Monday, June 9, 2014

5 Really Bold World Cup Predictions

One of my favorite quotes from "Game of Thrones" comes from the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, when he basically sums up the theme of the show in one sentence:

It's powerful and simple, and makes the viewer realize that what we thought we knew about how the world worked in a good and just society hold no sway in this story.

Kind of like what you think you know about the World Cup holds no sway once the actual tournament starts. (How about that for a segue?)

The World Cup is, like many lives in Westeros, nasty, brutish, and short. Characters take their turn upon the stage for three or four games, only to be ruthlessly beaten down and eliminated by more powerful opposition (usually the Germans).

With that cheery image in your head, let's get into some ruthlessly bold World Cup predictions.

(Editor's note: I had this post almost all written last night and it somehow got deleted. So this is going to be a severely shortened version. Take it up with Google if you have an issue.)

1. Colombia won't make it out of their group.

Ooh. Kill em.
Two words: Radamel Falcao. Colombia's all-time leading scorer, and one of the best players in the world, won't make the trip to Brazil as he recovers from a knee injury. That's bad news, obviously. They have some other solid players, like the sillily named Jackson Martinez and Napoli's Camilo Zuniga. But Falcao was the talisman (just look at that body), and without him I predict they fold like a house of cards. Plus, I think Japan is sneaky good and the Ivory Coast will finally realize their potential as a group of ubertalented stars.

2. The United States will not only escape their group, but will beat Belgium in the round of 16.

Boo. Hoo.
Two words: dark horse. That's what the US comes into this tournament as, and what people had been calling the Belgians until recently, when they just became a horse. The Yanks aren't even expected to make it out of the Group of Death, what with Germany (world #2) and Portugal (world #4) on the docket, as well as recent US-killer Ghana waiting in the wings.

But the US has won all three of its send-off matches, something that has never happened. And though they won ugly, they won. And winning builds confidence. And confidence builds more winning. It's like Fat Bastard's vicious cycle, but positive (unless you really like eating). So here's what'll happen: the US will go down and thrash Ghana 3-1. Then we'll draw with Portugal 1-1, and probably lose to Germany 2-0. I'm not gonna sit here and figure out goal differential and other team's records, I'm just gonna assume that we get through. Then, on to Belgium.

Belgium has a stupidly easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Algeria. They'll go 3-0 and win that group, having not been tested. And then, suddenly, they're in the knockout rounds. Shark-infested waters. These Belgians have a fair bit of experience, but don't boast any obvious goal threats with Christian Benteke hurt and Romelu Lukaku possibly nursing an injury. Plus, they're already being touted as an outside contender for the title. That's called pressure - something the US will have exactly none of after escaping the Group of Death with their lives. And in a single-elimination game, I'll take the team with no pressure on them over the pressurized team all day err day.

3. Bosnia-Herzegovina will beat France in the round of 16.

A face only an underage prostitute could love.
The talk of the tournament on the eve of the tournament is the players who will not be playing in the tournament.

Wait. What?

I'm talkin' bout injuries. There's been a slew of big-time players going down with ouchies lately, so much so that several websites have created their lists of best players to miss the World Cup due to being physically done for. One of the finest players to drop to the turf writhing in (actual) pain lately is that fellow up there - France's Franck Ribery, midfielder extraordinaire and World's Ugliest Man Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

So my prediction is that France win their group, Bosnia-Herzegovina gets second in theirs, and then the B-H boys beat the Frenchies.

Yes, France are stocked with talent (Giroud, Pogba, Evra, Benzema, etc.), but they're French. And French people fold. They folded HARD at the World Cup in 2010, then bowed out in the quarterfinals of the Euros to eventual champions Spain.

Granted, the Bosnians are no Spain, but they've got some motivation that the other teams don't - specifically, the fact that their country is barely 20 years old, and most of the players were displaced by the Bosnian war and grew up as part of the diaspora (SAT word). The country has not had a competitive football team in ever (in ever, Jerry), so this is kind of a "put the country on my back" deal for Edin Dzeko and the Bosnians. National pride means a lot in the World Cup. The French might still be stinging from the last two major tournaments, and the Bosnians will come in brimming with hope. (Plus they friggin dominated their qualifying group.)

4. Brazil will beat Argentina in the final, but Sergio Aguero will win the Golden Boot.

Mom made pizza rolls?!
Call this a parlay prediction. Both outcomes are rather likely (Brazil are 3/1 to win it all and Aguero is 14/1 to finish top scorer), but put em together and what do you get?

Bippity boppity boo?

No. You get a bold fucking prediction.

Argentina have scored a lot of goals lately against bad teams like Trinidad and Tobago (3-0) and Slovenia (2-0), with exactly zero goals from Captain Happy McChuckles up there. Their goals have come from midfielders (and Messi, duh), but that's OK. Goals in the World Cup come from forwards (except if you're the USA) - just check out this list of Golden Boot winners. You have to go back to 1974 and a West German named Grzegorz to find a dude who doesn't play forward winning that award. Rather strange, then, that the three players deemed more likely than Aguero to win this award are Lionel Messi (questionably a forward, often deployed on the wing), Neymar (questionably a forward, often deployed on the wing), and Cristiano Ronaldo (questionably a for-- yeah, you get it).

This will happen. Mark it down.

5. The Diego Forlan award for rocketing into the US's collective national attention will go to Angel Di Maria.

Once upon a 2010, an attacker from a prominent La Liga team went into the World Cup with high expectations, excellent hair, and a light blue jersey. After an explosion of highlight reel goals, Uruguay's Diego Forlan was the talk of the nation. It didn't hurt that he resembled Adonis's better-looking younger brother.

You want some of this milk?
After a scorching game in the Champions League final, Argentina winger Angel Di Maria is in great form. He'll rise to the challenge in Brazil, using his tricky feet and speed to get past outside defenders and either whip in crosses or take a few rips at goal. Plus, when the Argentines meet up with the USA in the quarterfinals, no one will be able to miss him with this righteous 'do:
(It looks like he's got an onion on his head)
A few goals, a few assists, a few embarrassed defenders, and you've got yourself a recipe for American stardom.

6. BONUS PREDICTION: One team's hotel will be robbed. 

I mean, it is Brazil. Something has to go wrong.

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