Group C and Group D are completely up for grabs today as the group stages finish up. We will get to everyone, but we are going to start with the USA.
10:00 AM- USA vs. Algeria
It is a foregone conclusion at this point. The US will start the game slow and allow a goal within the first 20 minutes. It seems that no matter who we play, we put ourselves in a hole that we make ourselves climb out of. Perhaps the most amazing part of that whole scenario is that the US is in such good condition and fights so hard that they come back and win it. They might survive the group stages getting away with it, but if they get down a goal to Germany or someone in the later rounds, it will be goodnight for the US hopes.
Another worrying aspect is the overflowing confidence out of analysts that the US will win. Alexi Lalas is calling them a lock, and frankly they should be, but the US is awful when expectations are at their highest. Granted, we are not working off a large sample size when it comes to high US hopes, but you just get the sense the US is not ready to be favorites yet.
This is really a lot like the USA-Slovenia game. We are better on paper, should win the game, and will inevitably put ourselves in an uncomfortable position. I still like our chances, and I think that we are deserving of the 2nd round, but I wish for all the heart and stress patients that we do not decide to concede early and have to fight back.
Before we get to the pick and situations, let’s talk about the potential lineup. There are a few sure things: Donovan and Dempsey on the wings, Tim Howard in goal, the same backline, Jozy Altidore up top and Michael Bradley in the middle. I am pretty much lock-step with Lalas on this as well. I like Edson Buddle up top and Maurice Edu in the midfield. Buddle has been lighting it up in MLS and has a chance to bully some smaller defenders with Jozy, which is something the US does a lot. Hercules Gomez can come off the bench and serve as the speedy spark, but I like him better as being the change-of-pace guy running at worn out defenders than his speed being put up against the fresher Algerian defenders. The problem with Robbie Findley is his abundance of yellow cards, making him risky for deeper rounds. Maurice Edu is the pick in midfield, but it has nothing to do with his goal. He is a much more defensive player, and this will allow Michael Bradley to push forward more often, whereas Torres or other attacking options will limit the impact of Bradley. Ricardo Clark is another option, but I am again in agreement with Lalas in that if you are not going to use him in the second half when you sub in Maurice Edu instead, he is probably done for a while.
The table situation is a little complex, but all you need to know is that if the US wins, they are in. I know I sound like a ESPN puppet right now, but that is the crux of it. If the US wins, they are through and will deserve to be through. If they draw they don’t really deserve it but it is still possible they get through. It is that simple, so to muddy it up much more would be doing the situation a disservice.
I think the US wins. I am nervous about even writing that, but it is a time for optimism about US soccer. Gone are the days when we have the inferior players. Gone are the days of being happy with just getting to play good teams. This is the time for this team, and if their talent does not initially get them there against Algeria, their heart will.
Sorry for short-changing you, Algeria. You have me very nervous. Watch for Belhadj, the left back. He will be the guy making your stress levels skyrocket streaking up the sideline.
USA 2-1 Algeria
Goals by Dempsey and Bocanegra.
10:00 AM- England vs. Slovenia
I feel like I am writing about France vs South Africa again, except Slovenia is better than South Africa and England is not as disappointing as France. I am actually at a loss for a pick here. Rooney has been a complete non-factor (most likely for injury and fatigue), Lampard has been uncomfortable for much of the Cup, and the English center backs have been pretty weak, and Slovenia has been getting results. England is still more talented, and are not coming off a game where they blew a 2-0 lead, but that is really just because they only have 1 goal total in the World Cup. Neither team has been impressive in the least and it would not be out of the question to call the US the top team in the group if they beat Algeria.
I don’t think England scores more than a goal in the game as Slovenia closes things up, and I don’t think that Slovenia has the firepower to outscore England if they decide to turn it into a very open game. I do not think Slovenia will straight up beat England either, so it is a complete toss-up between whether England wins, or ties. One of those is very much a loss for the English, but I have absolutely no idea which one to pick.
England 1-0 Slovenia
2:30 PM- Ghana vs. Germany
Remember when I wrote about the Germany-Serbia game where I liked Serbia more, but I couldn’t bring myself to pick against the Germans after their sterling record. A similar theme goes here, although I like Serbia a lot more than Ghana. Germany was not themselves against Serbia and paid the price, but it is just too hard to fathom a World Cup with a German flame-out. This is much more a pick in favor of German footballing success in the past than a pick against Ghana. The Black Stars have impressed me, but the would not be in a difficult position if they had just beat Australia instead of tying them. However, they are going to pay the price for their carelessness, failing to make it out of a very, very tough group.
Ghana 0-2 Germany
2:30 PM- Serbia vs. Australia
This should be a slaughter, but Australia put up a pretty good fight against Ghana and will not lose for a lack of trying. Serbia is clearly the more talented team, and will be my pick, but I said just about the same thing about Ghana-Australia, and we know how that turned out. Serbia is the pick to win, and advance to the knockout stages.
Serbia 3-1 Australia
You may have noticed that the sections have been getting shorter as we go. That is partially because of the focus on the USA game, but also because of the hour at which this is being written. Stick with us for more coverage of the World Cup as we should be back on form like Uruguay come tomorrow.