Saturday, June 07, 2014

World Cup 2014: Group A Preview

And we're back, kind of. This here blog was started, back in 2006, for one simple reason. The World Cup was not being talked about, and when it was, it was being talked about by idiots who hated soccer. Back in 2006, some of our fun was running the US roster through the Wu Tang Generator. It still exists! Jozy Alitdore, in case you were curious, is Big Wicker Ventriloquist. Which feels frighteningly apt, in its way.

In 2010, we were happy to see that the idiots backed off their idiocy. Tom Powers was still stupid, but he knew that he couldn't describe soccer as the sport of Illegal Immigrants anymore.

In 2014, it feels like a watershed has been crossed. 4 years ago, Deadspin was perfectly happy just calling out provincial fucks, without providing any actual soccer coverage themselves. But with Greg Howard and Billy Paisley, and assorted others, Deadspin is providing insights to every single team out there. And that's great! But they are often wrong, and that's OK! They know the game, perhaps too well.

It is possible to overthink the World Cup. In fact, it is really easy to do so. You can get into tactics, or managerial skills, or possible talismans. Simple point of fact - since the World Cup began, only eight nations have won it. You want to pick a dark horse? Go ahead! But history is against you.

Anyway, let's get to Group A, and who is going to advance!

Group A consists of:
Brazil (your host)

Brazil is as guaranteed to walk into the Round of 16 as any team in the Cup. But let's not pretend there are not warts on Brazil. There are, absolutely. Their defense is tough up the middle, but their wing backs are maybe prone to a bit o' wandering. There is almost always space behind the Brazilian defense. Thiago Silva is almost always there to clean that up. But if he's caught out of position, when Dani Alves sends a shitty cross in to spark a counter? It could be trouble. But not in this round. Not with group.

That said, in the long term, I don't love this Brazil team. Neymar is spectacular, but a bit dainty. There's no Ronaldo on this team, especially if Fred isn't available. Brazil has wunderkinds up the ass, but it has been 12 years since they hoisted a trophy, and I don't know they have the depth and physicality to win this whole thing, home team or not.

Mexico is terrible. Let's not kid ourselves. They needed an extra time goal from the US to even get here. Couple that with Luis Montes' great goal and terrible leg break in a friendly a week ago, and that team is coming into the World Cup knowing that they are lucky to be there, and without one of their best players. Couple that with a suspect defense? The New York Times argued that Mexico got lucky in this draw, and they are right. But it won't matter.

My pick to advance is Croatia. Deadspin says that Croatia's way to advance is to "Rise and Grind", which is, to my mind, damning with faint praise. This team is dangerous. They don't have to "grind". They will be as dangerous as anyone on set plays, with Manzukic up top, with Olic and Eduardo possibly playing withdrawn attackers. Combine those guys with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and you've got the second best offense in the group. They aren't fast? We'll see.

Cameroon is a very old team that qualified. The Indomitable Lions are back, and you never know what E'to and Webe will pull off. But a weak midfield and sketchy defense dooms them. They may lose every game in the Round Robin, even as they score 2 or 3 goals a game.

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