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Every four years we hear how it's time for an African team to step up. Ivory Coast or Ghana were the pre-tournament favorites, but with Michael Essien gone from Ghana's team and Didier Drogba likely to miss out for Ivory Coast I fear another barren year for the Africans.
We've avoided it thus far... the USA. Well as I mentioned at the top, the town of Dunshaughlin on the Meath-Dublin border will be getting behind the US of A. Primarily because they remind me so much of the Irish team from Italia 90. A team built on organization and commitment that revels in the role of underdog. First game versus the perennial blowhards of Engerland will be nasty on the eye. USA will try and stifle the aging English midfield. Torres, the Texican terrier, will bite the ankles of Gerrard and Lampard. Rooney will run into the huge corn-fed Jay DeMeritt at his peril, Carlos Bocanegra will marshall Joe Cole into the corner and maybe, just maybe, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey can conjure a goal between them. If they avoid defeat in the first game, qualification is almost guaranteed. Algeria played recently here in Dublin and they have sparks of class but it is well hidden amidst the complete lack of concentration they display 80% of the time. Slovenia are the weakest of the Eastern European teams and qualified via the playoffs, so the US should come out of the group.
But what's next. Germany or Serbia? I personally would take a shot at the Germans (no pun intended), because their defense is creaky. Serbia could go to the semi's simply because they don't concede, with two massive players in Vidic and Ivanovic at the heart of their defense. After that it's the quarters, and anything can happen as was evident in the Confederations Cup last year.
So that's the teaser. I'll be bringing you the weekly round up once the tournament kicks off as well as hosting a podcast with various soccer experts from the island of Ireland and an American correspondent or two. Oh, and look, I never mentioned France!