10 Days Until the World Cup

1 06 2010

QUICK UPDATE: Grant Wahl’s World Cup Power Rankings are here.


I don’t think I need to say much more. I got a gang of work to do for the Cup including trying to convince my boss to give me the 11th off AND figure out this new sleeping pattern (quick math: 8 hours of sleep … must be up at 4 am … so that means, 8 pm beddy time for moi). Also, I’m training for the Giants 5K Plate to Plate run on the 12th (yes, the same day as the England v. USA game, which I still need to find a bar to watch at). Yeah, lots to do. So that said, here’s the column this week. The finale of this series comes next Tuesday — it’s been a great ride. You can find the story online here.

USMNT touch down in South Africa
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
The Eagles have landed.

That’s right, following their 2-1 victory over Turkey, the U.S national soccer team has traveled to South Africa to train and await the start of the World Cup. They have one more game against Australia as a warm-up to their June 12 match against England. That will be played next Saturday.

A couple of USMNT members tweeted upon arrival, of course.

Jozy Altidore, who got the scoring going against Turkey said, “In South Africa safe and sound, now the journey begins!”

Forward Herculez Gomez is still on cloud nine after making the squad. “In South Africa! Don’t pinch me yet there is work to be done,” he said.

Oguchi Onyewu shared similar sentiment. “Landed safely in South Africa! Excited about everything that is about to happen around our team and the world!”

The USMNT should be excited, especially after beating a very good Turkey team last weekend. The man of the match had to be second half substitute Jose Torres, who sparked the United States attack in the game’s latter 45 minutes. His play against Turkey probably propelled him to a starting spot against England.

It wasn’t all rosy for the U.S though. Turkey exposed some serious flaws on defense — their lack of depth on the wing back positions might be more of a concern now given their play Saturday. Carlos Bocanegra played well, but Jonathan Borstein and Jonathan Spector were taken to school by the Turkey offense. Until now, the majority of the concern was focused on the forwards, but with Torres playing well and Clint Dempsey scoring a goal, maybe it’s time to worry about the defense, which wasn’t in form against Turkey and gave up four goals against the Czech Republic.

Group F and G predictions

With only a few versions of the countdown left, we’ll look at two groups this week.

Group F teams: Italy, Slovakia, Paraguay, New Zealand
Smart Picks: Italy, Paraguay
Countdown takes: Italy, Paraguay

Italy, the defending World Cup champions, was blessed by the soccer gods in drawing maybe the easiest of all the groups. Italy should have no problems advancing, maybe with nine points, to the second round. That means the second spot in the group is most likely a toss-up between Paraguay and Slovakia. I’m giving the edge to Paraguay, based on past World Cup experience. Slovakia did have a remarkable run to South Africa; so don’t write off a little more soccer magic just yet. Slovakia plays New Zealand first which should be an easy three points and might give them the momentum they need to push Paraguay. In fact, Slovakia vs. Paraguay will be the match to watch in this group. They play June 20.

Group G teams: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea
Smart Picks: Brazil, Portugal
Countdown takes: Brazil, Ivory Coast

We go from the easiest group to the “Group of Death.” On paper and by name, Group G has the firepower to make any soccer fan salivate — three teams that could easily win the group and make some major noise in South Africa.

You have to like Brazil because they’re Brazil. The five-time champions are once again loaded with talent. Such is their depth that they left some super players back home — you can basically make a Brazil B squad from that talent pool, throw them in South Africa, and they’d still compete. Kaka and Fabiano will carry Brazil to the second round.

But it won’t be easy. Portugal boasts a team with incredibly skilled players like Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid wonderboy. Ronaldo though, has a lot to prove on the international stage. And the Ivory Coast has the best player in Africa in Didier Drogba, to lead one of the best offenses in the world.

What it comes down to, for me, is that African home-field advantage. Ivory Coast has had disappointing results in tournaments leading up to the cup and has suffered turmoil off the field as well. But the emotional factor cannot be measured until the players have stepped foot on their home soil. I like all three favorites to notch three points against North Korea. I think Ivory Coast and Portugal tie each other with the difference in the group coming in Ivory Coast’s 2-1 win over Brazil. In turn, I like Brazil to beat Portugal with The Samba Kings winning group G on goal differential.

The Day After

Now a little from the “only in England” file. A recent study reported by the BBC suggests that half a million English workers show up to work with a hangover at least twice a week. That number is expected to soar for the World Cup.

“An international sporting event like the World Cup will inevitably capture the attention of the nation and is a great time for people to come together, but hangovers at work are likely to increase,” said Chris Sorek, whose company Drinkaware conducted the study.

The study found that each day more than 520,000 people in Britain go to work hung over, and 1 in 5 admit that they make mistakes and struggle to keep on top of their workload because of it.

“With hundreds of thousands of people going to work every day after a heavy night, it impacts work productivity and even results in employees going home sick,” Sorek said.

For a little bit of perspective, in the United States, a survey conducted by Kronos, a workforce management firm, said that 1.4 million Americans planned on calling in sick after the Super Bowl — most likely the majority of them nursing a bit of a hangover. Luckily for my boss at the Daily Journal, the games start way too early in the U.S to even considers a couple of adult beverages. I’ll be as productive as ever.




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