World Cup 2010: Group A & B
|Why I picked France & South Africa to advance:|
For all the talk that France is in rough shape (including from former and current internationals), they still have the most talented players in the group (despite being weaker than 2006). I don't believe that qualifying form has much to do with World Cup performance, at least when it comes to the title contenders. It seems like every four years, people don't expect a lot from the top teams that struggle in qualifying. In 2002, it was Brazil and Germany, in 2006 it was France, and this year it's Argentina and France once again. Normally, people expect teams like that to still do reasonably well, just not win the entire thing. So it's a bit unusual for so many people to think that France won't even make it past the group. They're still favorites to me. For a big team of their caliber, we should expect them to reach the quarterfinals.
For second place: Everyone knows that every World Cup host has advanced. That includes the weakest in recent memory, USA 1994 and South Korea 2002. Even though I'd like to see that streak broken just so I don't have to hear about it every four years (along with complaints over the new ball), I don't expect it to happen in 2010. South Africa have been in great form in recent friendlies, while they were highly competitive with the world's top two teams in the Confederations Cup on home soil last year.
In addition to the host advancement streak, no host has ever lost their opener. That's bad luck for Mexico to open with them, and just a bad draw in general. Because if they can't beat South Africa, then they'll have problems with France as well. Uruguay seem like a weaker team than Mexico, though I certainly remember how everyone wrote off Ecuador four years ago.
Why I picked Argentina & Nigeria to advance:
Argentina in first place is an obvious choice, despite their erratic coach, the USA-hating Diego Maradona. I'd like to see the man fail, but the talent is too great for there to be an early exit.
It's a wide open three way race for second. Like most people, I expect African teams to do well with the tournament held on the continent. Now, that doesn't mean that getting to the semifinals, or having all six teams do well. In 2002, China and Saudi Arabia didn't exactly light it up in Asia. I mean actually having two African teams advance to the round of 16, which has never happened before. They've had one team advance in each of the past six World Cups, so if there's any time to do better, this is it.
So if I'm going to pick another African team, why Nigeria? Besides the hosts, I feel like they're in the best position of the African teams to advance due to their competition. Even though it took Tunisia messing up on the final day of qualifying in Mozambique to get them here, they have an easier UEFA matchup than Denmark (Cameroon) or Serbia (Ghana) and that may be the difference. They may not have a global superstar the likes of Drogba or Etoo, but they are always solid.
I'm pretty high on Denmark and Serbia's chances, as well as the USA and Portugal, and Greece/South Korea aren't as good as any of those four.
Labels: 2010 world cup