola Zigic to start performing up to his potential with his 6′6″ frame in the air game. Germany is being portrayed by some as a non-factor this year, but I don’t buy it. The talent, even without Ballack, is there and they always perform well in the World Cup. Philipp Lahm is the best wingback in the world right now.
Netherlands v. Denmark: 3-1
Japan v. Cameroon: 1-2
Netherlands v. Japan: 3-0
Cameroon v. Denmark: 2-1
Denmark v. Japan: 1-0
Cameroon v. Netherlands: 1-3
(1. Netherlands, 2. Cameroon) Breakdown: I really underestimated the Dutch six months ago, they have the talent to go deep in this tournament. Their offense is as explosive as anyone’s and their defense can hang with the best of the best. Robin Van Persie is a strong candidate for the Golden Boot. I’m not as confident in Cameroon as I was six months ago, but I still think they move on over weaker opponents in Denmark and Japan. Even though I pick Denmark to beat Japan, don’t be surprised if the opposite happens.
Italy v. Paraguay: 1-1
New Zealand v. Slovakia: 1-2
Slovakia v. Paraguay: 1-1
Italy v. New Zealand: 3-2
Slovakia v. Italy: 2-2
Paraguay v. New Zealand: 2-0
(1.Paraguay, 2. Italy) Breakdown: say hello to the tiebreaker system folks, I have three teams with five points in this group. Paraguay notches first place on +2 goal differential, while Italy and Slovakia both have +1, but Italy advances because they have more goals scored. I consider Slovakia to be a very underrated team that could be one of the surprises of the stage-group, and I don’t think either of these three teams really has enough to pull away from the other two. (Italy should be superior, but they are stumbling coming into this tournament). For purposes of the mock though, Paraguay wins the group and Italy moves on as well.
Ivory Coast v. Portugal: 2-2
Brasil v. North Korea: 4-0
Brasil v. Ivory Coast: 2-1
Portugal v. North Korea: 2-0
North Korea v. Ivory Coast: 1-3
Portugal v. Brasil: 1-2
(1. Brazil, 2. Ivory Coast) Breakdown: it pains me to write this, it really does because I’ve always rooted for Portugal, but in this case the tie-breaker favors Les Elephants. Ah, when I first heard of Drogba’s injury my initial reaction was to think their chances were done, but then I realized that even without him they are still the best African team in the tournament. Easily. Even if Drogba isn’t able to play at all in the group stage, I consider Nani’s loss to Portugal more serious than Drogba’s to Ivory Coast. Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to shine in the big stage while donning the Portuguese jersey and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to break out of that funk this summer with all the weight of Portugal on his shoulders. He may end up proving doubters like me wrong, and I would be delighted if that were to happen. As for this mock though, Ivory Coast advances with Brasil to the Round of 16.
Honduras v. Chile: 1-3
Spain v. Switzerland: 3-0
Chile v. Switzerland: 2-1
Spain v. Honduras: 3-1
Switzerland v. Honduras: 1-2
Chile v. Spain: 1-2
(1. Spain, 2. Chile) Breakdown: it was hard for me to have Spain beating Chile, because regardless of the fact that I think the Spanish have the best team in tournament, I think Chile has enough talent and coaching to give Del Bosque’s team some problems. Regardless, I’m still picking Chile as my surprise team in this tournament. In this scenario a match-up with Brazil in the Round of 16 should be really interesting, as both teams know each other very well.
I’m breaking this mock into two parts, the second part will be up shortly. Enjoy it, and comments are always welcomed!
DE – Richard Seymour (OAK): the anti-Moss (definition: that who can deliver the same type of outstanding production on the field regardless of what jersey he’s wearing, or what the scoreboard looks like). Seymour had yet another consistent season, not as good as the season he had in 2008, but right along the kind of production he’s been having for the last few years. It’s worth remembering he was obtained in exchange for a first round pick in next year’s draft, so it’ll be interesting to see if Al Davis and company (Ok, just Al) will be aggressive in resigning him or will simply let him go away.
DT – Aubrajo Franklin (SF): file this one under “did he play that way because of a breakthrough, or because he was in a contract year?” But I will stand somewhere in-between. While there’s no doubt in my mind lots of players in all major sports play with extra incentives in the final year of their contracts, what I saw out of Franklin each week was more than just dollar signs in his eyes. I saw a player that was used correctly by his coaches and was placed in positions where he could succeed, and the result was a career year. Stats mean little for nose tackles in a 3-4 defense, it was his constant closing of the gaps on running of plays and his relentless push on passing plays that made him worth noticing. Should the 49ers resign him? Hm, does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R?
DE – Justin Smith (SF): whenever you want to teach a young football player the meaning of “playing until the whistle blows” you might wanna pull out the Justin Smith highlight reel. Much like the previous two players in the defensive line, it’s not the stats that say what a valuable player he is, it’s his performance on each and every play. Not only does he go full-motor every time the ball is snapped, but in a position where for the most part players rotate in and out of the game, Smith plays the vast majority of the snaps, rarely going to the sidelines when the 49ers defense is on the field. Oh, he also sneaked into the Pro Bowl as a 1st alternate this year after Kevin Williams (Vikings) had to step down with an injury.
OLB – Manny Lawson (SF): the injury-prone former 1st round pick from North Carolina State was able to stay healthy for all 16 games for the first time since his rookie year, resulting in his best season yet. Already an excellent player in coverage, the 49ers coaching staff was determined to get him involved in the team’s pass-rush plans. Although he’s yet to put up the type of numbers most fans are expecting from him, he was able to lead the team in sacks in ‘09 with 6.5 and had career highs in tackles for a season (68), forced fumbles (3), and tackles in a game (11, week 3 at Minnesota).
MLB – Kirk Morrison (OAK): say what you want about the Raiders defense being on the field for what seems to be two-thirds of the game, Morrison is a tackling machine. He ended the season tied for seventh in the NFL in total tackles (133) and was third in solo tackles (109) only five behind the leader. In his five-year career he is averaging 126.4 tackles per season while having played in all 80 games (79 starts). In 2009 he recorded career highs in forced fumbles (3) sacks (2.0), total tackles in a game (16, week 5 at New York Giants) and solo tackles in a game (13, twice – week 2 vs Kansas City and week 5 at New York Giants).
MLB – Patrick Willis (SF) : arguably the best Middle Linebacker in the game, Willis produced his third straight Pro-Bowl season in his third year in the league. He had double digit tackles in eight games this season. His 2.5 sacks vs the Rams on week 3 set a career high in a game, and help him tie his career high for sacks in a season with 4.0. He also set career highs in forced fumbles (3) and interceptions (4), while leading the league in total tackles (152) and solo tackles (114). He is also the unquestionable leader of a very good 49ers defensive unit that has the makings to be a top-10 (dare I say top-5) defense next season.
OLB – Ahmad Brooks (SF): I have to be honest, no other Outside Linebacker in the Bay was really impressive this season, so I had to resort to giving a shout-out to Mr. Brooks. He went undrafted in 2006 out of Virginia after having several off-field issues and was selected in the supplemental draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played sparingly his first season. His second season ended during his second game due to injury, and he was released after that season. The 49ers signed him in the summer of 2008 but he didn’t play at all that season, even briefly being waived when the team needed room for a backup wide receiver. He didn’t see much action in the first half of last season as Mike Singletary waited patiently for the moment when he thought Brooks would be ready to consistently play again at the NFL level. He had a strong second half of the season, finishing with 6.0 sacks and five forced fumbles, and figures to be an integral part of the 49ers pass-rush next season.
CB – Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK): his stats in ‘09 were so bad, every defensive lineman listed in this entry had better stats than him. Yet he is still the best cornerback in the Bay, so good in fact, quarterbacks don’t throw it his way. The seven-year veteran was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career.
CB – Shawntae Spencer (SF): He wasn’t even mentioned that much during last offseason, a far thought from Nate Clements and the competition going on for the #2 CB job between Tarell Brown and Dre’ Bly. He now stands as arguably the best Cornerback in the 49ers roster. He was announced as the winner of the #2 CB job before the season over Brown and Bly to the surprise of many, but the news weren’t too much of a shock considering his production during his first few seasons in the NFL. He finished the season with the most tackles by a 49er CB (53) and two interceptions, while also doing a good job in run support. His vast knowledge of former college teammate Larry Fitzgerald makes him a great asset in divisional games vs the Arizona Cardinals, and if Clements is able to go back to his old ways the 49ers might just have a nice one-two punch to match up against opposing starting wideouts.
FS – Dashon Goldson (SF): The former 4th-round pick was finally able to crack the starting lineup in his third season out of Washington, and he all but assured himself a spot as the 49ers starting Free Safety of the future. Known for being a takeaway machine in practice, Goldson carried that onto the field leading the team with seven takeaways: four interceptions (team-leading) and three forced fumbles, to go with his 94 tackles and 2.0 sacks. He has a tendency to go for the big hit as opposed to making a play on the ball which kept his numbers from being even better, but regardless he’s a nice commodity for the 49ers defense next season.
SS – Tyvon Branch (OAK): The second-year player out of Connecticut may soon be a name well known around the NFL. He had an impressive 124 tackles this past season to go with two forced fumbles and 1.0 sack while being a strong presence in the backfield vs opposing running games. Raiders fans would like to see more interceptions out of him instead of such high number of tackles, so it’ll be interesting to see his progress going into his third season.
K – Sebastion Janikowski (OAK): The 10-year veteran arguably had his best season thus far, converting a career-high 89.7 % of his field goals (26 of 29) while hitting a career-long 61-yard FG at Cleveland on week 15. His six field goals made of 50 or more yards also tied a career high initially set in 2007. He made all 17 of his extra point attempts.
P – Shane Lechler: led the league in gross punting yards (4909), gross punting average (51.1), and net punting average (43.9) to go with 12 touchbacks. The 7.3 average return yards on his punts was 7th best in the NFL, and with the help of his coverage he landed 30 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (tied for 5th best in the league with the other Bay Area punter, the 49ers Andy Lee).
QB – Alex Smith (SF): I wouldn’t really brag about this honor if I was Alex. Picking the 49ers starting QB was almost a no-brainer considering his competition:
Shaun Hill: was benched after 5 games (3-2) as the 49ers offensive struggles became more apparent as the weeks passed.
Jamarcus Russell: if some people consider Smith a bust, what does that mean for Russell?
Charlie Frye: Pro – he was an upgrade over Russell. Con – that doesn’t really say much.
Bruce Gradkowski: Surprised many around the NFL with his fiery play for the Raiders. His mobility was a perfect match for Oakland’s struggling line, and his decision making was on point for the most part. These two aspects alone separated him from Jamarcus and gave the Raiders and their fan base hope, but knee injuries kept his starting gig at four games (2-2, 6 TD’s, 1 interception).
So Smith gets the nod here almost by default. He can take pride in the fact he improved over his last full season as a starter, but it’s fair to say he left lots of doubts about his potential as a franchise quarterback for the 49ers. He was good enough to get the coaching staff’s support to anoint him as the starter going into 2010, but also inconsistent enough that he still doesn’t have the full support of the fan base.
RB – Frank Gore (SF): he became the first running back in 49ers history to run for over 1,000 yard in four consecutive years. His rushing yards (1,120), and rushing average (4.9 yards/carry) were his best since his career year in 2006. He had career highs in rushing touchdowns (10), receiving touchdowns (3) and total touchdowns (13), and his hands continue to make him a dual threat for the 49ers offense, catching 52 balls for 406 yards.
Oh, and he did all of this while missing three full games.
WR – Michael Crabtree (SF): his holdout is now a blur in our memories after 11 strong games. If you were watching the 49ers for the first time on October 25th, you could not tell #15 was playing his first game with the team after just a couple of weeks of practice. He easily has the best hands on the team, and has been a team player ever since donning the red and gold. We’re still patiently waiting for an MC Hammer dance-celebration after a touchdown.
WR – Louis Murphy (OAK): many Raiders’ fans were looking forward to a solid season from their rookie wideout, they just weren’t expecting this rookie to be the one to breakout. Murphy had at least one catch in all but three games this past season while playing in all 16 contests. His route-running, solid hands, and commitment to blocking in the running game made it hard for Raiders’ coaches to keep him off the field. He carries a certain swagger as a result of his days at the University of Florida, but isn’t much of a diva considering the position he plays. If that other wideout the Raiders drafted last season can start to play at Murphy’s level, Oakland could have a nice future at this position.
TE – Vernon Davis (SF): finally had a breakout season after three frustrating years, and his reward will be a starting gig for the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl later this month. He shattered the 49ers record for touchdown catches by a tight end in a single season, previously held by Brent Jones and Ted Kwalik (9), while tying the NFL record of 13 touchdown catches set by the Chargers’ Antonio Gates in 2004. He had more touchdowns this season than in his previous three combined, and was the only 49er to have over 100 yards receiving this season, doing so in three different games (vs Titans, at Packers, at Seahawks). While he had no fumbles this season, he led the league in drops with 11, and is not yet considered an elite player at his position in the league.
TE – Zach Miller (OAK): was the only constant in the Oakland passing game this season, leading all Raiders’ receivers in receptions (66) and receiving yards (805) while scoring three times. His numbers have improved in each of his three seasons, and so has his blocking. He was named as an AFC Alternate for this year’s Pro Bowl.
T – Joe Staley (SF): even though he was hurt for a good portion of the season, he was playing at a very high level before his injury in week eight at Indianapolis. He was not credited with any penalties this season, and gave up three sacks.
T – Barry Sims (SF): was a pleasant surprise for the 49ers filling-in for Staley. His pass-protection was superb, even against some of the elite pass-rushers in today’s NFL. Was credited with just two penalties (both false starts) for seven yards, and two and a half sacks for seven yards. He put himself in a good position to be part of the 49ers roster next season.
G – Robert Gallery (OAK): the former first-round pick has found his niche inside the offensive line. Gallery was a bright spot for the Raiders during all six games he was able to play this season, and while he clearly will not be Oakland’s LT of the future, he at least has been able to shrug off the bust label.
G – David Baas (SF): while he wasn’t as consistent as you would like a starting offensive linemen to be, Baas was the recipient of the Bobb McKittrick Award, given anually by the 49ers to the offensive linemen who best represents the courage, intensity, and sacrifice displayed by McKittrick, the team’s longtime offensive line coach. Much like Alex Smith, Baas gets the nod here not so much for his level of play, but for the lack of production from other Guards in the Bay Area.
C – Eric Heitmann (SF): Heitmann has become a positive constant in the 49ers offensive line, and is a valuable asset to the team not only as a blocker but also as the quarterback of the line.
Coming soon: Defense & Special Teams. Stay tuned!
This last friday in Cape Town, South Africa, the faith of 32 nations was broken into chapters more well known as Groups. Where the World Cup Draw ends, millions and millions of predictions begin, so I took a crack at writing the book that will be South Africa 2010 with an interesting twist: If the World Cup started tomorrow? How would it all go down?
Here is what I came up with
South Africa v. Mexico: 1-1
Uruguay v. France: 1-2
South Africa v. Uruguay: 0-0
France v. Mexico: 0-0
Mexico v. Uruguay: 3-3
France v. South Africa: 2-2
(1. France, 2. Mexico): The host nation leaves it all out on the field in each match, but their best efforts aren’t enough to move them to the Round of 16. France, still a bit shaky from the qualifying fiasco, is far from dominating yet still manages to go undefeated. Mexico, with the same amount of points as South Africa, advances thanks to the goal feast that takes place between them and Uruguay … #1 tiebraker is goal difference, #2 tiebraker is # of goals scored – Mexico(4), South Africa (3).
Argentina v. Nigeria: 2-2
South Korea v. Greece: 1-2
Greece v. Nigeria: 0-2
Argentina v. South Korea: 3-0
Nigeria v. South Korea: 1-1
Greece v. Argentina: 1-2
(1. Argentina, 2. Nigeria): Dominance not necessary for Argentina to take care of business as they draw a relatively easy group sans Nigeria. Nigeria is able to separate from Greece and South Korea due to the added boost that playing on African soil gives them.
England v. USA: 1-0
Algeria v. Slovenia: 1-3
Slovenia v. USA: 1-2
England v. Algeria: 3-0
Slovenia v. England: 1-1
Algeria v. USA: 1-2
(1. England, 2. USA): The Americans struggle in the opening game, but don’t struggle enough to get rattled and win the games they are supposed to win. If this is supposed to be an easy game for USA, then how easy will it be for England? Slovenia is able to give England all they can handle in their matchup, but not enough to obtain the three points and unseat USA.
Germany v. Australia: 2-1
Serbia v. Ghana: 1-1
Germany v. Serbia: 2-1
Ghana v. Australia: 0-0
Ghana v. Germany: 2-2
Australia v. Serbia: 1-1
(1. Germany, 2. Ghana): Germany cruises, Ghana sneaks in. The Ghana-Germany game is very, very intriguing. As with Nigeria in group B, Ghana gets an added boost playing in ‘home’ soil.
Netherlands v. Denmark: 3-2
Japan v. Cameroon: 0-2
Netherlands v. Japan: 1-1
Cameroon v. Denmark: 1-1
Denmark v. Japan: 1-0
Cameroon v. Netherlands: 1-1
(1. Cameroon, 2. Netherlands): It’s not a typo folks, and it’s much more than getting a boost playing in ‘home’ soil. Cameroon matches well enough with both Europeans teams to steal a point from each of them, and out-muscle the Japanese in their opening game.
Italy v. Paraguay: 1-0
New Zealand v. Slovakia: 0-1
Slovakia v. Paraguay: 0-1
Italy v. New Zealand: 4-1
Slovakia v. Italy: 1-3
Paraguay v. New Zealand: 3-0
(1. Italy, 2. Paraguay): Group F, the pushover group nobody is talking about. Italy could play their bench vs New Zealand and Slovakia and still get six points out of those matchups. Paraguay, usually a team that mostly relies on defense, won consistently throughout Conmebol qualifying and only three other teams (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay) scored more goals.
Ivory Coast v. Portugal: 1-1
Brasil v. North Korea: 5-0
Brasil v. Ivory Coast: 2-0
Portugal v. North Korea: 3-0
North Korea v. Ivory Coast: 2-3
Portugal v. Brasil: 1-2
(1. Brasil, 2. Portugal): Brasil? Really? Yeah, really. North Korea will quickly learn that maintaining the clean sheet they kept throughout the qualifying stage is much more difficult when you are facing three of the top-20 teams in the world. They do, however, manage to cause enough damage in their final game vs Ivory Coast to lower their goal differential, thus allowing Portugal to move on to the Round of 16.
Honduras v. Chile: 1-3
Spain v. Switzerland: 2-1
Chile v. Switzerland: 2-1
Spain v. Honduras: 2-1
Switzerland v. Honduras: 1-2
Chile v. Spain: 1-1
(1. Chile, 2. Spain): This will be Chile’s coming-out party, a young, fast, and talented team that will quickly grab everyone’s attention while also becoming a house favorite. They win the group by goal differential. Spain’s game will be as dominant as it has been the past few years, although not necessarily on the scoreboard.
Round of 16
49 – (1A) France v. (2B) Nigeria: a must-watch battle from beginning to end will be decided by a penalty shootout, Nigeria advances.
50 – (1C) England v (2D) Ghana: Ghana’s magic runs out, England finds a way to win with early and late goals.
51 – (1D) Germany v. (2C) USA: USA’s game has gotten better over the years, but not to the level of German soccer. Germany wins by three goals.
52 – (1B) Argentina v. (2A) Mexico: Maxi Rodriguez anyone? Argentina finds a way to prolong Mexico’s drought, but it will be a hard-fought game and a definite must-watch for all soccer fans.
53 – (1E) Cameroon v. (2F) Paraguay: The Lions scrap their way to a win in a very physical game.
54 – (1G) Brasil v (2H) Spain: more eye-candy for soccer fans, Spain finds a way to hold Brasil in check, win it in overtime.
55 - (1F) Italy v. (2E) Netherlands: expected to be a close matchup, the Azzurri dominate for the most part (althought not necessarily on the scoreboard. Italy advances.
56 – (1H) Chile v. (1G) Portugal: sometimes stars take over in WC games, and that is what Ronaldo does here. Portugal moves on to the next round.
57 – (W-53) Cameroon v. (W-54) Spain: Cameroon is unable to break Spain’s stingy defense, loses by one goal.
58 – (W-49) Nigeria v. (W-50) England: England is unable to find the back of the net, partly because of Nigeria’s defense. Nigeria gets just one goal, but enough to move on to the next round.
59 – (W-52)Argentina v. (W-51) Germany: The last time Maradona faced Germany, he had to settle for a 2nd place in Italy 1990 after a controversial call gave Germany the penalty kick that decided the final matchup (1-0 Germany). Tough for him, as he won’t get his revenge. Germany moves on to semis.
60 – (W-55) Italy v. (W-56) Portugal: Italy focuses on keeping the ball away from Ronaldo, Portugal goes out of sync. Italy wins.
61 – (W-57) Spain v. (W-58) Nigeria: The Super Eagles soar above the stage, no longer feeling they don’t belong in this competition, they stun Spain and move on to the final.
62 – (W-69) Germany v. (W-60) Italy: both goalies are stars in this game, as both teams are able to get clear shots at goal but the scoreboard doesn’t change much. Penalty kicks, who is the best goalie in the world? Italy moves on to play Nigeria.
Nigeria v. Italy: We’ve seen it before around here … Colorado Rockies … Arizona Cardinals … Tampa Bay (Devil?) Rays … underdogs make it all the way to the final game only to come up short. Nigeria, all of Africa on their backs, can’t change the pattern. Italy wins back to back World Cups.
My goal is to create a new prediction as we get closer to the opening game next June, but wouldn’t it be fun if it actually happened this way? Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any comments/questions.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Bay Area Sports Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to create a space where I can express my opinions on local teams that I’m a fan of, and also those I’m not a fan of. Periodically I also like to discuss sports outside the Bay Area, so I will do that as well (sooner than you may think).
Those who know me well know that I did one and half years of journalism at Capuchino High School, where I was the sports editor for my senior year, while I also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Journalism from College of San Mateo. While I am currently working on a Creative Writing Bachelor’s Degree at San Francisco State, sports writing is still one of my main passions, so this blog will be a way for me to satisfy that thirst.
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