World Cup Preview - a date with density

Son of a whore. I have to fill in my brackets, and I have absolutely no idea who's going to win this god-damned thing. Four years of waiting, and I have absolutely no idea what the hell I'm doing. I feel like [INSERT NATIONAL TEAM COACH HERE.]

Well, let's start with an easy one:

GROUP A, in order of predicted finish:
1. Mexico
2. Uruguay
3. France
4. South Africa

John pointed this out earlier, but what the hell kind of home field advantage is South Africa going to have with freaking vuvuzelas as their secret weapon? Might as well have this game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. For a number of reasons, Mexico is set up for a depressingly deep run in this blasted tournament.

Uruguay in second by default, almost. I didn't jump off the France bandwagon after the Hand of Gaul. I didn't even jump off after Ribery was caught with his hands in the honey trap. I jumped off when Thierry Henry was linked with the Red Bulls. Anything linked with the Red Bulls is World Cup death. In any case, the title of "Worst Coach in the Tournament" is going to be extremely fiercely contested, and it's going to be very hard to unseat Maradona, but I have a lot of confidence in Raymond Domenech's ability to live down to the occasion. This team's a freaking mess.

South Africa is at home and they're coached by a former World Cup winner - which is more than cancelled out by Carlos Alberto Parreira's stint with the Metrostars. The Metrostars/Red Bulls are useful as the World Cup equivalent of the ex-Cub factor for the World Series. Also, conveniently for this pick, South Africa's team kinda reeks.

WARNING! Jamie Trecker also thinks it'll be Mexico and Uruguay. So does Ben Lyttleton. Proceed with EXTREME CAUTION!

GROUP B
1. Nigeria
2. Greece
3. Argentina
4. South Korea

Actually, I feel that sinking feeling I get when I'm filling out an NCAA bracket, and I'm sending some mid-major to the Sweet Sixteen because "there's always an upset." I go from saying "Maradona sucks, and he will guide Argentina straight into a reef," knowing in my heart that's true, daring anyone to contradict me...and then realizing that I'm thus hitching my wagon to Greece.

I'm leaning pretty heavily on coaching in making these picks, and we'll see whether or not this theory is right. The other thing is, Argentina opens against Nigeria. Argentina historically stinks it up to begin the tournament, but usually bounces back. This time, I don't think they will - and I think Nigeria builds on their win. I also think Greece saw how to beat Messi, and even though they're not exactly Inter Milan talent-wise, they can at least rely on Maradona to start the wrong players and make the wrong subs. I should be more excited about US national team hero Park Ji-sung than I am, but there it is.

GROUP C
1. England
2. United States
3. Slovenia
4. Algeria

What? Huh? Oh, see - we'll beat England, but, um, tie the next two games. And England will win the next two games and pass us in the standings. I'm not saying we'll lose to England, not at all. Why would you think that? I'm as loyal as you are. This paragraph is funnier if you read it like Peter Lorre.

Sorry, guys - bipolar is the official state of mind of the US national team, and I've swung back to depressive. I love Buddle and Herculez, but I hate the great looks on goal England will get on our back line. We'd have to completely control possession, and I hate our chances of doing that, too. Later in the tournament, England will shoot themselves in the vas deferens with an idiotic red card or five, but we're taking as many short-tempered rapscallions as they are. If the game ends seven on seven, though, I think we got a great shot.

GROUP D
1. Germany
2. Serbia
3. Ghana
4. Australia

Ballack is out, Essien is out, Serbia got beat by New Zealand, Australia let the United States put three by them.

I'm probably falling for the same idiotic pattern of predicting the past that afflicts everyone when it comes to Germany - they always go far, so they always will go far. Still - they seem pretty solid. And Ballack was so important that Chelsea just released him on a free transfer.

Serbia, on the other hand, doesn't have anyone hurt, has a bunch of tough guys, and not only has the disaster of 2006 but the New Zealand loss to spur them on. Wait, I'm picking a team based on previous losses? Better put them in second to be on the safe side.

GROUP E
1. Holland
2. Cameroon
3. Denmark
4. Japan

I'm baffled why people are picking Denmark over Cameroon in this group. It's not like we didn't see Eto'o all season. Yeah, he's as crazy as a Rooney, but he shouldn't have much trouble in this group. I wouldn't be surprised if he skipped past the Dutch once or twice.

Of course, Cameroon will have problems keeping the Dutch from skipping right back at them, but that won't make this group terribly suspenseful.

GROUP F
1. Italy
2. New Zealand
3. Paraguay
4. Slovakia

Two schools of thought in this group. One, it's Italy and crap. Two, it's all crap. New Zealand's core learned their ball in the hard school of Major League Soccer, so I'm going with them to finish second.

What? Second place gets either Holland or Cameroon in the next round, so what difference does it make, besides one extra game?

GROUP G:
1. Brazil
2. Portugal
3. Ivory Coast
4. Craphole

I was also going to have fun by predicting Brazil to finish second in their group, obliterating everyone's bracket...but Portugal is coached by another Metrostars reject, and Cote d'Ivoire is coached by a Mexico AND Notts County reject.

I almost feel like taking a flyer on North Korea, but even acknowledging a horrible country like North Korea is polluting this tournament is sickening to me. Oh, sorry, was that political?

GROUP H:
1. Spain
2. Honduras
3. Chile
4. Switzerland

Makes Group F look like a cliffhanger. Loyally picking the CONCACAF team to get its ass kicked by Brazil in Round Two.
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THE SWEET SIXTEEN:

MEXICO (A1) over Greece (B2)
This game will have plastic horns (I refuse to dignify them with the term vuvuzelas) and an easily beatable team (unless it's Argentina, in which case, they'll already be overdue to beat themselves). I think I hate the way this is shaping up for Mexico.

SERBIA (D2) over England (C1)
England was made to lose games like this.

HOLLAND (E1) over Whoever (F2)
Unless the Netherlands rediscover their Euro 2008 form.

HONDURAS (H2) over Brazil (G1)
What? Don't you know your Copa America history? It could happen. Seriously. Honest to God, this is my pick. Honduras over Brazil. May God strike me dead if this isn't my pick. Of course this isn't my pick.

NIGERIA (B1) over Uruguay (A2)
With South Africa safely out, this will be a home game for Nigeria. (Yes, I know how far apart the two countries are. Nigeria's sending a bunch of fans, you know.) Not that South Africa would stop Nigeria here.

UNITED STATES (C2) over Germany (D1)
1-0. Landon Donovan scores on a penalty kick, and screams "Berhalter, you are avenged!"

CAMEROON (E2) over Italy (F1)
And Samuel Eto'o becomes the most hated man in all Milan, not just half of it.

SPAIN (H1) over Portugal (G2)
This looks to be a rather humdrum, pedestrian affair between two modest European sides.
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QUARTERFINALS:

MEXICO over Serbia
And now we have a game with both plastic horns and altitude. Christ, we'll never hear the end of this.

BRAZIL over Holland
I think both these teams are a tiny bit overrated, to be honest, but Brazil strikes me as slightly less so.

NIGERIA over Germany
By the way, I was also lying about the United States beating Germany back there. I wanted to let everyone down easy.

CAMEROON over Spain
Because it's just not a World Cup without a Spain flameout. I forgot to mention, both Italy and Spain are blaming the refs for these results.
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SEMIFINALS:

BRAZIL over Mexico
Too late to do us any good. Mexico will probably play really well, too. If this son of a bitch game wasn't at sea level, I'd be even more worried.

CAMEROON over Nigeria
I worked hard to engineer an all-African semifinal, and I plan to enjoy it.

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THE GRAND FINAL:

CAMEROON over Brazil
Blogging tip: if you make an outrageous pick, you'll get points for being gutsy, even if your pick gets bounced early. But if your horse actually comes in? Man, you get to crow about it for eternity.