Since I’ve been knocked out of the fantasy football playoffs, perhaps it’s time to pay attention to another kind of football. So here’s your draws for the 2014 World Cup. There are three groups to watch particularly closely in the initial round-robin games: B, D, and G.
Defending champions Spain with both Chile and the Dutch grouped together looks like a very tough road for Australia. The competition is tough enough that it won’t be a huge surprise if Spain gets knocked out — although the odds are clearly against that happening. Just not so much that I would only raise an eyebrow rather than low whistle should it happen.
Germany, of course, is one of the 10,000 pound gorillas, but once again, USA must face Ghana!
In 2006, Ghana defeated United States in group play, edging the USA out of the round of 16 at the last minute. In 2010, Ghana defeated United States in overtime in the round of 16. Nothing particularly against the nation of Ghana, but this establishes them as the USA’s nemesis in the World Cup. It is a matter of national pride to get past the Black Stars! We’ll also have to take on Portugal. A tough nut to crack: Portugal made it to the semi-finals in the Euro 2012 tournament, ultimately losing on penalties to eventual champions Spain.
USA’s games are scheduled for June 16 (against Ghana), June 22 (against Portugal), and June 26 (against Germany). Worse, no side will have to travel more than USA; its total mileage across Brazil will be over 8,800 miles, with games in sweltering Recife, touristy Natal, and Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, in that time.
TL/DR: a very tough draw for the Stars and Stripes.
Group D looks like it has the most interesting matches to me. Uruguay is of course the favorite here, but England : Italy is a classic matchup and all six games should be quite competitive.Costa Rica, a strong side, is probably feeling very unlucky right now.
As for the plucky perennial spoilers Ivory Coast, well, they’re Japan’s problem now. (Sorry, Nob.)
The easiest paths to the knockout round will be for Argentina and Belgium. The most likely top-seed upset seems to me to be Switzerland: they’ve been the subject of some debate for some time. The Swiss clearly belong in the tournament, but it’s just not clear that they’re one of the eight best teams. As compared to France, Ecuador, and Honduras, though, they’re still favorites in their group.
My predictions (made sadly with respect to Group G): A: Brazil, Mexico; B: Spain, Chile; C: Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire; D: Uruguay, Italy; E: Switzerland, Ecuador; F: Argentina, Nigeria; G: Germany, Portugal; H: Belgium, Russia. These are not hugely ambitious predictions — about the only predictions I make here that could be called “upsets” would be predicting Netherlands, England, France, and USA not to advance — but one of the Dutch, Spanish, and Chileans have to be eliminated; two of Uruguay, Costa Rica, Italy, and England have to be eliminated; and two of Germany, Portugal, USA, and Ghana have to be eliminated, so of these only predicting Honduras over France is a true upset special pick.
It’s hard not to think that home-team and top-ranked favorite Brazil will win the tournament. But there’s often a difference between the team you think will win and the team you want to win. So I’ve got to root for my own nation’s team, and as usual, my secondary allegiance is for gli Azzurri. It’s a tough road for both of those sides, but here’s hoping for the best out on the pitch!