04 December 2009

World Cup Draw and Predictions

I hate to bump a Liverpool preview off the top prior to the game, but the chance to blindly guess the winner of a tournament that's six months away is just too enticing.

Once England and the US were paired, I was certain had FIFA fixed the draw and that'd be the group of death. Now I reckon it's the second easiest behind Italy's (Group F). Still, I can't wait for England to face the US, with my loyalties massively conflicted, on the second day of the World Cup.

Group G is clearly the Group of Death, but D isn't far behind. Germany's favorite in D, but both Serbia and Ghana are tough teams, with Ghana stronger as the tournament's in Africa. Group G's the hardest because of Brazil's inclusion along with Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire, but you'd still have to favor Brazil to qualify, making the game between Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire winner-take-all (or winner-take-second). North Korea isn't winning anything. And I'd have to give the edge to Cote d'Ivoire because of 'home field' advantage, despite being thousands of miles from home. I can't overemphasize how much I think the good African teams will be great because of the tournament's location. The host country always goes further than their talent level suggests, but since South Africa's so bad, I guess I'm transferring their advantage to others.

And to make matters interesting, if England win their group, they'll play the second-placed team from Group D. If that's Ghana, as I suspect, that'll be an infinitely difficult game. But that's putting the cart about a mile ahead of the horse.

Below are my predictions for the complete bracket. Everything after the group stage is a complete crapshoot, because I obviously won't get all the group qualifiers right, but I'm nothing if not thorough.

Unsurprisingly, conservatively, boringly, I'm guessing Brazil will win it all. And making it out of the group will probably be their biggest challenge. As suggested above, Cote d'Ivoire, led by that diving, cheating Drogba but stocked with others such as Yaya Toure, Kalou, Zokora, and Kone, is my darkhorse to make a deep run.

Group A:
South Africa
Mexico - 2
France - 1

Group B:
Argentina - 1
Nigeria - 2
Korea Republic

Group C:
England - 1
USA - 2

Group D:
Germany - 1
Ghana - 2

Group E:
Netherlands - 1
Cameroon - 2

Group F:
Italy - 1
Paraguay - 2
New Zealand

Group G:
Brazil - 1
North Korea
Cote d'Ivoire - 2

Group H:
Spain - 1
Chile - 2

Round of 16
(1) France v Nigeria
(2) England v Ghana
(3) Germany v USA
(4) Argentina v Mexico
(5) Netherlands v Paraguay
(6) Brazil v Chile
(7) Italy v Cameroon
(8) Spain v Cote d'Ivoire

(5) Netherlands v (6) Brazil
(1) Nigeria v (2) England
(3) Germany v (4)Argentina
(7) Italy v (8) Cote d'Ivoire

Brazil v England
Argentina v Cote d'Ivoire

Brazil v Cote d'Ivoire


Mike Georger said...

Dont think Italy gets out of the group. Hamsik has played against, and dominated, everyone on that team, on a shitty Napoli team. And Paraguay still have Santa Claus. Plus, Italy are old and not that good.

New Zealand ... uh, yeah, not good either.

Anonymous said...

Cote D'Ivoire to beat Spain !?LOL Nice one mate !
Nice draw 4 England n Spain!Cmon ENgland n Viva Espana!

nate said...

The Euro 2008 win was fantastic, and Spain is easily one of the most talented teams in the tournament.

I just can't help but worry that it's back to underwhelming, disappointing major tournament results for Spain. And I really do expect the Ivory Coast to have a huge World Cup (which is probably the kiss of death)

nate said...

And BTW, Spain is one of the four teams I want to see do well, along with England, Netherlands, and the US. I'm always massively conflicted when those four teams meet, although England and the USA top the list. Spain only entered that group when they started having more Liverpool players than England. And I obviously want to see any Liverpool player's team do well.

I swear, international soccer is the only realm where I'm a sports bigamist.

Mike Ashley said...

Spain have an all-around more talented, stronger, and more cohesive team than Ivory Coast, so I'm confused by this.

Mike Georger said...

Iker will let in a howler at some point in the knockouts and it will be Spain's undoing.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. really couldn't have asked for a better draw. England is certainly no cookie but (a) they aren't Spain or Brazil and (b) the hype that the match will receive will be epic. I'm already pumped for the match-up -- I think a healthy US squad can give England a good match. Health is obviously key for every squad but for the US it's especially important. The drop from their top XI to that second group is (probably) bigger than for most teams. The main guys I'm talking about with the U.S. is Onyewu, newly added Jermaine Jones and Davies (whose early recovery is supposedly going extremely well). There's also Maurice Edu who will get lots of time for Rangers in the second half of the SPL season.

Getting back to the group, though, the USMNT (and subsequently England) got very lucky with the final two. I was expecting something like Netherlands/USA/Denmark/Ghana, so the actual draw definitely exceeded expectations.

Other thoughts:

-Despite the fact that Mexico lucked into South Africa's group, they are in no way a shoe-in to make it out of group play. The first reason is the aforementioned home-field advantage. Second is that their pot 3 & 4 draws are much more difficult than, say, the US'. Nate Silver's international ranking system actually ranks Uruguay ahead of Mexico. And France is obviously a team that no one wanted to draw (although I will say that in comparison to the powerhouses, I think France is definitely lesser than the sum of their parts, for whatever reason (coach? I was stunned that Benzema didn't see a minute of action in the two playoff games against Ireland)).

-I'm definitely rooting for Honduras to make it through the second leg. When the US clinched their WC birth with a win at Honduras, the Honduran fans were classy enough to applaud the USMNT off the field. I also think they've got a decent shot of making it past group stages. While they aren't definitively better than the Swiss or Chile, it's close enough to where Honduras can pull it off.


Anonymous said...

Nate do u have a Facebook or youtube account...i want to know u more!

andrea asyraf said...

Great predictions, but believe me, it going to be Brazil against the Italians at the final, just like '94.