Welcome back for day 2. If you need to catch up, here's a link to yesterday's post about Group A & B. Group C is clearly the one I'm most excited about, so lets get into it:
United States - World Ranking: #14. This is a huge tournament for the USA. It's an international stage to give the individual players a chance at huge transfers to better teams across the pond. It's also a team on the ups. Their Confederations Cup run last summer shocked the international soccer world, beating Spain (then ranked #1 in the world) and losing to Brazil in the finals after having a 2 goal lead on them. It'll be an exciting team to watch this summer and with the draw of England in Group C, it makes things even more fun and exciting. If you haven't been keeping up, here are the players to watch: captain Landon Donovan in midfield/forward, Tim Howard between the posts, locally raised Oguchi Onyewu, Clint Dempsey, forward Jozy Altidore, and personal favorites, midfielders Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber.
England - World Ranking: #8. Ah... the Three Lions... in the same group as the USA. How fun is this going to be? Especially since their game is on Saturday, June 12th. Don't miss that one, it'll be a blast to watch. England likes to be known as the place where soccer was invented. I'm not sure how true that is, but for all the soccer history, they only have one World Cup title, all the way back in 1966. David Beckham is injured, Wayne Rooney is banged up and is on the roster, but questionable about whether he'll have an immediate impact or not. John Terry has stirred up all kinds of controversy with his off-the-field affairs (literally). I could go on and on about this squad, but I'll tell you to keep your eyes on: Rio Ferdinand in the back, Frank Lampard in the middle, and Peter Crouch up front. Oh yeah, and one of my favorite players, Steven Gerrard will also be in the midfield.
Algeria - World Ranking: #30. The Desert Foxes from Algeria made things happen against their rivals Egypt to take the top spot in the CAF qualifying and a spot in the tournament. They got a difficult draw though, and will need some shock moments against some excellent teams to make the next round. Players to watch: captain and midfielder Yazid Mansouri and forward Karim Ziani.
Slovenia - World Ranking: #25. Slovenia is the tiniest country participating in this tournament. Add to that they only qualified after beating Russia in a play-off, and you're looking at some solid underdogs. They'll have a tough road, but captain Robert Koren in the midfield and Milivoje Novakovic up front should at least keep them in games.
PICKS: Slovenia and Algeria just won't have enough to overcome England and the USA. England #1, USA #2.
Germany - World Ranking: #6. Germany took a blow when its captain, Michael Ballack, went down with torn ligaments in his ankle. He was voted to the World Cup all-star teams in 2002 and 2006 and will be unavailable for the tournament. This team is still talented and are trying to get over the heartbreak of not winning the last tournament in 2006 as the host nation. With Ballack down, the others to watch are Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Australia - World Ranking: #20. The Socceroos are entering their 2nd World Cup in as many tournaments. Before that, their first appearance was in 1974. They made it to the Round of 16 in the previous World Cup. The Everton midfielder, Tim Cahill, returns to help motivate one of the more experienced rosters. The only catch here is that this squad's best players are over the age of 30.
Ghana - World Ranking: #32. Lead by Chelsea's Michael Essien, this team is probably Africa's best bet for making the knock-out round (the other being the Ivory Coast in a tough Group G). This team has a chance if it can get past an aging Australia and a mysterious Serbia.
Serbia - World Ranking: #15. This nation's World Cup history comes mostly when they were Yugoslavia. This will be their 2nd World Cup appearance as Serbia and they've been playing excellent football. Coming off WC qualifying over France, this team sounds like it has what it takes to progress. I've seen this team described as unspectacular, but efficient. We'll see how Milan Jovanovic and Nemanja Vidic fare with that strategy.
PICKS: Despite the injury to Ballack, its hard to see Germany doing anything less than winning the group. The next spot is a lot harder. Ghana will have a "home team" crowd, Serbia has improved, and Australia has the experience. So, with a shot in the dark, it'll be: Germany #1, Australia #2.
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