Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Group D? Enjoy it old man, it will be your last.

Well, a hearty thanks to Deadspin, as I kind of forgotten about actually doing World Cup Group previews. So, we shall resolve that. In case everyone has forgotten about my bold and beautiful and dead sexy predictions for Groups A-C, here they are, in linked form (keep in mind that these are some of the earliest artifacts on I Dislike Your Favorite Team, sp please don't judge too harshly if there are typos that went unfixed. You don't mock a baby for walking funny, do you? Well maybe you do, you jerks.

Group A
Group B
Group C

On to Group D!


General thoughts: This is the opposite of a Group of Death. This is a Group of Big Hugs, or a Group of Footed Pajamas. It will certainly take some serious effort for the favorites of this group to crash out in this round. But never bet against Iberians to crash out early, so they can enjoy their wines and naps.

Angola. Hey first time in the Cup Finals! Congratulations! Go home now. Which they will almost certainly do. They rely upon a former European club player, Akwa, "now plying his trade in Qatar" which means almost always, "too old to be effective in a real league." And that's it. They got to the cup by dominating at home in their qualification run. There are no games in Angola now though. Normally, I like the worst team in the bracket to beat Portugal, not this time. If it should happen, Portugal will either spontaenously combust, or quit soccer and go back to their other passions, like Navigating.

Iran. Their great moment in World Cup history, which the BBC delights in mentioning as often as they can, was when they beat the US, 2-1 in 1998. So they are good enough to beat bad teams, even while on European (neutral) soil. I imagine they'll have a battle with Angola, and possibly give either Mexico or Portugal a hard time. 1 win, 1 draw, and 1 loss seems reasonable here. And I don't think that will be enough for them. Though they could make things more interesting than they deserve to, partially because of the teams they are facing.

Mexico. Let's see, the finish behind the US in qualifying, get beat by the US, and they can a #1 seed. As Claudio Reyna put it, bullshit! This may be the worst #1 seed in the tournament, and thanks to randomness of the seedings, they have a very good chance to advance. But there's not a whole lot to like about this team. They play a fairly ugly brand of soccer. They do have the talent to simply outplay Angola. We'll see how well they do against Iran. That game and the game against Portugal could end up being some very very ugly football. I think it safe to say that if Portugal and Mexico tie their game, they will most likely be the two teams to advance. If one wins, that could leave a door open.

Portugal. This team has a lot of stars, some of whom are getting a little old, like Figo. And some of their stars may be a year or two away from their peak (Christiano Ronaldo). It should also be noted that Ronaldo is just the kind of guy that other teams will look forward to saying "He ain't pretty no more" at the end of the match. He's pretty, he plays a finesse speed game that just asks to get taken down from behind in painful ways. Look at him! You kind of want to kick him yourself, don't you? Look to Mexico to pick up that challenge, happily.

On the whole, an ugly group to predict. But I do look for Portugal to pick up where they left off at Euro 2004, where they did advance to the finals (of course, the tournament was played in Portugal, but still). Smarter men than me have said about this team, "There is too much talent for them to fail" and Portugal has proven them wrong. But I'm going to say it again. This team simply has more pure talent on the pitch then the all-star team of the other 3 teams combined.

I grudingly put Mexico in to the next round. But I wouldn't if you replaced Iran with Serbia or Croatia. And while I'm completely cheating, I'll say that "I won't be surprised" if Iran finds a way to sneak ahead of Mexico. OK, that's not true. I'd be shocked. But I have put it out there on some level. We'll see. That's why they play the games, as Spanish announcer Christo "Con Cuero" Bermano puts it.

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