Sunday, December 11, 2005

The World Cup

As the Cap'n already blogged, the draw for the biggest event in sports was held this Friday in Leipzig, Germany and the US got thrown into the same group as Italy, the Czech Republic and Ghana. People are pointing out that this is another case of "deja vu all over again" since in 1990, the US was in a group with the host nation (Italy), Czechlslovakia and Ghana. That time, we lost all three games, but there are some important differences. In 1990, the US team was composed of college all-stars since there was no real pro soccer league in America. Hardly any US players played overseas and those that did were relegated to third-string leagues. Time warp now to 2006. There is now a real, US pro soccer league. Of course, it's not on par with the Serie A, the Premiership or the Bundesliga, but it doesn't really want to be. It is a pro soccer league for the US, with the emphasis being on the players being American. As a result, it is a good, development league. Most of the best US players now play overseas in European soccer leagues where US players (goaltenders in particular) are featured on some of the major European clubs. The US coach, Bruce Arena, is probably the best US soccer coach ever and the US men's team has shown that it can play at the highest levels (FIFA has the US ranked 8th in the world, ahead of Italy at 12th).

So, what does this all mean? Well, like anything in sports, you can never be too certain. In 2002, nobody expected the previous World Cup Champions, the French to crash and burn and nobody expected the US to get to the quarterfinals, so everything is up for grabs. Already, the Italian media are profiling the US team and telling everyone not to take the US lightly. US Soccer has said that they want to win the World Cup by 2010, but in 1998 in France, when the US went 0-3 and had the worse record of the 32-team tournament, everyone laughed and thought that we were "naive". After the US performance in 2002, not many people are laughing.

Personally, I don't want the US to win it's group, but take second. That way, in the next round, we will meet the winner of the Brazil group (probably Brazil) so that we can really send shockwaves thru world soccer and beat Brazil by 3-0 or something humiliating like that. However, the game to see, if you are an American in Germany, will be the June 17th game against Italy. This game will be played in Kaiserslautern, Germany which is about as close to home-field advantage for the US that you could get since the Kaiserslauthern, Germany area is home to the largest group of ex-patriot Americans in the world. Boy, I wish I was back in Germany (only for this reason).


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