World Cup Quarterfinals Preview – Saturday

Day two of quarterfinal play in South Africa is reserved for the weekend. Yes, we’re talking about Saturday. Get your yard work done Friday, or, better yet, put it off until Saturday evening. Just don’t miss the quarterfinals games.

For the preview of Friday games, please click here.

Argentina v Germany

Saturday, 10 am EST, Green Point Stadium

Results to date:

Argentina – W 1-0 v Argentina, W 4-1 v South Korea, W 2-0 v Greece, W 3-1 v Mexico

Germany – W 4-0 v Australia, L 1-0 v Serbia, W 1-0 v Ghana, W 4-1 v England

Analysis: Argentina and Germany represent two juggernauts in the football world, with a combined 6 World Cup championships between the two. They met at this stage as recently as 2006 when Germany sent Argentina home in the elimination rounds.

However, neither team has forgotten that. The Germans began complaining earlier in the week about Argentina’s behavior during and after that game. German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger went as far as to accuse the Argentines of influencing referees and having pain-in-the-ass fans.

Of course, none of that set well with Argentine manager and legend Diego Maradona who responded by mocking Schweinsteiger in a faux German accent asking, “Are you scared?”

Needless to say, when these two teams take to the field Saturday morning, neither one will be feeling remorse for the other. Both teams will feature young, talented stars such as Lionel Messi for Argentina and Germany’s Mesut Ozil.

Prediction: Argentina 3-2

Spain v Paraguay

Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Ellis Park

Results to date:

Spain – L 1-0 v Switzerland, W 2-0 v Honduras, W 2-1 v Chile, W 1-0 v Portugal

Paraguay – D 1-1 v Italy, W 2-0 v Slovakia, D 0-0 v New Zealand, D 0-0 v Japan (advance on penalty kicks 5-3)

Analysis: Spain is looking to lose the title of underachiever in the World Cup. In fact, the only time they made it past the quarterfinals stage, there were no elimination rounds (1950). This Spanish team has shed some of the stigma by winning Euro 2008 and now they look to further lose it with a good performance in South Africa.

A bit of a shock, Paraguay won Group F which included defending champions Italy. Paraguay has also been one of the South American teams to have a good showing across the Atlantic. An upset here against second-ranked Spain would push Paraguay deeper into the tournament and a spot in the semifinals which guarantees at least two more games.

David Villa of Spain has been one of the best goal scorers to date, and he will be looking to continue that trend. Villa’s partner up front, Fernando Torres, has struggled returning from knee surgery which puts even more pressure on Villa to perform.

Prediction: Spain 3-1

Meet my new favorite team: Paraguay

South American representative Paraguay awaits a quarterfinal match against favored Spain, but in the down time between games, we have some thing to increase attention.

Paraguayan lingerie model Larissa Riquelme is promising a Diego Maradona like guarantee. She’ll run through the streets of Paraguay naked. Unlike Maradona, she’ll paint her body the color of Paraguay’s flag, but otherwise, she’ll be completely naked.

Of course, the odds of this happening are not favorable. Paraguay will have to knock off number two ranked and defending European champions Spain, and then face the winner of Argentina v Germany, two teams with a successful history on the world’s stage.

If Paraguay were to survive all of that, then they could meet top-ranked Brazil, fourth-ranked Netherlands, or an upstart team like Uruguay or Ghana in the finals.

All of that aside, there’s no reason we can’t root for them. Join me in saying, “Go Paraguay!”

**Author apology – I, Michael Street, apologize for not embedding a picture of Larissa Riquelme, but I wrote the article in a hurry since I need to be exiting the door right now.

***Flop Update: This thread is useless without pics. ;)

U.S. invites unlikely speaker

U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati and head coach Bob Bradley got together to invite an unlikely guest speaker to the U.S. hotel on the eve of one of the biggest days in U.S. soccer history. Oakland Raider owner Al Davis took the podium in the hotel’s meeting room wearing his No-Cal sunglasses and a vintage leather jacket.

When pressed as to why Davis was the one invited, the thoughtful Bradley said, “His motto has become our motto in the days leading up to the last game of group play. Just win, baby!” President Gulati said the same thing.

However, neither man was willing to go into more detail. Common sense tells us that President Obama or another leading figure in the U.S. would be more suited for the job. Who better else than to inspire enthusiasm and the good ole American win-at-all-costs mentality than the leader of the free world?

Davis has faced constant criticism since trading head coach Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His revolving door of coaches and players along with a questionable draft strategy have left many wondering if the man is senile or not.

Bob Bradley deflected concerns of Davis’ mind.

Once Davis took to the podium, he spoke for five minutes before losing his place in his notes twice in a 30-second span. Once he recovered, Davis went on for a few more minutes before presenting a slide show which ended with a proposed starting lineup.

Davis said of the lineup, “It’s based on my draft strategy. Speed kills.”

One of the proposed changes included keeper Tim Howard being benched in favor of forward Robbie Findley, who made the team for his ability to stretch a defense vertically. When asked, Davis did not seem to be aware that Findley is actually suspended for the Algeria game for accumulating two red cards.

That fact, however, did not change Davis’ lineup. Once the speech was finished, the U.S. players walked out in a single file line, returning to their rooms to rest up for the game.

President Gulati and Bob Bradley were seen smiling after the speech. An anonymous source said both men were very happy with the guest speaker.

Group C and advancement for the U.S.

As we approach the day of U.S. soccer glory, EJSIC would like you, the loyal reader, to understand what is at stake tomorrow as you participate in our live blog for both the U.S. v Algeria game and England v Slovenia. Both games will be broadcast simultaneously on ESPN and ESPN2. We will cover both games with an emphasis on the U.S. one, of course.

Group Standings

The full group standings can be found here.

A quick synopsis of the group is here though.

1. Slovenia 4 pts
2. USA 2 pts
3. England 2 pts
4. Algeria 1 pt

Advancement Scenario

Since we’re in the U.S., I’m focusing on what the Stars and Stripes need to do to reach the round of 16.

1. U.S. win against Algeria. The simplest advancement scenario is that the U.S. wins tomorrow morning by any margin and they are in. That would give the U.S. 5 points. The Slovenia v England game result will not matter in this scenario. A Slovenia loss would help the U.S. in winning the group, however.

2. U.S. draw against Algeria. This scenario is a little more complicated. If the U.S. ties with Algeria, it can still advance as long as England loses to Slovenia or England-Slovenia ends in a tie and the U.S. maintains its goal advantage over England. Obviously, scenario 2 involves a little more luck.

Remember to join us at 10:00 am EST tomorrow morning for a live blog of the soccer craziness. And Go USA!

It just keeps getting better

The United States controls its destiny in the World Cup and ne’er do well England is on the verge of elimination in Group C after two disappointing ties. The heat spread to star striker Wayne Rooney after England’s 0-0 draw with Algeria.

You can hear him in the YouTube video below shouting at English fans in South Africa booing the team. It’s unclear what Rooney’s exact words are, but I’ve been able to make out the following: “Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is.” At least, that’s the best I can do with his heavy accent.

For a team with a coach making 6 million quid per year, one has to think English football fans are not getting a return on their large investment.

USA v Slovenia Live Blog Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9:30 am EST, EJSIC will be hosting a Live Blog of the USA v Slovenia game. Yours truly will be doing the majority of the commentating, but we want as many as possible to participate. If you do not know a thing about soccer, don’t worry. Join us regardless.

We will LOL at Slovenia’s futile attempt to defeat the mighty American football machine, chat about all of the World Cup happenings to date, and sing along in an e-version of “Ole ole ole ole.”

World Cup Opening Match Recaps

As the mid-day hour creeps in on this Wednesday, all 32 team have now made at least one appearance in the World Cup. Below, we go through group by group summarizing their efforts to date in a few sentences or less.

Group A

1. Mexico (1 pt) – The tie with South Africa came as a bit of a disappointment after the dominating first half, but an upcoming game against struggling France leaves El Tri a chance to gain control of the group.

2. South Africa (1 pt) – They continued the tradition of the host country not losing the first game. Can they make some history and advance?

3. France (1 pt) – The poor play continues for the talented French side. Remaining games against Mexico and South Africa are winnable, however.

4. Uruguay (1 pt) – Stellar defense against France led to a tie, but if they want to advance, they’re going to need to put the ball in the net.

Group B

1. South Korea (3 pts) – The relative ease of a 2-0 victory against the 04 Euro champs Greece came as a shock. South Korea is poised to advance because of it.

2. Argentina (3 pts) – They won, Messi looked good despite not scoring, and Maradona didn’t become a sideshow. That’s a triple win as far as Argentina is concerned.

3. Nigeria (0 pts) – A relatively new group of Nigerians played tough against Argentina, but could not find an equalizer. Advancement looks tough being behind 2 teams by 3 points.

4. Greece (0 pts) – A disappointing effort by a team many considered to be a dark horse likely means they won’t advance without a holy intervention.

Group C

1. Slovenia (3 pts) – A lucky goal leads to the top of the group standings and a loud mouth player guaranteeing victory over the U.S. Good luck, Slovenia (but not really).

2. England (1 pt) – They are a goalie cock-up away from having 3 points, but Fab Capello’s side needs to regain the form it had in qualifying. Their effort in South Africa has been lackluster to date.

3. U.S.A. (1 pt) – Dempsey’s goal was lucky (seems to be a recurring theme in this group), but the U.S. will take a draw with the group’s best team and 2 matches to go.

4. Algeria (0 pts) – Matches left against England and the U.S. will make it tough to climb out of the cellar of Group C.

Group D

1. Germany (3 pts) – The 4-0 beat-down of Australia goes down as the first round’s most impressive display. Ghana appears to be the only real challenger left.

2. Ghana (3 pts) – They needed a penalty kick to score against Serbia, but in a tournament where goals are coming at a premium, Ghana will gladly accept the 3 points.

3. Serbia (0 pts) – 3 points behind with Germany left to play doesn’t bode well for the Serbs advancing.

4. Australia (0 pts) – A negative 4 goal deficit and their best player suspended for the next game because of a red card spells O-V-E-R.

Group E

1. Netherlands (3 pts) – The 2-0 victory was not as impressive as Holland could have played, but starting out with a victory is always the goal of a title contender.

2. Japan (3 pts) – The Blue Samurai took out a tough African team in Cameroon. A win against Denmark likely means they advance.

3. Cameroon (0 pts) – They’re not out of it yet with a small goal differential, but a game against Holland will be tough, especially if they’re needing a favorable result.

4. Denmark (0 pts) – The own goal hurt against the Netherlands and will make it tough to advance.

Group F

1. Italy (1 pt) – The Italians began defense of their title with a draw against the second best team in their group. Two wins against sub-par opponents will put them through to the round of 16 easily.

2. Paraguay (1 pt) – Paraguay has to be ecstatic with the draw against Italy. The path of advancement is achievable now.

3. New Zealand (1 pt) – A late goal gave the Kiwis the tie which is as good as it will probably get for New Zealand in this tournament.

4. Slovakia (1 pt) – If they had held on to the lead against New Zealand, they would be leading the group and have a better shot at advancing. Now, they need to upset either Italy or Paraguay.

Group G

1. Brazil (3 pts) – The 2-1 victory over North Korea wasn’t what their fans expected, but 3 points is 3 points no matter what the final score is.

2. Ivory Coast (1 pt) – You could see the strategy unfolding for both Ivory Coast and Portugal: draw against each other, take their lumps from Brazil, beat the living hell out of North Korea, and then pray you have the goal differential to advance.

3. Portugal (1 pt) – See Ivory Coast.

4. North Korea (0 pts) – Despite the fact that their fans at home could not see the game, or that the fans in the stands were actually paid Chinese actors, the North Koreans performed admirably against Brazil.

Group H

1. Chile (3 pts) – The second best South American team in qualifying did as we all expected: they won. Now, they can set their sights on winning the group and avoiding Brazil next round.

2. Switzerland (3 pts) – The Swiss pulled the upset of the tournament so far by beating the second-ranked Spain 1-0. Can they advance with that stingy defense?

3. Honduras (0 pts) – The last CONCACAF representative played well against Chile, but they didn’t have enough in them to pull a draw. With games left against Switzerland and Spain, their World Cup run is not looking well.

4. Spain (0 pts) – World Cup favorite out in the group stage? It’s possible after that 1-0 loss just moments ago. Spain continues its trend of mediocrity on the world’s biggest stage.