It's been an interesting World Cup thus far--not at all what I expected. With the first round almost over, I thought I would revisit my picks and assess things a bit further. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a group by group basis.
So I was right that Germany would cruise through this group, and apart from a first half scare from Costa Rica, they did just that. Scarily, they are looking better and better as each game, and home field advantage never hurts. I was right in thinking that Poland was not as good as many of the pundits were giving them credit for. On the other hand, I was totally wrong about Costa Rica--I picked the wrong latin team, since Ecuador looked pretty impressive until they met Germany yesterday (and they looked fairly disinterested in the game).
I was almost spot on in my assessment of this group, with England winning it outright, despite some shocking defending against Sweden, and Sweden finishing second. So I had the order reversed, but a lot of that comes down to Trinidad and Tobago holding Sweden to draw in what has been one of the more entertaining matches from a rooting perspective thus far.
My picks are getting better as we progress. I picked Holland and Argentina to advance, and advance they will. Of course, match this afternoon will decide who wins this group. Both teams have looked very dangerous and I think either of them could do a lot of damage in the knockout stages. In retrospect, this wasn't as difficult a group as everyone thought since Serbia and Montenegro, who had cruised through qualifying without giving up a goal in a long time, totally rolled over, especially when Argentina crushed them 6-0.
And my streak ends here. I was totally wrong against Mexico. They will advance along with Portugal, with the result of this game determining who finishes first. Iran had their moments, but late substitutions from Mexico made the difference. Iran had to have points in that first match to advance. I'm thinking Portugal will still end up winning the group.
This has proven to be the real group of death, and any of the four teams could advance, and all four could still go home. This group will be decided tomorrow. Italy advances with a win, and even after Saturday's contentious game, the U.S. has to hope for that. If Italy wins and the U.S. defeats Ghana, the U.S. moves on.
I'm feeling better after Saturday's heroic effort by the U.S. against Italy. We'll see how correct I was about the Czech's age problem, especially after losing Jan Koller. I think the U.S. takes care of business, barely, against Ghana. The other game is up in the air. If there's a draw, the U.S. is likely out due to the 3 goals scored by the Czechs against them. I'll predict Italy wins 2-1 and Italy and the U.S. advance.
Brazil wins group. Yawn. (Even though they've not looked very Brazil-like at times.) The last spot is up in the air. Based on how the teams have played thus far, I'm changing my pick to Australia.
I was totally off base with this group as well. France hasn't looked particularly good with two draws, but I still think they win on Friday and win the group. As for second place, its a total toss up between Switzerland and South Korea. I picked Togo, who are going home, so I'll have to change to South Korea just because they have such delightful fans.
Wrong again. Spain have looked like world beaters and will win this one handily. This may finally be their year. For second, Ukraine have absorbed the 4-0 body blow from Spain and should advance in second place.
Once the group stage is totally complete, I'll chime in with the rest of my predictions.
In other news, I'm in last place in my World Cup pool. I'm doing a bit better with my fantasy league though.
NP: "Crazy World" - Richard Ashcroft