Thursday, June 08, 2006

You Can Stop Worrying Now, World Cup Predictions Are Here!

Before we get underway with 63 Years' Official World Cup Primer, we feel we should at least mention the tragic situation currently occurring in Edmonton.

A fine hockey team, once a serious contender to hoist the coveted Stanley Cup, has been hobbled by a serious injury to their starting goaltender. What once promised to be a fine hockey series between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes has now degenerated into a lopsided smack around on the part of Carolina.

Unless Edmonton can pull off a serious series comeback and erase the current two game deficit, we find it hard to imagine Carolina not winning the cup. We did pick them to win it, so we can't complain, but they weren't supposed to win like this... no, never like this.

Now to switch cups, we turn our attention to soccer's premier event, the World Cup, this year to be held by the always capable Deutchlanders (the link between the World Cup and Toronto's futility is tenuous, we'll admit, but it's there. Trust us.). Brazil is, as always, the favourites to win their sixth trophy, though don't count out the Czechs or the Dutch.

Anyway, here's the group breakdown:

Group A
(4)Costa Rica

The first group finds the home team on easy street, as they land in a cream puff of a group to start things off. No matter, home side advantage and all that. The Germans are good enough to qualify for the next round no matter which group they were placed in. We're not so convinced about this team's cup potential though. Even if with their fans cheering them on, we don't see them making it past the semi's, tops.

As for the rest of the canon fodder that makes up Group A, we flipped a coin on Poland versus Ecuador, and Poland won out. Seriously though, those two are interchangeable. Costa Rica however, is nailed to that number four.

Group B

(4)Trinidad & Tobago

Not quite the dream group Germany found themselves in, but England shouldn't have too much trouble moving on, even with Wayne Rooney hobbling around on one leg. Is this their year though? We admit, we have a bit of a soft spot for the Anglos. You see, their streak of futility at World Cups closely mirrors that of a certain Toronto hockey team, neither team having touched their respective cups in more than forty years, so we would be more than happy to see David Beckham hoisting the hallowed trophy. However, we remain skeptical; this is England we're talking about after all.

Sweden is good enough that their advancement is all but locked. But for whatever reason though, we also have a rather large soft spot for the Paraguayans, and we would not be remiss to see them leapfrog over the Swedes. Don't count on it, but Paraguay could pull a fast one over everyone.

Much like Costa Rica, T&T is just here for the ride.

Group C

(3)Serbia & Montenegro
(4)Ivory Coast

The quote, unquote, group of death, group C could go a few ways. The Dutch should qualify either way, no need to worry about them. Then we have Argentina and Serbia. Serbia has become the popular dark horse team, and could quite easily move on. However, we're sticking with the tried and true here and picking the Argentines to come through.

The Ivory Coast is another popular dark horse pick, and in any other group, might have had a chance of moving on. However, group C is not any other group, and as such, the Africans will be hard pressed to advance.

Group D


We would be willing to place large sums of money on this outcome, because we feel it is one of the easier groups to predict. On top, you have Portugal, runners up from Euro 2004 (and with no team Greece in sight, they should be breathing easier) and Mexico, perennial North American entrants. Portugal wins out by virtue of being the better team, despite Mexico's high FIFA rankings (by virtue of playing sub-par Central American teams).

Then there's Iran and Angola. Iran will probably have few of the more follicly-challenged Germans cheering for them, though for all the wrong reasons. Other than that, Iran's presence at the Cup will be largely perfunctory. Ditto that Angola, a country we admittedly know little about, other than that their soccer team, while good enough to make it this far, is not good enough to advance.

Group E

(1)Czech Republic

Our emotional picks to win the tournament, the Czechs, lead the group. However, this is a very close group, and one of three very good teams is going home early. We doubt that will be the Czech Republic, but nothing is sacred at this point (see France In '02, Zero Goals Scored By). Of the three very talented teams to call group E home, we think the most likely to buckle are the Italians. They have refined choking to an art, and where better to display it than the first round?

We also think that the Americans are better than most people are willing to give them credit for, and are good for at least the quarter-finals, if not the semi's.

Ghana, is well, Ghana. Another tiny African country that is too excited about the prospect of being in the World Cup to worry about such silly things as winning.

Group F

Group F, consisting of Brazil and three other teams is actually surprisingly wide open, once you look past Brazil. The Brazilians will advance, of course, but after that?

We're picking the Aussies, if only because they're a decent team, and the closest thing to Canada being in the Cup as we're ever going to see.

But don't count out Croatia, they have just as good a chance as well. Japan is just too bland for us to see them advancing, and 2002 was definitely helped by the fans.

Group G

(3)South Korea

Picking France to advance is a risk, we know. But the Les Bleus are back baby, and if not in championship form, at least in enough form to advance easily.

Then it's down to Switzerland and South Korea. We here are highly skeptical of the Koreans, and are eager to see how they perform on somewhere other than home soil. The Swiss are a solid team, which should see them to at least the knockout stage.

Togo will have succeeded if they can score more than a goal or two.

Group H
(4)Saudi Arabia

Spain may be the prototypical over-rated European power, but they're still good enough to escape this powder puff group. After that...?

Ukraine powered through the qualification stages (knocking out Greece in the process...bastards) thanks almost entirely due to one Andriy Shevchenko. As long as he's good to go, so is the Ukraine. He should see them through to at least the knockout stage.

Tunisia could leap frog the Ukraine, and they carry the distinction of being the best African county in the tournament.

Saudi Arabia, despite all the oil money that has flowed into the team, will just be looking not to get embarrassed 8-0, like the last time around.

And those are our picks for the first round. As with most of 63 Years' predictions, we advise not putting to much money on them, as we have a bad track record when it comes to this sort of thing.

Until tomorrow,


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