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with Jimmi Hemmenbach


As host nation, Germany will, with the help of the crowd, probably perform over its abilities. But I doubt that will lead to victory for the Germans. The team is inexperienced, and the pressure from its fans could create a backlash that could undermine performance. The U.S. team is experienced, but considering its group opponents—Italy, the Czech Republic, and Ghana— making it to the second round will be very difficult for the Americans. If the U.S. finishes second in the group, it will probably play against Brazil in the following round.

I believe that the four top challengers are to be found among Italy, England, Argentina, and Serbia Montenegro. The last of these countries is a bit of a dark horse. In the World Cup qualifier, the team didn’t lose one game, and only conceded one goal in 10 games. With Atlético Madrid player Mateja Kezman and Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic on the team, Serbia Montenegro shouldn’t be underestimated. Teams from the former Republic of Yugoslavia have always been very strong, but generally lacked team unity. However, this team has found a perfect balance and it will be interesting to see how far they can go. The only negative is their tough group opponents: Argentina, Ivory-Coast, and Holland. If they survive the group, the team is capable of going all the way to the final.

Three-time-champion Italy always manages to go far in World Cup tournaments, especially on European soil. Under the leadership of Coach Marcelo Lippi, the Italian squad seems to have found front figures that can lead them to victory. Fiorentina (Florence), supplies its leading scorer, Luca Toni. He has scored an impressive 28 goals this season in Series A, making him one of the key components of the Italian team. If my projection is right, the team will face Brazil no later than the quarterfinals. There the Italians will be put to the test.

Argentina is as always among my favorites. Its midfield creator, Juan Román Riquelme, and Argentina’s new wonder boy, Lionel Messi, will form a strong offensive line. Its defense is not as strong though. Actually, both Argentina and Brazil conceded a one-goal-average per game in the qualifying round. On the other hand, they scored the double.

The Argentine players will feel a lot of pressure from their fans at home. In 2002, the team didn’t manage to qualify for the second round, finishing third in its group after both Sweden and England. A failure this year will not be acceptable in a country where soccer is religion. This can have a negative effect on the players.

England has this year its strongest team in many years. Players such as David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, and Michael Owen, could very well be one of the reasons England will be on the field in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on July 9th. Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has, in a five-year period, prepared the team for this tournament, and expectations are high in England.

In 2002, England lost in the quarterfinals against Brazil, 2-1. My projection is that these two teams will face each other in the final this summer. This time England will win the battle and reclaim the trophy it won in 1966 on its home soil. Whether my prognostications are right or wrong, the event will be watched and enjoyed by millions of people. Make sure you are one of them.


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