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Day 6 saw South Africa get pretty much dominated by Uruguay.  Their hope of advancing is now dependent on beating France and hoping for a result in their favor from Uruguay vs Mexico.  I guess my positive thinking and continued reminders that no host nation had ever failed to make it out of the group stage did no good.

Chile lived up to the hype as a fun to watch, offensive force.  Honduras is probably one of the weakest teams in South Africa and Chile should have scored more than once.  They were always looking up and moving very well with out the ball.  #7 Alexis Sanchez = the real deal.

The huge news of the day was Spain’s upset at the hands of Switzerland; their first ever victory over the Iberian folk.  Similar to the USA’s 2-0 victory last year, the Swiss absorbed the Spanish attack for 90+ minutes and were able to score a scrappy goal on the counter attack.  This result threw Group H into a bit of disarray and puts a lot of weight into the 6/25 Chile v Spain encounter.

It should be noted that the round of 16 pairs the Group H runner up with the Group G winner.  Of course, the Group G winner is widely expected to be Brazil.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, today proved that can be dangerous, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

Moving onto tomorrow…

Group B – Round 2

There isn’t too much to say about these two games as 2nd place in this group will probably come down to the last set of games on the 22nd.  Argentina is always interesting and they will surely be confident coming off of Saturday’s performance.

Nigeria could lose and still have a chance at advancing.  However, they will know by the time they take the field what is required to keep themselves in the race for the knockout round.

France v Mexico

This might be the most important game of this 2nd set of games.  Uruguay took control of the group with today’s win and both these teams will be looking to match them.

France must be itching to take the field after last week’s disappointing tie.  Negative news continues to surround the camp and whether or not they can somehow use it as as an “us against everyone else” mechanism will determine how far they go.  Florent Malouda looks to set to start after coming off the bench vs Uruguay and will probably supplant Sidney Govou.  Franck Ribery is always dangerous but he has lost some pace recently, he must do a better job combining with his teammates rather than trying to do everything himself; this team is talented enough to make a deep run if they play as a team.

Mexico must feel a level of urgency knowing they would be better off had they taken 3 pts from the South Africans.  Once again a loss would not put advancing out of the question but it would require them to go and beat Uruguay next Tuesday.  They looked dangerous throughout last week’s encounter but were lacking entirely when it came to the final product.

Overall, a Mexico loss would still mean they hold their fate in their own hands while a France loss means that they would need major help to get through.  Unfortunately, a tie isn’t the worst news for either team so we might see both trying not to lose rather than win.

Et al

Their well played, hard fought game vs Brazil yesterday helped the North Koreans garner a ton of underdog support in this country.  Despite what you might think about the country, you can’t deny what playing in this tournament means to these players.

Gawker.com put together a funny list of reasons you should root for them.

ESPN.com’s coach profile page was either compiled by someone with a sense of humor or is an all time great example of unintentional comedy.  My favorite: “…coach himself has claimed he received regular tactical advice during matches, apparently using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye. Jong-Il is said to have developed the technology himself.”

Tim Howard apparently wishes he was a midfielder.

Maradona continues to entertain, this time ripping into Pele and Michel Platini.  I like him.

Finally…I heart legos, so this is one of the coolest WC related things I have seen thus far:

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Preview might be a bit of an overstatement but to try and get myself some search engine loved I have moved on from the “WTWF” in the title.  The post is really just some things to watch for from the tournament as a whole; full previews can be found at SI.com, The Guardian, and ESPN.   I would have loved to break down each group but let’s be realistic here.

Soccer Weather: For the first time since Argentina in 1978, the World Cup will be played in what is essentially winter.   Being below the equator and all means that this is actually South Africa’s winter season; not really winter by northeast standards, more like fall, but nonetheless still not summer.

Ideally this milder weather will result in better soccer. Games should be faster paced and more entertaining than “summer” editions of the tournament where games can seem to plod along at times, with players more focused on not dying than on actually playing.

Of course, a majority of these games will be played at altitude which could cancel out the mild weather altogether, but at least it’s not Mexico City in August.

Argentina: because of this man and much moreso, this man.  No team in the tournament is more of a mystery but with a strike force which is absurdly talented they should score, a lot.  Defense wasn’t Diego’s strong suit and he picked a unit that is still fairly suspect.  This gap between in quality should provide some cardiac moments for La Albiceleste but from a neutral point of view, what could be more exciting.

Back to the second “this man,” as my slurping of him is no secret.  Lionel Messi established himself as the best player in the world this past season.  This World Cup is his for the taking, and while pressure never makes anything easier, it will be up to him to authenticate his standing.  A victory for the Argentinians will push him to another level and whether or not he gets there, it will be fascinating to watch him try.

Spain is the squad if you want to see pretty football & Brazil if you want a true team experience, but no team is going to be more exciting to watch than Argentina.

This is an excellent piece from SI on the National team within Argentinian culture, Diego Maradona, and Lionel Messi.

The Africans: while this is all actually happening in South Africa, the whole continent feels that this is their World Cup.  Each of the 6 teams (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria, and South Africa) feel a level of pride in participating in Africa’s first ever world cup, and they will surely feel more at home than they did in Germany.

The Ivory Coast is the popular choice to advance the farthest, even if they do have to make it out of that group. However, the hisorically great African teams, 1990 Cameroon and 2002 Senegal (the only two to make a quarter-final run) were probably on few experts’ lists of the final 8.

Don’t rule out the hosts as well; the power of performing at home, in front of the World has carried all 18 previous hosts.  None have failed to make it out of their group and that alone throws Group A even further into the unknown.  The US was fortunate on some bounces in ’94 and South Korea got the calls in ’02; don’t say nobody warned you when the Soccer gods smile upon Bafana Bafana this month.

I have no idea how it will unfold and I try to stay away from making predictions (except of course if I like the odds) but I believe one of those 6 teams will make a serious run this year; like Shakira says “Waka Waka, it’s time for Africa.”

Goals: Adidas’s Jabulani Ball has been the source of despise from many of the best keepers in SA. The difference this year is that it seems they are afraid because of the unpredictability of the ball in the air.

In my opinion it sounds like whining and preemptive excuses, so I have tended to ignore it.  Just make sure you keep your eyes out for the piped goals that are sure to come from it.

Champions: the fact is that no European team has ever won the World Cup outside of a European country.  History is not on their side, and while this works in favor of the already favored Brazilians, they are still only one of 19 non-European sides.  This is bound to change at some point, but you can bet it will be harped upon endlessly if Spain/Holland/England etc make it to July 11th.

What bodes poorly for the two favorites (Spain and Brazil) is that Pele has tipped them for success.  Interestingly enough, Pele predictions aren’t just wrong but often spectacularly wrong.

Video Fun:

Now some more fun video to get you all excited….which you should be anyway.

Top 10 World Cup goals, courtesy of the BBC:

and now this again, in case you didn’t catch it the first time around:

What about you all out there in the internets?  What are you pumped for over the next month?!

That is all for today, tomorrow we dive into the fun with a US v England WTWF.  O boy, o boy!

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So this is it.  It has been 1400+ days since Italy triumphed in Germany and now we are on the precipice of the 19th edition of this, the most watched sporting event in the world.  Here in America the rumblings are audible but you can be sure that the rest of the World will come to a standstill starting this Friday.

If you can’t tell, I love embedding videos, especially cheesy ones designed to build hype.  None have got me more excited (seriously, I have watched it like 25x in the last 2 weeks) than this apparently anonymously created homage to the game…

Random Bits

Didier Drogba has returned to the Ivory Coast camp.  Still not sure if he will be fit to play but this is at least encouraging.  His ability to “turn it on” when he cares is maddening to Chelsea fans but would be a huge boost to the Ivory Coast squad, especially in a very difficult group.

Arjen Robben will stay on the Dutch squad.  Some more positive injury news.  While not the source of all attack for the Dutch, Arjen is one of the most exciting players on the planet when healthy.  If the Dutch squad can overcome their internal soap operas is a whole other story.

ESPN.com Soccer minds answer some pressing questions heading into the tournament.  Personally I like this style as it offers some good conflicting points of view on the same questions.

Spain coach Vincente del Bosque and midfielder Andres Iniesta offer some thoughts on where their team stands heading into their final warm-up; vs Poland on Thursday.  Not surprised that they don’t include themselves amongst the favorites as this team has been good at deflecting praise and keeping their eye on the prize for the past few years.

Grant Wahl provides his bullet pointed preview here.  Not a huge fan but worth a brief look.  His point on 3 man back lines is interesting and one which you will certainly hear more about as the tournament progresses.

England won their final warm-up game against a South African club team, but apparently it was in unconvincing fashion.  The US still must respect the talent level here and, once again, that pre-tournament form is not always a sign of tournament performance.  Additionally, Garreth Barry has been ruled out of this Saturday’s game.

US News

After an open session yesterday which attracted a boat load of local kids, the team is enjoying a day off today.

The good news is that Jozy Altidore participated yesterday and looked to be in great shape.

A full report from the NYTimes here.

Ives Galarcep presented a very cohesive report on the questions which remain after the Australia match.

Tune in throughout the week for my own preview-esque articles….Tomorrow = Players to Watch. Wednesday = US specific WTWF. Thursday = Overall WTWF. Friday = It starts!

Now…Part 5 of the US “Road to South Africa” documentary:

How about everyone out there?  Excited? Could you care less?  Any plans for how to watch while you are at work?

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With it now being June, and June meaning the World Cup is only like 9 days away…it’s time for a flood of World Cup Content.

Today you get a whole big mix of stuff.

I found this today, it is a British commercial with Wayne Rooney for Coca Cola promoting their best celebration contest (An awesome contest idea btw).  I think he approaches a Peyton Manning level of acting here.

Grant Wahl provides a pre-World Cup Power Rankings for all the teams in the World Cup.  I think Power Rankings are dumb and usually just an excuse for a story.  It is kind of interesting to get his input on all the teams, but to call them Power Rankings seems to try to legitimize it more than is really true.

Some fun American focused stuff now…

Official roster numbers in case you were waiting to customize a jersey.

This is an awesome blog post from John O’Brien (yes this John O’Brien who set off the American’s 2002 WC run) for the NYTimes.  He provides great insight into the team mentality at this point and also makes some excellent points about the US’s playing style.

“It is also in our best interest to see ourselves differently: Any time the American team has felt outwardly confident, we have dropped the ball. In 2002, results against Portugal and Korea made us confident enough to think we could handle Poland. Not true, 1-3. In 2006, Czech Republic seemed manageable, 0-3. Oops!”

His tactical observations are also dead on and his lessons from his Dutch days should be heeded by anybody with an interest in the game.

A post from Jere Longman, also of the NYTimes on the American’s living conditions for the next 3-7 weeks.

Finally… a bunch of videos from the WWL as they continue their hype machine in the build up to June 11th and even moreso, June 12th…

Landon in a SportsCenter Commercial

Jozy in a SportsCenter Commercial

Have they really made it or are most people who are watching those thinking “who are these guys?” or “oh yea, I think that white guy plays soccer”….the uniforms help but let’s be realistic, this is America.

Finally…a cool commercial which should get you pretty pumped for June 12th…

That’s all for now…stay tuned for more fun in the coming days.

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In what was a major soccer weekend in the UK as the Premier League came down to the wire, there was also some relevant news in regards to the US and their squad for next month.

A few brief notes to start the week off, admitedly a bit belatedly…

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5/11) at 2PM EST on ESPN News Bob Bradley will hold a press conference and announce his provisional 30 man roster for the upcoming training camp.  The final 23 man roster will likely come out of this list and it could end up being in the 28 man range rather than taking all 30 spots.  There are a ton of instances of random people theorizing who they think will be included tomorrow, it is a futile exercise…Bob Bradley will choose who Bob Bradley and co want to choose.

USSoccer.com has an excellent blog post running down some of the positive US related news from the European weekend.  Positive injury news includes…

  • Stuart Holden returning from his broken leg suffered in the Netherlands friendly in February to play the final 30 minutes of Bolton’s season.
  • Oguchi Onyewu traveling as part of the 23 man squad to Genoa for AC Milan’s penultimate fixture.  He did not however make the final 18 available for duty.

More Charlie Davies (are you really surprised?) in the form of an excellent interview from The Shin Guardian.  His is obviously the name that everyone will be watching for during tomorrow’s press conference as his inclusion means the chance remains that he ends up in the final 23.  I still admire the kid’s continued positive outlook on his chances despite the continued negative press and repeated interviews.  I do worry that he states he has worked to hard to come up short; if he gets to the final 30 but is not deemed fit or sharp enough to make the final 23, what is that going to do to his psyche?  I think he’s a strong kid but that would take away the main goal at the end of all this rehab, would he be able to maintain the mental fortitude needed to come back this fall and continue his development with Sochaux during a full European season with the next World Cup 3+ years away?

Continuing with the US theme, here is that next video from the “Road To South Africa” documentary….this one focuses on last August’s trip to the Azteca.  The first person video is awesome.

Foreign Flavor

To end with some news from outside the continent, b/c after all, this is the World Cup…

Spain released their 30-man roster today.  It includes the injured midfield trio of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, and Cesc Fabregas…along with Liverpool frontman Fernando Torres.

I am obviously a sucker for video montages or hype-commercials…here is the latest from the BBC…

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Mr. Davies has been getting a lot of press since the report out of Sochaux last week that he will miss the remainder of their season (a report which he doesn’t entirely agree with).

This morning, once again courtesy of Jeffrey Marcus at the NYTimes, they posted a compilation interview that occcured with Davies over the last few months.  CLICK HERE.

It is the first time I have seen anything since the ESPN/SportsCenter interview late last year with him on where you really get a sense for how he’s feeling and the struggle he has gone through.

He readily admits that it was his own poor judgement which put him in this position, but is also amazingly confident at his chances to make the World Cup squad.  An attribute which only amplifies his natural ability as a striker.  I.e., in response to whether he might not be the same player…

“I might not. I could be even better, with this different outlook that I have, this different appreciation I have. I could be more effective just with that extra push every time I get on the field. We’ll see. That’s the only thing that’s gotten me this far, pushing to see how far I can get.”

He exudes this this sense of confidence and belief that ‘impossible is nothing’ (*Kevin Garnett) throughout the interview.  Honestly, it’s awesome and only serves himself and his teammates well.  The American team has often lacked a sense of swagger and while beating Spain last summer definitely helped confidence going into this summer, the subsequent loss in Mexico City brought them back to earth a bit.

He does note that he will need to play a few matches at full speed before being considered as part of the final roster of 23.  Hopefully, he can find the field in France, at least as a substitute but if not, it will be interesting to see if he takes part in any of the US’s final warm ups at the end of May (5/25 v Czech Republic and 5/29 v Turkey).  Those will be the real sign of what kind of role Bradley expects him to play.

I will continue to post here regarding any major news about his recovery as we get closer to the May 17th camp.  For any updates between now and then, his Twitter feed is an awesome resource.

Others…

Can’t forget the injury to Oguchi Onyewu during the Costa Rica game as well.  The news about him is definitely not as common, probably due to the sensationalistic nature of Davies’ accident, but it seems he is at least on track although there is probably less of a chance he will play again this year for AC Milan.

Clint Dempsey was featured on the WWLs E:60 last night (I haven’t watched yet) but you can see the complete segment right here….

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With the French national team and their penchant providing consistent media fodder as the World Cup approaches the 45 day mark (tomorrow), I thought it would be a good time to pay the tournament some attention here.  It’s also a rainy Monday, and what better way to break that up then with some sweet World Cup YouTubing.

ESPN World Cup Commercials

ESPN released a new commercial late last week in order to continue building hype and excitement around the event….it does a way better job than I ever could….

Wasn’t that fun everyone? Despite the use of Bono, I can’t help but get some goosebumps from that.

There is also this one touting Martin Tyler’s joining of ESPN from a few months ago, a little more soccer centric, so it’s coolness takes on a bit of a separate tone…

America

Moving into a more locally focused video…some amateur American filmmakers have put together a multi-part documentary focused on Soccer in America, specifically the US Men’s Team and the road they have taken to get to South Africa. It is thorough in its coverage and does a great job of providing a snap shot of the passionate subculture of the wildly enthusiastic fan contingent known as Sam’s Army.

The production quality is very high for a YouTube only release (as far as I know) and definitely worth the 7 minutes.

Despite their shortcomings, this first episode will remind you that, if healthy, this team can beat anyone out there over the course of 90 minutes…anyone that is, except Brazil.

That’s it for video today but there have been some other interesting old fashioned written pieces out there over the course of the day.

Charlie Davies update

The NYTimes Jeffrey Marcus takes a look at Charlie Davies recovery progress and where his World Cup chances stand. We are only about 3 weeks away from Bob Bradley’s final 30 man camp in Princeton, NJ and if Davies can get the call to that then it must be seen as a good sign regarding his chances.

To be blunt though, there are other American strikers out there making an impact who could push him out due to lack of playing time (always considered an important Bradley factor).  Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle have been lighting up the Mexican Clasura and MLS respectively and could push an out of shape Davies from consideration.

I do think Davies deserves a shot, at least in that camp and then leave it up to the coaching staff to evaluate him.  He has shown too much ability and understanding with Altidore to be left from consideration.  I think Bradley is as anxious as the rest of us to see how he has progressed.

Additionally, according to his Twitter feed, he has resumed full training w/the club.  Despite the club’s statement last week that he will not be ready to play again this season, this is an excellent sign as getting in full speed work puts him in better position heading into that May USMNT camp (if he gets an invite.

Freddy Adu? Unlikely

Grant Wahl had an excellent piece in the April 19th issue of SI on Freddy Adu and what has kept him from taking that next step. The sources he quotes are very insightful and cover a wide array of people who have been close to Adu’s journey.  Definitely worth a read.

That’s all for now, but I will keep posting the Road to South Africa videos from YouTube.  However, this week my focus is turning to the 2nd leg of the CL semi-finals.  Visca el barca.

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