Friday, December 09, 2005

ATH: World Cup Draw Preview

Besides the announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner tomorrow (which, by the way, is something i normally pay little attention to, but happen to think that UT’s Vince Young is a cut above a lot of recent winners, plus he’s, you know, from Texas . . .), there is other bigger sports news this weekend. That’s right, today is the draw for seedings for the 2006 World Cup. The U.S. not only finished first in their CONCACAF division, but is currently ranked 8th in the world after England recently overtook us for the number 7 slot. First round draws are important simply because that’s where reps are made and dignity upheld. After that, if you make the round of sixteen, even a quick elimination leaves room for pride, another round is cause for celebration. So, it’s not that i want a cushy first round (‘cause there won’t be any of that anyway), but i would like to be able to play such that our best foot is forward.

My favorites? I’ve been an Oranje fan 100% since the early 70s, so it’s nice to see the Dutch back at the top of their game. I have to show a bit o’the blood too – expect me to root for Italy, England, Scotland, and Mexico. And how can you not root for Brazil? And of course i’ve always been enamored of the African entries – of all the teams out there they are the most fun to watch. I’ll probably be rooting for everyone by the time it’s over. But another great showing by the US is what i’d really like to see. Go Landon, Go DaMarcus.

Here’s the early picks – eight teams were seeded, but the US was not, because the defending champ and the host nation automatically are regardless of where they’re ranked (which is not necessarily followed anyway). That was enough to knock the US off the cusp. So, besides Brazil and Germany (the host nation), the seeds went to Argentina, England, France, Italy, Mexico and Spain. Those teams then can’t meet in the first round; the remaining 24 teams are drawn for slots in their eight groups. And one of those 24 is the Dutch. Whichever group they land in will be probably be called the Group of Death, since it will be a slick road to maneuver to get past them and the top seed and on to the next round. Not that any group will be easy – the tournament seems deeper than ever this year.

The US thankfully cannot draw into a group with Mexico – with which we have tended to beat or draw in recent years, but as their top seeding shows they too have a stronger side than is usual lately. All the Asian teams are in the same draw as we are, and probably South Korea has the deepest squad, although Japan and Iran could be spoilers; Saudi Arabia is an unknown for me. We also stand a decent chance of drawing into a round with . . . Germany and the Netherlands . . .

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