ENGLAND (FIFA RANKING: 8)
Could it finally be time for England again? The Poms always have massive expectations heading into World Cups, usually borne from hot air rather than a squad genuinely talented enough to go all the way. But this time they may just have the right mix. For starters, they have a mastercoach in Capello. Secondly, they have one of the very best strikers in the world in Rooney. And then; Gerrard, Lampard, Terry (Captain Douchebag), Ferdinand, Defoe, Bent, Cole, Cole etc. It's a strong cast, and a much more attacking England squad and, as I said before, they have a mastercoach. Plus they have the 2009 UK Philandering Father Of The Year:
I'm not even going to entertain thoughts of them not making it to the round of 16, as fun as that would be...
USA (FIFA RANKING: 14)
One of the teams the Socceroos will face in their final World Cup lead up match. The Yanks looked pretty good during their qualifying campaign but since then have lost 4 of their last 5 International Friendlies, the only win coming against El Salvador. When you think U.S football, you invariably think Landon Donovan, and I'm definitely a fan. Playing a cameo role for Everton last season has led to more awareness of the guy's talent. Coach Bob Bradley has been an advocate of American players plying their trade in Europe, and aside from Donovan, they have Rangers pair DeMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu, Fulham's Clint Dempsey, Bolton's Stuart Holden and Borussia Monchengladbach's Michael Bradley to name a few. Their biggest threat in any competition is this guy:
Larrionda sent off two US players during the '06 World Cup match against Italy and recently endeared himself further by slinging another red at Michael Bradley. When WHAB pressed the issue with Larrionda, he started ranting about "that stupid cartoon show insulting our wonderful country":
Uruguayan referees aside, the US will see their clash with Algeria as must win, will be happy with any result against the Poms and then it likely comes to the result against Slovenia.
SLOVENIA (FIFA RANKING: 23)
Slovenia find themselves just above footballing powerhouse Israel in the latest edition of the rankings; not bad for a country of just over 2 million. They conceded just 4 goals in their qualifying group, impressive when you consider they played home and away to group winners Slovakia and regular World Cup finalists (pre-2010) in Czech Republic and Poland. And then they took out Hiddink's Russia in the playoff. I think they are well-drilled enough to cause a lot of trouble in this group; they look like a team who'll frustrate England, take it to the USA and be beating Algeria. I really like their chances to go through here and they are good value in the betting to do so. I'll have a piece of that.
ALGERIA (FIFA RANKING: 31)
I'll be surprised if Algeria advance in what is a fairly strong group. I'll confess to not knowing too much about them except that they tied with Egypt in their qualifying group of 4. Really it was 2 groups of two, with Algeria battling Egypt for a spot in the World Cup finals and Zambia and Rwanda squabbling over who was the least shite in the group. In case you're wondering, and I really can't imagine why you would be, it was Zambia who were slightly less rubbish than Rwanda. So after dusting off those two, and tying with Egypt, they played Egypt again in a tiebreaker. Football was the real winner with opposing fans wanting to kill each other. The only players I'm really familiar with are Portsmouth pair Belhadj and Yebda. Portsmouth were relegated. All of this doesn't exactly fill me with the bravado to launch into the $3.75 on them to progress. But best of luck to them.
Prediction: England to top the Group and Slovenia to upset the USA and progress.
|Match||Date||Venue||Team 1||Team 2||Kick-off (AEST)|
|23||19 June||Cape Town||England||Algeria||04:30|
|37||24 June||Nelson Mandela Bay||Slovenia||England||00:00|