Monday, June 7, 2010

Predictions! For Groups A and B

I've been doing the Countdown to South Africa 2010 World Cup blog since last July. I feel as if I know a little about all 32 teams. More than a little. Enough, actually, that I've forgotten a fair share of it.

I concede, I do not know as much as you know about your team. (Unless your team is the U.S.) No way. But what do you know of North Korea, Paraguay and Honduras? Aha!

We will start with group-phase predictions for groups A and B. On Tuesday, groups C and D. On Wednesday, groups E and F. On Thursday, groups G and H.

And on Friday, before the first match kicks off, predictions on the knockout phase, right up to the championship match.

Here we go!

Group A:

Mexico 1, South Africa 1; France 1, Uruguay 0.

South Africa 1, Uruguay 1; Mexico 2, France 2.

Mexico 2, Uruguay 1; France 1, South Africa 0.

Standings: France 7 points (plus-2), Mexico 5 (plus-1), South Africa 2 (minus-1), Uruguay 2 (minus-1).

My thinking: France is poorly led by Raymond Domenech, but the French have considerable talent and have played in big matches -- and have the considerable advantage of a favorable schedule. I would pick Mexico to win this group, except that Mexico gets South Africa in the opener, and the host team won't know yet it isn't going to advance and will play out of its mind in a very supportive atmosphere, the sort that will influence a referee. So, Mexico gets only a draw out of that match. But by the time South Africa gets to its third match and knows it is basically out of it, France wins. Uruguay just not up to getting out of this group, even though it is better than South Africa on a neutral field.

Group B:

Greece 1, South Korea 0; Argentina 3, Nigeria 2.

Argentina 3, South Korea 1; Greece 1, Nigeria 0.

Nigeria 3, South Korea 1; Argentina 0, Greece 0.

Standings: Argentina 7 points (plus-3), Greece 7 (plus-2), Nigeria 3 (plus-0), South Korea 0 (minus-4).

My thinking: This is an outstanding group for the Greeks and coach Otto Rehhegel. Three teams it should frustrate to madness with its ultra-conservative occasional-counter style. Euro teams that know the Greeks have trouble with it, and these three haven't seen it. ... Argentina has so much talent that not even Diego "El Jefe Loco" Maradona can mess up the group stage. I'm pretty sure. ... Nigeria could get the "home continent" boost, but its results just haven't been that impressive of late, and Greece will frustrate it and Argentina will have too much talent. Nigeria will take out its frustrations on South Korea in the final match, and then the country will sit back and rue the cheesy late goal that Greece scored in the opening match. South Korea is the better of the Koreas, but this is not a good group for it. Maybe next time.

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