Saturday, June 12, 2010

And so it begins.

The World Cup kicked off yesterday with a spectacular opening ceremony in South Africa and a pretty good opening match between the hosts and Mexico. Not a classic, but one of the better tournament openings.

Let's just be thankful that it wasn't the borefest that was France and Uruguay that kicked off proceedings.

I loved the bit at the opening ceremony where the kids rapidly changed and spelt out the competing nations. I'm sure they were glad that Bosnia-Herzegovina didn't qualify.

We're not wanting to make the blog about nothing but World Cup for the next month, but we have to get our predictions out there and make some early comments about the tournament.

Having previously hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the cricket one in 2003, South Africa have now got the chance to host a proper sport's global tournament and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it so far.

You can't blame the football organisers for all of the crime and issues away from the football action, but Fifa must have known that by taking the tournament to one of the world's most crime ridden countries, there was always going to be an issue.

Let's just hope there's not anything too major or too much petty stuff to overshadow the African continent's first World Cup. It clearly means a lot to the fans to have it there.

We've seen 5 matches so far, that's 8% of what we have in store from the 64 matches already! It's been a pretty mixed bag so far, with the US-England game by far the standout match of the early games in what could be one of the most open tournaments in World Cup history.

So who are we tipping to do the business in South Africa?

Group A is a lottery, but I've gone for Mexico to come out on top, closely followed by South Africa. Having shown in last year's Confederations Cup what a rabid home crowd can do to lift your game, I think the hosts will get that same kick this time around, with France being the ones to feel that the most. I just can't see France pulling their shit together and nothing I saw in yesterday's match has made me change my mind.

Group B is also now underway of course and I'm going for Argentina to run out easy group winners there, with Nigeria going through as runners up. I have to say thought that South Korea's performance this afternoon has made me think I may have got this one wrong and they'll take that second spot, but I won't change my original prediction after the fact.

I've gone for the US to win Group C and not through any anti English bias. Well, maybe a little. I've based that on the fact that the States did well down in South Africa last summer and England have a very poor attack out there. The English should take the runners up spot but they will write Slovenia off at their peril. Take them for granted and they will regret it.

Group D is another group I'm predicting a surprise winner in. I've gone for Serbia. My complex manager is Serbian and I've been talking to him for months about his team and he feels that they are the best team of their generation and at a peak at the right time. Germany will go through as runners up, which may suit them if my predictions in Group C pan out. This is an interesting group though as both Australia and Ghana could shock everyone and go through. Definitely the group I'm most looking forward to watching.

I can't see past the Dutch in Group E and I'm going with the African crowds to drag Cameroon over the line in second spot. It depends which Indomitable Lions team actually turn out at the tournament. The one we all know is capable of doing well or the disjointed ones of recent Cups. The big drawback for African teams has been poor goalkeeping but we've seen that both Nigeria and South Africa have had some fine goalkeeping performances so far. Cameroon badly need that as well. If they don't get it, Japan may sneak through.

Group F is not one for excitement. I've gone for a lot of no scoring draws and 1-0 wins in my pools for that one. Italy should come through ok if they don't start too slugglishly, but I don't see them doing much after that. Slovakia should take second, but I know a lot of people are tipping Paraguay to be dark horses. I just can't see it myself.

Group G is the ones that everyone is calling the "Group of Death" this time, but I still feel that Group D deserves that honour. Brazil to win, with Portugal just sneaking second spot. Would love to see North Korea do another 1966 shock run but very much dreamland there!

The final group is Spain's chance to shine early. Chile should go through as runners up with ease as well.

After that, and down the road, I've gone for Argentina to win the whole shebang, with a final win over the Netherlands.

It's all guesswork from everyone of course and there's bound to be a few shocks along the way. Hopefully at any rate.

Let's just hope we get a cracking tournament and South Africa do themselves and Africa proud as hosts. It's going to be a great month.

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