Why American Fans Should Be Pulling for Germany

I know I know, how can fans of the USA pull for the Germans?  Bare with me as I make the case for Die Mannschaft (the team) to entertain you the rest of the tournament.  Forget the fact that in 2002 Germany knocked the U.S. out of the quarter-finals via some controversial officiating.

Every World Cup that Germany enters their passionate fans expect them to be in top form.  After all, their three titles rank only behind Brazil’s five and Italy’s four in the world’s most spectacular soccer event.  However, with the absence of captain Michael Ballack and the uncertainty of youth in the squad, this year’s German team faced many questions entering the competition.

With an average age of 25, Germany is the third youngest team in the tournament.  They dismantled Australia in their opening match winning 4-0.  In their second performance they showed their inexperience at times and were beaten by Serbia 1-0.  Knocking off Ghana 1-0 in the final group match secured their place atop group D.  This also meant a meeting with World Cup rival England.

Germany’s two most viable attacking options, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have failed to perform for their respective club teams Bayern Munich and FC Cologne.  Make no mistake though, when it comes to international soccer, both are more than capable of performing.  Klose’s 12 World Cup goals ties him fourth with Brazilian legend Pele for the overall goal scoring record at the finals.  If Klose can lead this German team to its fourth title, he will be placed next to the great Franz Beckenbauer in German soccer folklore.

Thomas Muller

Several German youths have made their presence felt in South Africa.  Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, has made opposing defenses look slow with his pace.  Thomas Muller has showed the ability of a pure striker and will ease the anxiety of German supporters once Klose retires.  Combining these talented youngsters with players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philip Lahm give Germany a unique balance throughout the squad.

You still may be asking why I want to pull for Germany?  Was it not beautiful to see the way in which they carved up England in the round of 16?  Say what you want about the disallowed England goal, the Germans dominated the second half of the fixture.  Simply put, they made the English look slow and old.  The same England team with world class players like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney.

Unlike many teams who have been bounced out of the tournament (France, Italy, England), Germany has shown the ability to work as a team with the players they have.  The future of German soccer looks bright as they captured the 2009 Under-21 European Championship defeating (surprise surprise) England 4-0.

One final note:  So far, this World Cup is shaping up like World War II.  The French make an early exit, the U.S. showed up late, and the English were left to deal with the Germans.

Round of 16 Predictions

Uruguay vs South Korea

The Koreans have a viable attacking force led by Manchester United winger Park Ji-Sung.  However, look for Uruguay to play a strong defensive game.  Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez will ultimately be the difference.

Uruguay wins.

USA vs Ghana

Can the USA avenge their loss from 4 years ago?  Without Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah, Ghana will be short-handed in the midfield.  This game will come down to the defense of both sides.  The reason Ghana is the only African nation left in the tournament is because of their defensive line.  For the U.S. the question is who does Bob Bradley start up top with Jozy Altidore.  If the Americans can get off to a fast start that bodes well for them.

USA wins.

Germany vs England

This is the match-up no one predicted.  Germany is full of talented youth.  However, without captain Michael Ballack they are lacking a key mid-fielder.  England has found trouble in scoring goals and in terms of average age, they are the oldest team in the tournament.  For me, the key man is Mesut Ozil, the German winger.  Other than Spain-Portugal, this is the most intriguing game of the round of 16.  England’s inability to score will be their downfall.

Germany wins.

Argentina vs Mexico

Another quality game in the round of 16.  Four years ago in Germany, Argentina prevailed over Mexico with a late winner from Maxi Rodriguez.  Mexico has talented young players with the likes of Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela.  Argentina trumps the Mexicans talent with players like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.  The Argentine defense will have to be at their best for them to go through.

Lionel Messi of Argentina

Argentina wins.

Netherlands vs Slovakia

The Dutch were efficient throughout the group stage.  They are the dark horse in this tournament.  Slovakia will rely on their defense to win this game.  Look for them to sit back and try to counter-attack.  The weakness of this Dutch team is their defense, but they have quality attackers with Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie.  The difference will be the Netherlands ability to control the game.

Netherlands win.

Brazil vs Chile

Every South American team advanced to the round of 16.  One of them will go out here.  Brazil will control the tempo of this game in the mid-field with Kaka and Robinho.  If Brazil hits full stride they are an unstoppable force.  Under Dunga, they have become a more defensive side.  Brazil is the most complete team left in the tournament and should not struggle with Chile.

Kaka of Brazil

Brazil wins.

Paraguay vs Japan

Tactically, Paraguay relies on defense.  They have quality forwards with Roque Santa Cruz and Lucio Barrios.  As with all Asian teams, Japan is very sound.  This match will come down to who controls the possession.  Japan has attacking options with Shunsuke Nakamura and Keisuke Honda.  South American teams have looked strong so far in this tournament.

Paraguay wins.

Spain vs Portugal.

In my opinion, Spain has the most talent of any side in the World Cup.  The question is can they combine their talent on the pitch and acquire the results expected of them.  Portugal relies too heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has not provided as much firepower for his country as he has in the past for his club teams.  Spain will dominate this match in the mid-field.  Fernando Torres has not shown his world-class ability yet in this tournament.  This is the last game in the round of 16 and perhaps the most intriguing.  Look for a fluid game with a late winner.

Portugal wins.

Thoughts After the Group Stage

Landon Donovan’s Goal in extra time

The United States-Slovenia game was arguably the most entertaining game of the World Cup thus far.  The U.S. had two stellar 2nd-half goals and one disallowed goal after Slovenia took a 2-0 into the half.  In the final group game against Algeria, the Americans needed a win to guarantee their place in the final 16.  This was their chance to put the disappointment of 2006 behind them.The extra-time winner from Donovan

After back and forth play much of the game, the score remained 0-0.  Then, a Tim Howard save followed by a long throw to Landon Donovan started the break.  Donovan passed the ball to Jozy Altidore just outside the box, who then slid a pass to Clint Dempsey right in front of goal.  Dempsey’s shot forced the keeper to fumble the ball right to the feet of the U.S.’s all-time leading goal scorer, Landon Donovan.  In one of the easiest goals he has scored for his national team, Donovan slotted home the goal sending the world into a frenzy.  The goal not only sent the U.S. through to the next round, but put them at the top of their group ahead of England.  Not bad considering England’s coach Fabio Capello makes 18 times more than U.S. coach Bob Bradley.

The 2006 Winner and Runner-up ousted

Something shocking happens at every World Cup.  With that being said, no one predicted the two finalists from 2006 to go out in the group stage.  France hardly showed up, only scoring one goal.  They had dissent in their dressing room when Nicolas Anelka was dismissed from the team after a heated discussion with coach Raymond Domenech.

The Italians showed their age by finishing last in what was probably the easiest group.  Defender Fabio Capello, hero of the 2006 World Cup, was virtually missing in action.  However, he was probably over-hyped coming off the World Cup triumph.  When world powers like Italy and France are bounced from the group stage, it sets-up for a team to make a Cinderella run in the knockout stage.  Something else of note is either Germany or England will be out by Sunday, as the two teams meet in the round of 16.

Argentina Look Strong

The biggest question for Argentina coming into the World Cup was not about their play on the field, but the man who would be coaching them.  So far, Diego Maradona (former Argentine legend himself who scored the greatest goal in World Cup history) has been animated on the sideline as his team cruised through the group stage.  Although Lionel Messi has not scored, he has shown why he is the world’s best footballer.  The match-up between Argentina and Mexico on Sunday will be a repeat of the round of 16 game from four years ago.  Look for exciting action as both teams love to run up and down the field.  If Argentina’s defense holds form, they could make a run to the final.

Check back soon for my round of 16 predictions!

Ken Griffey Jr. Retires After HOF Career

Ken Griffey Jr. will be remembered as one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  The “kid” from Pennsylvania announced his retirement after a stellar twenty-two year career in the majors.  After years of following baseball, I can honestly say that the smooth-swinging lefty was the player I admired the most.  After all he and I share the same birthday, November 21.

Not only was Griffey a great player, he exemplified what it meant to be a professional.  At the age of 19 he made his major league debut for the Seattle Mariners.  In his first tenure with the Mariners, Griffey made one spectacular catch after another in center field.  He was named to the gold glove team every year from 1990-1999.

Perhaps the greatest memory I have of Ken Griffey Jr. is the image of him sliding into home scoring the series-winning run versus the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS.  Unfortunately the furthest post-season play he would ever reach would be the 1995 ALCS.  The Mariners were beaten that year by the Cleveland Indians in six games.

After a decade of greatness in Seattle, Griffey made a move to Cincinnati.  The 1997 AL MVP was returning home to the place he had grown up while watching his father play for the Reds.  The perennial all-star didn’t seem himself during his years in Cincinnati as he was frequently plagued by injury.

Griffey would remain in Cincinnati garnishing all-star appearances in 2004 and 2007 before signing with the Chicago White Sox in 2008.  In February of 2009, after just one year in Chicago, he accepted an offer to return to the place he felt was his baseball home, Seattle.

Then, after 630 home runs, 1,836 runs batted in, and nearly 3,000 hits, the soft-spoken kid announced his retirement.  I will remember Ken Griffey, Jr. for his heroics on the field.  He was what baseball analysts call a 5-tool player.  Oh yea, did I mention he played in the so called “steroid area”, yet never tested positive for anything.  Kudos to you Ken Griffey Jr.  You will be remembered as one of the greatest of my generation.

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