As we launch into the final 8 games and final 8 teams of the African World Cup, there probably isn’t quite as much to be gained from ranking the remaining squads. There are at least 5 teams with a realistic chance of winning it all – and after this weekend there will be 4 teams with a chance, no matter who comes through. Instead I want to take a quick look at an odd phenomenon that maybe isn’t as random as it seems.
The English Premier League is without a doubt the biggest professional soccer league. The best players for the majority of teams competing in the Copa ply their trade in the EPL. Yet out of 105 EPL players who started this tournament, only 13 are left. For you number lovers, 14.2% of the players in the Cup play in the EPL, 25% of the total players are left, but only 7% of the remaining players play there. To top it all off, the biggest star left in the Cup, Liverpool’s Spanish star Fernando Torres, is having an awful tournament. Arsenal’s Dutch goal machine Robin Van Persie isn’t doing much better and their Spanish play maker Cesc Fabregas can’t even get spot in the starting XI. With big guns like Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Drogba, Anelka, and Vidic all eliminated, that leaves just one bonafied EPL star alive and doing well in the World Cup. That man is Manchester City striker and Argentine star Carlos Tevez – who scored 2 key goals in Argentina’s Round of 16 win over Mexico.
So what is going on? Everyone knows that the England National Team couldn’t get their shiz together – and I think we need to start by looking there. The EPL being such a big and important league with so much money at stake, it seems that the EPL stars have allowed their priorities to switch to their clubs’ success. Even in a world cup year, any given star might only play some 10-15 games in their national jersey. By contrast, a successful club team will expect upwards of 50+ appearances from a healthy star, not to mention all that additional time in training. With annual competitions like the EPL title, FA Cup, and especially the Champions League, the world of soccer has created an extremely competitive and exciting landscape. But the downside is that the world’s biggest players are quite simply distracted when it comes to performing for their countries. Want more proof? Just look at the what is quite possibly the second biggest league in the World: Italy’s Serie A. No surprise that every single player from Italy’s anemic 2010 National Squad call Serie A home.
My picks for the Quarters:
Brazil over Holland. Can the Dutch potentially win? Absolutely. Will they? I just don’t think so. Robben might have a shot at scoring one of his magical goals from outside, but apart from that I just don’t see the Dutch penetrating the Brazilian back line.
Uruguay over Ghana. Ghana might put up a fight but I don’t think they will find the net. Uruguay’s Suarez and Forlan are simply dynamite together.
Argentina over Germany. We are getting an early final here with arguably the two teams in the best form matching up in the quarters. Will Messi finally find the score card? It doesn’t really matter with both Tevez and Higuain playing next to him. I just don’t see them giving in.
Spain over Paraguay. There is a bit of an upset chance here unless Spain starts to turn it on. I think they will do what they need to do to beat P.guay – but with Argentina awaiting them in the Semis, the fun might not last for la Furia Roja.