Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup Day 4: Analysis and Predictions

Game 9: Australia vs. Japan

This is a huge game for both teams. Brazil is guaranteed, essentially, to advance to the next round, and the other three teams in this group are quite equal in talent. This is the first game of the group, and whoever can grab 3 points will be in a huge position of strength. Ties are bad, losses are worse, but especially in this group, because every single one of these teams is basically guaranteed one loss to Brazil. They only get 2 games to separate themselves, instead of 3.

1 Australia has some fine talent that I've mentioned before--Viduka, Kewell, Cahill, Schwarzer, etc. But they don't scare me, because Kewell is a bit soft. We'll see if he even finishes this game. Viduka is a few years past his prime, and Cahill still has a few years to go to his prime. I like Emerton's game, but he's just one dude.
2. Japan has a better less in terms of marquee players. The most famous is Nakata, and he's quickly becoming more famous for his fits of pique than his play. But Japan as a team is a more complete unit. They've played together more regularly, they are one of the most fit teams in the league, and they will run the entire 90 minutes. The socceroos will be drinking beers at halftime (that's a horrible stereotype, I know. But c'mon!)
3. Both are a long way from home, but I think Australia will probably be more comfortable than Japan. On the other hand, this Australia's first World Cup in awhile, and Japan is getting to be pretty old hat at it. Experience may trump the psuedo-home cookin' of the Aussies.

Prediction: These teams are awfully close, and I truly believe it could go either way. One bad mistake probably separates the winner from the loser. Team most likely to have a bad mistake? Australia. Japan wins 2-1.

Game 10: USA vs. Those Dirty Fucking Czechs

Absolute huge game, and the first in Group E, the Group of Death. The US will have its hands full, but it isn't out of reach for them to come away with points in this match.

1. Injuries. The US is basically fit, though always keep your eyes on Reyna and O'Brien. McBride will probably play through a severed artery, and I still think it is a matter of time before Beasley gets very badly hurt by one of those very cynical challenges he always ends up receiving. But the Czechs are limping into this tournament. Koller finally looks fit, but Baros is out for this game, and Smicer is out for the entire Cup. Two important figures in their attack. Rosicky is coming off an injury, and while he may be 100% health wise, he may not be 100% fit. Which brings us to...
2. Pace and fitness. The US is one of the most fit teams in the Cup, if not the fittest. Hope for a hot day, and a lot of running around. Nedved isn't a spring chicken anymore and anything they can do to tire him out will be great for the US. Look for lots of runs from the US. Even if they don't get anything out of them at first, it will force the Czechs to run more than they might like. It will also leave the US open to a very dangerous Czech counter-attack.
3. Possession in the midfield. It is important in every game, but it is vitally important for the US to be able to play calmly in the midfield, possessing the ball, giving their overlapping running attacks a chance to develop. Everything builds out of those runs. If the US can't play with the Czechs in the midfield, it could be a very long day for them. Luckily, I've almost convinced myself that they can.

Prediction: In a game to make the US fans very happy, a draw, at 2-2.

Game 11: Italy vs. Ghana

Game 2 of Group E. Both teams will know when they take the pitch whether a win gets them tied for the top of the Group, or if it gives them first place alone.

1. Defense. Both of these teams play lock-down defense. This game will be low scoring, and if someone is up with 35 minutes to play, look for them to lock it down even further. This could be one of those games that has a ton of anticipation, and then ends up being an absolute grinder of a match.
2. Distractions. Italy's heads are probably still thinking about the ongoing scandal in Italy's professional leagues. Will they be able to concentrate on the job at hand? Have they been practicing effectively this week? We'll find out.
3. Scoring first. Always a advantage, but again, with these defenses, and their dangerous counter-attacking options, first goal will be a huge tactical advantage. Whoever scores first will be in an excellent position to score again off of counter attacks as the other team is forced to open up their style of play a bit more.

Prediction: In a shocker, Ghana 2, Italy 1. Ooh, how bold of me!

smell ya' later, fools. Enjoy the games!

1 comment:

Arun said...

I'm calling a 1-0 victory to Australia, 2-1 to the Czech Republic and 0-0 in the other game.