World Cup & The Daily Journal

26 06 2010

With the round of 16 set for play tomorrow (more like today now), I wanted to post my bracket. If you followed my column/countdown for the Daily Journal you can see what my ‘expertise’ wasn’t very expert at all. In fact, it was downright pitiful. Anyways. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now since I’m the unofficial World Cup/soccer guy at the newspaper (although Nathan Mollat, my sports editor, is pretty crackin’ too). I found this to be a great opportunity to try and get some solid graphic work in. I’ll be writing about my earlier work as I have the time (which should be soon) but you can find it here. That in itself was quite a project given the responsibility, but it was a lot of fun I must say.

 As the Cup progressed I wanted to put together a   bracket for our readers so they can continue to follow the World Cup with our newspaper. Here   it is (click for a larger view) I liked the final product. If anything because it’s slightly different than what I normally do. Good sports graphics, I’ve noticed, have graphs, information, pie charts. And as much as I would love to do that, I just don’t have the time here at work with the other graphic work I do. Anyways. I  liked it for the bottom, where I run down the past  ten winners as well as predict who will win the 2010 World Cup. I used the illustration of McWendell again to give the graphic some tie back to the original work we did to kick off the Cup. Anyways, like I said, I’ll be talking about that some other day.

A quick rundown/thoughts of my picks:

• I actually like the United States to beat Ghana without Michael Essien in the midfield. Then I think they have what it takes to beat Uruguay who I see having problems with South Korea, but having a Forlan goal in them
to take that game.
• What a game that Netherlands vs. Brazil match-up would be, don’t you think? Attacking football by Brazil and the possession/counterattack style of the Dutch. The addition of Arjen Robben (even in the last 10 minutes against Cameroon) was huge. I think if they can get past Brazil, they have a great chance of winning it all. As you can see, I’m taking them to do just that.
• Mexico, Mexico. They’ve been playing really well. But I think Argentina hasn’t shown us their best yet. I think they turn it on during the knock-out phase. Can you believe Messi and Higuian are only in their mid-20’s? That’s scary stuff.
• Spain looked decent at last against Chile, who had been playing well leading up to their 2-1 loss. It’s time to pick it up Furia.
• Germany vs. England: I think the red coats get exposed in this game. But if they manage to win I can totally see them making the semi-finals. That’s a big IF though.

3 Days Until the World Cup … sort of

11 06 2010

To my hundreds of fans, I’m sorry. I realize the World Cup is actually tomorrow, but I haven’t been able to update the blog – blame it on the day job. I can’t wait. If you are in the San Mateo county area tomorrow, make sure you pick up an issue of the Daily Journal and flip over to page 17 where you will find what’s kept me from posting. Man, it was a lot of work. I’ll be keeping up the blog more often with the World Cup and a much longer post will come showing the stuff that I was mentioning before that is a guide that has taken all my time. OK. Enough gibberish. As always, the link to the story online is here. Enjoy.

Are your ready for some futbol?
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
My oh my, where has the time gone?

Three days from now the ball will roll in South Africa and a month worth of excitement will get underway as FIFA kicks off the 2010 version of its World Cup.

Even with play only a couple of days away, there have been a ton of major developments in the international soccer spectrum. Where do we begin?


You tend to hold your breath when you watch the friendlies that go down only days before the start of the World Cup. I know U.S fans were cringing every time an Australian defender would come in strong on the likes of Clint Dempsey during the USMNT’s 3-1 victory last Saturday. The fouls ticked Dempsey off and well they should. Dempsey has already had to battle back from an injury earlier this year and this close to the biggest sporting tournament in the world no one wants to get hurt.

While Dempsey avoided the injury bug a lot of great players on some big teams weren’t so lucky. Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba went down with a broken elbow in his team’s warm-up match against Japan. Arjen Robben, star winger for the Netherlands hurt his hamstring in a 6-1 drubbing of Hungary and his World Cup looks fuzzy. Rio Ferdinand, the English team captain and soul of the defense, suffered a knee injury and is out of the World Cup.

The list was already long and it only grew over the weekend.

Michael Ballack of Germany is already out. Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, Slovakian defender Martin Skrtl, Ghana’s Mickael Essien and Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel, all prominent figures on their respective teams, are also not participating in South Africa 2010.

As a head coach, it really is a matter of getting lucky and you play with balancing the need for your star players to log key game minutes on the pitch with sitting them so they can avoid injury. Drogba’s injury was a freak accident. Robben’s on the other hand came with his team already up five goals, two of which came from his foot.

As much as it’s a loss for their teams, it’s also a blow to the football fans — you wait around four years for this tournament and all you ask for is to see the best players in the world on the pitch. Unfortunately, this Cup, more than ever in recent memory, the injury bug has hit hard.

So which team will feel will be affected the most?

My vote is for the Ivory Coast. You cannot replace a player the caliber of Drogba, who led the English Premiere League in goals this past season and is considered by many to be the top striker in the world. Imagine taking Albert Pujols out of the Cardinals’ line-up, Drew Brees out of the Saints’ huddle or Lebron James out of the (insert team here) starting five. Ivory Coast has a very potent offense, but Drogba was the heart and soul. While his World Cup may not be over officially (coach Sven-Goran Eriksson hasn’t ruled Drogba out completely), you have to wonder how effective he will be with a humongous cast slowing him down.

Don’t think the Brazilian, Portuguese or North Korean players will do him any favors either if he’s on the field. That arm will be fair game.

With that said, I’d like to officially change my pick. Last week I chose Brazil and Ivory Coast to advance out of group G. With Drogba out, I’m taking Portugal instead. I can do that. It’s my countdown.

Stars and Stripes

The Countdown was up bright (well, the sun wasn’t out yet, but you get what I’m saying) and early last Saturday morning to make a trip down to the Haight to watch the USMNT’s last warm-up before the World Cup. Accompanied by my soccer brain-trust, we caught their 3-1 victory over Australia.

On one had, you can’t argue against results. The USMNT beat a good Turkey team the previous weekend and controlled the majority of play against a team that is also participating the in South Africa 2010. They also avoided injuries (for the most part — see Jozy Altidore and Ricardo Clark).

But I have my questions and concerns about the U.S heading into their June 12 match against England.

My biggest lies with the defense which showed again that it has some pretty big holes. Australia missed a couple of clear opportunities and the Americans can be exploited by a team with good wing play.

Assuming that coach Bob Bradley goes with a 4-4-2 formation, who will occupy the second forward position (that is, if Altidore’s ankle is OK)? Edson Buddle surely stepped up with a two-goal performance against the Aussies — the first goal was a quality strike, aggressive in nature, something I love to see from a forward. The U.S will certainly need that. But Herculez Gomez scored as well, further showing that he has a knack for finding the net and taking full advantage of his opportunities. If I had to choose, I’d go with Buddle. He’s been tearing up Major League Soccer and in sports you always go with the hot hand (or foot, in this case).

There were a few starting spots open when camp began for the U.S. I see Buddle taking one up front. In the midfield I think Jose Torres and Michael Bradley earned the two spots, and in the back, assuming the Oguchi Onweyu and Carlos Bocanegra are locks, I think Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo are the best the U.S has — given their play though, U.S fans better hope Tim Howard bring his A game to South Africa.

Group H predictions

Group H teams: Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland
Smart Picks: Spain, Chile
Countdown takes: Spain, Chile

Group H features World Cup favorite Spain; the most talented, well-oiled machine team in the tournament. If anything, Group H will serve as an exhibition of sorts for La Furia Roja who will run over all three teams in their group — if impressed is what you want to be in the first couple of weeks of this tournament, then tune into Group H … you’ll be in for a show.

Second place will most likely be contested between Honduras and Chile. Chile has a nice run during qualifying and will rely heavily on their star forward Humberto Suazo. Honduras though, has a handful of players with European league experience. With Spain advancing with all nine points in this group, the biggest game with be the showdown between Chile and Honduras. I like Chile to win and advance on the strength of that victory.

World Cup Guide

One final note on this version of the Countdown: Make sure you pick up a copy of the Daily Journal this Friday. We’ll be publishing our guide to the FIFA World Cup 2010 complete with groups, players to watch, matches you can’t miss, places to catch the soccer on the Peninsula and plenty more. Also, follow us on Twitter throughout the tournament to get our insight on the games.

Julio Lara can be followed @julitolara and sports editor Nathan Mollat can be found @checkkthissoutt

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.

Bob Bradley announces USMNT Roster … and …

26 05 2010


Since I’m in the soccer mood, I got my Sports Illustrated Issue today … and look who was the centerpiece. I swear, Sports Illustrated + Messi in centerfold = better than Playboy


First and foremost, the roster. Congratulations to the guys who made the team. Go get em in South Africa, boys!

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus, Denmark), Stuart Holden (Bolton, England), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull, England), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla, Mexico).

I highlight Findley because he’s probably the biggest eye-opener for me on the roster. I would have taken Brian Ching, but there might be more to the injury that I thought. That said. good luck, U.S.A!

And lastly today, not that I’m particularly proud of my favoritism, but before I was a journalist, I was a fan. So it’s GREAT to see Robbie Van Persie score twice today against Mexico. 2-1! Han Holland! Let’s go, boys!

16 Days Until the World Cup

25 05 2010

A little over two weeks … that’s all that’s left. No big surprises this week — England’s 3-1 whooping of Mexico, Argentina’s man-handling of Canada 5-0 (I didn’t see Messi on the roster either), South Africa tied Bulgaria 1-1 and so on and so on. Anyone know where they’ll be showing the U.S vs. Czech Republic? Anyways, the countdown continues below and as always you can find the story at a news rack near you, or here.

U.S. soccer needs to check Czechs
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
World Cup fans: take out your mental notepad and pen — with 16 days until June 11 it’s time to take notes.There’s a lot to be learned this week about South Africa 2010 and you can do yourself a great service by simply watching what has, and will, transpire on the international pitch as many of the teams participating in the World Cup have scheduled friendlies. 

While there are those teams (like Argentina who handed Canada a 5-0 whooping on Monday) who will gain very little from the next 10 days or so, there are others whose games this week clear up a lot of questions.

Among the teams with the biggest questions are your very own Stars and Stripes, who have been bitten hard by the injury bug in the months leading up to the World Cup. Come today in their game against the Czech Republic, the USMNT will give the public their first glimpse into what they’ll bring to the table in South Africa.

Head coach Bob Bradley has indicated that only 23 of the 30 players in camp will dress for the match (5 p.m.) so those still nursing injuries (Carlos Bocanegra for example, who just had a hernia removed) will most likely not see any action.

But here are a couple of things to keep an eye on. First, Oguchi Onyewu will likely see playing time, marking his return to the field after an extended leg injury. How he does today will go a long way in determining the rest of the defensive lineup for the United States — mainly their questions at left back.

All the injuries on the USMNT have opened up a couple of spots for players who were at one point on the fringe of making the final squad. It should be interesting to see if Bradley uses this game and the May 29 match against Turkey to plug in those holes.

In the midfield, keep an eye on DeMarcus Beasley, who I think is playing close to the form that made him a factor on the U.S teams of 2002 and 2006. As it stands, the midfield is already very tight.

Lastly, expect an offensively aggressive team today. There is a slew of forwards trying to lock down that second striker position alongside Jozy Altidore. A good showing against the Czech Republic can’t hurt, so look for forwards Edson Buddle, Brian Ching and Herculez Gomez to do their best to make an impression. There’s no better way of doing that than by putting the ball into the net.

Groups D and E

Group D teams: Germany, Serbia, Ghana, Australia
Smart picks: Germany, Serbia
Countdown’s picks: Serbia, Ghan

How good of a player is Germany’s Michael Ballack? Well, he’s good enough to make me go out on a limb and leave the German squad out of the second round. I know, it’s a stretch, but talk about unlucky — not only is Ballack, the captain of the team, out of the World Cup, but Germany’s starting keeper is also not going to South Africa because of injury. The key blows leave the pressure on a 35-year old goalie (Hans-Joerg Butt) and Lukas Podolksi, Ballack’s midfield partner on the German squad.

I like Serbia to play good, consistent football through the first round and advance easily with seven points.

That means the window is open for Ghana, one of the first African teams to qualify for the tournament, to advance to the round of 16. If they can find a way to draw against both Germany and Serbia, coupled with a winnable match vs. Australia, Ghana can be one of the biggest surprises of the first round.

Group E teams: Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon, Japan
Smart picks: Netherlands, Cameroon
Countdown’s picks: Netherlands, Cameroon

The proclaimed “best team to never win it all” couldn’t have gotten a better draw. The Netherlands should have no problems on the pitch during the round-robin phase. Off the field? Now that’s another story.

About the only thing the Dutch have more than talent is ego and in South Africa 2010 they’ll be their own worst enemies. That said, there is too much firepower on that team to have any legitimate effects during the first round.

Speaking of talent, Cameroon has itself quite the player in Samuel Eto’o, the striker who is just coming off a Champions League victory with Inter Milan and will participating in his third World Cup. Denmark lacks the firepower to make a serious run in the group stage. Japan could surprise a team like Cameroon — its 5-0-1 against African teams since 2007. Japan would need an upset there and at least a draw against Denmark to have a shot at the second round. Stranger things have happened.

23 Days Until The World Cup

18 05 2010

There was a list of things to choose from when writing the countdown this week. Among the things I left out:
Oguchi Onyewu asking to play for free for AC Milan
Jozy Altidore’s SportsCenter commercial
Michael Ballack’s World Cup ending injury

No doubt there is so much to talk about. Anyways, this is the newest version of the countdown. As always, the link to the column online is here

Closing in on the World Cup
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
By now you’ve probably read your fair share of reactions to last week’s unveiling of the training camp rosters for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.There were plenty of surprises from across the soccer spectrum. In Brazil, a couple of big names like Ronaldinho and Pato were left off Dunga’s roster. Italy didn’t extend an invite to Franceso Totti or Luca Toni, France isn’t bringing Karim Benzema or Samir Nasri.

On the domestic front, after letting coach Bob Bradley’s choices marinate for a week, I can’t say there were too many surprises. Robbie Findley’s name on the list stands out for me as the only real head-scratcher. I thought his form with Real Salt Lake wasn’t spectacular in the first two months of the Major League Soccer season (not like that of Edson Buddle for example, whose goal-scoring spree most likely landed him on the list of 30).

To the Countdown’s credit, seven weeks ago, we threw out the names of Findley, Brian Ching, Sasha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein as MLS players that had a chance to make the training camp list and all four made it.

But the big story was the “snubbing” of Charlie Davies, who did everything he could in the six months since his accident to get back into world class form.

Unfortunately for Davies, his efforts weren’t rewarded and he was left off the 30-man roster. “Thank you all for your continued support and words of encouragement. It was a very sad day for me as well but now focused for next season,” Davies said via Twitter. “I will be back stronger then ever! The hard work will not stop! Believe for the rest of 2010 and the future! Thanks again! God Bless.”

Reports swirled that his club team, FC Sochaux did not medically clear Davies to play in South Africa for the USMNT and that led the striker to have some choice words for Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe.

While you can’t help but feel for Davies, ultimately his exclusion from the USMNT is a byproduct of his own choices. Yes he worked his tail off to make the list, but if you rewind the clock, it was his decision to break curfew that had him in the car that crashed and left him hurt as badly it did (and killed someone else in the process). With his play in the Confederations Cup, Davies’ spot in South Africa was all but locked and one idiotic decision will leave him waiting until Brazil 2014 for his redemption.

 Spain and Russia fixing results?

With my two cents on the rosters out of the way, we’ll focus our attention on what has become a major story leading up to South Africa.

Former FA chairman David Triesman, who oversaw the game in England and was also in charge of England’s bid to host the World Cup in 2018, has been recorded suggesting that Spain and Russia are working together and would be bribing referees at the World Cup. Triesman, who was recorded in a phone conversation with a woman who claims to have had a “relationship” with her then-boss, said that Spain would withdraw its bid to stage the 2018 finals if Russia helped it to bribe referees in next month’s tournament.

Russia isn’t participating in South Africa and Spain is one of the favorites to win it all. England is putting everything on this bid for 2018. Some may argue that it’s more important for them to actually host in eight years than it is to do well in Africa 23 days from now. And while the chances are that these accusations are all hot air, with the way the story has picked up steam, the idea of such activities has already planted a seed in the minds of those participating and watching the World Cup. Since the story broke, FIFA has announced a full investigation of the allegations made by Triesman, asking the FA to disclose everything the former chairman knows his accusations. Surely this will be messier.

Is match fixing a possibility at the South Africa? Sure. But it’s highly unlikely given that now the matches will be examined under an even larger microscope. What this scandal has done is put the English FA in disarray — think of it as the Yankees accusing the Red Sox of bribing umpires during the World Series so that they can lose. Or Al Davis coming out and saying that the zebras were being paid-off by the Broncos during a playoffs so that Oakland won’t make it to a Super Bowl. Think of it that way and multiply it by 10. Soccer isn’t just life in places like England and Spain — it’s mind, body and soul.

 Group C Predictions

Group C teams: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia

If I were smart I’d take: England, United States

The Countdown is picking: England, United States

On paper this group looks like a no-brainer — both the United States and England appear to have gotten the best possible draw with Algeria, who’s playing in the World Cup after a 24-year hiatus and Slovenia, who’ll be playing in only their second Cup.

But despite our picks, I wouldn’t be surprised if Algeria or Slovenia shock the soccer world and advance to the second round.

What Algeria lacks in offense, they make up with on defense, playing well during their qualifying run to South Africa when they surrendered only eight goals in 12 matches.

Slovenia qualified by advancing in a group that included a good Slovakia squad, Poland and Czech Republic (the latter two played in the World Cup in 2006). Their performance in their group earned them a play-off against Russia which they won to book their seat in South Africa.

The United States is dealing with injuries to key cogs who need to be ready for the Stars and Stripes to be successful. And England is drowning in off-the-field scandals that they say won’t affect their play in the World Cup, but isn’t doing them any good right now. Their ability to focus on soccer will make or break them.

That said, it would take a disappointing showing by the two favorites for either Algeria or Slovenia to advance.

Mark your calendars for June 12, 2010, it promises to be one of the most intriguing matches not only of the group stage, but of the entire cup. The United States and England will play at 11 a.m. and the outcome of this game will go a long way in determining who advances to the second round. As long as we’re predicting, I’m going with a 2-2 draw.

30 Days Until the World Cup

11 05 2010

The countdown continues folks. Deadline for this week’s column was yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to weigh in on Bradley’s picks for training camp at Princeton University. As of 11:00 a.m. the rosters were announced and there were a few surprises. Some rather big ones (I’m looking at your Findley). Here is the 30-man roster which will be cut to 23 by June 1.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan • Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector • Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers, Jose Francisco Torres • Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson

We’ll discuss some of the surprises later — there were some eye-catching names left off other squads as well. We’ll just have to wait a week for that. This is why this is so exciting though, we’re finally getting close enough to taste it. Let the ball roll already! –> Link to the story online here as always.

Who will be going to the Cup?
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
There are only 30 days left until the ball rolls in South Africa and, honestly, I wish I were writing this with 29.The big news today on the World Cup front is the announcement of the preliminary rosters. By the time you get around to reading today’s column, U.S. head coach Bob Bradley will have announced his 30-man provisional roster and with the recent weeks of activity leading up to today, there might be a couple of surprises.

Unfortunately, we won’t get around to talking about Bradley’s choices until next week’s version of the countdown.

For those who pick up their copy of the Daily Journal early, you should make your way over to a television set and tune into ESPN2. They’ll be announcing the training camp roster at 11 a.m.

Expect your locks, of course (Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, etc.), but the most interesting choices will come up front for the United States. With the defense pretty much set for a while now and the midfield (especially in the center) already really crowded, the real competition to make the USMNT has come at the forward position.

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned Charlie Davies’ remarkable recovery in this space and I think his hard work has earned him at least a spot in Princeton. Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle have been too hot for Bradley to ignore — they’ve all but locked down spots on the training camp roster. The same week we talked about Davies, we also mentioned Eddie Johnson and his disappearing act, but he’s been playing well as of late, finding his scoring touch for Aris Thessaloniki in the Greek playoffs — I believe he’s in as well.

A couple of teams (Denmark, Japan, Germany) have already announced their rosters and others are waiting to see how recent injuries will affect their selections (see: England and Wayne Rooney). After a grueling European schedule it’s definitely something to look for. Obviously, Rooney stands out, but recently players like Rene Alder (Germany), Rafael van der Vaart (Netherlands) and Xavi (Spain) have been in the news with their injuries.

Speaking of Spain, they announced their preliminary roster on Monday and man, are they loaded. The aforementioned Xavi is in but he, along with a couple of other giant names, (Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas) will be up against the clock as they try to shake injuries and be in top form for their June 16 debut against Switzerland.

The scary thing is, they have so much depth and skill on the roster they can probably rest their superstars and still have plenty to make it through the group stage and into the second round.

Group B predictions

Speaking of the second round, we caught a some flack from the Mexican fans for picking South Africa and Uruguay to advance out of Group A. We plan on not upsetting as many people with this week’s selections.

Group B teams: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

The smart choices: Argentina, Nigeria

The Countdown chooses: Argentina, Nigeria

We’ll get the obvious out of the way and anoint Argentina as the winner of the group. Their road to South Africa was rather shaky, but what will make them so dangerous at the World Cup will be the amount of talent that oozes out of the Albicelestes. Obviously there is Lionel Messi, who everyone (including us) has drooled over with his play for Barcelona. But players like Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain will have a big say in how far Argentina goes at the World Cup. I’m thinking they advance with seven points.

And that’s where Nigeria fits in. Their success in group B will hinge on how well they play against Argentina June 12. If they can manage a draw against Messi and his crew, I can see them getting through with four points. That said, Nigeria’s road to South Africa has been just as shaky as Argentina’s. A victory against Greece or South Korea is not a given. While there isn’t much that separates Nigeria, Greece and South Korea, I think “home-field advantage” for the Super Eagles will be good enough to send them through.