East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Screw movies, it's the World Cup

And I have a TV. No reception, but I'm working on it.

World Cup Preview pt 1

Ten countries have a non-trivial chance to win the lot:

No question they're favourites, they have the most talent and the best form. But their tactics leave their aging fullbacks with a lot of work to do, and one bad game by them could kill the dream.
Key players: Where to start? I hear that Ronaldinho chap is quite good. The rest of the attack is also tremendous, with Adriano and Kaka in better nick than that other R guy. Even their reserves rock: Rogerio Ceni, the world's most dangerous goalkeeper, might not get on the field.

World Cup lesson #1: You should never underestimate the home team. There's not a lot of experience outside the midfield, but there's enough firepower to make the squad more than a danger.
Key player: Michael Ballack has some injury and age concerns, but at his best he blends attack and defence better than anyone.

Devastating in the World Cup qualifiers but somewhat unsettled since. Still a very strong all-round side.
Key player: He might be on the outs with Man U., but it's still all about Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The nation will continue holding its breath until Wayne Rooney gets on the field. But even without him, the team's set-piece skill should take them a long way. But has the mental fragility really been strengthed enough to cope with the inevitable penalty shootout?
Key players: Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are the two best box-to-box players in the world; now if only they'd stop tripping over each other. Fortunately they have John Terry, the best centre back around, to clean up when they do.

Won in '98, didn't win a game in '02. The latter disaster was supposedly because the team was too old, which hasn't stopped them picking the same players this time. If they win their group, which they should, and if Spain don't fuck up, the draw from there works out nicely for them.
Key players: Thierry Henry should be the best striker at the tournament, while Zidane is one of the best players of the last decade. Maybe one of them will score a goal this time.

Spain are desperately hoping that Raúl will either suddenly stop being terrible or break his leg in the opening match. Hey, they got lucky with the draw (at least until the quarters), maybe they'll get lucky with him.
Key player: Raúl aside, there's something of a lack of starpower. But Carles Puyol should be a rock in defence.

Having lured Pavel Nedved out of international retirement, they won EA's 2006 World Cup. Organic glories will not be so easy to come by: first off they have to survive the Group of Death.
Key player: Petr Cech is as good a shot-stopper as any keeper today.

An immense well of talent run in circles by a wacky manager. Just like every other team, only more so. Since Brazil smacked them 4-1 in last year's Confederations Cup final they've been iffy.
Key players: Forget Theo Walcott, Lionel Messi will be the teenage star of the Cup, if Pekerman gives him some decent playing time. Shockingly, previous Golden Boy Carlos Tévez might not start either. Whoever the strikers are, Juan Román Riquelme should create a ton of chances for them.

They're still whining about the refereeing in Korea '02. If that's how far they got with Maldini it doesn't bode well for this time. Form's been good, but they have to survive the Group of Death.
Key player: Luca Toni had a tremendous Serie A campaign, scoring 31 goals in 38 matches.

They're still trying to work out how they didn't win Euro 2004. The talent is still there; the draw is a little on the rough side.
Key players: Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo are perhaps the only playmakers who can keep up with their fellow Lusophones across the Atlantic.

Who else to watch: Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hoping to return England to its usual despair early. Andriy Shevchenko's one man show should be enough to lead an average Ukraine team to the knockout stages. It'll be a shock if Didier Drogba can do the same for the Ivory Coast, but if they get out of their group they may well go further than that.


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