So there have been complaints from a large percentage of the readership (that is, two of you) that there’s not enough soccer on the blog. While I realize it sets a dangerous precedent to allow the readers to dictate the content, I also realize that a writer’s blatant disrespect for the audience is no way for a blog to thrive. Also, the blog is ostensibly about soccer. So here are some thoughts:
1. In my pre-World Cup SI.com picks, I had the U.S. and Slovenia coming out of Group C. I think I might have been the only person in the world to make that pick. If it hits, you’ll never hear the end of it.
2. Here’s your dark horse: Paraguay.
3. Algeria isn’t going to put two solid games together back-to-back. They’ll have a meltdown at some point against the U.S.
4. The ball is a big problem. It’s been written plenty how it’s too light, which makes it fly farther and flutter (it’s like a balloon). But it also has a tendency to skip when it bounces, which makes everything from playing long balls to controlling passes trickier. (I think the skip—or at least the fear of a skip—is what caused Ghana’s keeper, Richard Kingson, to spill the shot that led to Australia’s goal. He looked like he had no idea what the ball was going to do.) I think a big part of the reason that scoring was down early is that it’s taken a lot of getting to used to a ball that one U.S. player described to me before the tournament as being “horseshit.” (There’s that word again.)
5. Spain’s loss to Switzerland means nothing.
6. France. Quitters. Shocking. Ever read that Onion “Our Dumb Century” about France unveiling the Arc de Capitulation? It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.
7. Seriously, good of them to back a guy who called his coach a “dirty son of a whore” by refusing to practice when he got sent home. Way to pick your battles, guys.
8. Sven-Goran Eriksson and Cote d’Ivoire never seemed like a good fit.
9. And England: What the hell was John Terry thinking? And what makes the players think that going to a 4-5-1 is going to fix things? I like Slovenia to scratch out a draw (see No. 1).
10. Best goal: Enrique Vela’s for Paraguay against Slovakia. Great pass from Lucas Barrios, great finish with the outside of his foot while getting tackled. Best individual effort: probably Siphiwe Tshabalala’s in the opener for South Africa. (Second straight tournament in which the first goal was an absolute cracker from the left wing, after Philip Lahm’s awesome strike against Costa Rica in ’06.)
11. Vuvuzelas? I’m indifferent.
12. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but if the U.S. wins Group C, they’ll probably end up playing Serbia (much as I love them, I can’t see Ghana beating Germany, so the Germans should win Group D, with Serbia second) in the round of 16. If form holds, the winner of that game would get the winner of Group A in the quarters—and that’s the winner of tomorrow’s Uruguay-Mexico game. Uruguay has the lead in the group right now on goal difference, so Mexico has the incentive to play for the win, even though a draw sees them both through. How interesting would a U.S.-Mexico quarterfinal be?
13. Last eight: Mexico, Serbia, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Paraguay, Spain (man, is the bottom of the bracket harder than the top)
14: Last four: Mexico (seriously, look at the draw—their path to the final four is basically: beat Uruguay, beat South Korea, beat Serbia/the U.S.), Brazil, Argentina, Spain
15. Final: Spain over Brazil.