Here are my personal power rankings for each of the 32 competing national teams after watching each game in the first round of group play. These rankings are based on a number of factors including quality of play, strength of squad, results of first game, opposing team, potential, and more. The number next to each team is their Official FIFA Ranking going into the tourney.
I’ll give some more explanation on the next go around, but I just wanted to get these out there now. Germany is pretty obviously everyone’s choice for numero uno – but they definitely did look the best. I was most impressed by the play through the midfield by Mesut Özil, a complete unknown to me coming in. While some of the faves had poor first games (Spain, France, Portugal), they are by no means out of it and with the talents on their squads could still go all the way. I thought the USA looked great – but with the strength of Germany, we need to really show up against Slovenia Friday to make a play for the group win.
Here are my rankings. Check out my Statistics Companion if you want some more numbers thrown your way.
1. Germany (6)
2. Netherlands (4)
3. Argentina (7)
4. Brazil (1)
5. England (8)
6. Italy (5)
7. Ghana (32)
8. Spain (2)
9. Paraguay (31)
10. South Korea (47)
11. Chile (18)
12. USA (14)
13. Japan (45)
14. Uruguay (16)
15. Switzerland (24)
16. France (9)
17. Portugal (3)
18. Ivory Coast (27)
19. South Africa (83)
20. Serbia (15)
21. Mexico (17)
22. Slovenia (25)
23. Denmark (36)
24. Slovakia (34)
25. North Korea (105)
26. New Zealand (78)
27. Cameroon (19)
28. Nigeria (21)
29. Honduras (38)
30. Australia (20)
31. Greece (13)
32. Algeria (30)
It took a bit longer than I hoped, but I’ve put together a whole slew of statistics on each of the 32 teams competing RIGHT NOW in South Africa. The idea is to have this handy while watching the Copa for a quick reference on each player’s international and club experience. There are bound to be a number of errors in this thing. Let me know if you find any that should be fixed.
A few of us have been singing the praises of JFT (Jose Francisco Torres) for months and months and he is finally going to get a really great chance to shine for the USA in South Africa. He play 45 minutes against Turkey last Saturday and his performance was stellar. 723FootballFilms put together this little clip of every touch. Here’s a vote for a starting spot come June 12 in Rustenberg.
Charlie Davies – The big news is that Charlie Davies was deemed unfit for the USA squad. It is a shame but it was always a long shot. The fact that he still isn’t cleared from his club team Sochaux made it an easy decision. While all USA fans are sad to see him fall short, he is only 23 and he’s gonna be a force in USA soccer for the next 8 years for sure. All things considered, I’m really not all that upset – especially with the way Edson Buddle has been playing (alongside Landon Donovan no less).
USA Squad – Thank god Gooch is there! While his rehab hasn’t finished in time to get him back on to the field with AC Milan, it looks like he should be able to lead the USA backfield onto the field in South Africa – we might be in real trouble if he isn’t. It was a toss up between a number of midfielders with Kyle Beckerman getting the short end. This is probably because Robbie Rogers is more dangerous at attacking from the left – a skill that will prove very necessary if DeMarcus Beasley has a weak camp. Only one of those two will likely go and my money is on Beasley. I thought that Conor Casey would get the call over the injured Brian Ching (do you really want to see either of them enter the game in late important minutes?) but apparently Ching is expected to be fit. I’m assuming he makes the 23-man squad since he made this list. Eddie Johnson, huh? Well he won’t likely go. Remember, Bob Bradley has to cut 7 more players before June 1!
Here’s my guess at the Cut List:
Definitley gone: Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall, Eddie Johnson, Robbie Rogers
Bubble (3 of 4 will be gone): Alejandro Bedoya, Sasha Kljestan, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez Bob Bradley also has the option of dropping his 7th Defender (likely Clarence Goodson or even Jonathan Bornstein) and then keep one of those last 4. Sasha and Gomez seem the most likely to make it – but it is going to come down to who plays best over the next few weeks.
England – It is cool to see Joe Cole make the squad, but I don’t think he’ll make the cut to 23. It is too bad Carlton Cole didn’t nab a striker spot as he is a rising young talent and the experience would have done him a lot of good – especially since Emile Heskey is over the hill. Scott Parker won’t make it and Tom Huddlestone might not either, but Fabio Capello should definitely take Adam Johnson. The young right winger has been on fire for Manchester City. It is interesting to see Jamie Carragher come out of National Team retirement. Shows you England is really hurting at defense. Finally, Wayne Bridge is a bitch. John Terry shacked up with his girl and so he protests by not going to the World Cup?! Dude, you gotta get your priorities straight.
Brazil – While I’m not surprised Ronaldinho didn’t make the squad, it is still a shame. But the real shame is the exclusion of young striker Pato. Regardless, Brazil is going to be really, really hard to beat.
Argentina – Lisandro Lopez is an amazing player and they should have taken him – simple as that. But this team is stacked! Messi, Tevez, Kun Aguerro, Diego Milito, and Higuain… gimme a break!. The real question is if super-douche Maradona can get them to play like a team.
France – How do you not take Karim Benzema? If he had stayed at Lyon instead of being a $30M bench warmer at Real Madrid, he would have made the squad. Still, Le Bleu has the personnel to be pretty nasty.
Spain – Wow… I don’t see where you can cut 7 players. Spain is definitely the team to beat.
The torch may have been extinguished, but before the post-Olympic hangover really kicks in, I’d like to share a few of my favorite memories from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. You won’t find anything on this list about NBC’s atrocious coverage (though NPR has a great article). Al Michaels’s daytime drinking might have been a fun diversion, but Costas’s constant head movement and witticisms grew old very quickly. You also won’t find anything here about choke artist John Shuster and his despicable performance for USA Curling. And I certainly have nothing good to say about Ice Dancing. No activity that involves twizzles should be an Olympic sport. While there might have been those few lows, overall the games were incredibly enjoyable – and successful for Team USA. Here are the moments I will remember most:
Hannah Kearney Gets Team USA Going
The first gold medal for the USA came in the Women’s Freestyle Moguls on the first full day of competition. Canada’s Jennifer Heil had laid down a killer run and everyone was thinking Canada might break their home gold drought on day one. But along came Hannah Kearney who threw down an absolutely perfect run and took the gold away with ease. Canada only had to wait one day for Alex Bioldeau to win the men’s turn down the bumps. They went on to win 14 golds on their home soil, topping the gold chart with 4 more than their closest competitor.
Sven “Drama” Kramer
Say it so it rhymes. I was truly touched when Dutch speed skating star Sven Kramer jumped into the crowd after winning the 5000m and hugged his family. Then a few days later, Kramer made headlines again when he asked NBC’s Andrea Kremer if she was stupid for not knowing who he was (video here). But the icing on the cake was in the 10,000m (Kramer’s best event). While setting a time that would assure him the gold, Kramer made an illegal lane change on the insistence of his coach and was DQ’ed! The worst part is that Kramer knew it was wrong but made the move anyway. Kramer came back and won a Bronze with Holland in the Team Pursuit a few days later.
The Glory of Curling
Anyone who has watched much of the games with me knows how bitten by the curling bug I have become (especially when it comes to Brit-Skip Eve Muirhead). I had heard it was a great game but really had no idea just how complex and exciting it is. It is often dubbed “chess on ice” because of all the strategy that goes into planning your shots out many throws in advance. But the huge element necessary in curling but not in chess is execution. After you figure out what you want to do, you still gotta be able to do it. I had a whole lot of fun watching and am hoping it starts to get some more non-Olympic TV coverage… especially the women’s UK team.
Canada Has Trouble Making Ice
One of the funniest moments came a few days in when speed skating was delayed because of problems with the surface of the ice. Three ice surfacing machines (notably not name brand Zambonis) malfunctioned at the Richmond Oval and it took “chief ice maker” Mark Messer over an hour to get it right. And here I thought it was Canada that invented ice.
Shaun White Simply Dominates
Love him or hate him, the guy is truly amazing. The first run White threw down was good enough to win him the gold (hell his prelim run was probably good enough) – but he still came back and laid down the sickest half pipe run ever seen in competition. There really isn’t anyone who can even get close to what he is doing.
Cross Country Wipeout Medalist
During a prelim run in the women’s Individual Sprint race, Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic took a really nasty tumble into a gully. During the coverage, the NBC team showed the crash over and over again, deriding the fact that she was given a delayed start time. She went on to complete all three 1.4km heats and win the bronze medal. After the race, it was revealed she had broken four ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. Just imagine breaking four ribs and suffering a collapsed lung and then running 3 miles at medal pace!
Big Face and Funny Hat
Sticking with cross country, a quick word has to be said for NBC’s wonderful Nordic commentary team of Big Face and his pal Funny Hat (aka Al Trautwig and Chad Samelka). Al has an incredible voice which you can hear in the video above (you also might remember him as NBC’s gymnastics announcer) and Chad is surely quite knowledgeable – but more importantly… look at those guys! Al’s face in enormous! Just compare him to Chad. And those mitts! He looks like he is going to strangle that poor microphone. And come on Chad… just what is the deal with that hat?
Incredible. While her free skate was glorious, it was Kim Yu-Na’s short program that won her both the gold medal and the hearts of millions around the world. Women’s figure skating is always one of the main things to be remembered from the winter games and Kim Yu-Na’s performance was simply one of the best ever.
USA’s Hockey Run
The only undefeated team coming into the final, Team USA hadn’t even trailed by a point in the tournament. As we all know, that ended 12 minutes into the final versus Canada (after defeating them in prelims). But for USA fans, it is hard to say there was any moment in the Olympics more exciting than when Zach Parise buried a goal with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to even the score at 2-2 and force Canada to a sudden death overtime. It may have ended up being Canada’s night, but really who can complain about that performance? It is almost worth it to lose and not have to feel bad about how devastated Canada would have been. Almost.
What an Olympics! The USA jumped out to an early lead in the medal count on day one and never relinquished that lead. That is an incredible achievement and the first time since 1932 we have won the overall count. We also set a record for most medals ever won by anyone! Congratulations Team USA. What a fantastic showing!
I can’t say I am the biggest P-Rod fan in the world – but I do love this commercial. This is the extended version which is even better than the 1 minute they were playing during the XGames. Bring on more LA love.
With this week’s amazing Champions League Final completed, the less amazing FA Cup in the books, and the final weekend of Serie A and La Liga all wrapped up, the season of European Football is over. It has been a hell of a ride and Wednesday’s defeat of Manchester United by Barcelona was a fitting swan song. Although it has only been my first season of fandom, I’ve jumped in with both feet and I’m already ready for next season. But before the first kick of the 09-10 season, we get all the excitement of the summer transfer window! So who is going where? At this point we can only guess – so let’s take some guesses. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts fellow soccer fans.
Well first thing’s first and that’s that Chelsea needs a new manager. While it is still up in the air, my money is firmly on AC Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti (if no other reason than because he looks so much like Guus Hiddink). So what does an Ancelotti Chelsea look like? Here’s my guess, no more Didier Drogba. I’m going out on a limb, but I think Drogba leaves Chelsea for Inter Milan and his old boss Jose Mourinho. So who is out there to replace Drogba? How about Valencia’s David Villa? We know Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich isn’t afraid to spend money.
Liverpool has already been rumored to have made an offer for ManU’s Carlos Tevez and while I do think they could use a bit more depth at striker (move Kuyt to the bench spot), I just gotta think the money is better spent on defense. Liverpool needs a strong Rio Ferdinand type to lead in central defense. For me the best case scenario would be to lure Gerard Pique away from Barca. I know that this is unlikely as Pique just left ManU for Barca last year – but after his performance in the Champions League, he has gotta be on the top of the list. What are other options for potential Liverpool defenders? How about Everton’s Joleon Lescott or Juve’s Chiellini. Basically anyone better than Jamie Carragher will do.
Around the rest of Europe, the hottest player up for grabs has got to be Frank Ribery. Expect all the big clubs to make a play for him but my guess is that it will be the deep pockets of Manchester City that lure the frenchman away from Bayern. That is, of course, assuming that Cristiano Ronaldo stays at Manchester United, which I suspect he will (if he leaves watch Ribery go there instead). So if Ronaldo stays at ManU and Ribery goes to ManCity, where does that leave Real Madrid? My prediction is that they spend their rich transfer budget on Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Of course this assumes that Drogba does indeed go over to Inter… and now it’s obvious how fragile this house of cards I’ve built really is.
So these are just some thoughts on a few of the potential big moves. Will Adebayor stay at Arsenal? Will Figo or any of the other old euro stars come to MLS? Where will big names like David Silva, Juninho, and Gareth Barry end up? Let the summer excitement begin!
Seattle sports fans finally have a reason to get excited – and it is for the beautiful game no less! MLS kicked off the ’09 season last night in Qwest field with the expansion team Seattle Sounders FC dismantling the NY Red Bulls – a team that played in the MLS final last year! Seattle has a great squad, led up front by 21 year-old Colombian phenom Fredy Montero (two goals and one assist) and in the net by 39 year-old captain Kasey Keller, one of USA Soccer’s best goal keepers ever. Former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg, certainly one of the best in MLS, is also on the squad but not quite in match form as he recovers from hip surgery.
What was really incredible was the support given the team by the fans. Qwest was roaring like the 4th quarter of a Seahawks game – the crowd a sea of rave green and sounder blue scarves. Everyone from the MLS Commish to the commentators was impressed.
“Having spent my whole career in Europe, I was worried about being let down — why come home for this?” said a beaming Kasey Keller. “But there’s probably not a better atmosphere for soccer in America.
“This team is raising the bar for what our teams could achieve,” Don Garber, MLS commissioner, gushed at halftime.
“This is the most successful launch in MLS history,” Joe Roth, the Hollywood movie producer and part-owner of the team told the crowd. “We proved Seattle is the capital of soccer in this country.”
MLS gets a lot of flack for the play not being up to the level of the Euro leagues. There is a lot of truth in that. But I for one am extremely excited to finally have a team I can fully support. Now just don’t move to Oklahoma.
The trailer for new snowboarding flick from Brain Farm, That’s It, That’s All makes the movie look more like Planet Earth than your typical Mack Dawg affair. Judging from the 2nd hardcore trailer on their site, it might just be clever editing. Regardless this flick looks ridiculously sick and the line up of riders is about as good as it gets. Ohh, I hope Santa brings me this bad boy.
It’s about this time in the NFL season when you start hearing talk about playing for a high draft pick – aka LOSING. Bollocks! I say throw the bums out. For those not familiar, relegation is a concept employed mainly in European sports where the bottom few teams at the end of the season are sent to the MINOR LEAGUES and the top few teams of the lower league are promoted. Sounds great! At 2 and 10, and Seahawks would be tied for the bubble spot with the KC and the Rams (Cinci are 1-10-1 and poor Detroit is done for as they are still winless). Suddenly the Seahawks game next week at St. Louis seems a whole lot more important if you have to play to avoid being sent down next season. Relegated in the MLB this season would have been Tampa, Pittsburgh, and KC. If the NBA had employed relegation last season there would be no Heat, T.Wolves, or Seattle Sonics (aka Oklahoma City Thunder – oh how poetic).
I know, I know, none of the American leagues are built with multi-tiered systems like English soccer (which really speaks to the popularity of soccer) with the exception of the MLB farm system. Hey figure it out, promote the Phoenix Mercury.
On a related but more superstitious note, I bought a Seahawks hat at the beginning of this Season. I haven’t worn it since week 2. The last time I bought a piece of Seahawks merch? My Seahawks Starter jacket in 6th grade. That was 1992 and the Seahawks finished that season 2 and 14.
Check out this awesome hi-res 3D View from inside the Watercube (actually from the top of the 10M platform). You can spin around, up and down in every direction while you listen to a few seconds of commentary from USA diver Thomas Finchum.
Do you think this sort of 3D thing is cool? Microsoft does. They have just released a web app specifically designed to allow you to create your own fully 3D image panos. Microsoft Photosynth is online (more info here) and allows you to upload your own images. I haven’t tried it out yet but plan to soon.