For a complete breakdown of all teams. CLICK HERE FOR OTC’s WORLD CUP PRIMER.
It is a complete crapshoot to actually project all the way, so while we will participate in the crapshoot, the real focus of this article are the Group Stage picks. Please also note that we will pick the games each day, so while this is what we think will happen we will continue to cover the greatest spectacle in sport and pick them daily. Without further ado…
- France– 7 points (D vs Uruguay, W vs. Mexico, W vs. South Africa)
- Uruguay– 4 Points (D vs France, W vs. South Africa, L vs. Mexico) advancing on GD
- Mexico- 4 points (D vs. South Africa, L vs. France, W vs. Uruguay)
- South Africa- 1 point (D vs. Mexico, L vs Uruguay, L vs. France)
In a Tournament full of crapshoots, this is the King Crapshoot Group. No one really knows what is going to happen here because of the unpredictable nature of the teams. France is the most talented, but inconsistent, Mexico is a perennial underperformer while keeping its talent, Uruguay is better than advertised, and South Africa is the host, which gives them a boost. This is pretty much a guess, no getting around it.
- Argentina- 7 points (W vs Nigeria, W vs. South Korea, D vs. Greece)
- Nigeria- 4 points (L vs Argentina, D vs. Greece, W vs. South Korea)
- Greece- 3 points (D vs. South Korea, D vs. Nigeria, D vs. Argentina)
- South Korea- 2 points (D vs. Greece, L vs Argentina, D vs. Nigeria)
Argentina is a shoe-in to win this group even with the mercurial Maradona at the helm. I would put them on 9 points but I think they will put it on coast for tehir final game against Greece and just take the draw and the advance. Nigeria also seems to be the favorite to get second here. Greece plays uninspired football, and South Korea just is not quite deep enough with experience and talent to mount a charge. If Nigeria can score 4 goals, that will be enough (split between South Korea and Greece).
- England- 9 points (W vs US, W vs Algeria, W vs Slovenia)
- United States– 4 points (L vs England, W vs Slovenia, D vs Algeria) advances on GD
- Algeria- 4 points (W vs Slovenia, L vs England, D vs US)
- Slovenia- 0 points (L vs Algeria, L vs US, L vs England)
England is out to prove they are a force. Now whether they are or not it means they will be extremely focused in the group stages and it will help build them up for the fall in the knockout stages. Algeria will make the US hate every Algerian for how hard they will play them, but in the end, the US will maintain its goal differential advantage as they will grab at least one goal against England. Algeria will not grab that goal vs England and it will be their undoing when it comes to advancing. Slovenia. There, now you can’t say I left them out.
- Serbia- 7 points (W vs Ghana, D vs Germany, W vs Australia)
- Germany-5 points (W vs Australia, D vs Serbia, D vs Ghana)
- Ghana- 4 points (L vs Serbia, W vs Australia, D vs Germany)
- Australia- 0 points (L vs Germany, L vs Ghana, L vs Serbia)
Is Serbia a better team than Germany right now? Yes.Germany is constantly in the finals (either Brazil or Germany has been represented in 13 of the last 15 World Cup Finals) but they just do not have that extra oomph they usually do. They will still be very solid and should not be taken lightly, but Serbia is a better group stage team. Ghana is the disappointment here, but without Essien, it is a bit less disappointing. They will go into the final match with Germany with a shot at advancing, but Germany will not let that happen. The Socceroos will just hop around and threaten no one this time.
- Netherlands- 7 points (W vs Denmark, W vs Japan, D vs Cameroon)
- Cameroon- 5 points (W vs Japan, D vs Denmark, D vs Netherlands)
- Denmark- 2 points (L vs Netherlands, D vs Cameroon, D vs Japan)
- Japan- 1 point (L vs Cameroon, L vs Netherlands, D vs Denmark)
Missing Arjen Robben is a concern for the Netherlands, but it should not stop them from taking 1st in the group. Denmark will challenge them in their opener but it will be smooth sailing against Japan and a wrapped-up group will let the Dutch rest some of their older stars against Cameroon and fall to a draw. Cameroon is next up and should have just enough firepower to advance. Samuel Eto’o will save them at least once (my guess is a late equalizer against Denmark), and it will be enough to advance. Denmark will be a bit disappointing, I think, as Nicklas Bendtner is not quite ready for the big stage and Kjaer is not going to give them quite enough oomph to overcome a pretty tough group.
- Italy- 6 points (L vs Paraguay, W vs NZ, W vs Slovakia) 1st on GD
- Paraguay- 6points (W vs Italy, L vs Slovakia, W vs NZ) 2nd on GD
- Slovakia- 6 points (W vs NZ, W vs. Paraguay, L vs Italy)
- New Zealand- 0 points (L vs Slovakia, L vs italy, L vs Paraguay)
I really like Paraguay to surprise in the group stage, but they will have problems going forward. Roque Santa Cruz is a great striker, but he has had all sorts of injury problems, so as the tournament goes on, Paraguay will get weaker.. That is why I have them upsetting Italy in the first match, but losing to Slovakia. Italy is the best team in this group, but I just have a feeling that they will be surprised off the bat. However, they will pull it together and win out avoiding an embarrassing situation for the Azzurri. I also like Slovakia, but they will come up just short on GD as they fail to keep up with Italy and do not blow out New Zealand. Speaking of the “All Whites”, their name will win them no favors in South Africa and a goal would be an achievement.
- Brazil- 9 points (W vs NK, W vs Ivory Coast, W vs Portugal)
- Portugal- 4 points (D vs Ivory Coast, W vs NK, L vs Brazil)
- Ivory Coast- 4 points (D vs Portugal, L vs Brazil, W vs NK)
- North Korea- 0 points (L vs Brazil, L vs Portugal, L vs Ivory Coast)
Ivory Coast is the sexy pick here but they got some bad luck. Drogba’s injury is part of that bad luck, but the most important game in this group is Ivory Coast vs. Portugal, which comes up first. Drogba will not be 100% by then so their chance to really put Portugal between a rock and a hard place seems less likely. Then, playing a very defensive North Korea in their final match will not help as they try to make up the goal differential as Portugal sits back against Brazil. Brazil is in, but Portugal is my pick to squeak by and advance. North Korea could surprise someone in most other groups, but not here.
- Spain- 9 points (W vs Switzerland, W vs Honduras, W vs Chile)
- Chile- 4 points (D vs Honduras, W vs Switzreland, L vs Spain)
- Switzerland- 3 points (L vs Spain, L vs Chile, W vs Honduras)
- Honduras- 1 point (D vs Chile, L vs Spain, L vs Switzerland)
Spain is really the class of this group and the class of the tournament. 9 points. After that it is down to Chile and Switzerland for the 2nd spot, and I will take Chile as they find a way to knock off the Swiss before having to face Spain last. The Swiss definitely have a shot at advancing, but I think they come up just short in South Africa. Honduras is also not bad, but they are not quite ready to make any big moves so they will have to wait.
Game 1. Winner of A (France) vs. 2nd in B (Nigeria) PICK: FRANCE
Game 2. 2nd in A (Uruguay) vs Winner of A (Argentina) PICK: ARGENTINA
Game 3. Winner of C (England) vs 2nd in D (Germany) PICK: ENGLAND
Game 4. Winner of D (Serbia) vs. 2nd in D (USA) PICK: SERBIA
Game 5. Winner of E (Netherlands) vs. 2nd in F (Paraguay) PICK: NETHERLANDS
Game 6. Winner of F (Italy) vs 2nd in E (Cameroon) PICK: CAMEROON
Game 7. Winner of G (Brazil) vs. 2nd in H (Chile) PICK: BRAZIL
Game 8. Winner of H (Spain) vs. 2nd in G (Portugal) PICK: SPAIN
Game 9. Winner of Game 1 (France) vs Winner of Game 3 (England) PICK: FRANCE
Game 10. Winner of Game 2 (Argentina) vs. Winner of Game 4 (Serbia) PICK: SERBIA
Game 11: Winner of Game 5 (Netherlands) vs. Winner of Game 7 (Brazil) PICK: BRAZIL
Game 12. Winner of Game 6 (Cameroon) vs. Winner of Game 8 (Spain) PICK: SPAIN
Game 13. Winner of Game 9 (France) vs Winner of Game 11 (Brazil) PICK: BRAZIL
Game 14. Winner of Game 10 (Serbia) vs. Winner of Game 12 (Spain) PICK: SPAIN
WORLD CUP FINAL
BRAZIL 3-2 SPAIN
3rd Place Game
Serbia 2-0 France
Admittedly, my final is far from interesting. However, I am not seeing a draw on the board that Spain will fail to meet. Same goes for Brazil. I would not be at all surprised to see Spain miss the final, but it would be a little irresponsible to not put them in when I cannot see a team on their side of the bracket (according to my picks) that will beat them. It will not be joga bonita (beautiful game) like it used to be, but at the end of the day Dunga will get his credit where it is due. Brazil are your World Champions.