|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.