Well, I'm stretching my Simpsons references to the breaking point, but this is too good of a group to spend too much time coming up with a whimsical title.
There has been a lot of talk that this the Group of Death. I can see that argument, but I don't necessarily buy into it completely. I think the group with Italy/Czech Republic/USA/Ghana is the rough and tumble of the Cup. But by jiminy, there are some tough teams in this group, and obviously, the most talked about first round match is here: Argentina vs. The Netherlands. Two teams with a lot to prove after some embarassing failures, and no love lost between them either. June 21st. Call in sick, if you have to.
Serbia and Montenegro
Argentina: This team is good. Real good. Quality strikers in Crespo, Saviola and Tevez. Riquelme can be a very dangerous offensive midfielder, and the Argentines have a history of playing really really tough defense. And let's not forget the way they crapped the bed last Cup. Presumably, this team will come to Germany eager to beat the stuffing out of some folks. I think in almost any other group, they would easily beat the stuffing out of at least 2 teams, and easily advance. But this is a tough, tough groupl
Netherlands: Head Coach Marco Van Basten has been causing a series of minor controversies each time he pares down his roster for the Cup. He's been saying thanks but no thanks to lots and lots of talented veterans in favor younger players, who many of us haven't heard of, because they ply their trade in some the Dutch league. Here's where I come down on the debate. I agre with Marco Van Basten, because he's Marco Fucking Van Fucking Basten. I will tend to give him the benefit of the doubt until 1) it is clear his strategy isn't working, or 2) When I win World Footballer of the Year twice. His strategy could backfire of course. Playing qualification matches isn't the same thing as playing Argentina in a true World Cup setting, and I personally would have loved to have seen Edgar Davids rocking the midfield one last time in Holland oragne, but so be it. This team is my favorite somewhat dark horse of the field, despite the fact that I truly dislike Ruud van Nistelroy. Of course, I have a soft spot for them. I grew up watching Johann Cruyff videos and hanging up Ruud Gullit posters. Watched Kluivert and Bergkamp dazzle when I first really really started following international soccer. I just dig em.
Cote d'Iviore--Well, I know more than I did five minutes about this team, after scanning this interview with their defensive midfielder, Didier Zokora. They have some pretty serious offensive talent on this team, with Didier Droga and Bonaventure Kalou, and a world-class defender in Kolo Toure. It is the rest of the team that the problems lie. They are young, and their defense has been shaky at times, and they will facing two of the most dangerous offensives in the Cup in Argentina and the Netherlands. I think they'll be a tough out, but there going to have a tough time winning more than 1 game.
Serbia and Montenegro--This team is getting a lot of love in the pundit classes, but the vast majority of the fans polled don't seem that as I real threat to knock off anybody. They play, tough, physical defence, and that's all well and good, but you gotta score to win. Tying 3 games isn't going to be enough to move on, and I find it unlikely that even their tough brand of play is going to keep any of these teams scoreless. In another group, they might be an intriguing upset pick. But this group isn't for upset pickin'.