This will be giving me nightmares until 6-12

Oh dear God…Aaron Lennon vs. Jonathan Bornstein…

This is not a fair match-up… Hopefully Edgar Castillo will emerge. Because Lennon will torch Bornstein all day.


World Cup Draw live blogging

Will Charlize Theron put the US in the group of death

We’re going to be live blogging the World Cup Draw today. Keep hitting refresh for updates on the progress on the draw. Coverage on ESPN has begun, but we’re still a ways from the actual balls coming out of the pots. Remember, the United States is in Pot 2, with the other Concacaf teams and the Asian teams plus New Zealand, making it likely that the US will face a difficult first round group.

South African and world hero Nelson Mandela is speaking about the importance for Africa in hosting the World Cup. It really is remarkable how far the country and the continent have come since he was released from prison in 1990. All the African teams will certainly feel an enormous sense of pride in playing on African soil – really want to avoid the tougher African teams like Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Ghana. Continue reading

Give me England or give me death!

Maybe I am crazy, but going into the World Cup draw today I want England. I really do. Yes England are one of the favorites to win the world cup and Capello has them looking very sharp. But drawing England would create a lot of hype about the World Cup here and would also generate a lot of interest in US soccer in England. The match-up would have a lot of great story lines and allow us to wax about that whole American revolution underdog thing. American press would eat it up. So forget getting South Africa – bring on England!

And while I am at it, and maybe I am just psyching myself up, but I have come to terms with getting the group of death. It will say something about US Soccer that now a group that the US is drawn into will be considered the “group of death.” In other words, part of the reason it is the group of death is because we are in it. This was not the case in 02 or 06. Now the BBC is saying we are the team in are pot that England would most want to avoid. This is definitely a glass half full analysis, but sometimes you just have to look on the bright side.

Philadelphia’s Momentum Growing

There has been a lot of activity going on in Philadelphia. Their new coach, Peter Novak, has pretty much telegraphed his approach to next season: defend first and then scrap for goals. This is a team being built from the back.

The industrious Greg Seltzer, of No Short Corners and of Soccer365 has a great scoop reporting Danny Califf will sign for Philadelphia. This is a great signing for Philadelphia. Califf is a quality defender and will immediately be one of the best defenders in MLS. One question is what his salary will be – I assume he won’t be a designated player, but is he getting paid on par with Europe.

By most accounts Philly’s expansion draft was solid, if not a bit perplexing. Novak did not go for some of the more notable names, such as Bobby Convey and Frankie Hejduk, but got some good defensive players and some decent young prospects. The recent signing of goalie Chris Seitz is also a very solid move – he looked legit in the under-20 World Cup in 2007 and his been waiting his turn behind Nick Rimando in Salt Lake. Continue reading

World Cup draw preview: Can US avoid the Group of Death?

Let's hope the US doesn't join this group of Death: photo by Joe Shlabotnik

The four, eight-team pots for the World Cup Draw are all set and now all that is left before the balls are selected on Friday is a lot of handwringing. Against my advice (damn them!), FIFA put the Americans and other Concacaf teams in the pot with the Asians plus New Zealand. This significantly raises the possibility that the United States will wind up in the Group of Death. But contrary to conventional wisdom, it is far more important to dodge the Serbias and Cameroons to stay out the GoD than missing Brazil or Spain or another world soccer superpower.

The Group of Death is the celebrated catastrophe that soccer fans love the world over, unless of course, it befalls their own team. It consists of four teams that could all reasonably qualify for the second round and probably at least three that would genuinely be thought of as quarterfinal material. In the 2006 World Cup, the Argentina, the Netherlands, Serbia, and Cote d’Ivoire group was recognized as the official Group of Death. But the US group, placed with Italy (2006 champions), Czech Republic (world #5 going into the tournament), and Ghana who ultimately qualified for the second round was just as tough if not tougher. That’s why we really needed to be in the pot with the African teams. Continue reading

World Cup Draw finalized: US likely to face tough group; FIFA punish France for Henry

FIFA’s World Cup Organizing Committee finalized the procedure for the draw set to take place on Friday. I hoped FIFA would put the United States and the other Concacaf teams in a pot with the Africans, but alas, we’re in with the Asians and New Zealand. That makes it much more likely that the US will be drawn into a tough group, needing to dodge some really tough teams in both the unseeded pots and missing out on playing any of the weaker teams in the tournament. While I was wrong about where FIFA would place the US, I was certainly right about FIFA shenanigans, even if it is wholly justified. Completely out of the blue, FIFA scrapped its complicated seeding formula that factors in World Cup performance and three years worth of world rankings, and simply went with the October (not most recent) world rankings to rank the seven teams that will join South Africa in the seeded pot. The only possible explanation to do this is to ensure that France miss out on a seed.  We’ll break this down in a lot more detail later today and tomorrow in the run up to the draw.

World Cup Draw: Teams to Avoid

by Pho Son

I have a theory about the US team. I think we match up much better against more technical sides than sides that can match our athleticism.

Against technical sides like Italy and even Spain that play at a more measured pace, we match up very well. The first half during the confederations cup when we had 11 men against Italy, we were able to go toe to toe with the Italians. The same can be said about the 2006 World Cup game against Italy. But against athletic teams like Brazil, Ghana in 06, teams that combine both – athleticism and technical skill – are an absolute disaster for us. So with this in mind, assuming we are in pot 4 with the Asians, what teams do we most want to avoid?

1. Holland.
If we could avoid being drawn with one team in this tournament it would be Holland. Since the Dutch are not seeded and are in pot 2, getting drawn with them almost automatically becomes the group of death (unless you get South Africa). But regardless of their pot, I would put them just after Brazil as a team I am most afraid of. The Dutch play fast flowing football that I think would have us on the back foot from the get go. They combine the pace and technical quality that we just can’t really compete with.
[UPDATE: Fifa screwed France and manipulated the seeds so Holland is now a seed. But they still remain the team I most want to avoid.]
Continue reading

World Cup Draw: It’s in FIFA’s interests to put US in the African pot

Sepp Blatter should want US in African pot; photo by Asian FC

FIFA’s World Cup Organizing Committee meets tomorrow to finalize the procedures and placement of teams for the World Cup Draw to be held Friday in Cape Town. One key remaining decision is which region—either the South or North Americans—is placed in the pot with the five unseeded African teams. One might think that FIFA would have made these decisions much earlier than just two days before the draw. But that would have denied FIFA the chance to tilt the playing field in favor of certain teams—one of its favorite activities. With that in mind, it is in FIFA’s interests to put the US in the pot with the Africans which would likely result in an easier group.

The 32 team field is divided into four, eight-team pots to select the eight groups for the first round of the World Cup Finals. The first pot consists of the eight seeded teams, the host South Africa and the top seven teams in FIFA’s complicated seeding formula. The second pot is made up of the eight remaining unseeded European teams. That leaves 16 teams for the last two pots, five unseeded Africans, five from Asia and Oceania, and three each from North/Central and South America. Continue reading

Talk about Evil: Kim Jung Il Censors World Cup Coverage

I ran across this article during my day job. The Telegraph is reporting that the Kim Jung Ill’s regime will not broadcast North Korea’s World Cup games and will heavily edit its content before showing them and will only show highlights of wins.

The Supreme Leader has ordered state-run television not to broadcast live games, and to only screen highlights of North Korea’s victories. The ruling means that 99 per cent of the country’s 29 million population will not be able to find out who wins the competition unless the 350-1, outsiders win it.

Games between other nations will be banned from the airwaves, while any highlights of North Korea’s matches will be heavily edited to ensure that they look like the better team.
All advertising in the stadiums will also be blurred out – along with opposition fans, The Sun newspaper reported.

Mike Breen, author of highly-respected book Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader, said: “Like everything else there, the regime will have complete control over the World Cup.

I guess the North Koreans aren’t going to see much at all because they aren’t going to be winning anything.