The FIFA World Cup is still about six months away, but the excitement level worldwide is already very high. The matches in South Africa won’t even begin until June 11th, but with the groups officially announced last week, soccer fans all over the globe are starting to prepare for ten days where no sport other than soccer even matters.
I have said it in the past, but if I could go to any sporting event in the world, el Copa Mundial (the World Cup) would easily trump the Super Bowl and the World Series. There is just something special about this thirty-two team tournament. Outside of the United States, there is no doubt that this is the biggest competition on the globe. Enthusiasm for the event is almost bordering on insanity. This was quite evident when a Columbian player Andres Escobar was shot in Medillan after an own-goal against the U.S. in the ’94 World Cup.
It’s always very never-racking waiting to find out which teams will be in which groups. What makes it even worse is the fact that FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) leaks the seeded teams and then makes us wait a week to find out the groups. The seeded teams this year are South Africa (home team), Argentina, England, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy (defending champs) and the Netherlands.
Here are the groups that will play in the first round starting on June 11th. The top two advance to the second round:
- South Africa
Talk about lucking out in a group. Group A is the only group without one of the top seeded teams (the home country automatically gets seeded). France made the tournament by beating Ireland in the new “hand of God” game and I see the ’06 runner ups making it to the second round. The rest is a toss up. Mexico and Uruguay are both good teams.
Way too early prediction: France and Uruguay.
- South Korea
How fitting that Argentina and Nigeria were placed in the same group since the faced off against each other in the gold medal game at the ’08 Olympics. This group, though, is a complete toss up. Any of these teams could find there way to the second round.
Way too early prediction: Argentina and Greece.
As a U.S. soccer fan, I couldn’t be happier with this group. The Yanks get the open the tournament against England in a rematch of the “Miracle on Grass”. In 1950 the U.S. scored an extremely improbable 1-0 win over England. This time a win would be far less unlikely.
Way too early prediction: USA and England.
I doubt any seeded team has an easier path to the second round than Germany. That being said, Ghana-a team that made it to the second round in ’06-isn’t a pushover. Neither is Australia. The Socceroos easily won a spot in the World Cup by five points over Japan.
Way too early prediction: Germany and Australia.
Much like group B, Group E is a complete toss-up. That is, besides the Dutch. I would be very surprised in the high scoring group from the Netherlands don’t advance. All of the other teams have the potential to join them.
Way too early prediction: Netherlands and Denmark.
- New Zealand
I spoke too soon when I said that Germany had the easiest path to the second round. If the “Group of Death” is the least coveted draw, this is the most. Italy will have no problem advancing. The rest of the teams will fight it out for the second spot.
Way too early prediction: Italy and Slovakia.
- North Korea
- Ivory Coast
As I mentioned above, nobody wants to be in the “Group of Death”. Well, this year, group G is definitely this most feared draw. North Korea, perhaps due to some cosmic karma, has been place in the middle of a veritable feeding frenzy. The three other teams in the group are at the top of the list of most exciting teams in the tournament. The only thing I’m sure about is that North Korea has no chance in this group.
Way too early prediction: Brazil and Portugal.
This should be a fun group to watch. Spain is obviously the class of the group, but the other three are no slouches. Spain will most likely win a spot in the second round and just like in several other groups, the other three will fight for the last ticket.
Way to early prediction: Spain and Honduras.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn