There is a lot of hoopla going on throughout the world of sports. Hell, there’s just a lot of hoopla. I could have started with many topics this week, including: Tiger being American, Wolves win their second, Saints cruising, baseball free agency blows, taking hacks at goalies out of frustration, fantasy playoffs, the rebirth of LJ, so on and so on. But there comes a time every four years when nations’ hopes are either sustained or diminished when the World Cup draw comes out. I will still liberate all of you with my thoughts on sports, but this week’s main focus will be my thoughts and predictions for World Cup 2010.
Substitution – Ron Artest for Tiger Woods. Why can’t we just leave poor Tiger alone? Shit happens. So what. Besides, Ron Artest drinks Hennessey at halftime... how sweet is that?! Maybe we all just need to relax for a moment and knock back some of life’s sweet nectar.
Goal! – Wolves win in Denver. That’s right! They got a W. I figure since I’ll only be doing this once a month, I might as well get excited about it.
Ballon D’Or – Darrelle Revis. This guy trumps anyone for defensive player of the year award. Have you seen the numbers? None of the NFL’s best has gotten 50 yards receiving on this guy yet this season. 50! Half of a football field! What a magician.
Yellow Card – I almost need a notebook worth of warnings this week. Recipients go to: Tom Brady, Placido Polanco, Tiger Woods (dissent), Sepp Blatter, Arsene Wenger, Chad Ochocinco, Mark Mangino, Jay Cutler, Keith Ballard and Adrian Peterson. 80 is okay, but 109??? Really? In Cross-town?
Red Card – Notre Dame Football. Okay, so let me get this straight. You just fired a guy that you’re going to have to pay 18 million dollars without a backup plan in mind? You have no idea who your next coach is going to be, and once he gets there, the long-term scenario is so muddled; he is not going to have any idea how to turn the program around... They keep flirting with joining the Big Ten (which I think is a fantastic idea, because all they have to do is win a Big Ten Championship game to reach the BCS, which is a lot easier than going 10-2 every year against the likes of USC, Purdue, Navy, Air Force, Michigan, UConn, oh wait, it’s not easier... There is no identity for your school anymore, because you haven’t won a national championship in years!!! Years!!! People don’t automatically choose your program anymore! The expectations that you have given to your coaches is ridiculous, and I think it’s going to take something special to bring Notre Dame football back to what it used to be. IMO.
Enough venting. I guess I just don’t understand why Notre Dame thinks they can attract the top coaches, and then when they do, sack them for not winning national championships. Lou Holtz was an aberration; back then there were no Oregons, LSUs, TCUs and Boise Sts. Much easier to recruit when they were the only school on television. Now we get to see everyone all the time. A much more level playing field.
WORLD CUP DRAW
Group A: South Africa (hosts), Uruguay, France, Mexico. I like this group because the least talented team happens to be the hosts. I think that France will treat this World Cup like a gift, (because it is), and use that psychological value to their advantage. Uruguay and Mexico will be tough to defeat, but I can’t see them getting more than 4 points. France 1<sup>st</sup>, South Africa 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group B: Argentina, Rep. of Korea, Nigeria, Greece. Nothing really jumps out at me from this group. Argentina should and probably will get through. Although Greece and Korea play organized and could get draws off of Argentina. I think the Nigerians could draw really well and that could push them through. This might change, but right now I’ll say Argentina 1<sup>st</sup>, Nigeria 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group C: United States, England, Algeria, Slovenia. Almost a perfect draw for me. I would like to see the States do well, but I will be getting behind the English for the World Cup. I don’t know anything about Algeria, other than they were able to knock out Egypt which is quite an achievement. Slovenia, I remember from 2002, and they weren’t very good and there were a lot of problems with team chemistry. That might not happen this time, but you have to think that the English and Americans have this. England 1<sup>st</sup>, USA 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group D: Germany, Ghana, Serbia, Australia. Another interesting group. The favorites are hard to pick, but I would think Germany and Serbia. Serbia had a great qualifying run; they were the reason that France had to handball their way into the World Cup. Australia has a nice rapport among their players, but Tim Cahill must be fit. Ghana could do well too, but Germany and Serbia won’t allow for much space. I’ll go with the Europeans. Germany 1<sup>st</sup>, Serbia 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon. A lot of unknown quantities here for the neutral fan. I watch the Netherlands very closely and they had a nice European qualifier. Depending on the fitness of the players and who is selected, they could be surprise champions. Cameroon has a top 5 striker, and a bunch of average talent at the other positions. But on any day, Samuel Eto’o is unstoppable. Japan might be out of their league with the strength of some of these forwards, and I think the other 3 nations decide this. I’ll go Cameroon 1<sup>st</sup>, Netherlands 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Gorup F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia. Lucky sons of bitches. Maybe it pays to be champions. Italy got what I consider to be the easiest path to the next round. I like Paraguay, but they really depend on one player (Roque Santa Cruz), and he’s not Eto’o. I know absolutely nothing about New Zealand and Slovakia, but I will over the next six months. Right now it’s easy. Italy 1<sup>st</sup>, Paraguay 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group G: Brazil, Portugal, North Korea, Cote D’Ivoire. Ahhh! Smell that? It smells a little like death. I’d like to have a moment of silence for the North Koreans and thank them for coming. They will not get one point. The rest of this group is mouth watering. Every match crucial, every point difficult to come by. Injuries and selection will have the final say, but right now I’m knocking out the Portuguese. Brazil 1<sup>st</sup>, Cote 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Group H: Spain, Swiss, Honduras, Chile. Spain and a fight for 2<sup>nd</sup>. Whether I want them to be or not, the Spanish are currently the world’s best side. They have talent at every position, and can cover any injury. Still, I think they will find a way to lose. I like Honduras a lot, but I don’t think they have quite the firepower to get to the second round. Although I would say that about the Swiss and Chile too. This is probably the most difficult second pick, but I shall go Spain 1<sup>st</sup>, Chile 2<sup>nd</sup>.
Knockout Round : 1A v 2B France wins because karma hates football.
2A v 1B Argentina squeaks past the hosts.
1C v 2D England over Serbia, but not easy
2C v 1D Germany cruises
1E v 2F Cameroon through Eto’o
2E v 1F Want to pick upset; Italy moves on
1G v 2H Not even close. Brazil by 2+.
2G v 1H First major upset. I like the Ivorians.
Quarterfinals: France v England – Sweet! Most of Britain will probably be behind the English for this one. I hope they do it, and I shall pick them for once.
Argentina v Germany – Two managers that could lose it for their nations. I think the Germans keep their head here. Germany through.
Cameroon v Brazil – I think the luck runs out. Brazil could mark Eto’o out of the game and just counter, and counter, and counter. Brazil to the semis.
Italy v Cote D’Ivoire – Those damn Italians. I wish to pick an African nation to the semis, but I don’t see Italy beat here.
Semi-finals: Brazil v England – I think it’s the Brazilians here. But Capello will still be revered for getting this far.
Italy v Germany – I could see history repeating itself. I do. Italians in extra time. Through a fullback.
Final: Brazil v Italy. Let’s wait and see.