Oh my, we are just about there. South Africa vs. Mexico. A month without sleep. A month with upsets. A month with upset girlfriends, wives and, well, pets.
Here you go. The Internet doesn’t lie, but the TSG writers will claim it does when we look back at the glaring mistakes we’ve made. The TSG picks…followed by some TSG storylines.
TSG Team Picks
Selected TSG World Cup Storylines
• Is there more parity in the global soccer world now or is it still dominated by UEFA and CONMEBOL? (Shaun)
• The best player in the world right now is not Lionel Messi. It’s not Wayne Rooney. Arjen Robben is not in the house, nor is Didier Drogba, one elbow or two. The best player in the world owns the right flank for club and country, so much so that he’s relegated Barcelona’s top defensive weapon to his international side’s bench. His name is Maicon. (Matthew)
• In the semis, Spain struggle with the USA again but do just enough, going through to the final on penalties after things were locked 2-2 after extra time. Germany’s luck finally runs out, losing 2-0 to Sven’s dynamic Ivory Coast team. (Tuesday)
• Alexis Sanchez of Chile–good for one deft-defying YouTube highlight in June. If the sliver of a country progresses past the group stage, Sanchez’s name will be all over the triumph more so than fellow Chilean attacker Mark Gonzalez. This is Sanchez’s coming of age tournament. (Matthew)
• You want a major upset? I don’t have one, but if I did it could be Denmark over Spain. The Danes have a solid backline and play well as a team. (Matthew)
• No African team seems able to take a deep run in a tournament on its own soil, can a team step up and represent the continent? No. Zero African teams will advance from the group stage, a great embarrassment for African football. (Brian)
• Iker Casillas is the best goalie on one of the best teams. Fact.
But will another goalie–Hugo Lloris of France, Tim Howard of the United States–steal the show by advancing team based in large part of their ability to deny what seemed as the inevitable. Bet on Howard first. (Matthew)
• Who is doing the most with seemingly so little? North Korea? England? New Zealand?! (Shaun)
• The dark horse: which team that is not one of the traditional powers will make a deep run? No dark horse team gets too deep, but COMNEBOL reps hard as Paraguay and Uruguay reach the quarterfinals. (Brian)
• Netherlands look the early tournament favorite, scoring 7 goals and taking the full 9 points from the group, leaving Cameroon to scrape through over Denmark on goal difference.
Italy draw their first match but after a 1-0 win over New Zealand look set to top their group up 1-0 late in the final match against Slovakia before falling victim to a 93rd minute equalizer, pushing them to second and a match-up with the Netherlands while Paraguay gets Cameroon. (Tuesday)
• Will an injury to Didier Drogba propel fellow striker Gervinho an Ivory Coast deep in the tournament. I’m undecided here, but wouldn’t be surprised. Gervinho, quite a talent. (Matthew)
• Spain wins their first World Cup over Ivory Coast, the first African finalist. The USA has their revenge for 2002, putting 4 past Germany in the 3rd place match. Drawing with the USA seems to become a rite of passage for the eventual World Cup champions. (Tuesday)