World Cup Rankin’s: This Will Probably Be Defunct By Tomorrow

June 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

In case there was any doubt, Loki, the Knee-capping Trickster God of Anarchy And Sudden Injuries, successfully made the trip down to South Africa. The effect of some of these injuries is still unknown at this point (Cote d’Ivoire is swearing that Drogba is totally going to make it to the first match), but suffice it to say that it has rendered most people’s predictions and rankings into smoldering piles of crap.

So, recognizing that this list will look downright laughable after Carvalho loses an eye from a poorly-timed sneeze, I think it’s time I wandered back into the rankings game.

1. Brazil, Brazil, Brazil – I was going to list this team as numbers 1-3 but I realize that you want more than snark. Whether it be on historical grounds (yeah, Europe, where’s that non-continental trophy you guys got? Oh, it’s at the cleaners? Sure, you have one), or tactical/talent grounds, Brazil is the number 1 team in the world. They have two of the top-8 defenders in the world, Maicon and Dani Alves, WHO PLAY THE SAME POSITION.

2. Argentina – I really don’t care just how Maradona the WonderHellSpawnMidget manages the team. All of the press’s attention on the effect of a manager is overblown- unless Diego storms on to the field and guns down his whole squad (a scenario still plausible), he can’t put a damper on Messi or Higuain or their solid D. Great, I just spent 15 minutes re-watching Higuain highlights on YouTube. Thanks, Internet.

3. Spain – What’s Spanish for “funnel cake”? You know, the sweet and fattening treat that you are always enchanted into buying at the state fair because it smells amazing, but then for next week you regret ever consuming even 3 bites of it? Yeah, that’s these guys. Ooooh, healthy Iniesta! Oooooh, Xavi! I’ll take it, mmmm! *Spain inevitably chokes quarter or semifinal* *Regret for the next week*

4. Germany – Real talk for a moment: Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Germany. That’s all you got in terms of nations you should reasonably pick to win. Any other one is sheer a-historical speculation. Those are the only four countries to have won the cup multiple times and in non-home venues. That fact never ceases to surprise me. Especially in a media-driven world of EPL promotion and La Liga hype, it’s easy to forget that the Bundesliga might be the 3rd best league on the planet (I choose them over Serie A, but serious minds disagree). Furthermore, Germany has long had a tradition of hulking-out in international games, where the players perform better for the national team than in the professional circuit. This phenomenon is called the Opposite-Of-England Disease.

5. The Dutch – Especially if the rumors are true, and the Dutch put out all 4 super-attackers (Sneijder, Robben, van Persie, and van der Vaart) at the same time, this team is terrifying. I don’t see them having any problems in the group stage, and it looks like Robben will heal up enough for the single-game stage. If there is any team besides North Korea that you need to DVR, it is the Netherlands. They might win it all, they might burn out in spectacular fashion, losing to Spain 5-4. They were volatile and reasonably successful at Euro 2008, I don’t see them being too different here.

6. Italy – Allow me a chance for a little more Spanish-hate. What’s the biggest complaint about Italy? That they’re old. But in comparison, are they that much older than Spain? The Spanish backline’s collective age is 118. Italy’s backline will be 117 or 122. Yes, Cannavaro’s 36, but Puyol is 32 and so is Capdevila. Now Spain has Sergio Ramos, a big advantage to be sure, but to the primary complaint about Italy- bupkis I say, bupkis. Furthermore, and this seemingly happens every World Cup: people forget that Italy plays a style that, while slower and “uglier” to the eye, wins games. Like they always do, Italy will slug their way, 1-0 and 2-1, to a quarterfinal game.

7. Portugal – Excluding a goaltender I have nearly no confidence in, this team is built solidly from the back to front. One of the most experienced set of fullbacks, Pepe just in front of them, and Deco on his Last Hurrah? I dig it. Cap it off with Crinaldo on the front, raring to flash his smile and so-hawt scowl, and these guys are (at least) quarterfinal bound as well. Really easy prediction of the day: Nani will have a really good tourney.

8. England – Some of the most talented players in the world, a great coach, and stone-cold lock to biff it in the single-elimination stage. Kuper and Szymanski have covered it quite well, but in short: they’ll find a way to gack it up again. When a country build’s its football association on a near-xenophobic loyalty to the “English way” to play the game (no player on the team plays anywhere but the EPL), the country will inevitably be behind the times  Tack on the Rio Ferdinand injury and a questionable goalie situation, and get ready for more of the same.

9. Mexico – A team used to high altitude conditions? Check. Coach with proven track record? Check. Mature defense and midfield, young and vibrant attack (Dos Santos, Chicharito, Vela)? Check. Really underrated team, imo.

10. United States – As long as Jay DeMerit plays zero minutes, Torres starts, and Gomez gets minutes, the US will finally have an offense to play to the near-quarterfinal level.

11. Chile – Marcelo Bielsa, their coach, has got them attacking at a much more aggressive pace than many other smaller South American countries. Plus, their defense is still South American good. Throw in Isla and Suazo up front, I love them for dark-horse.

12. Ivory Coast – Meh. Whatever, Africa: your teams are always full of great talent that never becomes a good group. I’m calling bullshit on the “home continent” effect as well. You want the truth? The second most popular team in South Africa, behind the Bafana Bafana that is, is the US. President Obama’s wicked popular, and the US followers are going to blow out other countries for most number of visitors. Drogba will come back, but even then, meh. There’s a 5,000 word blog post out there somewhere about the sociology and history of sub-Saharan African countries underperformance, but this isn’t the place. You want the short version: when people like Drogba haven’t functionally lived in their home country since they were 8 or 9 years old, cohesion can be a bit harder to create.

And my bottom 3?

30. Japan – crazy coach, no offense.

31. New Zealand – these guys should be bottom, but they can’t because that would imply that

32. France – is not a dysfunctional crowd with a certified batshit-insane coach who inspires little to no confidence in his players. Get ready for an Implosione Magnifique y’all.

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