Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2000-2010 Decade of Winners in Review

Its way too much to try and go back and think of the most significant sporting events of this past decade for me.  I just don't have the time or energy to go through it all.

But I figured I could at least list all the teams or individuals (in sports that I care about, sorry hockey) that I was happy to see win a championship as well as the ones that ticked me off when they won.  We're going strictly by the date it happened, not season (since football seasons are technically the year before, but the playoffs are in Jan, Feb).


Good - Kurt Warner and the Rams winning the Superbowl after an extremely improbable season was definitely a highlight of the decade.  Kurt came out of nowhere to win the MVP and Superbowl MVP (in one of the best finishes in SB history vs the Titans).


Bad - Lakers win 2nd Championship in a row.  The first one didn't bother me but the arrogance of Shaq/Kobe made them extremely unlikable in the 2nd run.


Bad - Belicheat, Brady and Viniatieri beating Kurt Warner was an angry moment.  Especially after it was revealed that Belicheat taped Rams practices / gameplans.

Good - Zidane leads Real Madrid to their 9th UEFA Champions League title with a mind-blowing left-footed volley from the edge of the penalty area that won the game.

Bad - Lakers win 3rd championship in a row.  This one was completely undeserved as they should've been eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference championship had it not been for the consensus worst officiated NBA game in history.

Good/Bad - US Soccer gets through the group stage of the 2002 World Cup after upsetting Portugal.  They then beat Mexico dos a cero (2-0 is the customary score when the US play Mexico) in the first knockout round.  Hey, its not a trophy but this was bigger than anything the US had done in 50 years.  They lose 1-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals in a game where they were the better team but was robbed of a goal by a handball on the goalline.

Bad - The San Francisco Giants lose the World Series after choking away a 5-0 lead in Game 6.  I went to Game 1 and witnessed a Barry bomb.  awesome.


Good - David Robinson and Tim Duncan win their 2nd NBA championship for the Spurs.  Good guy, David Robinson retires on top.


Bad - usc wins the BCS title game vs Oklahoma.  Leinart and Bush become anointed as football masters of the college universe.  Neither have yet to make any impact in the NFL.  Auburn was deprived of an opportunity to play for the championship even though they went undefeated in the SEC.

Bad - Patriots win again.  ugh.

Good - Phil Mickelson breaks through and wins his first major championship at the Masters!  He does it with a back 9 charge and an 18th hole birdie.

Good - The Lakers' allstar lineup of Shaq, Malone, Kobe and Payton manage to lose in the finals against a no name Pistons team.  The ridiculous dysfunction in the Lakers squad made this upset highly satisfying.

Good - Liu Xiang wins the 110m Gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.  A Chinese won a sprint championship.  whoa!

Good - The Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, finally breaking the curse of the Bambino that had hung over the last bastion of baseball for a lifetime.  Making it sweeter, the Red Sox had rallied from a 3 games to none, 9th inning deficit to beat arch nemesis NY Yankees 4-3.


Good - Vince Young upsets highly touted and heisman trophy winning leinart-led trojan team in one of the best college football upsets of all time.  Yes!

Bad - Patriots win again.  ugh.  Tom Brady nearly becomes anointed as greatest of all time.  Belicheat is nearly canonized.

Good - Duncan and the Spurs win a 3rd championship.

Good - US Soccer win the Gold Cup and also finish top of their Concacaf 2006 World Cup qualifying group.

Good - Phil Mickelson wins his 2nd major trophy at the PGA Championship.


Bad - Florida beats my UCLA Bruins in the NCAA finals.  While it was an unexpected appearance, UCLA never actually got back to the final game the next two years.  Heartbreak.

Good - Phil Mickelson wins his 2nd Masters trophy.

Good/Bad - US ties Italy 1-1 in the World Cup.  I know its not a championship or even a win, but holding eventual champion Italy with only 9 men felt like a championship.  Plus, I was there.  Losing to Ghana next game was a painful painful loss.

Bad - Phil Mickelson only needed a par to win the US Open but managed to double bogey 18th in heart breaking fashion.

Bad - Zidane has a magical WC run but infamously finishes in the Final with 2 OT headers: a Buffon-saved header on goal and a dead-on header on the classless Italian defender who shall remain nameless.  Zidane's grand career ends on a sad note.


Good - Peyton Manning finally wins a SB and sheds the title of greatest QB never to win.  Tony Dungy finally wins!

Good - Kaka' leads AC Milan to UEFA Champions League glory.

Good - Real Madrid finally win La Liga after a 3 season drought.  Beckham, previously ostracized, wins his place back and helps bring down mighty Barca.

Good - Duncan wins 4th championship and anointed as best PF ever to play.

Good - US wins Gold Cup with 2-1 come from behind victory over arch rival Mexico. 

Good - Red Sox wins 2nd championship in 4 years.


Good - Good guy Tim Tebow leads the Gators to the title.

Good - Eli Manning and David Tyree slay the 19-0 Patriots in one of the greatest upsets of all time.  Yes!

Bad - John Terry slips and misses his game-winning PK and Chelsea proceeds to lose to Man U.

Good - Boston Celtics destroy the Lakers in a classic NBA Finals.

Good - Michael Phelps won an unprecedented 8 gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics including an incredible 0.01 come from behind victory over Cavic.


Bad - Kurt Warner puts in a heroic effort but loses on a spectacular Roethlisberger to Holmes connection.

Bad - Kobe finally wins a championship on his own against completely mediocre NBA opposition.

Good - US Soccer beats world #1 Spain in the semis of the Confederation's Cup and then finishes top of their group in the 2010 World Cup qualifying Concacaf group with a 93rd minute last gasp goal in the final game.

Bad - Donovan and Becks get to the MLS championship game and lose on PKs.

So there's 25 "Good" outcomes and 15 "Bad" outcomes but it definitely feels worse because the bad ones were really really bad while the most of ones rated "good" were just decently good.

Hated rivals Lakers managed to win 4 championships and the trojans won 1.  My real teams, UCLA BB and FB, SF Giants and the 49ers managed to win a combined 0 championships this decade. (Red Sox, Real Madrid, etc bring some solace but they are my adopted teams, not childhood teams.)  To make it worse, UCLA basketball actually made it the finals - and lost badly.  Hopefully this next decade will yield much better results.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

100! (ok, so its on new mexico st.)

UCLA finally won a game convincingly this year, beating down the Aggies 100-68.  It halted a miserable 5 game losing streak and gave us renewed confidence against ND on Saturday, I hope.  While it looked like less than half of Pauley was full, I still enjoyed going to this game much more than the one vs Kansas.  A win's a win.


Malcolm Lee needs to play this way every game.  He needs to step up and be our star scorer and main playmaker.  Yesterday, he shot 7-8 from the field en route to racking up 20 points.  He also seemed to purposefully be attacking the rim for rebounds, gathering in an impressive 8.  What's more, Lee could've added to those stats had he not been benched early in this lopsided game.  It was an encouraging sight, to be sure.

Jerime Anderson finally played a solid game, putting up 13 points and an encouraging 7 assists, including a memorable wrap-around, no-look pass to Nelson in the first half.  He really needs to be willing to take the open shot as he was yesterday.  But hopefully this gives him some confidence.

Michael Roll put in a consistent performance on both ends, again.

Tyler Honeycutt showed his athleticism in scoring 14 points and grabbing 7 boards.

Reeves Nelson continued to establish himself as our best big man option as he battled inside for 16 points and 8 boards.

Hard for me to believe this, but I'm giving props to Mustafa, who has been one of our better jump shooters.  Plus, he made the crazy layup to push us to 100 points, a great cap to a much needed win.


Dragovic is driving me nuts.  At one point, he pulled up on a fast break for a 20 foot jump shot with only defenders waiting for the rebound.  At what point during his 4 years here did he learn that Howland would be happy with that shot?  He's a senior, he needs to show some leadership, some discipline, some heart, or he can get out.  If this man cannot make his shots, he ceases to have any positive impact on the team.  Far be it for me to question Howland, but I cannot understand why he gives Dragovic so much slack.  Anyone who cannot play good defense and makes such poor decisions offensively should be languishing on the pine over there with Soo.

Bobo is really an inadequately skilled basketball player.  He's uncoordinated with the ball and could use a lot more work with his post moves.  That said, he's so big that he still gathered in 5 rebounds in just 16 minutes of play.  I still think we should give him as much playing time as possible and see how he progresses this season.

James Keefe injured his left shoulder again.  Since its the same shoulder that he had operated on 2 years ago, it is worrisome.  Not that he was really producing anyway, but you never like to see a senior end his career because of injury.

Tiger better not be on PEDs

Reports came out that a doctor who treated Tiger during his recovery from his knee injury last year is being investigated by the FBI for distributing PEDs to athletes.  I hope for the sake of golf that Tiger was not using PEDs.  This would be a scandal that ignite a firestorm far beyond what TMZ and other media outlets have already perpetrated.

I know that he has bulked up his body the last half decade or so.  And I know that someone who is willing to cheat on his wife in his personal life in the manner that he did may also lack the moral backbone to keep his integrity in his professional life, a profession that does not test for PEDs.  And I know that someone who seems willing to go great lengths to get any woman he wants may do anything when it comes to achieving what he really wants, the record for the most majors ever.

But why would he do this if he was already the most dominant golfer of all time? Perhaps, it was really all about arrogance when it comes to Tiger.  Against all common sense, he did all the things he did actually believing that he was too important to get caught and that he wielded enough power and enough influence to make things turn out the way he wants.

How much would PEDs help a person's golf game anyway?  Golf is not merely about power, it is also about finesse and touch.  For the great ones, its about consistency under pressure.  Would HGH really help in that regard?  Not really.  Tiger didn't make that long putt on 18 in the 2008 US Open on one knee because of a PED.  He made it because he's Tiger.  Perhaps, the greatest benefit would be the ability to recover faster from injury.  Maybe Tiger used it to help him recover faster?

But there have been no real link between Tiger and any PED usage.  There are no dirty needles or dirty trainers that we know of.  But it is no longer in the realm of the unthinkable to question Tiger's performances now.  Nobody said what everyone was thinking in MLB and look where it got them.  Plus, Tiger didn't just break his wife's trust, he broke ours too.  So, let the media do its due diligence and investigate the story.

In the end, I don't think he used PEDs.  I don't want to believe it.  I don't think his once-in-a-lifetime kind of greatness was fake.  I hope that his on course performance and all his records stand unblemished for all time, even if his character is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The real Tiger says hello to the world

Its hard to believe that a person as disciplined, calculating, and intelligent as Tiger would believe that he could get away with all those affairs.  As recognizable as he is, it was going to have to come out eventually.  Then again, it took a freak accident in the middle of the morning to finally blow the cover off of all of this.  We still don't really know what happened that night.  At first, it looked like a domestic argument over National Enquirer's report of one of his affairs resulted in broken rear windows, a decapitated hydrant and a dinged up tree (not to mention the smashed up Escalade).  But now there are reports of possible drinking or maybe some kind of medication drug overdose.  Who knows?  All we know is that Tiger was in and out of consciousness that night lying in the street.  It wasn't the last time that circumstances would spiral out of his control in the last couple of weeks.

At first it was just the one waitress.  Then the women started coming out of the woodwork.  The number of "mistresses" seemed to exponentially multiply every few days.  ESPN is not covering the alleged affairs as they shouldn't since it is in the realm of his personal business.  However, entities such as TMZ do not care about his athletic accomplishments, they only care about his celebrity.  Tiger must've overlooked this fact and overestimated his ability to control the story.  It doesn't help that he seemed to pursue mostly cocktail waitresses who would likely look to tell their story for the money and/or the publicity.

Personally, this actually doesn't change my view of Tiger that much.  He always came across as someone extremely aloof and private.  He didn't connect to his legion of golf fans as much as other golfers seem to.  Basically, he acted like a corporate creation and not a human being, like us.  What he did on the course was impressively inhuman but how he acted off the course was robotic and generic.  Its why I was always more a Phil Mickelson fan.  He makes errors on the course much like we would and seems to value his marriage and family, much like we should.  He also values his fans - I've seen him sign autographs for 30 minutes while Tiger will sign maybe 2 or 3 times after a round.

Of course, I personally expected that Tiger was indeed faithful to his wife and wanted to be a good husband and father.  I assumed those things because I assumed that's what someone in Tiger's position would want.  Stability in your family life offers you stability in your occupational performance.  I guess his awesome golf ability was far greater than even I could comprehend.  I also figured that with such a strong father figure in his life, he would also want to be that kind of individual in his children's lives.  It wasn't until this week that I read an article saying that his father actually left a previous marriage with 3 kids to be with Tiger's mother, whom he also separated from eventually.  It is no wonder that deep down inside, Tiger does not really believe in the importance of a family unit.

Tiger's corporate image will surely take a hit but I don't think it will negatively affect his on course performance much.  He clearly has the ability to compartmentalize the different facets of his life extremely well.  If anything, it will probably drive him to win even more.  However, it will be interesting to see how his popularity will change with the fans as well as how his relationships with fellow golfers will be, Jesper Parnevik aside.  While I hope he can truly reconcile with his wife, I doubt that it can happen.  He actions seem like that of a sex addict.

Just 2 weeks ago, the number the world was concerned with when it came to Tiger was how many majors Tiger will ultimately win.  Now its how many "mistresses" he actually had.  That's a sad commentary on both him and us.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rock chalked by KU, not by Drew

Leading into the game vs KU, we had lost all three of our Chevron 76 tourney games, the last of which was most embarrassingly to Long Beach St. in the 7th place game.  It was of some sort of moral victory to almost beat #10 Butler the previous game, but losing to a So Cal peon meant that we likely hit rock bottom.  It wasn't.

Drew Gordon was my favorite player on the squad.  In my view, he was the only real inside presence that we had and he would anchor our team for at least another 2 years, maybe 3.  His raw athleticism would keep us viable in the Pac 10 as we get ready for next season.  I had no idea that he was who he was revealed to be.  Seriously, this was more disappointing than the Tiger Woods saga.  I literally lost all taste in my mouth when I heard.

Reports are that he openly defied Howland and other coaches in practices and games.  He apparently also got into altercations with teammates up to 3 times.  Over the course of weeks, the coaching staff apparently had been trying to work with him but eventually Howland decided to suspend him for 2 practices.  Its unclear to me what happened next but it seems that either he quit the team or he was kicked off the team immediately.

I don't understand what Gordon was thinking.  You're a starter at UCLA and would be through 2012.  You are playing for what is clearly a top tier college coach in all the land who has recently gone to 3 consecutive Final Fours.  This premier coach has also sent 7 players to the first round of the NBA draft in just 6 years.  Are you telling me you know more than this coach?  He could not have been in a better situation and will not find a better situation after this.  Sure, we're not winning right now, but guess what?  Do something about it on the court.

I partially blame his parents who clearly didn't instill any respect in their son.  He doesn't know how to respect or obey authority at all.  Even now, they were defending him, covering for him, enabling him and actually dooming him to a lifetime of failure.  Goodbye.  You won't be missed.

vs #1 KU

We probably had the most productive week of practice after Gordon's departure this season since he wasn't around to take up the coaches time.  As a result, we played a very promising game.

Sure, this is UCLA, so moral victories don't mean much but #1 KU had blown out a team by almost 70 points earlier last week.  That man child freshman Xavier Henry has a NBA ready body right now and has the skills to leave in June.  While it is funny and a little sad that the entire stadium was bubbling with excitement that we were only down by 7 at half, I believe it is progress.


Reeves Nelson would have outplayed lottery pick Cole Aldrich had he not been poked in the eye early in the 2nd half.  Even so, his numbers are comparable.  Though he's undersized at 6-8 trying to handle the 7 footer, he more than held his own, especially in rebounding.  He was skilled in positioning himself and courageous in throwing his body around against KU's trees.  Six of his nine rebounds were on the offensive end.  And again, he essentially didn't play the last 15 minutes of the game.

I liked our energy and enthusiasm on the defensive end.  Had we been more efficient on the offensive end, we would've been in the game.  We closed to a 4 point deficit early in the 2nd half and the stadium was rocking with excitement.  True, it was a classic case of peaking way to early, but it was nice that we were excited in the 2nd half against these Jayhawks.

Tyler Honeycutt made his debut and I like his energy and athleticism.  Hopefully he comes every game with the proper attitude and buys into Howland's coaching and system.  Even this season, he can emerge as a major contributor to our success, whatever that may be this year.

Roll and Lee were solid once again.  Perhaps Lee should start from now on.

The team proved to the fans that they didn't need Drew Gordon.  We showed as good of an effort vs KU as we have all season, if not better.  Cohesion and chemistry are vital to success in a college program.  Hopefully we have that now.


If we could've limited our turnovers, especially the 10 or so in the first 10 minutes and hit a better FT percentage, we might've been within striking distance at the end.  At any rate, if those two issues can be limited, we can be very competitive in the Pac 10 this year.

Bobo Morgan needs to be strapped to a chair while basketballs are hurled at him.  How else can he learn to have better hands?  I still contend that once he gets the ball in proper position, it will be very difficult for any defender to stop his hook shot.  That is a skill nobody else on our roster has.  The problem is getting him the ball in the position that he needs without turning it over.  There are rumors that he may transfer as well but I bet it depends on his involvement in this season's games.

Jerime Anderson doesn't even have the confidence to finish layups.  Since we have no other options at PG, he needs to realize that he can play without the fear of making mistakes.  I still believe that he can be a solid contributor for us this season.  The fans have been spoiled by the excellence of Farmar and Collison but it is difficult to run the point in Howland's offense.  Give him some time.

Dragovic needs to disciplined in his shot selection and he needs to try harder to play defense.  The fact remains that we haven't won a single game this year when Drago has played.  I personally wouldn't mind ceding his time to the underclassmen to develop them for the future.  But I realize that he is probably going to be one of our leading scorers this year, which we will clearly need.

James Keefe only got 10 minutes of run, surprisingly.  He didn't score and only grabbed 1 board.  Howland has probably given up on this senior.

I also didn't like how many KU fans were able to get their hands on tickets.  Sure, it was kinda cool to hear some of their traditional chants including the victory chant that belonged in some monastery, I would prefer not to hear it in Pauley Pavilion.  At least it was Kansas and not Florida or some other program with fans that I don't have any respect for.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

World Cup Draw - no Group of Death for US!

England, Algeria, Slovenia.  That's our group.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Well, actually, its freakin awesome!

There are 4 "pots" that the 32 teams were separated into.  The first group are the top ranked teams in the world, such as Brazil or Italy, plus host country, South Africa.  The second pot are the North and Central American teams plus Asia/Oceania.  This is clearly the worst group since that eliminates our chance to play a weak Asian or Oceanic team.  We would much rather be grouped with African teams so we could avoid them.  The 3rd group are the South American countries plus the aforementinoed African contingent.  The last group are the leftover European teams.  You cannot play another team from your own Confederation or 2 teams from the same Confederation, except from Europe since there are too many teams from there (13).

Side note: I think its ridiculous that FIFA waits until a couple days before the actual draw to announce how the pots would be comprised.  Why would they need to wait to decide if Concacaf gets paired with Asia or Africa?  Its also ridiculous that FIFA waited until the end of European qualifying to announce how the home and away playoffs would be seeded.  Why could this not be set in stone years ago?  Its incredibly corrupt and there should be a bigger outcry at these obvious moves to put the top teams in the best position to qualify for the World Cup.  American journalists would never allow this kind of corruption.  Then again, we do have the sham that is MLB...

Anyway, so obviously the USA wanted the weakest of the teams from Pot 1, which is South Africa.  Then we'd clearly want one of the weaker African teams or Chile from Pot 3.  And from Pot 4, we'd like to avoid France or Portugal.

Absolute worst case scenario: Brazil, Ivory Coast, France.

Best case scenario: South Africa, Chile, Slovenia.

I know most Americans couldn't care less about the draw but I personally wished I could be in a soccer bar celebrating or groaning with the US fans.  It is one of the most anticipated events in the world and Fifa estimates that 200 million from 200 countries would watch.  Here, the results of the draw didn't even lead off Sportscenter that night.

So the evening included a lot of rhetoric by Fifa representatives, Nelson Mandela, and others about how far Africa has come and how its time for them to emerge on the world stage.  I'm not entirely buying what they're selling but it is about time that the World Cup goes to a new continent.  Okay okay, I guess I will rent Invictus when it comes out.

Charlize Theron was the logical choice head up the actual drawings but I did think the female host who MC'd the event did an excellent job of representing South Africa.  Theron clearly was not a longtime soccer fan however, and her attempts at humor didn't mesh well with the overall serious nature of these proceedings showed.  I didn't mind her so much but she honestly seemed very American, actually.  I do remember seeing her with a throwback Chelsea shirt at the Chelsea-Inter exhibition game this summer in Pasadena so maybe she is somewhat a football fan.  And yes, that's what the Adidas WC 2010 ball looks like.  I prefer the 2006 Deutschland edition.

Anyway, the draw began with all 24 non top tier teams praying that they could be in South Africa's group.  I knew I was.  Who from Pot 2 got chosen?  Freakin Mexico.  I almost started throwing things in my office.  I can accept that we never have much luck with our draw but why did it have to be Mexico?  It could not have started any worse.

We were put into England's group.  I'm not convinced right now that we can beat them.  Its almost like we play a similar style except that they're technically a lot better than we are.  Memories of getting destroyed in Wembley flooded my mind.  Alexi Lalas, on the other hand, seemed very excited about this during the ESPN telecast.  I couldn't tell if it was just false bravado since he was sitting next to Steve McManaman, who played for Real Madrid and ended up being the most decorated English player who played abroad.  Anyway, its coincidental that the recently leaked Nike 2010 US jerseys are a nod to the 1950 jerseys (with a diagonal blue sash) that was worn by Gaetjens and the other Americans who pulled off the biggest upset in World Cup history with that 1-0 victory over England.

Of course, I'd rather play England than Brazil since the Seleccao are too good, or Italy since we played them in 2006, or Spain since they're freakin Spain, or the Netherlands since I have doubts that we can handle their style, or Germany cause they always win their group.  So I guess, playing England might be pretty good draw.  Argentina might've been nice too since who knows how they'll do with Maradona at the helm.  That said, it'll be fun to play such a premier squad with world class names such as Terry, Lampard, Rooney and Gerrard.  At the very least it will raise our visibility even more in the world.  Hopefully England starts off with their typical slow start and we can steal a draw.

When Pot 3 was getting placed, I was bracing for Ivory Coast or Ghana, but it ended up being Algeria.  Algeria?  You mean the team that barely edged out Egypt to clinch the last African spot?  Looking at the other options, it couldn't have been better.  Mexico ended up with Uruguay and that seems like a dangerous matchup.  Things are improving.

At the outset of Pot 4, I was just hoping Mexico would end up with France.  That's all I really wanted.  If not France, then at least Portugal.  But France would be phenomenal.  They still have some of the best players in the world in Henry, Ribery, and Anelka.  I couldn't care less that France would essentially get rewarded after qualifying in such embarrassing fashion.  Anyway, Fifa punished them by not letting them be a top seed.  I just wanted them to get Mexico.

YES!  pump your fists.  shake your booty.  I did.  Mexico's group ain't that easy for them after all.

So now, US fans are just holding their breath that they wouldn't get Portugal.  Not only was it not CRonaldo's squad that was placed in our group, it wasn't the formidable Serbia team or Denmark/Slovakia -teams that we just lost to in the last month.  It was Slovenia, possibly the weakest European team in the entire tournament.  Now I really wish I was in a soccer bar somewhere.

The only drama that was left was where Portugal would go.  Of course it would be with Brazil, the favorite, and Ivory Coast, Africa's best.  Clearly the Group of Death this time.

As Lalas said, if we can't beat Algeria and Slovenia, we don't deserve to get out of the group.  Then again, we were supposed to beat Ghana in 2006, weren't we?  We would've played Brazil in the next round! exhale.

Group Predictions in Dec 2009

Why not?

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
I think Uruguay and France will emerge, in that order.  Its about time Mexico misses the knockout rounds and I expect France to lose a shocker to finish 2nd.  Their coach is still an idiot.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
South Korea and Argentina.  South Korea has the cohesion and work ethic while Argentina has the class players.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
England and the US.  Under Capello, I don't think England will start slowly this time.  Algeria and Slovenia may be the underdogs but I don't think Bradley will let the US be unprepared.  I think we lose to England and beat both Algeria and Slovenia.

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Germany and Serbia.  I like Australia's gusto and Ghana's stars but Serbia has the overall team quality.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Netherlands and Cameroon.  Eto'o leads his squad to glory on the shoulders of their fans.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Paraguay and Slovakia.  There has to be a shocker somewhere, right?  Italy's age catches up to them and they see an early exit.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
Ivory Coast and Brazil will emerge from the Group of Death fairly comfortably after both beating an overrated Portugal squad.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain has the easiest draw of any top squad and will be racking up the goals.  Switzerland barely emerges from the scrum as well after beating a talented Honduras side.

Knockout Stages Predictions

Round of 16

Uruguay vs Argentina - 2-2 Argentina in PKs

France vs South Korea - France 3-1

England vs Serbia - England 2-1

Germany vs USA - USA 1-0

Netherlands vs Slovakia - Netherlands 3-0

Paraguay vs Cameroon - Cameroon 2-1

Ivory Coast vs Switzerland - Ivory Coast 2-0

Spain vs Brazil - Brazil 3-2


Argentina vs France - Argentina 2-1

England vs USA - 0-0 England in PKs

Netherlands vs Cameroon - Dutch 4-0

Ivory Coast vs Brazil - Brazil 4-2


Argentina vs England - England 2-0

Netherlands vs Brazil - 2-2 Brazil in PKs


England vs Brazil - England 2-1

The golden generation finally break through in their last hurrah.  Beckham wins it on a 84th minute signature swerving free kick.