Well, the World Cup begins today. Been waiting on this for a long time. A few stray thoughts:
1: The US is healthy and talented, although nowhere near as good as their FIFA world ranking suggests they are. I don’t think. They’re going to need to be that good, though, because they’re in the same group with two of the best sides in the world in Italy and the Czechs, and the Ghanans are scary, too. We have to win two, probably, to advance. Or win one and draw the other two and hope. Steep hill to climb. Maybe they catch a break and the Czechs are too injured to dominate. But gods, who do they have that can mark Luca Toni?
2: I’m looking at that Brazil lineup, and thinking they’re going to need to play with two or three balls in their games. How the hell you turn all that individual talent into a team is beyond me. However, if they do play as a unit, not only will nobody beat them, it will take a hell of an effort to hold them under five goals.
3: No host nation has ever failed to advance to the knockout rounds. But Germany looks suspect. They haven’t played well in the run-up, and now their best player in Michael Ballack is hurt. If Deutschland gets eliminated early, there’s going to be a lot of honked-off Krauts looking to unpimp that ride, if you hear what I’m talking about.
4: Wayne Rooney has a clean bill of health just a few short weeks after breaking his foot against Chelsea? Damn, what kind of miracle medicine are they practicing in England? They have a pretty good team, and if he’s good to go could pose some serious problems for the rest of the field.
Maybe more later if I have time. One thing to watch, though. If the US can make elims and win a match or two, expect the typical American reaction to futbol to change a little. As I argue here, one of the real reasons Americans don’t care about soccer is that we’re not seen as being winners at it. If that changes, we’re going to need to supersize the bandwagon.