By now, you know if your guys are in. You’re waiting to see who they’ll play, where they’ll play, when they’ll play. You’re reading the tea leaves to see who’ll make the squad and how they’ll jell into a team. Are they peaking? Struggling? Injured? Healthy? Who’s in form? Who’s on the roster bubble? Will they be drawn into a hopeless Group of Death? Or might they stumble into something E-A-S-Y? Will they be playing against the hosts, or the defending champs, or old rivals? Will they be up for it? What time is kick-off?
It’s still months away, but let’s face it: the 2014 World Cup is here.
Well, that was an interesting draw. I’ll save my opinions of what just happened to the US - suffice to say, us rooting for the States are either going to get some much-welcome retribution (Germany and Ghana have ended our last three World Cups), or get spanked pretty bad. And, we get to see CR7, glistening in the Amazonian heat of Manaus. At least there will be stories, right?
But I’m not here to talk about Group G. Let’s get right on in to the shirts for the first group of the 2014 World Cup: Group A.
The 32 Nations project continues on with Group B! The matchup between 2010 finalists will get all the press here, but I think Chile is coming out of this region, one way or another. Australia is a spoiler, fully capable of drawing or even beating a favorite that expects a result. The second-place finisher will likely play Brazil in the round of 16 - so the scramble should be especially intense through all three games.
On-field exploits aside, let’s get to the important stuff: how does Group B stack up, design-wise? Let’s take a look.
The 32 Nations project keeps rolling with Group C! This is the most balanced group we’ve covered so far; Colombia is a slight favorite, but can they remember how to be a world power? Greece is a former European champion without much of the attendant hype. Côte d’Ivoire are aging, but capable of playing anyone int the world tightly, and Japan is better than they get credit for on the global stage. (Prediction: Colombia and Japan sneak through).
And as far as design goes? It’s a fun group. Let’s dive in.
There’s nowhere to hide in Group D. With three clubs in the world’s top 15, and a fourth who can beat anyone (just ask Concacaf). Uruguay will feel a little pressure playing as a seed, close to home, and with Luis Suarez at the absolute apex of his career. England will feel pressure because they’re English. Italy will feel pressure, but they’ve built their entire footballing strategy about turning pressure in on itself. It’s going to get dicey; my picks: Uruguay and England (somehow).
And as far as the design implications, there’s a lot to tackle. Let’s go:
Because we refuse to be held hostage to the rule of ping-pong balls, we’re skipping ahead to Group G today. (We’ll loop back to E, F and H after.) Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States form an intimidating group; by the numbers it’ll be the toughest one in Brazil. Amongst the four teams, there are four different tiers of expectation: “Anything less than a trophy will be kind of disappointing.” (Germany); “Maybe we can catch lightning in a bottle while we have this guy.” (Portugal); “[eyes narrowing] Just get us back to where we were last time.” (Ghana); “It’s cool, the matches will get easier once we get to the knockout rounds.” (USA).
(As a US fan, I hold no illusions; it’s not looking overly easy for the boys in red, white and blue. One semi-silver lining: a victory over Ghana will feel great, even if they don’t progress. I expect that, and then draws against Germany and Portugal. That would give the US 5 points in this group, and I think that might just be enough. I say they’re going to be one of the two teams to survive this scrum. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.)
It’s a distinctive looking group, too. Let’s discuss.