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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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The Crystal Ball for the upcoming season

This is what I sent to one of my buddies on June 5 as a first look at the CH12 crystal ball:

Ronaldo to Madrid by end of month.
Ibra to Barca.
Ribery stays at Bayern or winds up in EPL at Chelsea or Manchester – either City or United
Eto’o to City or Inter
Indians or Kuwaitis own Liverpool before season starts.

So the first one happened – much to my dismay as a United fan. 

It seems like #2 and #4 are about to happen with a swap between Ibra and Eto’o

#3 is looks like its going to be Ribery staying at Bayern or going to Chelsea as Real won’t have the money once they buy Xabi.

That leaves the last one.  Don’t think that’s going to happen.

4 out of 5 is not bad, but was relatively easy.  The things I didn’t see coming – you couldn’t have made me believe that Terry would even be contemplating joining City; Michael Owen joining United; Juve would have the best transfer season in terms of addressing almost all their squad needs while maintaining the base continuity (more on this in a second); Real buying Benzema on top of Kaka and Ronaldo; Newcastle still not sold; Liverpool potentially losing their midfield core.

Further predictions right now:

Regardless of what United says, I think they will buy one big name player before the transfer season closes.  It will happen once the Ibra, Eto’o and Ribery moves are done.  Don’t quite know who else might be left, but I have to believe they are going to bring in someone like Ashley Young or a striker from the Bundesliga or Brazil.

Can’t see David Villa, David Silva and Mata all staying put at Valencia – I think Silva’s gone.  If I had to put my money on the Liga’s best young players to go after, they are Mata, Negredo, Capel and then Silva.  Love Lopez, the goalie from Villareal, too.

Adebayor will fold and sign for the money at City.  Forlan is going to wind up in the EPL.

Juve will win Serie A.  They have had hands down the best transfer season.  Diego at playmaker, with Melo now joining Momo Sissoko to provide the cover in midfield with the other four from Diego, Amauri, Trez (who will probably be gone), Giovinco, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Camoranesi.  If they get Grosso at left back, they are complete.  Chiellini and Cannavaro (yes, he’s a bit suspect but will probably do better in Italy that at Real as he has Momo and Felipe in front of him as opposed to Lass at Real) with Zambrotta at right back.  And of course, Buffon in goal.  That is as solid a squad as you are going to get.  They are my second favorite to win the Champions League as of today.

Ibra will be better for Barca than Eto’o.  He is big, can hold the ball up better and has a better long range shot than Eto’o.  And he is way craftier.  Watch him blossom on a squad where he isn’t the man.

IF Rooney doesn’t get hurt and IF he doesn’t get frustrated like he used to, he will be the best player in the world next season.  Hands down.

Ronaldo will do well in La Liga.  But not as well as people think.  And Real will not win either the Liga or Champions League.  Count on it.  They are better in the back with Albiol and Pepe, and Xabi is the key to the team being able to create from midfield, but Pellegrini’s teams are built on more grit than this team has.  Frankly, they have no chance if they don’t sign Xabi or a strong central midfielder.  Look at the success of Pellegrini’s teams – Riquelme and Senna/Cazorla were keys.  You have to have that and Sneijder is not it.

More later…

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Stay or Go – Which was the better decision looking back?

I’m back. Life took hold for a while and post Euro withdrawals made me take a break from blogging. But, like Rooney, I’m back. And let’s start with my last post where I stated very clearly that Ronaldo should stay at United. I want to revisit my logic and see what holds up.

1. He’s coming back to form now that his speed is returning following the ankle rehab. If he kicks it into high gear during the Champions League, he will once again be king – only and especially if he flatly denies wanting to go to Real since that nonsense has started again. Also, he needs to show more joy in the team’s performances.
2. Still stand by that. Now he has the Ballon D’Or. One more and he is at the top of the heap. And if they win a few more Champions League crowns – which they will if this team stays together – it’s guaranteed that he will be up there with Charlton and Giggs.
3. So Calderon is gone, Schuster is gone – and that was even before the season finished. Even faster than normal Real standards. And you still don’t know who the coach is going to be since Juande is only guaranteed through the end of the season. You will absolutely be the flavor till the next one comes around. And if Kaka is going to available, you might get played by Perez.
4. Still right. And United did win the World Club Cup so now they are also champions of the world. Whereas at Real you would be – well who can say given what impact you may or may not have had on the outcome. However, no quintuples on the horizon at Real for sure this year. Man U – get past Inter and draw Liverpool a few days later and I’d say you will win the league, win the Carling Cup, win the FA cup if you don’t play Arsenal before the final and will win the Champions League if you don’t have to play Barca before the final.
5. Still concur with my initial assessment. And with Berbatov at United, there’s even a better hold up man to distribute balls to you and to keep the central defenders honest instead of doubling up on you like Behrami did for West Ham.
6. Say you are staying and not going to Real right now and you will be a god.
7. Bet that. And then they will sign Aguero or the next best thing post WC 2010 and you will be like Figo once they signed Ronaldo.
8. All I can say is – Messi is a freak. He is currently like Jordan in his heyday. No one can stay with him. Ronaldo is lucky he is not playing in La Liga right now else he might not have won the Ballon D’Or.
9. Never mind that one. The way he is going with Portugal he might be back on the bench with Fergie in another six months though!
10. England is looking good though under Fabio.
11 and 12. Couldn’t agree with this more. Except you seem to keep on getting to win more trophies.
13. Kaka, Aguero and Benzema are going to move at the end of the season. Man City will throw around the cash and buy at least one or more stars – I bet Ronaldinho winds up there. Wait. This is not the time to leave.
14. La Liga is being propped up by Barca. Actually by Messi – note how they struggle when he doesn’t play a half. It’s now behind the Premier League and Serie A IMO.

All in all, Ronaldo, the answer is obviously that staying was the right decision. Look at the trophies you could win this year. And next and the next. The decision should be no different at the end of the season. But, and you heard it hear first, he will be gone after this season. And United, much as it pains me to say this, should sell him. Enough is enough. Take the 100MM – and make sure Real pays that since you have Man City as a counter to threaten both Ronaldo and Real – and buy Aguero and Valencia/Theo Walcott/Ashley Cole. I like Diego Capel as a left winger, but let’s see how Tosic and Nani pan out. Frankly, United could probably bank 50MM and let the chips fall where they may. If Ronaldo doesn’t shine at Real as brightly as he shines at United, where does he go from there? Inter?

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