Here at Gobbler Country, we'd like to thank you all for being such loyal readers by straying out of our comfort zone today with this World Cup preview and making asses of ourselves, wherein we go group by group and try to decide on a winner. If you think we're just going to take the coward's way out and decide on Brazil, you might not be wrong (and we need to find whoever leaked that, punishment will be severe).
But it appears that even though the event is in Brazil, we might have a few challengers interested in actually debating the topic on the pitch. You'll have to forgive any errors, since we only follow the best quality International Football in this country, which is played at the junior high school level, before all our best players somehow find a foreign passport and opt to go play for Germany and Italy instead.
Flyers13: So Justin, let's begin with Group A, and the home team, Brasil. Can anyone stop A Selecao (team nickname) I mean they are ONLY ranked 3rd in the world. There are at least two superior teams by those rankings right? I mean FIFA is always on the level with such things aren't they?
Cates: Brazil is the easy pick, and likely the correct one. They play the world's game better than any other nation and for a silly American like me, you know they're good when you go down the roster and you're already familiar with multiple names. Neymar, Fred, Dani Alves, there are a lot of enormous talents that casual Yankees like me know and can appreciate, and yet they all work together like cogs in some massive soccer machine. I'm rooting for America, but it would only be fair if Brazil wins it all just so the citizens have something to show for this World Cup other than gleaming new stadiums sitting empty (white elephants) and the burned out husks of the protesting masses. But seriously, watch them play and see if you can't tell why they call it "the beautiful game".
Flyers13: I know, recognizable names are at a premium for most of the casual watchers. I use the Champions League as my barometer, and I was astounded to find that 11 Ghanians (in the USA's group) play for UEFA Champions League teams! How does the USA stand a chance with our 1.5 players (Jermaine Jones for Schalke, and Julian Green on Bayern Munich's 3rd tier club).
I suppose we have to pick a second team to pass through, and I am certainly not rooting for El Tri, who the USA has quite frankly done enough for during this WC cycle. And furthermore, the Mexican't National Team is struggling with injuries. They didn't look cohesive in the send-offs they played last week in the US and now the coach won't start Chicharito.
I guess they're bolder south of the border these days, since Chapo is still walking around (wait, has anyone actually seen him lately?). But if I'm Mexico's coach and I get sent home after group play, I'm maybe laying over in Miami for a few weeks to let 'ish die down. Klinsmann would have been facing the same kind of criticism for leaving Landon Donovan home, but alas nobody expects much in the US, particularly since we were gifted with a berth in the group of death. For second place, I am giving the nod to witch doctors everywhere, and choosing Cameroon, for those doctors' efforts to convince the world that Samuel Eto'o isn't already 50 years old. Can't fool me, Cameroon.
Cates: I'd very much enjoy it if Croatia could advance, but I think both Mexico and Cameroon's teams would have to go missing...which actually isn't outside the realm of possibility. I'll still pick Mexico despite the injuries out of some kind of misplaced North American camaraderie (they hate us). I can't say I blame our southern rivals for the heated feelings. Sorry about Texas.
Anyway, on to Group B. Spain is another trendy pick-I picked them so now they're "trendy"- to dominate the world and you can't blame anyone for thinking that. Like Brazil, Spain has a roster loaded with massive star power and I'd put them as a strong lock to at least advance. Their first game against the Netherlands should be epic. I'm not as familiar with this iteration of Dutch soccer but they're always terrific. They keep showing that Ocean's 12 movie lately where they go to Amsterdam so Brad Pitt can creep on Catherine Zeta-Jones. Not smart or a particularly good plot. Which reminds me, why does Brad Pitt eat in every single scene he's in these days? Weird. So do Chile or Australia have even the slightest chance of advancing from this group?
Flyers13: I love the Orange jerseys, Johan Cruyff's Total Football, bicycling, windmills (and some types of cheese). I also like when English announcers call Bayern games, and you hear a lot of ROW-BIN (for star player Arjen Robben), the British-ness enhances the experience. Ordinarily the Oranje would be a favorite of mine to make it through. But age and injury are the rumor of the day for them, and La Roja (Chile) looks strong, and are led by Arturo Vidal who plays for Juventus in Serie A (Italy). Their forward attack might be too much for the Dutch D, and I think that's your pivotal fixture in the group.
One last thing before we begin Group C: How ticked is Australia to be going to Brazil for a couple weeks of what could be their winter vacation? They wanna get north this time of year, not remain equatorial. Australia's soccer WAGs will pout in the heat while their team loses three games by about 13 or 14 goals.
When I look at Group C I think the Greek group might be sneaky. A number of their guys play for Olympiakos, who pushed Manchester United to the brink in the Champions League. And the rest of the group is underwhelming, if steady. The group's anchor, Colombia, is strong but has a shaky history in the sport's premier event. Additionally their star Falcao is out of the tournament with a torn ACL. They should still have enough to advance, but they might not win the group. After all, Japan is the best team in Asia, and the Ivory Coast has several high profile players, most famously Didier Drogba of Chelsea fame. This group is aptly named C because it is average, but there isn't an easy out in the bunch. I'm leaning Japan and Colombia, but I have until noon to change my mind. Cates, who you got in Group C?
Cates: I like Ivory Coast quite a bit and not just because of Mr. Drogba. Manchester City's vice-captain Yaya Touré
had a terrific season becoming only the second midfielder to score 20 goals in Premier League play. His brother Kolo is on the team too, but he had a bad habit this past season for Liverpool of directly contributing to the opponent's scoring column. Still, I like Ivory Coast to advance.
I'll admit, I know know nothing about the Greeks beyond their yogurt and negative financial reserves. Japan will certainly put up a fight but I don't think they're a major threat here. As such I'll go with Colombia as the other team to advance and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank their nation for giving us Sophia Vergara.
Group D is the real group of death featuring three teams in FIFA's top ten ranking. I can't stand Italy because they're a bunch of diving pansies rivaled only by the Spaniards, except Spain is more skilled. Mario Balotelli will likely sport a really stupid haircut and score five goals to lead the Italians out of the group. I'm taking two of the front runners in this group and picking England to be one of them. I have no idea who their coach is now but if he doesn't win he will be sacked. Then, those responsible for the sacking will be sacked! Uruguay is probably better but I don't trust them for some reason. They're like Brazil-lite. Who are you taking from this fearsome foursome?
Flyers13: If Luis Suarez is on, Uruguay might really create some distance for themselves as the better of the 'Guays. Kind of like the battle for which is the best Dakota. It's nice to know who has the upper hand, but in the end it doesn't really matter. You mention that your boy Toure was nice, scoring 20 goals for Man City, but Suarez only had a mere 31, leading the Premier league by more than 10, that's Gretzky-esque statistical separation! Just kidding, nobody can touch the Great One.
I completely agree that Group D is the group of death. The only reason that the USA is in the so-called group of death, is because of the pod setup that caused the USMNT to be regarded as the best worst team in any group. I think England is in a real bind, because any footie fan (or even casual observer) should know that Italy is always going to outperform expectations. I like the Azzurri and Uruguay to come through, and England's manager to join David Moyes (formerly of Man U) in a new series of videos simply entitled, "Pub Crawls and Street Brawls"
Cates, the wrong team beginning with the letters SW is in Group E. Switzerland? They're neutral. They don't fight for world supremacy at anything except discreet, yet blatant manipulation of world finance, so they usually have their hands full. Guess they can take a break from their Scrooge McDuck dives into mounds of gold coins for this (though likely with reluctance). Many of us would rather Sweden had qualified for both the pleasure of being able to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic , or maybe another reason or several that might come to us later.
In this group, we are stuck with ze French (no not the Charlottesville, VA franchise), Honduras, and Ecuador. If G is the group of death, what do we refer to this as? Group of sissies? How can you not expect France to advance out of this group, Justin? And honestly I don't even care who number two is, they won't make it to the quarters.
Cates: We refer to this group as Laissez-faire football.
I don't think anyone that isn't French likes their soccer team. No country that breaks for lunch by 10 A.M. can be trusted to churn out disciplined athletes. I saw they destroyed a replica of the bus they used last World Cup when their players went on some kind of strike. I guess it's supposed to represent a new start or something. That is, how you say? Lame. I should be clear, I have them advancing but what good are the French if you can't rip on them for a while.
The Swiss may be neutral, but they function much as those watches they so famously tinker with. I'm sorry, that's an unfair stereotype. However, I have it on good authority that defender Stephan Lichtsteiner once ate an entire wheel of cheese in one sitting. I'm not even mad, they're advancing.
Group F is fairly easy as it goes. Argentina will advance with grace and ease. Did you know that Bosnia-Herzegovina has an unemployment rate of over 44%? That leaves plenty of time for playing soccer and they'll put those skills to good use and move on as well. Do you agree?
Flyers13: I am not buying Argentina for a deep run, but they should throw a perfect inning. 3 games, each won by a score of 3-0. They might not even need to play Messi to get that done. And having just watched Nigeria play the US team last weekend, I can say that they aren't equipped to advance further than the round of 16. I can't make fun of Iran (plus they don't like mouthy writers over there apparently), they've had their way with the USMNT in the past, but this isn't their year, they will finish in last place.
I must admit slight concern over Bosnia-Herzegovina though. I want to take Bosnia aside and ask if it's appropriate to take their new date, Herzegovina (who?) on a tropical vacation just yet. I mean if this vacation goes sour, what's next? We saw what happened when they were forced to share a home with the Serbs and Croatians after those messy break-ups. They simply cannot go home after group play. We don't have any extra troops to throw their way. So, in the name of regional stability we go with Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I've always told my friends to watch out for the ones that insist on the hyphenated names after marriage, there's an inherent selfishness there.
Which brings us to Group G. We're still writing, let's hope they're still reading. Does the US have a shot at advancing? We all know Germany never bows out in the first round, so they will be through. Looking at the schedule, maybe the US caught a break in playing Germany last. It is not unthinkable that Germany might decide to rest guys if they win their first two, thus allowing the US to potentially steal a point through a draw. I think the key for the USMNT is to win Portugal, and tie Ghana and Germany. The US is familiar with all these teams, having been grouped with each of them at least once in the past three World Cups. With Cristiano Ronaldo hobbled some, I truly only fear the Ghana game, we just can't match their speed in my opinion. Who comes out of your Group of Death?
Cates: The U.S. will advance because we're so Star-Spangled awesome it just has to happen. I don't entirely believe that when our best player is working for ESPN, but I think there's a great chance for Klinsmann's boys to do some damage. We have to win, tie, tie or lose one close and get some luck (we need luck regardless). Stranger things have happened. I kind of assume Germany will win but if Ronaldo is healthy and his hair is gelled, Portugal presents a challenge for all. I predict he has a bad hair day in all that humidity.
Finally we come to Group H. Belgium is going to make some noise in this tournament. I think they'll win the group, but only after a slugfest with the Russians. Vincent Kompany is very versatile and will lead a skilled Belgian team. This will actually be a pretty balanced group but I think Putin's boys should move on too which means Vodka shots and waffles for breakfast...or any meal really. What do you think about the last group?
Flyers13: Ah, but there has to be one shirtless Ronaldo photo-op. His underwear sponsor demands it. Otherwise how can you explain his jaunt around the pitch after scoring a weak-ass penalty in the Champion's League final that was already decided? Ronaldo shirtless after meaningless pile-on goals is commensurate with ARod making art of himself as a minotaur.
You can get with this:
Or you can get with that....either way dude's a black sheep (bonus points for those who get the joke)
As for Group H, is Belgium even underrated anymore, or have they have taken the mantle of being so continually underrated that they are therefore now overrated? Either way, I agree with you on their viability. And since Russia (Putin) has been really pissing me off again for the first time in 25 years, I'm going South Korea with my number two in Group H. They have experienced winning recently, having advanced to the semis while co-hosting the event in 2002, and made it back into the round of 16 in 2010.
Thanks for coming this far, dear readers. We owe you a beverage at our next tailgate. Enjoy the World Cup everyone, let's get behind the US team and try to pretend that we care desperately. It'll be that much sweeter when we finally realize some success!
Rock, Flag, and Eagle y'all!