The FIFA World Cup (Groups A and B)

It is here. The Biggest Sporting Event in the World is about to begin… and you know what that means… that’s right VFLOAB is a little more than PUMPED about it all. So we’ll cut to the chase and just give you our predictions…

Instead of giving IN DEPTH REPORTS on each team, we’ll leave that to those who know and see the game more often that we do.* So if you want an informative and humorous take on each team, we suggest That’s On Point. Here’s the link to Angola, the Netherlands, and USA respectively. Enjoy them. Read them. I love them. As for the rest… we’re going to use our buddies at the Guardian for help. They seem to like us and we know we like them.

(*We here at VFLOAB love soccer and have been know to skip class or call in sick for Champions League match ups, we read the Guardian every day, and check the ESPN soccer stuff at least four or five times a week. We’re borderline soccer junkies, only we never have the junk since we don’t have the FOX Soccer channel. Sure we watch MLS, but we don’t see the world greats often enough. So that’s why we won’t go totally nuts in the previews).

So without further Freddy Adu…

Group A
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Poland

Costa Rica
Their Deal: They’re from Central America and the US plays them a lot since we’re in CONCACAF together. They aren’t bad either. And considering they’re in a weak group, they could advance. Oh and they have a MLS player which is always exciting. And their nickname, Los Ticos, is pretty cool if you ask us.
World Cup best: Round of 16 1990
Stud Muffin: Paulo Wanchope
Random Thoughts: You know they don’t have an army right? Isn’t that pretty cool? I think it is. No army, no problems. (This is where a Neo-Con tells me they don’t have an Army because we are their army, and I wonder if they’ll ever ‘get it’). Everyone likes them. And everyone who ever went on those high school science trips always went to Costa Rica. Seems like it’d be a nice place to visit… or live.
Best Name: Victor Núñez
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: Phoenix Suns – who doesn’t like the Suns? They play up and down basketball, score points, and end up losing. Sort of like Costa Rica.
Chances: Better than you think. They can score goals. They’re fun to watch, and while goals will be scored against them… they could surprise. But a trip beyond the round of 16 is unlikely.

Their Deal: Thanks to playing every home game in qualifiers at 9,000 feet they were able to out run everyone and win even beating Brazil (Denver, is about 5,000 feet in the air by comparison). They didn’t far so well on the road but were able to qualify no matter. One wonders why Peru hasn’t done this yet… then again Bolivia does this at even a high altitude and they didn’t qualify so what do we know.
World Cup best: Group stage 2002
Stud Muffin: Geovanny Espinoza sounds like that guy
Random Thoughts: I could think of at least four South American countries I’d rather see in the World Cup over Ecuador (Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Chile; and probably Uruguay too). That’s all I have to say, because I’m the one person that doesn’t care for the Galapagos Islands.
Best Name: Ulises de la Cruz
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: Probably the Denver Nuggets only worse
Chances: Not that good. Probably the worst team in their group. But really who knows… this group sort of stinks as it is.

Their Deal: They’re Germany and they’re playing at home. Therefore, they’ve got a shot even if everyone doesn’t fancy their team. Rumor has it their D stinks, but Ballack isn’t bad, and they’ve got a few guys who can score goals. Plus maybe after Dirk is done demolishing the Heat, they’ll bring him on to the national team to head in a few goals. After all, Dirk is the best shooting 7 footer in NBA history. That must mean he’s athletic right?
World Cup best: Winners 1954, 1974, and 1990
Stud Muffin: Michael Ballack
Random Thoughts: Did I just use those up with Dirk? Anyway, no one likes them. The Dutch can’t stand them, there’s no love lost with the French, England always seems to find a way to lose to them on penalties, the Poles and all of Eastern European hates their guts… it’s tough being Germany. I actually sort of like their unis.
Best Name: Oliver Kahn, poor lot I must say
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: Dallas Cowboys, no one likes them, but they win and always seem to be around even if they’re not suppose to be.
Chances: They should win this group and they’re at home… after that, provided they avoid England in the round of 16, they should make the semis, from there… don’t rule out a trip to the Finals since it’s likely they’ll have to face “only” some sort of combination of France/Argentina/Dutch/Italy/Czechs/Mexico/Portugal. That’s better than having to face a Brazil/England/Spain/Dutch/Argentina draw.

Their Deal: Umm, stuck between Russia and Germany… oh wait football deal. Ummm, they’ve got a lot of players who’s last name ends in ski and they’re probably some where between not as good as you might think and not as bad as you might believe. Does that even make sense? They seem to have a few players, but they’re back line isn’t very good. Then again one of the few teams I’ve seen with my own eyes (Soldier Field two years ago).
World Cup Best: Third place 1974 and 1982
Stud Muffin: Maciej Zurawski
Random Thoughts: Few things in life are guaranteed, but Poland playing one friendly a year in Chicago is one of those few guarantees. And that’s nice. I’ve probably seen and met more Poles in my life than any other ethnic group, but I don’t have a drop of Polish blood in me. Go figure. I’ve always felt bad for them because of their crummy position in European history, but at the same time dangerously close since I’m from Chicago.
Best Name: Radoslaw Sobolewski
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: Gordon Tech… kidding… probably the Seattle Seahawks. They can be okay, they’ve even had a few nice years, but no one takes them that serious.
Chances: You would figure they’d move out of the group with Germany, but figuring they lose to Germany (shocking I know) and that means they can’t slip up against either Costa Rica or Ecuador. And they’ll probably end up facing the English in the round of 16 where unless England switch to a 5-4-1 (don’t put it past them) they’ll probably bow out.

OUR PREDICTION (top two move on):
Germany (9), Poland (4), Costa Rica (2), Ecuador (1)

England, Paraguay, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago

Their Deal: Three Lions, Beckham, and Rooney’s foot. Everyone in England seems to forget they may have the best non-Brazilian midfielder in the world in Steven Gerrard. Did they miss his Champions League Final performance in 2005? Or maybe this year’s FA Cup? Seriously, I expect Stevie G to be huge this World Cup. Anyway, they don’t have a fit striker that can score goals or who’s actually played in the Premiership. Rooney’s foot is busted, Owen isn’t right, Crouch doesn’t score for Liverpool, and Theo Walcott is all of 17 and has yet to play in a Premiership game (that’s like asking some AA pitcher to start a World Series game). Though I fully expect him to start on Saturday since they say he’s faster than Henry. Their midfield should be nasty, and it should be tough to break that back line… but how are they going to score? That’s right… Steven Gerrard!
World Cup Best: Won in 1966
Stud Muffin: Steven Gerrard
Random Thoughts: Not to make this a Steven Gerrard fan club, but the first time I ever heard his name, some girl (Abby Davie if you must ask) was a big Liverpool fan. She asked me what I thought of Steven Gerrard… I said is he French? I’ll never live that down in my own mind, let alone yours now… Anyway, they have borderline inappropriate chants “Two World Wars, One World Cup” and “Are You Scotland in Disguise”
Best Name: Rio Ferdinand
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: Boston Red Sox (especially pre 2003 Red Sox); not only do they find ways to lose; they always do so in heart breaking fashion. They’re always in the race, but always coming up short, and a fan base that expects them to blow it which always equals never good times. Never. Plus they always lose to the same team (Germany/Yankees) or at least it seems that way (White Sox/Portugal).
Chances: Not as bad as they’re telling themselves, not as good as they believed they were two months ago… it doesn’t all come down to Rooney’s fitness, but if he’s fit for the knockout games, then they’ve got a great chance. But this is the same team that fell apart in Euro 2004 once Rooney went out injured (after looking very good). They don’t relay on Beckham as much, which is a good thing. They could win it all… a fit Rooney means a probably match up with Brazil in the semis… and you never know…

Their Deal: They’re from South America which means they should play free flowing, exciting football right? Well not so much. But they do have Roque Santa Cruz who’s quite talented. It’s one of the few land locked South American countries… ummm, they lost a lot of land in the War of the Triple Alliance, one of those, wow that was really nasty shit… why didn’t we study that in history class sort of conflicts.
World Cup Best: Round of 16: 1998 and 2002
Stud Muffin: Roque Santa Cruz
Random Thoughts: This is one of those teams where you don’t hear much good or bad against them. If they beat England on Saturday, the English will panic and Paraguay should have the confidence to go on. But who knows. Guaraní language is spoken by 90 percent of the country
Best Name: Nelson Haedo Valdez (we just couldn’t do Roque Santa Cruz again)
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: This here says the Pitt Panthers of football… so we’ll go with that. I guess their coached by a man with a bad mustache and used to be better? I don’t know.
Chances: Well, who knows. If they can get points out of Sweden and England, then they should have a shot of moving on. Figuring that England doesn’t choke, could they finish in front of the Swedes? Maybe… if the Swede’s D is as bad as everyone says. Anything beyond the round of 16 would be wishful thinking.

Their Deal: Sort of like Germany, but a little more fun, a little bit better looking, but not as good. But you know, the very functional and methodological sort of team that has a knack for not losing to England; but they have a little more flair too.
World Cup Best: Runners-up in 1958
Stud Muffin: Zlatan Ibrahimovic who’s scored some very cheeky goals… this being our favorite.

Random Thoughts: Who doesn’t love Sweden? Seriously… they seem to have it all but great weather up there. I think this is a common theme in life, the best places with the best people usually have crappy weather (Madison, Twin Cities, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, etc)… then again Russia sort of sucks. Anyway, we love Sweden here and are very happy to be part Swedish on top of it. Stockholm is atop of our list of cities we want to visit… and they have good meatballs. Oh and they won both the Olympic and World Championships in hockey this year… can that success be passed along to the national team in football?
Best Name: Olof Mellberg
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: I’d say the Green Bay Packers, but the Packers have had a much more successful past… so we’ll go with the Minnesota North Stars/Wild. Who roots against the Stars/Wild? And they’re always pretty good and have likeable fans… this example sucks. I’ll stay with the Packers… no one really hates the Packers besides Bear and Viking fans (for Sweden I’m sure the Norwegians and Danes have the same sort of ‘hate’).
Chances: Probably better than everyone’s giving them credit for. Figuring they finish second in the group, they could beat the Germans in the round of 16. After that, you’re guess is as good as mine.

Trinidad & Tobago
Their Deal: Everyone is (or should be) pulling for them. They’re the under dogs and likeable at that too. Who doesn’t love the Caribbean? Even Jack Sparrow is a big fan. Oh they’ve got a cool nickname too, Soca Warriors. And I’m sure we’ll hear how they’re just happy to be there about ten hundred times.
World Cup Best: First Trip
Stud Muffin: Stern John seems like a good bet
Random Thoughts: They’re the ‘darlings’ going into this World Cup and if they win a game, expect the media to trip over themselves to discuss how ‘great’ it is… blah blah blah. If they some how advance to the next stage, I’m willing to guess we’ll get sick of them. But we’re happy for them. Really.
Best Name: Shaka Hislop
American Sports Team They Best Compare To: L.A. Clippers seem about right. Not very good, but people like them for some odd reason.
Chances: If they won a game it’d be a shocker. If they drew points, it’d be a bit of a shock. Advancing to the next round is a pipe dream… but they could really damage the Swede’s or Paraguayan’s chances if they drew. If England loses to them, the English are done.

OUR PREDICTION (top two move on/points):
England (7), Sweden (5), Paraguay (2), Trinidad & Tobago (1)

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