Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group E

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special "Hey" goes out to Hazel Mae.

While I am tempted to recap today's games, especially Portugal's win over Angola, I will stick to the program - the World Cup Preview...for my man DJames in Mass who needs some help with soccer. While many have tabbed Group C as the Group of Death - a pretty good case could be made for this group - Group E features two of the world's best and two decent teams. This will be the Group of Death for whatever team finishes second - as the likely result is a date with Ronaldinho and the Samba Boys from Brazil in the round of 16. On to Group E

Czech Republic (ranked 2nd by FIFA) - the Czechs rise up the rankings has been steady over the last couple of years - while many of their players have experienced moderate success in club football...they turn into super-men when they don the national jerseys. The Czechs are solid through and through - they have arguably the best goalie in the world, Petr Cech; their midfielders Poborsky, Nedved and Rosicky, as a group match up with anyone in the world; and their strikers Baros and Koller have a knack for scoring big goals. If the Czechs have a weakness that can be exploited it is the defence - they aren't particularly strong in the middle and their fullbacks can be caught out of position, sometimes making questionable decisions to go up and attack.

The Czechs aren't very imaginative offensively - preferring to play a game of counter attacks where they come at you in waves, trying to outnumber you. Their fall back is the lazy cross to their 6'9" striker Koller - which usually results in good things for them. They always seem to be a threat to win, and usually come relatively close to getting there. They have a few injury concerns - but not enough to cause them too much trouble - I'm calling on them to win this group over Italy.

Italy (ranked 13th by FIFA) - they come into the tournament promising a new style of play for the boys in blue. Italy has traditionally played a very defensive game - opting to pack things in and try to take advantage of scoring opportunities presented to them. This strategy had been successful in past tournments where the gap between the very good teams and the good teams was cavernous. The gap has closed considerably - thanks to the movement of these international stars...they are all familiar with each other now.

Italy comes into the tournament with controversy hanging over them (the match fixing allegations) and some injury concerns - but they are deep enough to overcome them and make it into the round of 16. Their goaltending and defence are solid as always - Buffon is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and their defence is experienced. The are tinkering with the idea of having playmaker Francesco Totti play up front with Luca Toni - making it a potentially deadly duo. Where Italy may lack a bit is in creative play from their midfielders - Alessandro Del Piero is a threat to attack...but for the most part, the rest of the midfielders are ball distributors. Italy has more than enough to beat Ghana and the U.S - I just don't think they can beat the Czechs to win the group.

U.S.A (ranked 5th by FIFA) - see explanation for Mexico's ranking. While both the Czechs and the Italians are pointing to a very tough American team - don't believe it. I know this may upset some of you - but when looking at the world's top 10 or 20 teams...the U.S are considered lightweights. The lack of competitive games against the top teams in Europe and South America is going to hurt them, as well as the lack of top flight soccer experience of their team. In past tournaments, they have been pitted against one top flight team - they have two tops teams in this draw. Their best hope to advance will be if they can tie the Italians in the second game - all very tall order.

Ghana (ranked 48th by FIFA) - going into the tournament, experts were warning to beware of Ghana. I don't know much about this team - only that Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien is on the team and that they have a good group of midfielders. Their strikers are considered one of the weaker groups in the tournament - and they are particularly strong behind the ball. I think the best Ghana can hope for is a tie against the U.S., which is by no means a good possibility. I think Ghana is the reason that most dubbed Group C the Group of Death - the Ivory Coast is a much more difficult team to play against.

Winner - Czech Republic, they come into the tournament as one of the more experienced sides, they play well together, and they don't have the distractions Italy does right now.

2nd Place - Italy, while very talented...they will find a way to self-destruct, it is what Italian teams do these days...Italy - soccer's Ottawa SenaTards.

There you have it DJames...I hope this one helps you. That's about it for the World Cup Preview - have a great one peeps.

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world.

Song of the Night on Hazelspeeps - its a dance, but it works for soccer... sorta

O Pezinho - Amalia Rodrigues

Peesth Out...Buh Bye!


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