Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eli's Picks

Continuing Rabett Run's run through the World Cup Groups, Eli comes to Groups EFGandH.  Remember the point is to pick games worth watching, not the winners.  Given the cost of tickets and travel, this is not necessarily a minor consideration, and even those of us who watch on TV have some investment. Todays Brazil-Croatia game was, as the Rabett recalls, as good an opening game as he has seen in a while.  Not a work of art mind you, but Cruyff never won the World Cup either.

Group E:  Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Hondouras.  Switzerland-France.  Switzerland overperformed in the qualifiers, France the other way about.  The shame is that Franck Ribery is out of the cup, but France has some exciting players and seems to be coming right.  They will not go far, neither will Switzerland, but this should be a good game.  Xherdan Shaqiri is the player to watch for Switzerland, and Karim Benzema has gotten hot for Real Madrid and France.  Not an exciting group, but this should be a good game.

Group F:  Argentina, Bosnia and Hertzogovina, Iran, and Nigeria.  As the last warm up game for the US showed, Nigeria is not ready for prime time, also Iran which makes Argentina vs. BH the only game worth watching in this group.  The former Yugoslavia teams ain't bad, and BH could make some problems for Argentina early on, but really, only Judith Curry would bet against Argentina in this group.  No stadium wave here.

Group G:  aka the group of death, Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.   An interesting group of very different teams.  Germany is clearly the class of the group whose only weakness is that they have 20 midfield players and no attacking ones.  Miroslav Klose is older than Eli.  Portugal is the best one player team in the world, and with Cristiano Ronaldo being in and out of ill health they could finish first or fourth in the group.  The fun game, if it happens, would be Germany vs. Portugal with Philipp Lahm biting Ronaldo's ankles (who knows if they would be directly matched).  The other Germany fullbacks are no match for Ronaldo.  Low might double team him with Lahm as a defensive midfield shadow.  If that Ronaldo goes missing due to injury (he has had a very hard year), then the game of the group might by US-Ghana, with the US playing from the break lead by Michael Bradley in the same way they did against Nigeria.

Group H:  Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Republic of Korea.  The game Eli likes here is Belgium vs. Korea.  Belgium has a golden generation that can play and score and is pretty young at this point. The Koreans play a really aggressive pressing game and are fast.

Remember, it is not who won and lost but how you watched the game.  Eli had a couple of pints. 


Anonymous said...

Must say you have the group of Death wrong... It's Australia, Netherlands, Chile and Spain.
Even Nate Silver says so... And he's always right...


Anonymous said...

Having the finalists from 4 years ago in the same starting group is unprecedented AFAIK. Netherlands should have been top seeded in a group - why France and Russia are in groups with Switzerland & Belgium, while Spain and Netherlands are together is a bit of a travesty.

On Portugal, they just thrashed Republic of Ireland 5 - 1 in a friendly in New Jersey. Ireland are team-building, neither team was at full strength, but Ronaldo played for a lively hour and showed no sign of injury. His undercarriage was thoroughly tested by the Irish defence.

Portugal have under-performed at top championships but so did Spain for years, up until they suddenly started winning. Ronaldo might just come through for them this time. They may have a good run.


Fernando Leanme said...

Regarding Spain and Holland in the same group, here in Spain they looked closely at the group lottery , using slow motion to look at the hands of the people who picked the slips, and it sure looked to me like they rigged it (the slips for that particular group were picked with different hand motions and at one time the guy´s hands went out of view for about 5 seconds). The public here tends to believe the girl picking the balls had nothing to do with the scam, it was the guy who replaced the little slips as he supposedly tried to unroll them.

Anonymous said...

I'm supposing Fernando forgot what happened (or wasn't here) the last time we tried to discuss conspiracy theories at the Rabett's place. And we don't want that to happen, do we?

Anonymous said...

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast & Japan is another group which does not make a lot of sense in terms of pedigree at these championships.

In fairness, I think FIFA are trying to maximise participation by the different continents in the next round - and of course that also helps the TV audience numbers. So European countries like Netherlands have lost out in the seeding.


Fernando Leanme said...

I don´t have a problem believing they rigged the group placings because I´ve read too much about FIFA corruption. I suppose you are aware it´s so bad the sponsors told Mr Blabber to clean up his act.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

You do have a good point there Fernando, re: FIFA corruption. Ugh, it is an ugly thing...

BBD said...

Eli had a couple of pints.

Eli is in danger of turning into a Brit. It's a slippery slope: there will be a post-match bit of bovver before you know it.

Fixed Carbon said...

Am I too late to pick Mexico?

Aaron said...

The best soccer game in the world is always the one you are playing in right now. Go play soccer.

Anonymous said...

If FIFA were trying to arrange an early exist for Spain, well it sure came off. Spain, if they survive, will probably be up against the hosts.

Spain 1 Netherlands 5


Spain looked old & tired, while Aryen Robben & Co looked as if they could run all night.

Netherlands best team so far - van Persie's goal (the first) will be replayed for years and already provides a vivid memory of Brasil 2014. Early days yet, and Netherlands have ultimately disappointed before.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the tip on van Persie's goal.

Who was the passer? Does FIFA score "assists"?

NED plays again the 18th and 23rd, both at 13:00 local time.

John Puma

Fernando Leanme said...

The 1 to 5 beating sure was hard to imagine. However, I was surprised to see they started the older players instead of the mix I suggested (I have coached football in Texas, so I know a bit about heat).

From a purely technical point of view that game was 1 to 3. So I assume they will take corrective action and start at least one young center half and also put in Juanfran for Azpilicueta. I had chosen Juanfran because he's in tremendous physical shape and doesn't seem to mind the heat and can drop in to help the center backs in a hurry.

Adam said...

"Who was the passer?"

Blind, who had a blinder.

Susan Anderson said...

USA-Ghana 2-1, wtf??!! Am I the first? And hardly a football fan, more interested in the rest of the world than most though ... Next, tennis.

(US Americans are funny critters, and yours truly more peculiar than most ...)

Pretty excited, nonetheless.

And Susan had a couple pints too.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Susan, I was at a bar!

Susan Anderson said...

Rattus et al:

joy in Mudville tonight!

And PWA pretty excited too, if anyone wants to know.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Yes indeedy! The whole place erupted when Brooks scored the winning goal!!!!!!!!!!!! Applause when stoppage time expires. It was fun!

J Bowers said...

"And Susan had a couple pints too."

Aha, you're getting the hang of it :)

cRR Kampen said...

I'm Dutch. Ain't Dutch? Ain't much. Proost.

Anonymous said...

Portugal's implosion has ruined my reputation as a keen predictor.

Less of a surprise than Spain I suppose. Ronaldo did not look comfortable at all & Pepe may be gone for 3 games (red card).

Teams have made horrible starts before & improved - I am old enough to remember Italy in 1982 scraping out of their group wtih 3draws and 3 points. Then they suddenly caught fire and beat Brazil, Argentina and Germany before becoming World Champions. Best World Cup ever.

Spain might still play a role, also England, Portugal seem to have the worst uphill struggle.

PS Delighted to see Team USA start with a win.


Susan Anderson said...

Some of you might enjoy this Earth Observatory satellite image of Brazil at night: an unusual kind of map. Big country; Manaus is indeed far up the Amazon and almost on the equator.

Oale said...

Congratulations for getting through from one of the hardest qualifier groups!

Oale said...

Crush Belgia, those byrocrats!

Anonymous said...


PWA: Pagan Webcrafters' Association? Pirates With Attitude? Project Wiggler Adone? Pro Wrestling Alliance Australia?

It took ages for me to figure out that EINAL thing. I'm a bit slow on the uptake, so any help would be appreciated.

Glad you enjoyed those pints!


Kevin O'Neill said...

Taylor, I believe Susan is referring to this PWA.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kevin! I hope Susan and PWA had a chuckle about my confusion.