Off we go on the second day of our roundtable. The participants? Just click here.
We bundle our two next questions together…as we’re focusing on USMNT opponents in the group stage and beyond.
The first: Who should the USMNT respect more in the group stage Algeria or Slovenia….why?
Michelot, Ligue1Talk: Algeria. If they get confident with a victory v. Slovenia and play their qualification against the USA, then there is something to fear. They have experience in high pressure matches and the stadium will probably pull for them. But if they start losing their heads, beware of your ankles…
McKee, “Spectator -Capped“: Respect both, No Fear! Both have pretty good European players at key clubs, as do we. Algeria will enjoy “home” venue/fans and stealth (Algeria have players we can’t scout/assess easily). Slovenia won a tougher group, edging Russia/Hiddink (down men, but away). Algeria split with Egypt (who we beat at strength). Key – play OUR game!
Arbogast, Notre Dame: I’m going to play the homefield advantage card and go with Algeria. Even though the tournament is in South Africa, I believe all the African teams are going to get a huge boost from a World Cup that represents a continent more than a single country.
GeorgeCross: Algeria beat Egypt, and Slovenia beat Russia to get to the World Cup. A healthy dose of respect goes a long way for both teams. On ‘paper’ I would probably say that they are fairly evenly matched, but Slovenia just shading it. Therefore, if I had to pick one, I would say Slovenia; here’s why: I think they will beat Algeria in their opening game, and USA will lose to England. That will put the USA under immense pressure for Game 2 against Slovenia – and I am not sure that many of the USA team has come close to that sort of pressure. Slovenia will know that if they win, they are through to the Last 16 (assuming England beat Algeria in the other Group C match up). Whereas, if the USA win, I fancy them to go and beat Algeria and claim 2nd spot in Group C
Shoaff, Black Sox: Algeria beat Egypt to get in. Slovenia beat Gus Hiddink’s Russia. 6 of 1, half dozen of the other. First round points come from unexpected places for the U.S.: 3 vs. Columbia in ’94 and Portugal in ’02, and a credible draw vs. Italy in ’06. 4 points from these two games is a must.
Rogers, Hillcrest Road: Both. Each team has talented players playing in some of the best European leagues. Algeria beat Egypt to qualify and Slovenia beat Russia, so these teams have a lot of ability. If the USA overlooks either team, they could easily walk away losers.
The second one: Which post-group stage opponent do you fear more?
Shoaff, Black Sox: The 1 and 2 seeds from Groups C and D meet in the second round, so possible opponents (in order I’d least like to see them) are Germany, Ghana, Serbia, Australia. Germans are the class of the group, Ghana ousted us in 2006, and Serbia pushed France into a playoff to secure qualification. Bring on Australia!
Arbogast, Notre Dame: I’m sticking with the homefield advantage argument, so my pick is Ghana. The Black Stars are arguably the class of African soccer, and I think a real threat to make the semi-finals. Germany is the obvious other pick, but I think they’re a weak side by German standards.
Rogers, Hillcrest Blog: For the 2nd round, Germany and Ghana are the obvious choices. I would almost like to see us play Germany, however, with the hopes of getting them back for our 2002 knockout. Ghana would be fun with all of their athleticism and talent. We could get them back for 2006, hopefully. Both teams are dangerous, but I’ll say Germany is more “scary”. After that, Brazil, Spain and Argentina are all scary.
Michelot, Ligue1Talk: Italy. They always rise up to an incredible level in the WC and their defense is tougher than ever, and they have this uncanny ability to score when you don’t expect it. Their team has been rejuvenated for the best. I like their underdog status right now.
Last 16: Serbia – I believe they are the dark horses of the tournament. I feel that they have a great spine to their team; Nemanja Vidic at the back, Dejan Stankovic in midfield and, Marko Pantelic and Milan Jovanovic are more than decent forwards. I also think that in their coach Radi Antic, he has more than enough technical expertise – which he demonstrated in WCQ. Expect a very organised and disciplined team unit.
Last 8: Argentina – Even though they had a lot of trouble in qualifying, I feel that the pesky Argentineans are too wily to ignore. They have so much individual talent at their disposal; I feel that if Maradona can fine tune their team play in the month they have to prepare, it will be too difficult to disregard a team that possesses Messi, Mascherano, Tevez, Higuaine, Heinze, Samuel, Veron and Demichelis.
McKee, “Spectator Capped”: Again, fear none, respect all! Depends on how two “old friends”/Serbia finish Group D. I would love to avenge the volleyball exhibition Frings put on in 2002 Quarters. Similarly I would relish another crack at Ghana (albeit a “home game” for them, though?). Serbia/Australia are darkhorses.