Group B: Spain, the Netherlands, Chile, and Australia
This could be the “Group of Death” were it not for the inclusion of a mediocre Australian side. Spain will win it, the Netherlands will finish second, but if either of those nations underestimates Chile all hell could break loose.
Group C: Columbia, Greece, Cote d’Ivoire, Japan
I know the groups are all based on “seeding” and “pods” and other stuff, but seriously, how is this group allowed to happen? Columbia is the 4th best team in the world? Greece is the 15th? If that doesn’t speak to the nonsense that is FIFA’s ranking system I don’t know what is. If my math is sound there are 24 different ways this group could finish and I’m pretty sure if you ran the group 24 times you’d see each one of them. So, ah, Columbia and Greece.
Group D: Uruguay, England, Costa Rica, Italy
I love this group if only because it has the potential to disappoint so very many people. I think Uruguay are going to win it because England and Italy will beat up on each other and Costa Rica will probably be a non-factor. I’ll pick Uruguay to go through with England because a) it will set off a panic in Italy and b) it will raise English hopes that this is going to be the year!! (It isn’t.)
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras
Not quite as farcical as Group C, but close! I think Switzerland and Ecuador will go through (only to be pummeled in their first knockout match) and that France could actually finish last. If there’s any chance of a “minnow” making it to the knockout stage it’s probably in this group and it’s Honduras.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
For me, this is by far the easiest group to predict: Argentina and BH go through with ease and Iran and Nigeria play each other not to finish last. Good luck to “Iran’s” Mehrdad “Steven” Beitashour of San Jose, CA and the San Jose Earthquakes!
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea
At some point during this tournament an opponent is going to have to prove that Belgium are not actually as good as they have looked over the past two years or so, but it won’t be during the group stage. Belgium will advance with ease and I’m guessing Russia will go with them.
And finally, we double back to
Group G: Germany, Portugal, United States, Ghana
It’s deja vu all over again… Furthermore, this is, without a doubt, the “Group of Death.” And you know what? I’m glad it is. While the USMNT has progressed over the last decade, it is still very much world soccer’s “mid-major” team. Nobody takes them likely, they can beat anyone on any given night, but they can also look not only ordinary, but disinterested. If they fall into either of those last two categories in this tournament they are going to get steamrolled- but let’s not get too far ahead.
Despite a #2 world ranking, we’ve seen better German teams than this- including the ones that included USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann- in recent times. They are beatable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be beaten- follow me? In the past, despite the names on the roster, I’ve written off Portugal as a team of 11 individuals, not 11 teammates. I’m not sure much has changed with that except for one thing: love him or hate him, Cristiano Ronaldo has shown us that he can win a game single-handedly and he can do it in a matter of minutes. As for Ghana, well, we say first-hand what they could do last time and they are at least as good this time. Their team is young, but it still contains names like Essien, Boateng, and Asamoah.
Back to the boys in red, white, and blue- can they progress? Absolutely. Assuming all things are equal (no injuries, no game-changing bad calls, etc.), the path is pretty simple: First, they must beat Ghana. Second, they must not lose to Germany or Portugal. That’s a minimum of 5 points- and that might be enough. If Germany and Portugal both beat Ghana and tie each other they are also on 5 points and tie-breakers would come into play- but I don’t think that’s going to happen, I think Ghana will take at least a point off somebody. That somebody just can’t be the USA. If it’s Germany or Portugal the USA goes through as either the first or second place team.
So, will the US go through? I think they will, with Germany in first place. Or, put another way, I think Portugal is the team Ghana will take a point from.
Plus, Germany v. USA should be ausgezeichnet, ja?!