7:30 AM- South Korea vs. Greece
Honestly, this game is very miss-able. Greece will defend all day gladly and the result will probably be a defensive-minded affair. South Korea has some young ability ont heir roster along with some strong veterans, but nothing like the French side we saw struggle to a draw yesterday. The way Greece will defend in the same sort of way Uruguay did, but without Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez up top to give themselves a hope of counter-attacking. Gekas still has some strike power for Greece, but their style of play will bore even the football fanatics among us. South Korea is very well organized and should put up a fight, but there is not a great deal between these teams. I will stick to my Group Picks pick.
South Korea 0-0 Greece
10:00 AM- Argentina vs. Nigeria
Get ready for it folks. OTC is about to pick its first non-draw of the World Cup. Argentina is by far the superior team and it will show on the pitch. Nigeria does not have the scoring power to really concern Argentina, so the Argentines will be free to strike. Lionel Messi should be a force as usual, but whomever is paired with him, whether that be Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, or whomever else Maradona decides on. The Super Eagles (Nigeria) will have plenty of fans there, but they will not have the talent on the field to overcome a fierce Argentina side.
Argentina 3-0 Nigeria
2:30 PM- England vs. United States
Here we go. As far as most people in this country are concerned, this is the match to watch. It has more storylines than Brett Favre injecting Barry Bonds with Retirement Steroids, and all that pomp should translate well to the pitch in Rustenburg. England seems to have advantages on 10 of the 11 positions, with the exception being keeper, but that does not assure a result for England. Without Gareth Barry, either Frank Lampard, or Steven Gerrard will be forced to cover the center of midfield on the defensive end, leaving one of them less free to attack and support Rooney. I sense Capello will go with a 4-4-2 with Defoe and Rooney up top, but I would strongly suggest a 4-5-1. Put Aaron Lennon on the wing against slower defenders, Lampard, and Gerrard in the middle, with Carrick playing deeper in his own half int he middle. On the other wing you can take your pick of Shaun Wright-Philips, James Milner, and Joe Cole. Put Rooney up top and allow Gerrard and Lampard to both attack with him to connect the lone striker to the midfield. That sounds pretty good to me if I am an England fan, but we will see where Capello goes with it all.
The US starting roster will be a bit more predictable, though there is a slight question on who will accompany Michael Bradley in the center of midfield. Most assume Ricardo Clark will be that man, and I have no objection to that so let’s advance with the lineup. Howard will make his World Cup debut in goal, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo and Bornstein. That is far from a sure thing defensively, and they will be tested right away with Rooney coming. He will not be one man’s responsibility, but Oguchi Onyewu needs to really play well if the US is to surprise anyone. In midfield, you have Landon Donovan on the left, Bradley and Clark in the middle, and Clint Dempsey on the right. Two of those guys are strikers by trade, but they have been good in midfield throughout their international careers. Up top will be Jozy Altidore, and, I think, Edson Buddle. There is no excluding Altidore from teh lineup,as when he is motivated he is outstanding. Buddle is on fine form for LA Galaxy, and there is really no substitute for a white-hot striker. That should be the lineup for the US, to my estimation, and I like it. The defense is far from foolproof, but if they can just hold the line and not let too many leaks, the US will have a shot.
So it is now prediction time. Since this is such a big match, let’s do some predicting beyond the match result. The first prediction for this game is that Steven Gerrard will cause a lot of trouble for the US defense. Turkey’s Tuncay Sanli caused a lot of problems for the US in their friendly, and Gerrard is far better than Tuncay, while being able to play a very similar role. He will be able to weave and wind his way through midfield and force the US to account for him, and it could cause some big problems for the US. Consider me a Gooch pesimist, as I think Rooney will eat him alive on at least oen occasion. My second prediction is that Clint Dempsey will provide the US goal. He is not particularly liked stateside, but he scores in the big games, and this is a very big game. The third prediction before our game production is that Wayne Rooney will run rampant. He is definitely banged up from a long club campaign, and as the tournament draws on, he will fade, but the first match will give him a shot to shine. Frankly, the same can be said of Ledley King, the outstanding fill-in center back for England. He is going to have fitness problems as the tournament rolls on, but for this first game he should be in rip-roaring shape.
The US won the Revolutionary War. We tied in 1812. Now it is England’s turn. Howard will play well, but England will get the best of the US this time.
England 2-1 United States
Obviously, I hope that score line doesn’t hold up, but it would be irresponsible to pick without a real reason.