As the headline reads here, “Only idiots try to predict the World Cup.” That’s why we are going to keep this short. The tournament kicks off Friday, and much like our Double Features, we know it’s hard to find the perfect balance of knowledge, opinion and conciseness, so the following is only done with the thought in mind that this is a mere blog – not a book, column or 2,000 word preview story. Blogs are meant to be short and to the point. So, well, without any further ado, the following is short and to the point. Full disclosure: Don’t spend your hard earned money on these picks. This is, after all, the most unpredictably important event in the world of sport.
Group A: France may be a lock, but that’s about the only thing this group offers that is certain. Even South Africa may have a shot at writing history, playing the role of the host team making it out of group play. While it’s highly unlikely, though, it must be noted that this may be the best worst team of any group. If you don’t want to take the chance, the best advice is to flip a coin for Uruguay and Mexico. The Mexicans are feisty, but you need not forget their play away from home. Too hard to fully believe in them.
Who advances? France, Uruguay.
Group B: Argentina is your lock here, but only because we want to see manager Diego Maradona run naked through the country. A bit of a sleeper pick here is Nigeria, as the country’s squad seems to be coming together at the right time. Greece is good, but being close to home may put Nigeria over the top. Notice how the words “South” and “Korea” weren’t even mentioned.
Who advances? Argentina, Nigeria.
Group C: We may know the answer to this group by Saturday evening. England has some of the world’s most premier footballers, and everything points to the Americans joining the English in the knockout stage. Then again, we saw how awful the United States looked in 2006 when it had the same expectations. But hey, my body didn’t get burned for nothing. It’s fate.
Who advances? United States, England.
Group D: Before injuries, Germany may have been a good pick to win it all. Now, well, at least they are all but promised to get to the round of 16. The rest of this group seems to be up for grabs. Yes, Serbia has been playing well enough lately to garner a 15 world ranking, but Ghana and Australia seem to have other things on their minds. Sure, Ghana may be a bit of a sexy pick here, but you can’t turn your back on the Serbians just yet.
Who advances? Germany, Serbia.
Group E: The Dutch seem to be one of the more lauded picks throughout the entire draw. They are youthful, talented and can score at will. Cameroon has the talent to make a run, but seem to be lacking leadership. The winner of the Denmark/Cameroon match will most certainly be the second team out of this group. Our pick? Cameroon keeps it together on semi home soil.
Who advances? Netherlands, Cameroon.
Group F: Italy looks good. And I mean good. They also have quite possibly the easiest draw in terms of the group stage. If they don’t make it out undefeated, something may be wrong. Paraguay is the clear cut favorite to make it out, but stranger things have happened on the World Cup stage. Hard to pick against one of the most experienced squads in all of the tourney, though.
Who advances? Italy, Paraguay.
Group G: The group of death that doesn’t look nearly as deadly as it once did. North Korea may lose each match by a three goal minimum and Brazil is practically a lock now that the Ivory Coast has lost its best player. That said, who makes it through in the second spot? Well, I think we all know the answer to that question.
Who advances? Brazil, Portugal.
Group H: The favorite to win the entire prize lies here, along with an interesting pair of Chile and Switzerland. Honduras will most likely be a non-factor, but with Spain dominating most every minute they appear on the pitch, the second team out may very well turn into a crap shoot.
Who advances? Spain, Switzerland.
Teams through to the quarterfinals: France, England, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Semis: England, Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
Finals: Spain over England, 3-1.
Whew. Now the top 50 goals. Ever.