Thursday, June 8, 2006

World Cup Group F

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Brasil writeup
I only know about 3 words in Portugese. One of them is Pentacampeon, which is how Brasilians refer to their national team, as in "we've won the World Cup 5 times, which is 2 more times than anyone else". In soccer, there is everyone else and then there is Brasil. They are simply on a different level, because futbol is more deeply engrained in their social and cultural fabric than anywhere else in the world. Sorry world, but it's just true. As a result, they are 5 time champions, 7 time finalists, and the only nation to participate in all 18 World Cup Finals.

This team are the rock stars of this cup. A couple of weeks ago in Switzerland 45,000 people showed up to watch them… practice. This week they had to move from their practice facility to a stadium because the practice facility only holds 1,000 people – yesterday they practiced in front of 25,000 fans. Unbelievable.

About to kick your ass in a very beautiful way

They almost have too many players: the biggest question for Brasil is who will get to play? Given that there will be 4 defenders and Gilberto Silva will play the defensive holding midfield role, how do you choose only five (3 other midfielders + 2 strikers) from this group: Ronaldinho, Kaka, Juninho, Ze Roberto, Ronaldo, Adriano, and Robinho? How about this one – Brasil earn a free kick 20 yards out. Who takes it? Ronalhinho is insane at these, but so is Adriano, and Juninho is so good at them that in France, where he plays for Lyon, he is casually known as “Mr. 50%” because they claim that he scores about that many of his free kicks. That’s leaving out Kaka, who is no slouch at them either, as well aging full back and free kick specialist Roberto Carlos. To say that Brasil have an embarrassment of riches is a bit of an understatement. Kind of like the butts on their women.

If you don't like soccer but you do like butts, then this
is your team. They're the best in the world at that, too.

OK, enough about how great they are, can they be beat? In 2002, they won all 7 matches en route to the finals. If they have a weakness this time around, it is their defense, which isn’t bad per se but just is not as impressive as their defense. The trick for Brasil on the defensive end will be right back Cafu and left back Roberto Carlos- both have been great forever but both are in their sunset years and have lost a step or three. Teams with pacey wingers can cause trouble for these two specifically and Brasil’s defense in general.

Your Brasil lookalike is none other then 35 year old captain Cafu, who looks just like Big East Ken, whom 99% of you do not know but is so legendary that it merits mentioning to the 1% of you who do. I believe he is the only player to play in 3 consecutive World Cup final matches, and he's gunning for four.

Like Big East Ken, Cafu is not to me messed with

This team is the overwhelming favorite to lift the cup for a ridiculous 6th time, which would be twice more than any other nation. They have been to the last 3 finals, winning in 1994 and 2002 and getting rolled by host France 0-3 in 1998 (their worst international loss ever I believe). So pick against them at your own peril. It is hard to think of a universe that exists where they don’t win this group, let alone fail to make it through. USA Basketball Dream Team 1992 style beatdowns are expected of them in all 3 group matches.

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Croatia writeup
They came out of nowhere in 1998 to finish 3rd overall, but 8 years later and this is a pretty different team. They won their qualifying group, topping Sweden on goal differential after splitting their head to head matches and finishing level on points, so that alone tells you that they are legit. I only know a few of their players, and I haven't seen them play in a few years so I don't have too much original to add.

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Australia writeup
Finally qualified after losing in a qualifying playoff match in 1998 and 2002, they beat Uruaguay in the qualifying playoff this time around. It is their first World Cup since 1974, which ironically was the last time that Germany hosted. The Socceroos have lots of talent that plays in Europe, including Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, and Tim Cahill. The first two I mentioned are both streaky with their goal scoring, and like a streaking 2 guard in hoops, if they get hot then look out.

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Japan writeup
Cohosts in 2002, they made it to the knockout stage. They have some solid players who have made the jump to play in Europe, but I don't know enough about them to say anything you won't read anywhere else, so I won't. I will tell you that their coach is one of Brasil's gratest players ever, Zico, and that he is very torn about playing his home country. He has said more than once that he has lost several night's sleep just thinking about it. This would be like if Magic Johnson coached another NBA team against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

I am going to go out on a limb and pick Brasil to win the group, and I like Australia to get the 2nd spot, prompting drunken groups of Aussies to annoy the shit out of other bar patrons the world over with endless drunken rounds of "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!"


moin said...

There are days, and they few and far in betwee, when I wake up and say to myself: "Man I wish I was born Brazilian."

Kanu said...

For me it's like 4 out of every 5 days.