The World Cup starts in just a few days, so its time to make predictions. Most of the first round winners are pretty obvious, but second place calls are more challenging in some groups. So here goes:
In Group A France is the obvious pick for first place. Although Mexico has not fared as well as Uruguay in World Cup competition, I am giving them the number two spot. Host South Africa will not make it to the next round.
In Group B the favorite is obvious again: Maradona’s Argentina. Some pundits are picking Greece for the number two spot but I will give home continent advantage to an aging Nigeria squad.
In Group C one has to admit that England, which has a shot at going very deep this time will take the group. USA, however, will finish second. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the runner-up from Group C plays the winner of Group D.
Speaking of Group D, Germany – even without Michael Ballack – will easily take the group, which has no clear second place team. I will go with Serbia, although Ghana has a shot and Australia has a long-shot chance.
In Group E the Netherlands will come out on top, although they won’t go far beyond that. Denmark’s reward for second place will be a quick loss to Italy in the quarters.
Group F belongs to Italy, with Slovakia the likely second place side.
This Copa Mundial’s “Group of Death” is Group G and the clear victim is not going to make Kim Jong Il happy. Brazil waltzes (or should I say sambas) to an easy first and the second spot will go to Ivory Coast on the strength of home field advantage despite the likely absence of Didier Drogba. Gerevinho will play like a Brazilian to oust Brazil’s former colonial masters.
Finally. in Group H Spain is another easy pick for numero uno. Chile gets second, which means a South American quarter-final loss to Brazil.
The USA’s big hope is an upset of England on Saturday, June 12 (2:30 p.m. EST).
That would pit USA against the second place finisher in Group D, which could be Australia (which USA just beat easily 3-1), Serbia or Ghana. The likely second place finish behind England puts USA against Germany, as noted above, and that means a quarter-final exit for USA.
Quick quarter-final picks: France beats the Group B runner-up; England beats the Group D runner up; Netherlands beats Slovakia; Brazil crushes Chile; Argentina easily handles Mexico; Germany beats the USA by methodically dismantling the USA’s back third defense ; Italy has little trouble with Denmark; Spain mangles Ivory Coast/Portugal.
Semis: England ousts France in what will be a great game; Brazil crushes Netherlands; Germany beat Maradona in another great game; Italy beats Spain.
Finals: Germany will beat Spain and then lose to the winner of England v. Brazil.
The World Cup will go to the winner of the Brazil v. England game, which will be . . . . England.