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Thursday, April 2, 2009

2010 World Cup UEFA Predictions

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As was the case in 2006, the Europeans will probably control the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Italy trumped France in Germany. In 2002 Germany fell to Brazil in Japan. As always, the European qualifiers seem to hold the champions again. Comprised of eight groups of six and one group of five, teams strive to top their group, guaranteeing them a spot in the World Cup. As a note, all points are current as of March 13th, 2009.

Group One, formed of Denmark (7pts), Hungary (7pts), Algeria (6pts), Portugal (5pts), Sweden (5pts), and Malta (1pt). While the only team that stands no chance is Malta, the favorites seem to be Portugal, and Denmark. If Portugal can find some luck, and hope that the Danes do not run with the group, Portugal can make a strong comeback to the top. Hungary, while tied with Denmark, has yet to play Portugal. While Algeria is no favorite, they are a formidable dark horse, and with perfect luck, could find themselves in South Africa.

Group Two: Greece (9pts), Israel (8pts), Switzerland (7pts), Latvia (4pts), Luxembourg (4pts) and Moldova (1pt). While Greece is the obvious favorite thus far in qualifying, the Swiss could muster a comeback in their two back-to-back games against Moldova. As a surprise in the 2006 World Cup, the Swiss have a chance to get through to the finals in South Africa, if they show the same strength as they did in Germany.

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Group Three holds: Slovakia (9pts), N. Ireland, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia (all with 7pts), and San Marino (0pts). While this seems like a five team group, San Marino holds points that give the second place teams the points to contend with Slovakia, the favorite from Group Three. N. Ireland has developed over the years, but has yet to mature to World Cup talent yet. Poland has an outside chance and so do the Czechs, if Slovakia misses a beat, watch for these teams to take advantage.

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Group Four is home to: Germany (10pts), Russia (6pts), Wales (6pts), Finland (4pts), Azerbaijan (1pt), and Lichtenstein (1pt). Germany and Russia are the far favorites in this group, but as Germany has the advantages this far into qualifying, I see it difficult for the Germans to falter so greatly that they fail to qualify. Russia might have a chance to make it through in the qualifiers between a UEFA team and an AFC (Asian) team. The Fins are finding themselves in a bad group, as they have shown maturity in the 2006 qualifiers, 2010 seems like a farfetched dream for the Finnish.

Group Five: Spain (12pts), Turkey (8pts), Belgium (7pts), Bosnia-Herzegovina (6pts), Estonia (1pt), Armenia (0pts). This group was decided before the first game kicked off. The Spaniards are and were the heavy favorites, as defending Euro champions, Turkey was the only team to stand a chance against Spain. It's a safe bet to say Spain will be in South Africa in 2010, fighting for the World Cup.

Group Six: England (12pts), Croatia (7pts), Ukraine (7pts), Belarus (3pts), Kazakhstan (3pts), Andorra (0pts). Yet again, England is the safe bet from Group Six. While failing to qualify for the Euro Cup in 2008, the Brits have something to prove to the world, and they will show the world in South Africa in May of 2010.

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Group Seven is: Serbia (9pts), Lithuania (9pts), France (4pts), Austria (4pts), Romania (4pts), and the Faroe Islands (1pt). While France was a favorite at the start of qualifying, they have failed to live up to expectations, and are in jeopardy of not qualifying for the World Cup. Serbia is now the likely favorite to move on to the finals.

Group Eight: Italy (10pts), Republic of Ireland (10pts), Bulgaria (3pts), Montenegro (2pts), Georgia (2pts), and Cyprus (1pt). Look for Italy to advance from this group with some struggle, but the Irish are not in top form, since their last visit in 2002. The remainder of the group is too far behind to be contenders, but look for them to be spoilers, nonetheless.

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Group Nine: Netherlands (9pts), Scotland (4pts), Iceland (4pts), Macedonia (3pts), Norway (2pts). Look for the Oranje to fight for the World Cup after they pass through this group with relative ease, only finding minimal trouble from the Scots, which they had to fight to qualify for the 2006 World Cup as well, and did it undefeated. The Scots are on the outside looking in, getting a bad group due to the Oranje. Iceland, Macedonia, and Norway will round out the group.

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Now, moving beyond the scope of this article, my personal predictions for the World Cup. Expect to see some fascinating, inspiring football/soccer, and lots of surprises. As always look for the Azure (Italians) to compete, as well as the Spaniards, the Brits and the Dutch to contend as well. As always, look out for Brazil and Argentina from CONMEBOL (South America) to be favorites too. Notables in the final 16 will be the Dutch, England, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, and Italy. For the final four, I predict that Brazil will face off against Italy for third place honors, while the star-studded Dutch footballers fight against Argentina for the World Cup. See you in South Africa!