December 4, 2009

Draw For 2010

Seeds for the World Cup were drawn today.  As I did in 2006, I am rooting for the United States and Italy (the defending champions) pretty much equally; were the other country of my ancestry, Norway, in play, I'd root for them too, but Norway didn't qualify this year (of the Scandanavian teams, only Denmark is in the tournament).  Nothing against Germany, Ghana, or any of the other fine teams, but you've got to pick a horse or two and root for them.  That's how it works.

Both Italy and the United States got what seem like favorable draws today.  The United States drew into group C, along with Algeria, England, and Slovenia.  The Stars and Stripes' qualifying matches are as follows (all times Pacific):

11:30 a.m., June 12, against England, at Rustenburg.
7:00 a.m., June 18, against Slovenia, at Johannesburg.
6:00 a.m., June 23, against Algeria, at Pretoria.

Italy drew into the even easier group F, with New Zealand, Paraguay, and Slovakia.  The Azzuri will play as follows:

11:30 a.m., June 14, against Paraguay, at Cape Town.
7:00 a.m., June 20, against New Zealand, at Nelspruit.
7:00 a.m., June 24, on short rest against Slovakia, at Johannesburg.

During the qualifying first round, three points with a win, one point with a draw, no points for a loss.  The top two qualifiers from each group go on to the single-elimination second round.  So if a team wins two of its matches, it progresses. 

No match is easy, of course.  The U.S.-England match is probably too close to call but Slovenia and Algeria should produce out "W"s for the Stars and Stripes.  Slovenia was playing out of their heads when they beat Russia and Algeria but they can't score well compared with other national teams -- they got as far as they did on defense.  Algeria, interestingly, hasn't qualified for the World Cup at all since 1986 but I give them credit for a cool nickname:  Les Fennecs (the Desert Foxes).  As Yahoo! Sports forecasts it: "If the Americans finish second in their group, they likely would play Germany in the second round. If they finish first, they probably would advance to a meeting with Serbia or Ghana."  Gaa!  Germany in the second -- I'd much rather we had to face Ghana* or Serbia.  Sadly, though, my read of things is that England is a stronger team than United States, which would set us up for a first-round match against one of the strongest teams in the tournament.  It could be worse - Spain is favored to win it all.

In Group F, gli Azzuri have two teams that did well regionally but are sacrificial lambs at this stage; their only real challenge will be Paraguay -- I suspect los Albirroja (there's those strange World Cup pronouns again; the nickname refers to Paraguay's red-and-white striped jerseys) will be surprisingly tough.  If Italy wins it all, it will tie Brazil for most World Cup titles and be the only team to have won consecutive championships twice.  But it's a little bit premature to be anticipating that.

It looks to me like the "Group of Death" this tournament will be Group G, which consists of Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, and the all-but-certain-to-go-nil-and-three North Korea. Hosts South Africa have a tough match in Group A as well, which includes powerhouses Mexico, Uruguay (watch them put up a good fight), and France. If Group A isn't the "Group of Death," then maybe we should call it the "Group of Grievous Injury."

There are always upsets in this sort of thing, but from this sample of teams and their drawings, the U.S., England, Italy, and Paraguay should all be the favorites to move on to the single-elimination round for El Cupo del Mundo.  Italy and the United States could not play one another until at least the semi-finals of the second round of play.  So unlike last time around, I will be unlikely to have a conflict of interest and if I do, it will mean that at least one of them will wind up playing for it all.

* Ain't none higher!  (And if you don't get that joke, you aren't intended to.)


Michael Reynolds said...

You are clearly writing this post in a transparent attempt to get hits from the many, many (okay, three) American soccer fans.

Burt Likko said...

You're being uncharitable. I'm hoping for literally tens of hits here.

zzi said...

His a faint third. If Italy scores first they win 1-0. But they do have nice haircuts.