Euro 2008 Qualifying

Posted on Wednesday 25 October 2006

Even though Euro 2008 doesn’t start for nearly 600 days, most teams have already played four matches in group play for qualifying. Host countries Austria and Sweden qualify automatically, and the first two teams in each group will move onto the finals. With only 7 teams in each bracket (Group A has 8 teams), each country is nearing the half way point in qualifying, as each country must play the other countries in their group twice, resulting in 12 matches for everyone but Group A, who will have 14 matches each.

So far, the surprises are Spain, with only three points from three matches, Portugal, with 4 points from 3 matches, Sweden, who has won all four matches for 12 points total, Scotland, with 9 points from 4 matches and Serbia, with 10 points from 4 matches. You have to figure that most of the European powers will advance to Euro 2008, assuming they all find their form over the next year of qualifying. I only see Group B being a problem, with World Cup finalists France and Italy, along with in form Scotland and Ukraine, two of those teams will be left home watching. In the current FIFA rankings, Italy is #2, France #3, Ukraine #13 and Scotland #25. Amazing, tougher than most of the World Cup groups in 2006. Group E is not bad either, with England (#5), Croatia (#19), Russia (#33) and Isreal (#36).

The rest of the groups have one or two good teams, with the rest pretty easy, all things considered. If you are Portugal, and you can’t beat out Serbia, Finland, Belgium and Poland, you don’t deserve to be in the tournament any ways. At least they have two extra matches to figure out what is wrong.

Administrator @ 7:09 pm
Filed under: Euro 2008
World Cup Finals – Match prediction

Posted on Sunday 9 July 2006

Both France and Italy are surprise finalists in this year’s World Cup. Italy, coming out of the Group of Death, and with the world class scandal going on at home, I had expected Italy to crumble to the pressure somewhere along the line, and be knocked out. Italy has been the strongest defensive team in the World Cup, only giving up the one own goal in the match against the United States. They have a very strong back four, a great goalie and are very deap in the midfield and forward positions, with great experience at all positions. Italy has not been able to score like I had thought, but they play a very defensive position, which has worked for them, and avanced.

France started this year’s World Cup playing as poorly as any team, barely surviving a horrible group, and barely able to score a goal. As the tournamen has gone one, they have gained confidence, and Zidane has started to dominate the midfield and pace of the game. He has not played like this in a couple of years. Without Zidane, France would not have even qualified, and now they are in the final. France is very strong up the middle, with Zidane, Henry, Makelele and Viera, and with those four playing well, have been able to control every game they have been in once out of their group.

I really don’t see much offense in this match. France should be able to control the midfield again, but Italy has been so good in the back, and they make great runs up top, I think they may be able to get the first goal, and then bunker in for the win. I just don’t see more than one goal being scored in the is match, and penalty kicks is a likely ending. No one likes to see a World Cup final end in pealty kicks. Prediction: Italy 1 – 0

Administrator @ 9:31 am
Filed under: World Cup Insights
World Cup 3rd place Match predictions

Posted on Saturday 8 July 2006

Well, someone had to lose. Germany, who had been playing so well was even with Italy for 117 minutes, then gave up a fantastic goal with less than three minutes to play, and a second less than two minutes later after throwing everyone forward. This was a great match, and Italy has still not given up a goal this World Cup (other than the comical own goal against the US). In the second semifinal, Portugal and the surprise team France faced off, with only one goal given up, on a poor call in the box on Henry, and Zidane put away the penalty kick. France took care of the rest of the match, and avanced to the finals.

Germany and Portugal get one more match in the World Cup to decide third place. This is a great chance for both countries to get their young players some experience on the world stage. While both teams will want to win, I hope we will be able to see some players who have yet to see any time this year. Germany should have an advantage playing in front of the home crowd, and should have more incentive to win this match. If Germany can control Portugal’s speed, they should be able to control this match, and put in a couple of goals. This should be a good match, as most of the pressure of winning is off both teams, win or lose, they are both going home. This could be wide open, and I would be surprised if we see a 0 – 0 draw at the end of regulation. Prediction: Germany 3 – 1

Administrator @ 7:55 am
Filed under: World Cup Insights
World Cup Semifinal predictions

Posted on Sunday 2 July 2006

Wow, it is all I can say right now, wow! France pulls off the upset of World Cup 2006, with a 1 – 0 win over Brazil. France, the team that failed to score in 2002 after winning at home in 1998, the team that barely escaped the worse group in this year’s cup, dominated Brazil from the starting whistle. Zidane, Makelele and Vieera were dominant in the midfield, and controlled the entire match. Brazil never looked threatening at all, as they started with a 4-5-1 formation with only Ronaldo up top. Brazil was uninspired, and even in the final minutes, didn’t look like they even wanted to win. Probably the best match France has played since the 1998 final against Brazil. We had two other great matches, with both Germany vs Argentina and England vs. Portugal going to penalty kicks after 120 minutes of fantastic soccer. Italy only had the easy match, walking past Ukraine 3 – 0. Ukraine didn’t belong in the match at all, and never should have even been there.

Semifinal Predictions

Match 1 – Germany vs. Italy: This one is going to be hard to predict. Germany is playing well, but not fantastic, but they are at home. Italy is playing as well as any other country, but they have had an easy path so far in the second round. Germany should have the advantage in this match, but Italy is capable of playing horribly through 89 minutes and come out of no where to win. Germany should be able to control the midfield if Ballack is healthy. This should be a tight match all the way through, and I can see one team scoring, and the other team having to throw everyone forward, opening their defense up to counter attacks. Prediction: Germany 2 – 0

Match 2: Portugal vs France: I think everyone is stunned to see France here. I am pretty sure no one outside of France even gave them a chance at winning. They played the perfect match against Brazil, slowed them down and kept possession. They will have to do the same with Portugal, as they depend on speed more than any other team in the field. Portugal played well against England without Deco and Costinha, which was a bit of a surprise. This will be a great match-up in the midfield, really a fun match to watch. If Zidane can play like he did against Brazil, I see them having a chance. Henry is dangerous up top always, and has a good chance of scoring in this match. In the end, I think Portugal will be too fast and too good. This could easily go into PKs. Prediction: Portugal 2 – 1

These are two really great matches, you couldn’t ask for much more. I am excited to see what happens. Two of these teams will be going onto the final. I am having a hard time figuring out who I would like to see in the finals, and I think all possible match-ups will be fantastic.

Administrator @ 7:01 pm
Filed under: World Cup Insights
Quarterfinal Predictions

Posted on Thursday 29 June 2006

During the 8 matches in the round of 16, there really was only one surprise. Spain had been playing so well, really dominating their three group stage matches, while France had stumbled through their group, barely qualifying. I just didn’t see any problem in this match for Spain, and they pretty much dominated the match through 80 minutes, and then fell apart. I really thought Spain would give Brazil all they could handle. The only other surprise was after the 0 – 0 tie after 120 minutes in the Switzerland – Ukraine match, they didn’t choose to send both teams home and give Italy a bye to the semifinals. Unfortunate.

Game 1 – Germany vs. Argentina
– what more could you ask for, the home team, playing better than expected, and the team playing the best in the tournament so far. Being in Berlin, this could be a much better match than the next match in Berlin, the finals. Argentina has been so fluid in the midfield, and creative near the box, they could be hard to beat. Germany has had no problem at all in their matches taking control early and not letting their opponent back into the match. This match could go either way, Argentina is the better team, but the crowd will be with Germany. Whoever can get a lucky break should win this match Prediction: Argentina 3 – 2

Game 2 – Italy – Ukraine vs. Italy
Italy is fortunate to be here, benefiting from a questionable call in the dying minutes against Australia, while Ukraine is just flat out lucky. Switzerland doesn’t give up a goal in 4 matches, and is sent home. Italy should be able to dominate this match. They need to be careful and not let Shevchenko get loose anywhere in the final third. If they can do this, they should be able to advance easily. Prediction: Italy 2 – 0

Game 3 – England vs. Portugal – Portugal dominated their first three matches, and found a way to win against Netherlands, even though they were outplayed for most of the match. They will be missing both Costinha and Deco due to red cards. They are fairly deep, but Deco has been dangerous, and will be hard to replaced. Christiano Ronaldo has a hamstring injury, but it looks like he may play, giving Portugal a huge boost. England has struggled horribly trying to get the ball in the back of the net. They lucked out on a misplay of a Beckham free kick to get by Ecuador, and they will need much more offensive punch to get past Portugal, which has been scoring at will. England will have to go away from their 4 – 5 – 1 if they want to the semi-finals. While Crouch has not been playing well, but they must pair someone up top with Rooney. England will control the midfield, but will have trouble getting quality chances, while Portugal will need to take advantage of their chances, but should have plenty of counter attack chances. Prediction: Portugal 1 – 0

Game 4 – Brazil -vs. France
– While it is nice to see France doing so well in this tournament, I just don’t see the run continuing, even if they weren’t playing Brazil. Spain mysteriously faded in the last 10 minutes, but Brazil is too experienced for that. Brazil is too fast and too skilled to not win this match. If Brazil gets bogged down in the midfield, France may have a chance if they can keep control of the ball, and be careful when they take their chances, so they don’t expose themselves to counter attacks. Brazil just kills you, they can move the ball so fast, and get numbers on the counter attack faster than anyone else in the world. Too bad Zidane has to end his career like this. Prediction: Brazil 3 – 1

Administrator @ 9:38 pm
Filed under: World Cup Insights
Round of 16 Predictions

Posted on Saturday 24 June 2006

Game 1 – Germany vs. Sweden – With Germany playing at home, and playing well, we should see Germany advance past Sweden fairly easily. I have not been impressed with Sweden at all, they are dangerous up top, but their defense is suspect, and should give up several goals to the German strikers. Prediction: 3 – 1 Germany

Game 2 – Argentina vs. Mexico – Argentina has been the most dominant team so far in this years cup, while Mexico limped into the second round. With Borgetti most likely playing, Mexico will become better, but probably won’t have the fire power to beat Argentina. You have to figure Mexico will have to play perfect defense, and get lucky on the offensive side to win. If Argentina can control the midfield like the have been, they should easily advance past this match. Prediction: 2 – 0 Argentina

Game 3 – England vs Ecuador – England looked pretty dangerous in the first two matches, but fizzled against Sweden. With Michael Owen gone, and the fitness of Rooney in question, England is forced to play Crouch up top for the full 90, and hope that Rooney can play a quality 90 minutes, or they will have to play Walcott, a 17 year old, or just play one up top. England may be stuck in a dangerous situation, finding themselves down a goal with 20 minutes left, and Rooney out of gas. Ecuador has been dangerous, probably the biggest surprise of the world cup. Not having won a match in qualifying away from the home feild at 9,000 feet above sea level. Many expected them to not advance out of group play, and they had a chance to win their group until they faced Germany. This should be a great match. If Ecuador had a better midfield to match their strikers, they would be a favorite to win this game, but I think they will struggle agains Lampard, Gerrard and company. Ecuador will score a fantastic strike, but it won’t be enough. Prediction: 2 – 1 England

Game 4 – Portugal vs. Netherlands – What more could you ask for. Two of the world’s best teams matched up in the round of 16. Portugal has not been challenged yet, and the Netherlands tied Argentina for first in their group. Portugal will not be able to run crazy agains Netherlands like they were able to in the group stage. Portugal is dangerous, and fast, but Netherlands should be able to advance if they can control the runs of Portugal. This should be a great match for all. Prediction: 2 – 1 Netherlands

Game 5 – Italy vs. Australia – After surviving the group of death, Italy will get a pass against Australia. Italy has been playing well, despite the 1 – 1 draw with the US. Australia had to play a qualifying match to even get into the World Cup, and had played well in a poor group. They have been lucky to move this far, and should go out with a wimper against the stong Italy team. Prediciton: 4 – 1 Italy

Game 6 – Switzerland vs Ukraine – Two middle of the road teams, one of which will advance to play Italy in the quarter finals. Neither really belongs here, but Switzerland has been the better of the two teams, winning their group. I am not sure anyone outside of Switzerland and Ukrain and possibly Italy even care about this match. Prediction: A World Cup first, a 0 – 0 tie, and both teams are sent home (actually, Switzerland will win this 1 – 0 in one of the most boring games in World Cup history)

Game 7 – Brazil vs Ghana – Brazil will match up with the Brazil of Africa. Brazil has not been challenged at all, and could have won their three mathces with guys they left at home. While Ghana got some lucky breaks and calls against the US to advance, they won’t get the same against reigning champion Brazil. Predicion: 3 – 1 Brazil

Game 8 – Spain vs France – France has looked horrible in their qualifying and first three matches, while Spain is unbeaten in something like 400 matches. Spain should cruise easily through this match, with speed on the wings and in the strikers, and wonderful control in the midfield. France is aging everywhere, and just are not playing well enough to even score on Spain. Prediction: 3 – 0 Spain

Administrator @ 9:59 am
Filed under: World Cup Insights
Group G and H decided

Posted on Saturday 24 June 2006

Group G and H were both extremely weak, with France in group G with no one else in the top 30 and Spain in group H with no one in the top 20. These two groups are a perfect example why FIFA’s ranking system is horribly flawed. My guess is there are 5 or 6 teams that didn’t qualify out of Europe who would have easily won either of these groups if they took the place of France or Spain.

Group G
Despite the fact that France should have been able to walk out of this group playing any of their 23 players, they found themselves with only 2 points after the first two matches, and in serious danger of not advancing. France needed a win over lowly Togo to advance. Despite being a 0 – 0 draw at half time, France had controlled the match, and was unlucky to not score. You knew it was just a matter of time. Shortly after half, they easily scored two goals, and kept the pressure on, and advanced out of the sissy group onto the second round.

Switzerland on the other hand, had taken advantage of the weak group, taking four points from their first two matches, and needed a win or tie over South Korea to advance. South Korea also was in position to advance, needing a win. Switzerland was by far the better team, moving on with an easy 2 – 0 win. South Korea and Japan both looked really weak, just not showing any spark they showed at home in 2002.

Group H
Spain had already booked a ticket to the second round after easy victories over Ukraine and Tunisia, and needed either a win or tie to secure first place, though even with a loss, strange things would have had to happen to push them down to second. Facing a horrible Saudi Arabia team that had already lost to Ukraine 4 – 0, Spain rested all of their regulars, and for the most part, played back ups the entire match. They easily advanced 2 – 0, to take 9 points from a group they should have gotten 9 points from. France should have done the same, but didn’t.

Ukraine on the other hand, after a humiliating loss to Spain, realed off two wins to advance along with Spain into the second round.

Second Round
These were two horrible groups that didn’t provide many good matches at all. Spain will match up with France in Hanover on June 27. The winner will most likely get Brazil in the quarter finals. Spain would have been better taking second in their group, as Ukraine gets Switzerland. The winner of this match will move on to most likely face Italy.

Administrator @ 9:05 am
Filed under: World Cup Insights
Group E and F decided

Posted on Saturday 24 June 2006

In what turned out to be the Group of Death after all, nothing at all had been decided going into the final day in Group E, and all four teams still had a valid chance of advancing, win and you were in, for the most part. Group F already had Brazil advancing, with two other teams with a chance.

Group E
The US was up against Ghana, the team everyone figured they could get a point off of. If the US were to win, and Italy were to beat Czech Republic, as both were expected, the US would advance. Due to some unispired play, mistakes and help of a phantom foul call in the box, the US just couldn’t over come their mistakes. In a 2 – 1 defeat, the US was booted from the World Cup, and unable to recreate their run in 2002.

Italy started their match, knowing for the most part, they would advance with a win or a tie, and rested Luca Toni and Del Piero for the entire match. Fortunately, the Czech Republic, outside of Pavel Nedved frovided no resistance at all, and Italy advanced easily with a 2 – 0 win, knocking out the 3rd ranked team in the world, that played uninspired soccer after the US match.

Group F
Brazil was given a gift when the draw was announced, being matched up Croatia, Japan and Australia. They cruised through their group stage, playing substitutes much of the time. Japan needed a win against Brazil to advance, but I am pretty sure even the Japanese knew that wasn’t going to happen. When Japan went up 1 – 0, it just angered the Brazilians, who put in 4 goals just like that. You just got the feeling the could have scored 10 more if they had wanted to.

Australia, the surprise team of the tournament with a come from behind win over Japan in their first match, needed a win to advance to the group of 16. They only needed a win or a tie to advance, assuming Brazil took care of Japan as expected. In one of the better matches of the tournament, Australia came back from behind twice in the match to tie it, and had several chances to win in the final minutes, but were happy with the tie and a ticket to the second round.

Second Round
Brazil will start it’s march to the finals with a matchup against surprising Ghana on June 27th in Dortmund. Brazil is yet to play a top rated team, with only Japan in the top 25, though Japan doesn’t belong there. With a win against Ghana, they will match up with either Spain or France, and we will get a better idea where Brazil stands as a team. The lucky Australians get Italy in the weakest quad of the finals. With a win, they get either Switzerland or Ukraine, not exactly world powers. It looks like Italy gets a near free pass to the Semi-Finals, as there really isn’t a strong team in their group at all.

Administrator @ 8:30 am
Filed under: World Cup Results
Don’t Tread on Me, unless you are Ghana

Posted on Thursday 22 June 2006

Going into World Cup 2006, the US team was regarded as it’s best ever, a vast improvement that advancd to the quarter finals of World Cup 2002, and most likely the semi-finals had it not been for Torsten Fring’s hand. Once seeding had been announced, and the US was not seeded, but Mexico was, it was apparent the US was going to be in a tough group again. While Mexico was paired with Portugal, who had not advanced out of the group stage in 40 years, and Angola and Iran, two new comers to the World Cup, the US was paired with perennial favorite Italy, the Czech Republic, ranked 3 in the world, and Ghana, the best African team over the last 15 years.

Once I saw the groups, I figured that the US would have to win one of the two matches against Italy or Czech, and then beat Ghana in their final match. You would have to figure that the winner of the Italy, Czech match would also advance, and would probably be the winner of the group.

After a 3 – 0 lashing at the hands of the Czechs, and a spirited 1 – 1 draw with Italy, the US needed a win against Ghana to advance. Two weeks ago, if the two had played, the US would have been favored heavily. After beating the Czechs, Ghana was confident. Ghana gets a goal on a mistake by Reyna that should never happen at this level, and a second goal on a phantom foul in the box. The US finally scored their first goal of the tournament, and their last, as they lost 2 – 1. During all three matches, it was apparent Bruce thought he could get two draws and a win against Ghana to advance. The 4-5-1 should never appear again in US soccer, and may have cost Arena his job.

In the end, the US was picked third in the group, and it would have been a small upset had they advanced, but being ranked 5th in the world, this team sure doesn’t get any respect. And why should they?

Administrator @ 10:24 am
Filed under: World Cup Insights
Group C and D decided

Posted on Wednesday 21 June 2006

Going into the matches today, Group C had already been decided (group of death, my foot), while Portugal had already advanced out of group D, and both Mexico and Angola had a chance to be the second team out of the group.

Group C
Both Argentina and Netherlands had already qualified for the second round with 2 wins out of 2 matches, leaving today’s matchup of world powers without many stars on the pitch. Most of them were sitting on the bench with no intentions of entering the match. They might as well have watched it at the local pub. Argentina need a draw or win to take first place in the group, while Netherlands required a win to avoid second place. While it was entertaining, it seemed more of an exhibition than a real match. In the end, a 0 – 0 draw gave both teams what they wanted, no injuries, no yellow cards of note and onto the second round.

The Cote D’Ivoire and Serbia and Montenegro match on the other hand was a slug fest. CIV fell behind at half, 2 -0, and came storming back with 20 total shots in the match, and 9 corners, good enough for a 3 – 2 win, and 3 points. Though both teams are headed home, it was a great match to watch.

Argentina takes first place with 7 points, while the Netherlands takes second in the group with 7 points as well. Argentina had a much better goal differential, thanks to its 6 – 0 beating of Serbia and Montenegro.

Group D
Portugal entered their third match knowing it had all but secured first place in the group, and therefor, rested many of it’s stars. Mexico, on the other hand, needed a tie or win to secure their second round spot. Too bad Mexico didn’t show up, and lost 2 – 1 to a watered down Portugal. They were in the match, but just never seemed to control it at any one point. You just knew that if Portugal were in trouble, they could substitute a couple of guys and score at will. When Omar Bravo missed the PK that would have tied it at 2, you knew the match was over. I am sure as the match came to a close, all of the Mexican players and fans were watching the Angola – Iran game more closely than their own.

With Mexico losing, Angola had a shot to advance to the second round with a win over previously winless Iran. All they had to do was beat Iran by 2 goals, and they would advance. It was just too much, as Iran and Angola tied, leaving both teams out of the second round. So. Mexico advances with 4 points, the lowest so far in the tournament.

Second Round
Argentina and Mexico will match up on June 24 in Leipzig, and you have to figure Mexico will once again drop out in the round of 16. The winner of this match will move on to play the Germany/Sweden winner. Portugal gets a great prize for winning their group, the Netherlands. They will match up on June 25 in Nuremberg, with the winner to play the England/Ecuador winner. This should be one of the highlight matches of the round of 16, with two great teams going at each other.

Administrator @ 2:21 pm
Filed under: World Cup Insights