Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm. . . ba-aack to chat about global soccer

After a long time away, I'm back to the blogging business and to one of my favorite aspects of globalization not covered in my book: global soccer. For those of you less attuned to the world of international soccer, yesterday was a significant day. In South Africa, Charlize Theron drew the ping pong balls that decided who would play whom in the men's World Cup next summer. Sadly, I couldn't watch it live, but apparently you can re-live the experience via video on the FIFA website. And the format for the whole tournament is in a handy PDF on the FIFA site.

My first reaction is to figure out how the US national team might fare given its draw. In the 2006 Cup, they ended up in a "group of death" with Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic. They never won a game and went home humiliated. This time around things look a bit better. The US is in Group C with England (a powerhouse), Slovenia (a surprise qualifier), and Algeria (who barely squeaked past Egypt to get in). The US is ranked second to England, and the top two qualify for the next round. 

However, the initial commentary I've read sound overconfident. For example, the Associated Press story published in our local paper focuses on England, but I'm worried that Slovenia could be a giant-killer--the David to our Goliath. The U.S. defense is very weak, since central defender Oguchi Onyewu wrecked his knee in the last qualifier against El Salvador.

And the bad news is that the second place team in the US's group has to play the winner of group D, which will likely be Germany, a serious global powerhouse. If the US can beat England and win the group, then it would likely play Australia, who will probably end up second in Group D. Either way, the US has a long road ahead if it's hoping to get into the quarterfinals. 

I hope to look at the brackets more in coming days.

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