Okay, I know it has been a while, but I have had a major event take place in my life: Mércia and I have moved to the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil for at least most of each year. The undertaking was vast and exhausting, to put it mildly: selling my apartment in Jackson Heights, NY, obtaining my permanent resident’s visa for Brazil, arranging all the documents for moving our household goods to Brazil via a 40 foot container, then packing all the goods and moving them. When we weren’t working, we were packing every night and on the weekends. Everything arrived largely intact with the exception of a couple of old bookcases that I can live without. At last I have a claim to fame: I will now have lived in three different countries on three different continents when the World Cup was taking place in that country (Germany in 1974 and the US in 1994 are the other two). I still have a number of issues to address, including finishing our house
But enough about me. I will at minimum try to post an open thread for each game, but have a somewhat dicey connection and will probably be unable to post much in the way of analysis. I will say this: while everyone will be pulling for the seleção (i.e., national team), I am told by my brother-in-law that the mood is markedly downbeat from what it was in 2010: no huge banners decorating our neighborhood as there was then, a public extremely fed up with the public outlay for this event, etc. Be that as it may, everyone who cares will certainly be pulling for the seleção – my bank had a sign on it this morning that said in English and Portuguese that this branch will only be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on days when the seleção is playing.
So, some educated guesses on the group stage:
Group A: Brazil will win the group handily and Croatia will finish second.Mexico has stumbled and gasped their way into the WC and I don’t believe that they will go very far. Cameroon has to be more than Samuel Etoo and Alex Song to move ahead. Unfortunately, they’re not.
Group B: Spain will win the group with Chile also qualifying for the round of 16. It’s difficult to predict against the Dutch, but they’ve had some significant injuries, they’re not the team that made it to the last WC Championship and they have a coach who is probably busy thinking as to his next assignment at Manchester United.
Group C: Colombia and Cote D’Ivoire go through, although I won’t predict in which order. Even without Radamel Falcao, Colombia has enough talent to make it, especially in a group that I think is weak. For Cote D’Ivoire, I believe that they are balanced well defensively and attacking-wise. I love Yaya Toure and believe Serge Aurier is a gifted defender.
Group D: I believe that Uruguay will win the group and Italy will just pip England for second place, although I believe that the first game in the group between England and Italy in Manaus will determine one of the places.
Group E: Switzerland and France go through, with France winning the group. Didier Deschamps is not Raymond Domenech.
Group F: Argentina wins the group and Bosnia finishes second. Nigeria has failed to impress recently and Iran just doesn’t have the depth to beat the other teams.
Group G: Okay, here’s where I go out on a limb: Germany wins the group, that’s practically a given, but the US will pip Portugal for second place. I admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s enormous talent and dedication, but the rest of the team doesn’t impress me quite as much, and frankly some of them have more than a few miles on them (Hugo Almeida, Helder Postiga, Bruno Alves). Also, their first game is against Germany. If Germany wins and if Cristiano Ronaldo (who is already not 100%) is sufficiently physically drained from that experience, then he will have a tough time against the US in Manaus. As for Ghana, no question that they have talent, but their defense leaves a lot to be desired. If the US doesn’t lose to Ghana in their opening game in Natal, then they will be in a good position.
Group H: Belgium wins the group handily with Russia taking second place.
Three more days!