Friday, June 30, 2006

Bonus comp: Clint Dempsey!

Youtube or download (Ipod compatible)

Music: 311 - "Don't Tread On Me"

Since he seems to be all the rage right now, here's Deuce himself, scoring goals and celebrating like no one else. Hey, he was our leading World Cup scorer. Not to mention MLS Rookie of the Year in 2004, and Best XI selection last season.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

World Cup: England Bore, Prediction Scores, and Future Big Matchups

1) England haven't exactly been lighting it up on the goalscoring charts. However, their defense has been solid. This should come as a surprise to no one. So they're involved in a lot of low scoring games at the World Cup.

Yeah, you're not kidding. Look at this amazing stat: At the past 5 World Cups that they've taken part in, England's group has been the one with the fewest goals scored every time.

Year Goals
2006 10 England-Sweden-Paraguay-Trinidad
2002 9 Sweden-England-Argentina-Nigeria
1998 11 Romania-England-Colombia-Tunisia
1990 7 England-Ireland-Netherlands-Egypt
1986 9 Morocco-England-Poland-Portugal

That's 46 goals in 30 group games, for an average of 1.53 per match.

2) In my World Cup preview, I posted a list of the teams I picked to advance to the round of 16. Next to that, I posted who would be favored to advance using other systems. Let's see which one performed the best.

Of my own personal picks, I got 12 of 16 correct. That's pretty good. I only missed Ecuador, Ghana, Switzerland, and the Ukraine. Everybody missed Ghana and Ecuador, though.

Here's a list of how they did, with the teams that they missed:

1st place: 13/16


Yes, the conventional wisdom of the betting odds was the best predictor. Not a lot of upsets, indeed. They had every Euro team favored except Serbia & Montenegro.

2nd place: 12/16

Alltime World Cup performance-Ecuador/Ghana/Australia/Ukraine
ELO rankings-Ecuador/Mexico/Ghana/Australia
GDP per capita-Ecuador/Ghana/Brazil/Ukraine

I guess this time around, ELO is better than FIFA. Tradition and money are powerful things as well. No surprise that GDP is a better predictor than population or area.

5th place: 10/16

2002 performance-Ecuador/Netherlands/Ghana/Australia/Switzerland/Ukraine
FIFA rankings-Ecuador/Italy/Ghana/Australia/Switzerland/Ukraine

It was a return to form for the world's best teams, making 2002 the abberation. I should note that I considered Cote d'Ivoire favorites to advance under that system, because they finished higher in their qualifying group (2nd) than the Netherlands or Serbia (both 3rd).

8th place: 9/16

vs other 31-Ecuador/Sweden/Portugal/Ghana/Australia/Switzerland/Ukraine

Yes, all the work that I did to figure out how World Cup teams did against each other in the past cycle was for naught. Not a shock considering that friendlies don't mean much.

3) I'm sure a lot of you heard during the great France-Spain match that it was the first time the two teams had met. Like Brazil-Germany four years ago, that's unusual for two teams who are traditional powers. I decided to see what are the "biggest" matchups we've never seen.

First, all 7 former champions have all played one another. So instead, I went by number of World Cup games (see Planet World Cup's all time table). There are now 11 teams that have played 40 or more games at the World Cup. In addition to the 7 champions, you also have Spain, Sweden, Mexico, and Serbia (which officially has Yugoslavia's history).

Among those 11 teams, there are three matchups we've yet to see:

Italy vs Serbia
England vs Serbia
France vs Sweden

Monday, June 26, 2006

MLS 2006 - week 13 goal compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Beastie Boys - "So What'cha Want"


Juan Pablo Garcia
Clyde Simms
Andy Dorman
Chris Armas
Dedi Ben Dayan
Jose Retiz
Jaime Moreno
Kei Kamara
Juan Pablo Garcia

Missing: Kenny Cooper

MLS Weekly Compilations

2006 - Week 12 - YT - DL
2006 - Week 11 - YT- DL
2006 - Week 10 - YT - DL
2006 - Week 9 - YT - DL

2006 - Weeks 1-8 - download pack (~100 mb)

2006 - Week 8 - YT
2006 - Week 7 - YT
2006 - Week 6 - YT
2006 - Week 5 - YT
2006 - Week 4 - YT
2006 - Week 3 - YT
2006 - Week 2 - YT
2006 - Week 1 - YT

RSL goals 2005 - YT - DL
Ante Razov goals - YT

Friday, June 23, 2006

MLS Players in the World Cup

EDIT: Updated for 2010.

Here's a list of every MLS player that has played in the World Cup since the first opportunity in 1998. I'm counting only guys who were with an MLS team at the time. Some notes:

1) FC Dallas continues to be the only original MLS team without a World Cup player.

2) KC/LA are the only two teams to send a player to all four tournaments since the league started. Due to Tony Meola sitting the bench in 2002, the Galaxy are the only team to have a player play in each tournament.

3) Columbus' 5 players in 1998 remain a record.

4) The teams with the most players sent are: KC-7, LA-7, CLB-6, NE-5, NY-5.

5) Only five players have made it twice in a row while playing for the same MLS team: Pablo Mastroeni, Brian McBride, Eddie Pope, Cobi Jones, and Landon Donovan.

6) Overall, MLS has sent 53 players to the World Cup:

USA Foreign
1998 16 5
2002 11 0
2006 11 4
2010 4 2

Total 42 11

The full list:

(italics = did not play)

C.D. Chivas USA

2006-John O'Brien, Claudio Suarez (MEX)
2010-Jonathan Bornstein

Chicago Fire

1998-Jorge Campos (MEX)
2002-DaMarcus Beasley, Josh Wolff

Colorado Rapids

1998-Marcelo Balboa
2002-Pablo Mastroeni
2006-Pablo Mastroeni

Columbus Crew

1998-Thomas Dooley, Brian Maisonneuve, Brian McBride, Jurgen Sommer; Andy Williams (JAM)
2002-Brian McBride

D.C. United

1998-Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope
2002-Eddie Pope
2006-Ben Olsen

F.C. Dallas


Houston Dynamo

2006-Brian Ching

Kansas City Wizards

1998-Preki; Uche Okafor (NIG)
2002-Tony Meola
2006-Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff
2010-Roger Espinoza (HON)

Los Angeles Galaxy

1998-Cobi Jones
2002-Cobi Jones
2006-Chris Albright, Landon Donovan, Cornell Glen (TRI)
2010-Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan

Miami Fusion

1998-Carlos Valderrama (COL)

New England Revolution

1998-Mike Burns, Joe-Max Moore
2002-Carlos Llamosa
2006-Clint Dempsey, Avery John (TRI)

New York Red Bulls

1998-Alexi Lalas, Tab Ramos; Marcelo Vega (CHI)
2002-Clint Mathis
2010-Andrew Boyens (NZ)

Philadelphia Union


Real Salt Lake

2006-Eddie Pope, Douglas Sequeira (CR)
2010-Robbie Findley

San Jose Earthquakes

1998-Eric Wynalda
2002-Jeff Agoos, Landon Donovan

Seattle Sounders FC


Tampa Bay Mutiny

1998-Frankie Hejduk, Roy Wegerle

Toronto FC



1998-Brian McBride
2002-Landon Donovan (2), Clint Mathis, Brian McBride (2)
2006-Clint Dempsey


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crew's keeper conundrum

For the second year running, Columbus' starting goalkeeper Jon Busch is out for the season. This year, the injuries just keep on coming at the position for the Crew. Busch's backup, Jonny Walker was already out for the year, and third stringer Bill Gaudette is hurt as well. MLS pool keeper Andy Gruenebaum came into the game while he had a broken hand after Busch went down, because they had no other option. Sigi Schmid was forced to resort to trading for Real Salt Lake's third stringer Noah Palmer, and calling up his old LA backup (and now retired coach) Dan Popik.

That's four goalkeepers who have seen action for them so far this season. I believe that the MLS record is five, set by the 1998 Miami Fusion, an expansion team. They had injury problems as well. I'm not counting players who weren't goalkeepers playing in goal, like the famous switch Bob Bradley pulled off with the Metrostars.

The Crew should be able to match that record. For all intents and purposes, Palmer is the team's fifth string keeper. Gaudette is expected to be back soon, and may be ahead in the pecking order. Right now, with Popik having returned to his coaching duties, the team is using an indoor player, Dominik Jakubek, as the emergency backup. However, it appears that Schmid is willing to go out and find a steady netminder. He's rumored to be looking at the Montreal Impact's Greg Sutton, who previously played for the Chicago Fire in 1999-2000. So at the very least, I would expect to see the record matched and it's looking likely that it will be broken.

5 goalkeepers used

MIA 1998-Jeff Cassar, Scott Budnick, David Winner, Matt Napoleon, Bill Andracki

4 goalkeepers used

CLB 1996-Bo Oshoniyi, David Winner, Pat Harrington, Brad Friedel
DC 1997-Scott Garlick, Jeff Causey, Mark Simpson, Tom Presthus
KC 1999-Cesar Delgado, David Winner, Chris Snitko, Tony Meola
NY 2000-Mike Ammann, Tim Howard, Russell Payne, Paul Grafer
CLB 2005-Jon Busch, Bill Gaudette, Jonny Walker, Matt Jordan
CLB 2006-Jon Busch, Andy Gruenebaum, Dan Popik, Noah Palmer, ???

Monday, June 19, 2006

MLS 2006 - week 12 goal compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Yung Joc - "It's Goin' Down"


Jaime Moreno
Jean Philippe Peguero
Alejandro Moreno
Andy Dorman
Jason Kreis
Juan Pablo Garcia
Edson Buddle
Brian Mullan
Ante Razov
Herculez Gomez

Missing: Andy Herron, Scott Sealy, Nate Jaqua, Scott Sealy, Jose Burciaga

MLS Weekly Compilations

2006 - Week 11 - YT- DL
2006 - Week 10 - YT - DL
2006 - Week 9 - YT - DL

2006 - Weeks 1-8 - download pack (~100 mb)

2006 - Week 8 - YT
2006 - Week 7 - YT
2006 - Week 6 - YT
2006 - Week 5 - YT
2006 - Week 4 - YT
2006 - Week 3 - YT
2006 - Week 2 - YT
2006 - Week 1 - YT

RSL goals 2005 - YT - DL
Ante Razov goals - YT

OTFATT 2006: Update #5

4/11 (85 players remaining)
4/24 (66 players remaining)
5/7 (46 players remaining)
5/26 (28 players remaining)

Jonathan Bornstein was subbed off in the last minute in the Chivas victory yesterday, making the Goats the third team to be completely eliminated. Since the last update, 10 more players have missed time, leaving us with only 18 guys who have played every minute of every MLS game so far.

Bornstein's teammate Sacha Kljestan dropped out as well which means that there are no more rookies. Also, suprisingly there are only 4 goalkeepers left. There's also more midfielders than defenders, which leads me to believe that it won't be long till more of these guys drop off. Taylor Twellman is the last forward. I'm sure New England's injury problems have something to do with 4 of the 18 being Revs players.

Kyle Beckerman and Ugo Ihemelu are one yellow away from a suspension.

Dropped off (10):

Davy Arnaud
Jonathan Bornstein
Brian Carroll
Terry Cooke
Scott Garlick
Brad Guzan
Sacha Kljestan
Jaime Moreno
Bo Oshoniyi
Juan Francisco Palencia

2006 Candidates (18)

CHI-Ivan Guerrero, Logan Pause, Zach Thornton
COL-Kyle Beckerman
DC-Facundo Erpen, Joshua Gros, Troy Perkins
HOU-Brian Mullan, Pat Onstad
KC-Sasha Victorine, Kerry Zavagnin
LA-Ugo Ihemelu
NE-Andy Dorman, Jay Heaps, Matt Reis, Taylor Twellman
NY-Danny O'Rourke
RSL-Chris Klein

Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:

1. CLB-Jon Busch
2. DAL-Dario Sala
3. CHV-Jonathan Bornstein

Saturday, June 17, 2006

In with a shout

1-1. A gutty preformance, and I'm really proud of the way the team has played. Italy appears to be a cut above the Czechs, so hopefully they can take care of business and let us control our own destiny.

Keller is named man of the match, while Arena also praises Convey. Donovan was named the man of the match by the Guardian.

It's sad to say, but it looks like the predictions of Pope as the 2006 version of Jeff Agoos are correct. He's starting because of the experience, but he doesn't have the speed. Hopefully Conrad can be an improvement. Who would've thought he would be a World Cup starter four years ago? Nobody.

A lot of people are wondering why Arena didn't use the third sub. First of all, Conrad came on as because of Pope's red card. So we had our four man backline. Beasley came on for Dempsey because he can offer more on defense than Clint. Plus, he was fresh. Reyna's the captain and he's not going anywhere. So the only realistic guys to take off were Donovan and McBride, who both gave great efforts. At the end of the match, we were basically trying to hold on and had given up any chance of scoring. So there wasn't a need to bring on a forward. McBride is better at holding the ball than Johnson anyway, and on defense too. O'Brien and Olsen seem like decent choices to solidify the D, but they don't offer the pace that Landon or Beasley have. With 9 on 10, I don't think an extra sub would've made a difference anyway.

Against Ghana, we'll actually have to score a goal for once. Hopefully we can get one early, because I just looked it up, and no sub has ever scored a goal in the World Cup for the USA. Beasley was so close. So we have to attack, and finish for once. 1 shot on goal in 2 games is pitiful. I wouldn't suggest changing the formation, because we need the four guys in the back. You can always add an extra forward off the bench. With the goal differential, we need Italy to win, unless we score 4 or 5 goals. So it's probably more practical to go for the 1-0 win and hope the other game goes your way.

Oh yeah. In possibly the least surprising news, McBride is wounded once again. Now there's a theme for a compilation. Just off the top of my head:

1) eye swollen shut against Mexico (2001)
2) bled against Chelsea (Dec. 2005)
3) knot against Latvia (May 2006)
4) bled against Italy

Then there's all the various injuries like a broken cheekbone, etc. What a hero for young soccer players in America.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

MLS TV show?

From the Boston Globe yesterday:

Sponsors bet on soccer

And after the World Cup ends, Adidas has no plans to disappear: It wants to underwrite a series of TV shows designed to introduce the casual World Cup fan to Major League Soccer.

So, what do you think these shows should be about? The most important thing is getting across the passion, the top players, and the stadiums. Basically, all of the reasons we love MLS so much. Let's say there's eight half hour shows. Here's what I would do for each one:

1) History of the MLS Cup

This is a no brainer. Although if it's only a half hour show, it could be hard to do them justice. A half hour of tv minus commercials is 22 minutes, and you have to figure a minute or two for intros and stuff, so that amounts to 2 minutes per championship. That's not enough time to go into the stories of the teams who got there. I suppose it's not too important though.

2) MLS' greatest goals

Easy show to put together and fun to watch. There's already a "best goals" dvd out so it would literally take them no time at all to put this one together. Just get some cool music.

3) MLS' top players

Showcases the top players currently playing in the league. Obviously you want to show the younger, in their prime guys. So no Ante Razov or Jason Kreis. You also need a good mix of races, so along with Landon Donovan and Taylor Twellman, you could have Freddy Adu and Eddie Johnson, and Carlos Ruiz and Christian Gomez.

Alternatively, you could do a show only on the "young studs." Or maybe one with just the foreign players, although I'm not sure that would be a good idea for this series. A better idea might be to do one about the history of foreign players in the league. There's a lot of things you could do with this category.

4) Inside the supporters' sections

This could be done documentary style, following the fans of a few different teams as they prepare for an MLS match. Of course they have to be from a team with a great atmosphere (CHI, CHV, DC, LA, maybe HOU and RSL). Show them arriving at the stadium, tailgating, and then go inside the supporters' section during the match. Follow up by showing some highlights from the games and interview them in the parking lot afterwards.

5) Soccer specific stadiums

Your own stadiums = major league. Take that, lacrosse. There's no better advertisement for the league than this.

Other possibilities

Those seem like the most obvious ones. Greatest games, greatest preformances, basically any "best of" show would work well. Another way to go would be to do human interest stories. Like for example, Clint Dempsey's rap career, or Michael Parkhurst being at the first Revs game and then playing for them. A "How MLS has affected the national team" show seems like a good idea, although I don't know if that's a whole 3o minutes or more by itself. Oh, and MLS stars who made an impact in Europe. That one might not be a good idea given what you're trying to do. But I would do it, because if you're going after the "casual World Cup" fan, you want to convince people that the league is quality stuff.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

MLS 2006 - week 11 goal compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Jimmy Eat World - "Blister"


Christian Gomez
Nate Jaqua
Ante Razov
Steve Ralston
Cobi Jones
Andy Dorman
Nicolas Hernandez
Ante Razov
Herculez Gomez
Taylor Twellman
Jean Philippe Peguero
Carlos Ruiz
Ricardo Clark
Calen Carr
Nate Jaqua
Roberto Mina
Ante Razov

Missing: Jose Burciaga

MLS Weekly Compilations

2006 - Week 10 - YT - DL
2006 - Week 9 - YT - DL

2006 - Weeks 1-8 - download pack (~100 mb)

2006 - Week 8 - YT
2006 - Week 7 - YT
2006 - Week 6 - YT
2006 - Week 5 - YT
2006 - Week 4 - YT
2006 - Week 3 - YT
2006 - Week 2 - YT
2006 - Week 1 - YT

Monday, June 12, 2006

Heaven's Gate meeting tonight

Man, that sucked. "Completely justfied," as FIFA's analysis says, but still a jolt nonetheless. They were just so much better tactically. The first touches of our guys were horrible. We still have far to go, as it says on the sidebar of this blog. Of course I was going to be optimistic and pick the USA to win. I can't help it. Although I do find that even though I've waited four years for this, the loss doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would. Possibly because matching our achievements of 2002 was always going to be near impossible.

So who actually had a good game? Johnson obviously, and I thought Onyewu did a decent job. Reyna and Donovan showed some sparks as well. McBride never really got a chance to show anything, and the long balls obviously weren't working. So it was a good decision to bring on Wolff and his speed. But nothing we did was going to work.

The Italy game now is a must win slash death march. I expect we'll see a much different lineup, as Bruce might as well roll the dice. O'Brien will probably get the nod over Mastroeni, while neither Convey nor Beasley really impressed. There aren't really better options on defense, unless you want to give somebody else a shot at left back. Johnson and Dempsey could at least provide some spark, and I think every fan wants to see them in the lineup now. Dempsey has played on the left side of midfield for the USA a couple times, why not give it a shot. Up top, again there's no sense replacing McBride. Here's what I would go with:

Keller, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Pope, Cherundolo, Dempsey, O'Brien, Reyna, Donovan, Johnson, McBride

Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup: No Surprises? Not Suprising.

1/6th of the way through the group stage, and we haven't seen any shocks. I know some European media called the Ecuador win over Poland a shock, but they were pretty evenly matched. A slight upset maybe, but nothing crazy.

That should continue. Don't expect to see a few cinderella runs like last time for several reasons:

1) First and foremost, this time around the Euro players should feel more comfortable. It's in Europe, a more comfortable environment on the field and especially in the stands. Plus the tournament itself starts a week later, giving players a few more days of rest. I actually don't think a few more days of rest is a big deal, because a lot of big name players were hurt/not 100% last time which probably had a lot more to do with it than a couple days rest.

2) The quality of the non-Euro/S.American teams is worse. The top African teams didn't make it, while the best two African teams that did are in the two hardest groups. Japan and South Korea lack the home field advantage.

Not only that, but all the top teams qualified. Last time, the Netherlands didn't make it. Now, there's one fewer Euro team for starters. So instead of a Denmark or Norway you have Trinidad & Tobago. Overall this time there's just a larger gap between the good and bad teams (and the draw didn't help the "good" underdogs).

3) There really weren't a lot of surprises in 2002 to begin with. At least, the top teams were rarely outplayed. You had games that were decided by refs (S.Korea/Italy) or went to extra time (Senegal/Sweden). I don't think there was any real shift in the balance. Just look at Greece, who failed to qualify after their Euro 2004 success. Granted there may not be as many blowouts, but don't expect 3 non-Euro/S.American teams in the quarterfinals this year.

4) Finally, speaking of referees, they should be much improved this time around. FIFA has gone to great lengths to improve the quality this year. They are using fewer refs, paying them more, doing workshops, and making sure they all are from the same country (in most cases).

United States vs Czech Republic

If the USA wins it will be considered an upset. It shouldn't be a big one, about the same as Ecuador. I mentioned the Czech's scoring issues in my preview a few days ago. We have a pretty solid defense, so it would surprise me if they allowed the Czechs more than one goal. But will we be able to score on them? I think so. I'll predict that we win by a score of 1-0.

If there's one team that should perform better in the World Cup than in qualifying, it's the USA. We have to deal with poor referees, horrible fields, and hostile crowds, even in our own country sometimes. Then there's the problem of MLS and Euro guys not playing much together. None of those things will be a problem in Germany. That's a big reason why I was confident four years ago, and it goes for tomorrow as well.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

MLSnet: Come On!

I want MLS to be successful. There are certain areas where they look very professional and appear to be a true major league. Unfortunately, other areas lag behind.

Like the league's web site. I've mentioned it again and again, but they are no stranger to screwing up. Tonight, in two match reports they managed to make 3 factual errors:


1) Wizards head coach Bob Gansler, still without U.S. national team players Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff, gave three players their professional debuts on Saturday. Will Hesmer started in goal while Tyson Wahl and Lance Watson also received their first MLS start, coming into the team in place of Bo Oshoniyi, Jack Jewsbury and Scott Sealy.

First start does not equal professional debut. Watson and Wahl had previously made 3 and 2 appearances respectively. Not only that, but Hesmer started 2 US Open Cup games last year. I don't know why the writer would use that term.


2) Clark was the second overall pick in the 2003 SuperDraft and he played 26 games in his only season with the MetroStars.

Clark played in 2003 and 2004 with the Metros. This despite mentioning earlier in the previous paragraph that Clark was traded to San Jose in January 2005. It's not a typo because he made sure to note the amount of games. Actually, he played 26 games in the 2004 season, and 28 games in 2003. So he screwed up within the screw-up. I don't know how he makes this mistake, because it's right there on his MLSnet bio.

3) Peguero's second minute goal was tied for the fastest goal in team history. Clint Mathis also scored in the second minute for the then-MetroStars Sept. 5, 2002.

Not a factual error so much as laziness. Scoring a goal in the same minute does not mean that they were tied. How hard is it to look up the actual number of seconds? Actually, I couldn't find the number for Mathis' goal, but I'm sure that all would take is a phone call to Elias (the company that does MLS' stats).

This stuff is almost unbelievable. It's not like I'm the only person who will notice these things, they're pretty obvious. Dylan Butler did the NY report. He writes for and seems to be pretty knowledgeable, so he should know better. Especially about the Clark thing because he covers the freaking team. For the other game, I have no idea who Ryan D. Kuhn is but he appears to cover Columbus.

It's just another little thing lets you know that MLS is not the real deal yet. Come on guys. I know you can do better.

Univision miles ahead of ESPN

Why would anyone watch the Disney networks' coverage over the Spanish networks? Just for the record, here's why Univision was better yesterday:

1) More of the screen is available to show the game. ESPN2 had the ticker at the bottom, and a bar at the top that went accross the whole screen.

2) ESPN joined the action seconds before kickoff. No national anthems, no starting lineups until minutes into the game, no introduction of any kind. That's the biggest thing. Yes, they've showing every game live, but they could be doing so much more.

You can also mention the commentators if you want. Also, it seems to me that ESPN is a little darker for some reason.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

World Cup 2006 Preview

Four long years have passed since Korea/Japan, and with them the events that took place. Now resigned to the history books are Ronaldo's redemption, Oliver Kahn's blunder, and South Korea's ref-aided march to the final four. As a United States supporter, the heroics of Brad Friedel and Tony Sanneh will be replaced by new memories which will be discussed for another four years, good or bad. It's time for new heroes and villains to arise.

If you're not up to speed on the players and teams, I highly recommend World Soccer's preview issue. It's pricey ($8) but worth it.

Before I get to the predictions, there's a few interesting things I'd like to discuss.

Facts & Figures

1) World Cup teams' performance vs the other 31 teams. Since the 2002 cup ended, how have teams played against their competition in 2006? I posted about this back on May 10, but there have been several friendlies since then, so here's an updated table:

vs the other 31 (2006 cycle)

13 1 Spain 7 1 5 26 2.00 22 10 12 1.69 0.77 0.92
20 2 France 10 1 9 39 1.95 28 12 16 1.40 0.60 0.80
15 3 Czech Rep. 8 4 3 27 1.80 28 17 11 1.87 1.13 0.73
34 4 Mexico 18 9 7 61 1.79 42 30 12 1.24 0.88 0.35
18 5 England 9 4 5 32 1.78 31 21 10 1.72 1.17 0.56
18 6 Italy 7 1 10 31 1.72 28 17 11 1.56 0.94 0.61
11 7 Iran 5 3 3 18 1.64 16 15 1 1.45 1.36 0.09
26 8 Argentina 12 8 6 42 1.62 43 33 10 1.65 1.27 0.38
21 9 United States 10 8 3 33 1.57 24 22 2 1.14 1.05 0.10
16 10 Portugal 6 3 7 25 1.56 22 18 4 1.38 1.13 0.25
20 11 Netherlands 7 4 9 30 1.50 25 21 4 1.25 1.05 0.20
25 12 Brazil 10 8 7 37 1.48 38 27 11 1.52 1.08 0.44
24 13 Germany 9 8 7 34 1.42 42 40 2 1.75 1.67 0.08
17 14 Poland 6 7 4 22 1.29 21 23 -2 1.24 1.35 -0.12
21 15 Paraguay 6 6 9 27 1.29 19 23 -4 0.90 1.10 -0.19
14 16 Tunisia 5 6 3 18 1.29 17 20 -3 1.21 1.43 -0.21
20 17 Sweden 5 5 10 25 1.25 27 23 4 1.35 1.15 0.20
24 18 Japan 8 10 6 30 1.25 21 28 -7 0.88 1.17 -0.29
8 19 Saudi Arabia 3 4 1 10 1.25 7 11 -4 0.88 1.38 -0.50
22 20 South Korea 7 9 6 27 1.23 23 23 0 1.05 1.05 0.00
9 21 Ukraine 3 4 2 11 1.22 10 10 0 1.11 1.11 0.00
8 22 Ghana 2 3 3 9 1.13 9 9 0 1.13 1.13 0.00
16 23 Croatia 4 7 5 17 1.06 17 24 -7 1.06 1.50 -0.44
19 24 Ecuador 5 11 3 18 0.95 20 32 -12 1.05 1.68 -0.63
6 25 Ivory Coast 1 3 2 5 0.83 8 11 -3 1.33 1.83 -0.50
5 26 Australia 1 3 1 4 0.80 9 12 -3 1.80 2.40 -0.60
21 27 Costa Rica 4 13 4 16 0.76 20 36 -16 0.95 1.71 -0.76
6 28 Togo 1 4 1 4 0.67 5 10 -5 0.83 1.67 -0.83
6 29 Angola 1 4 1 4 0.67 5 11 -6 0.83 1.83 -1.00
15 30 Serbia 1 9 5 8 0.53 12 27 -15 0.80 1.80 -1.00
10 31 Switzerland 0 5 5 5 0.50 5 15 -10 0.50 1.50 -1.00
10 32 Trinidad 1 7 2 5 0.50 5 18 -13 0.50 1.80 -1.30

There is still one more friendly between World Cup teams later today, Spain vs Croatia. I'll edit this post after the result is known. EDIT: 2-1 Spain victory added!

Read here for more info on this. Since the last rankings, the Czech Republic has won three matches (S.Arabia, Costa Rica, Trinidad) to move up to #3. The other notable thing is that Switzerland had two more chances (I.Coast, Italy) to beat a World Cup team, but are still winless.

2) FIFA's World Cup site has had tremendous coverage, and yesterday they had an article with a really interesting stat: No team with an average age of 28 or higher has won the World Cup since 1962. This year, Brazil/Czech Republic/France/Italy all are in that category. If that holds true, then one of Argentina/England/Germany/Spain should be lifting the cup on July 9.

They say international football is a young man's game, so we'll see if Cafu and Roberto Carlos and the other "old guys" can keep up.

3) Voros McCracken, (sort of) famous for his DIPS statistical work in baseball, is a member on Bigsoccer and last week posted his World Cup simulation results. According to his formula, the team most likely to win the World Cup is France, slightly ahead of Brazil. The next three teams are Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. Fascinating stuff. See this thread for more details.

4) 13 of 14 European teams are favored to advance according to the odds. In reality, at least 4-5 won't. Those teams get overrated in the media, and I posted about this issue right after the draw in December.

Group Stage

Group A

1. Germany
2. Poland
3. Ecuador
4. Costa Rica

Despite their struggles, Germany far outclasses the other three teams and is one of the best bets to win all three group matches. Their "struggles" really haven't been that bad, it's just that the public expects more from a 3-time world champion. Sort of like their situation four years ago, huh? The other three teams here don't have players with the quality of Michael Ballack, Jens Lehmann, or Miroslav Klose.

Not only that, but they all have struggled in recent friendlies. Poland lost to Lithuania and Colombia, while Costa Rica and Ecuador are a combined 0-6-1 since March 1st.

It seems to be a "who sucks less" type of deal. Ecuador famously struggles when not playing in the comforts of their home altitude. In qualifying, they were unbeaten at home and 1-6-2 away, the only victory coming in the equally high Bolivia. Also, most of their players play in Ecuador, not known for being a strong league. Although LDU (which 7 players on the squad play for) are in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores, the first Ecuador team in 8 years to achieve that.

Costa Rica also uses mainly domestic players. They have some talented guys, but the team is nowhere near the incredible form that the 2002 edition was displaying. They couldn't get of the group then, so it seems foolish to expect advancement now.

I also read yesterday that in the opening game, Klose will be marked by Galaxy failure Michael Umana. Uh, yeah.

Poland has some decent players in good European leagues, so they seem to be the choice by default.

Group B

1. England
2. Sweden
3. Paraguay
4. Trinidad & Tobago

England's top players are all in or around their primes, so it's now or never for Sven's men. The group shouldn't pose any troubles.

Sweden and Paraguay are both mid-level World Cup teams, just outside the top contenders. It's a toss up for second place. Sweden seems to be favored slightly due to the attacking exploits of Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Henrik Larsson. Paraguay has a decent attack too, but are more known for their defense. Given that the tournament's in Europe, and the quality of the Swedish forwards, they should advance.

Trinidad will be lucky to get a point, and are in line to finish 32nd. I thought that the discipline of coach Beenhaker could keep the games close, but it seems that the athleticism and youth of Angola and Togo probably give those teams a better shot. The draw doesn't help either. But along with most other US soccer fans, they're my #2 team.

Group C

1. Netherlands
2. Argentina
3. Serbia & Montenegro
4. Cote d'Ivoire

The group of death should not claim either of the favorites. Their meeting on the third match day could prove meaningless.

Jose Pekerman, Argentina's coach, has brought in mostly players who played under him in his tenure as the (highly successful) U-20 coach. It should be a really good team ready to challenge for the title. I actually think they're a better team overall than the Netherlands, but somehow I don't think they match up well.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands are the biggest mystery in Germany. Marco van Basten has brought in younger players while dropping some veterans, and I could see them crashing out early or winning the entire thing. I do think that they're more likely to not advance than Argentina.

Cote d'Ivoire is highly talented, but play the two big teams first and are unlikely to win either match. Like Cameroon last time, expectations are too high.

I placed Serbia third because they seem more likely to grind out a 0-0 draw against the better teams. Good defensively, but scoring goals will be tough (just 12 in 15 games vs. the other 31, see above).

Group D

1. Mexico
2. Portugal
3. Angola
4. Iran

No contest here. I see Mexico and Portugal drawing in the third meaningless game, and Mexico finishing first on goal difference. That's because the Angola opener against their former colony will be tougher than anticipated for the Portuguese.

Angola seems more likely to shock someone than Togo, at the very least. They don't have as many Euro players as Senegal four years ago, but a decent number play or have played in Portugal. They also seem to have better unity, and no huge star like Togo's Adebayor.

Iran has some highly regarded players, but they won't be able to score goals as easily against Mexico and Portugal as they do against Asian teams.

Group E

1. Italy
2. United States
3. Czech Republic
4. Ghana

Italy are the favorites, and rightly so. Their talent speaks for itself.

The Czech Republic and the USA will have a tough match to open things, with the loser in tough shape. The Czechs may be full of talented players, but they really did not impress too much in qualifying. They led UEFA with 35 goals scored, but the majority came from beating up on the lesser teams. They only scored 8 goals in 6 games vs the top three teams in the group.

They also rely on older players, and have a few niggling injuries. That's similar to Portugal in 2002. The USA won't surprise anyone, but a victory over the Czechs would. But it shouldn't. The USA has some very good players, and if no one goes down with injury they can go toe to toe with the Czechs and Italy.

I thought Ghana was the best African team of the five. After the draw I wrote off their chances,
but now they seem to have gotten things together. They just beat South Korea and crushed Jamaica. Now they have Chelsea's Michael Essien, who missed the Nations Cup. With Addo, Appiah, and Kuffour, they have players who have played at the highest level. With those players, they should not leave pointless at the very least.

Group F

1. Brazil
2. Australia
3. Croatia
4. Japan

Despite facing three capable teams, Brazil is still hugely favored to get 9 points. The battle for second is where the real excitement lies. So is it better to face Brazil first or last?




Actually, Australia may be better off facing them in the middle. While they may already have qualified after two games, their reserves are still above Japan's level (just ask Costa Rica). I don't think the Japanese will win both of the first two games, and they'll probably need a result in the Brazil match.

Japan is so inconsistent, looking like a top team one moment and nobodies the next. Unfortunately they seem to be struggling at the wrong moment. It's often been said that Japan and the USA are the closest countries in terms of their soccer history, with both leagues starting in the 90s. They're also just starting to have an impact at the World Cup. So if Japan follows the USA's pattern like they have so far (90/98-three and out, 94/02-round of 16 as hosts), then they could be in for a USA 1998 style disappointment.

Croatia is always underrated, as they've been one of Europe's best since they became a team. But like so many others, I have to believe in Gus Hiddink's abilities and go with Australia to advance. The Aussies have a bunch of players in the top Euro leagues, and a better profile than South Korea in 2002. Qualifying was always a struggle for them, so things may actually be easier in the actual tournament.

Group G

1. France
2. South Korea
3. Switzerland
4. Togo

France, along with Spain, got the draw of a lifetime back in December. Both should have no problems reaching the quarterfinals, even if they struggle a bit to find their form. The French are probably the most underrated team in this year's tournament. People always seem to write off any big power who struggles at all, like Germany and Brazil in 2002. Yes, they didn't score a goal in 2002, but their talent is still almost unparalleled. They should have no problems finishing first here, as Henry could be on his way to the Golden Boot.

Togo appears to be the worst team in the entire tournament. Their captain plays in Cyprus, of all places. It's between Switzerland and South Korea for second place, and while I'm not too impressed with the Koreans, they have a good coach in Dick Advocaat and I'll pick them to advance.

Switzerland has a number of young and talented players, which gives them the potential to shock some people in Germany. But it's likely that they'll be more prepared to make an impact in 2010.

Group H

1. Spain
2. Tunisia
3. Ukraine
4. Saudi Arabia

Spain should not have a hard time, assuming they get off to a good start and beat the Ukraine. They may be the weakest of all the seeded teams, but even they couldn't screw up in this group.

Tunisia has played very well in every competition over the last four years. They won the 2004 African Nations Cup on home soil, and only lost this year on penalties. The Confederations Cup last year saw them beat Australia while playing tough against Argentina and Germany. While the "vs the other 31" table above may be flawed, I think it shows that Tunisia is underrated. They are coached by France's 2002 coach, Roger Lemerre.

So yes, I believe they are in position to beat out the Ukraine for the runners up spot. Andy Shevchenko is an amazing player, but it seems that mid-level teams overly reliant on one player don't succeed very often. Just look at Slovenia and Poland last time. Actually, I think Poland 2002 is the perfect comparison for this team (see here for my thoughts on that). As I mentioned earlier, like all of the lesser European teams, they are overrated.

Saudi Arabia are an unknown quantity for the most part, but it doesn't seem like they can do anything. They need to defeat Tunisia in the opener in what amounts to an elimination match.

Who Will Advance?

Here's a list of who is predicted to advance based on ten different factors. In order, they are:

1-my picks
3-vs other 31 (see above)
4-FIFA rankings
5-ELO rankings
6-2002 World Cup performance
7-all time World Cup performance (PPG)
8-country's population
9-country's area
10-country's GDP (per capita)

Picks Odds vs 31 FIFA ELO 2002 Alltime Pop Area GDP
Costa Rica



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Interesting stuff. IIRC, the FIFA rankings were a pretty good predictor last time around. Let's see if Costa Rica, Japan, South Korea, and Tunisia can prove them right.

Of course, 15 of the 16 odds makers favorites also are the best all time teams. Only Saudi Arabia isn't.

The only teams to advance in every category are Germany, Argentina, and France.

The only teams to not advance in any category are Ecuador, Trinidad, Serbia, Angola, Ghana, and Togo.

Knockout Stage

Round of 16

Germany over Sweden
Netherlands over Portugal
Italy over Australia
France over Tunisia
England over Poland
Argentina over Mexico
Brazil over United States
Spain over South Korea

Undoubtedly, two of the big teams will end up meeting here. The C/D matchups should be the most interesting here.


Germany over Netherlands
France over Italy
England over Argentina
Brazil over Spain

This is where the big tests start, especially for France and Spain. This is also where Germany will have to prove that they are really championship material.

Spain is really not that difficult of an opponent for Brazil. Italy are very good, but they'll likely play France here, and I just have a better feeling about France. It could go either way though. Argentina, I almost feel like I'm underrating them. But they're in line to meet Germany or England, both physical rivals who are up to the task.


France over Germany
Brazil over England

I think this is getting to the point where talent wins out over the home field advantage. No further for the Germans.

Third Place

Germany over England


Brazil over France

As I said before, France 2006 = Germany 2002. They can emulate them by losing to Brazil in the final as well. How can you pick against Brazil? France's easy early games will give them the confidence to make it here, but I think we'll see Brazil's revenge for 1998.