Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Day 2: Analysis and Predictions

I haven't watched any of the soccer of Day 1; nor do I know the results. I've carefully avoided reading any accounts, because I want to enjoy the games I'm taping like they are happening in real time. That's right people, I'm planning on watching these games, even when they seem dodgy at best. So with the realization that I could have been completely, horribly wrong about my Day 1 analysis and predictions, I'm going to jump right into Day 2, and hopefully give you inveterate gamblers out there something you can use.

Three games on Day 2, and my goodness I'm glad I don't live on the West Coast. 8 am start time on a Saturday seems rough for poor little me in the Midwest. 6 am? No thanks.

Game 3 (Games 1 and 2 are the ones on today) England vs. Paraguay. I don't know if I buy into Rooney's full recovery from the metatarsal injury. Regardless, he should not be playing in this game. If England can't take care of business against a team like this, a wolf in pub lout's clothing isn't going to help them get very far. Paraguay is marginally skilled, and simply can't match up to the firepower England is bringing to this dance.

1. Andrew O'Heir of Salon questioned how deep England is, and even wondered if Frank Lampard is of World Cup quality. I agree with the first question, disagree with the latter Lampardian question. Look for Lampard and Gerrard to control the center of the field in this pitch, and don't be shocked if one of them uncorks a monster shot from about 35 yrds out that goes.
2. Look for Rooney. If he's playing, don't be surprised if he gets involved in any number of collisions. The emotional up and down of getting him back and losing him again could hurt this team in the long run. Personally, I think Sven is high if he let's Rooney play a minute of the game. Let's the World's Skinniest Robot do his thing, and everything should be fine.
3. Keep an eye out on England's defense. It is a little long in the tooth, they've had a very long season in their professional leagues, and England's long term success will be determined by well that talented defense can keep their legs. They will not be tested much in this match, however.

Prediction: England 3, Paraguay 1

Game 4: Trinidad & Tobago vs Sweden. I'm not sure how much analysis needs to be done here. T&T have been very fortunate to get this paid vacation to Germany. They have many players that you might have thought retired. Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Dwight effin' Yorke? Sweden has a nice mix of young and old, speed to burn, and a potential Golden Boot winnder in Zlatan Ibrahimović, if he can regain his touch. Regardless, Sweden has talent to burn, and they have a history of overacheiving, not underacheiving (see England if you want a history like that).

1. Zlatan. Can he finish better than he was during league play? The guy has, in late 90's slang, crazy-mad skillz, but has had a hard time of getting the ball in the net. The difference between scary runs and scary runs that end with goals is large gulf indeed. If he looks sharp, and scores in this game, look out. It could be the break in luck or focus or karma or whatever he needs.
2. Freddy Ljungberg's heatlh. He's cute! He's an underwear model! He's the Swedish Beckham, except that he runs. And he runs alot. He's a waterbug out there. Incredibly fun footballer to watch work without the ball. Trini and Bago better know where is he at all times. He may not score, but he will key some dangerous attacks. There's some question about his health, but he's a gamer. He'll play.
3. Stern John on the Trinidad squad has a name that deserves to have some sort of folk song written about him. Stern John sounds like a great foil for Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed. And one of erstwhile "contirubtors" once wrote a 3 verse song all about Stern John. We'll see if we can dig that up.

Prediction: Sweden 3, T&T 1. (I know. popular prediction for the day thus far)

Game 5: Argentina vs. Cote d'Ivoire This is the game I'm looking forward to the most. It might be a little ugly, a little overly physical, but I smell low scoring game, high tension fo rhte whole 90 minutes. People have just begun to whipser about the Ivorians. They have world-class talent, and I don't think they'll run scared. They'll probably have the support of most fans in the stadium, as they will still be viewed as a David against the Goliath of Argentina (Goliathita?). I feel very strongly that this game could go either way.

1. Argentina has one fo the most dangerous offensive groupings there is to see in this cup, with questions about all of them. Is Crespo getting too old? Is Messi healthy? Saviola back to his old self? Is Tevez really Quasimodo?
2. Midfield battles. Riquelme vs. Zokora. Two good center midfielders pacing their team. Who will work the ball around better? They key to possession may be these two guys.
3. Argentinian defense against very good, very fast strikers. Argetinia's defense has look a bit sketchy at times. They are going to have their hands full with two guys, Didier Drogba, second only to Samuel Eto'o in African Footballer of the Year, 2005, and Bonaventure Kalou.

Prediction: Argentina 2, Cote d'Iviore, 2

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