Saturday, June 24, 2006

So the preliminaries are finished, and we move to the meaningful stages of the competition: win or go home. Of the 16 teams advancing to the knock-out stage, only one can be categorized a true surprise - Ghana - and only 2 others could be considered mild surprises - Australia and Ecuador. All the others pretty much expected to be there.

Regardless, there was certainly some drama on offer over the final days, notably France needing to win and needing a clear winner in the Switzerland - Korea match. Oh, that's right, there was that other bit of drama earlier in the week, and ongoing histrionics about poor officiating. Here's a tip for Americans in Europe: don't expect any help from the referees, and don't believe your own hype. Lean forward, ignore every distraction, and get it done on your own account. The attention and respect will follow.

My first round winners and losers:

Winners: Holland, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Germany.
Losers: Togo, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, USA.
Winners despite losing: Ivory Coast, Trinidad & Tobago, Korea.
Losers despite winning: England (I'm sorry, but can somebody on this team please just smile, FFS. C'mon, Beckham, give the ladies something to cheer about...)

I think we can realistically consider a Holland vs Argentina final.


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