Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Offseason Colonoscopy

Hold your horses folks. As I'm sure you've heard by now, RT Willie Colon suffered a torn Achilles and is out for the season.

Time to hit the panic button? I say not yet.

Maybe you think I'm crazy.

Our starting quarterback is out 4-6 games because he's a jackass.

Our starting right tackle is out for the season.

One of our top wide receivers is gone via trade.

Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette (a newspaper quickly turning their "sports" page into the Homeland Security Terrorism color chart), went as far as to call Willie Colon the Steelers "best offensive lineman"

Apparently Gerry was watching a different offensive line than what we all saw over the last few years. In his 3 years as a starter, Colon has routinely been beat by speed rushers on the outside. To make matters worse, he is almost guaranteed to take at least 1 false start penalty per game (or so it seems).

The folks over at Steelers Depot put together a stat sheet for the Steelers offensive line in 2009.

By their count, Colon was responsible for 40 penalty yards and 8 sacks for 38 yards.

According to ProFootball Focus, Colon's line looks something like this:
2009: 6 sacks, 4 hits, 5 pressures, 9 false starts, 2 holds
2008: 7 sacks, 1 hit, 20 pressures, 16 false starts, 2 holds

Um...yeah. Considering the piss-poor play by the rest of the line last year, Colon's stats don't look that bad in comparison. However, to say he is our best lineman is still a stretch. He's not even the best tackle on the team. Yes, Max Starks struggled last year, but the job he put in against Jared Allen, Elvis Dumervil, and others can't be overlooked.

The Steelers brought in former Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams (whose 2009 stat line isn't much better - 12 penalties, 8 sacks, 34 pressures) for a visit this week. Personally, I'd rather see us give some of the younger guys on our roster a chance to prove themselves rather than signing another guy over 30 who has problems on the edge.

We have some options on our roster. Trai Essex, who played RG last year has played tackle in the past and could slide out. The Steelers picked up Jonathan Scott from Buffalo during the offseason. Scott is obviously someone that new O-line coach Sean Kugler knew well from his time in Buffalo.

One has to believe this is make-or-break time for Tony Hills. The Steelers invested a 4th round pick in him 2 years ago and he has yet to play in a regular season game. If Hills has NFL talent, this is his time to show it.

The guy we would like to see given a chance on the starting line is Ramon Foster. He played well at guard last year when he had to step in for Chris Kemoeatu and he played tackle at Tennessee and could well move back there.

If we had our way, the Steelers starting line on opening day would be Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Maurkice Pouncey, and Trai Essex. Ramon Foster would be the #1 backup for both tackle positions with last year's 3rd round pick Kraig Urbik as the #1 backup at guard. Doug Legursky will be the #1 backup at center and #2 backup at guard. Jonathan Scott will be the #2 backup at tackle. Obviously, this isn't enough linemen to start the season with, but other options exist, including bringing back G Darnell Stapleton who played RG during the Super Bowl XLIII run.

So what are we saying?

That while losing Colon might not be the most ideal scenario during the offseason, but the Steelers have enough options on the roster that they don't need to go out and sign a guy like Flozell Adams. If they are that desperate for a player, they could bring back depth guys like Jeremy Parquet, who has spent time on the Steelers roster in the past.

Drafting Pouncey was one step in the right direction towards moving the Steelers offensive line back to the grinders and pounders we all grew up watching. With a potential backfield of Mendenhall and Dwyer, we can build a line that can pound the snot out of teams, much in the same way the Jets did this past season.

Are the Steelers going to turn around their subpar offensive line play in one offseason? Absolutely not. However, they can take steps to make the line better. The line will had additional responsibility placed on them as the running game gets increased attention this season.

However it all goes down, it's not time to head out for the bridges just yet, as much as the local media wants to encourage that kind of attitude in the fanbase.

Go Steelers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ian vs Cory: World Cup Showdown

At the end of our World Cup Previews with Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog, we went head-to-head predicting the winners. We'll be keeping a running tally of how both Ian and Cory had done as the World Cup progresses and teams are eliminated or move on in the tournament.

Yesterday, we detailed all the scenarios in play for each group going into the final set of games.

With absolutely no rhyme or reason, I came up with this scoring system for our picks:
- Correctly predict a team reaches the knockout stage + 1 point
- Correctly predict finishing place in group +1 point
- Correctly predict group champion +1 point
- Correctly predict a team in the final 8 +2 points
- Correctly predict a team in the final 4 +4 points
- Correctly predict teams in championship game +6 points
- Correctly predict 3rd place team +8 points
- Correctly predict World Cup Champion +10 points

With that in place, the current standings are:

Ian - 30
Cory - 27

For some unknown reason, when Blogger formats a post, it doesn't understand HTML tables very well. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see a table of all our picks.

Ian's PicksCory's PicksActual Result
Group A WinnerUruguayFranceUruguay
Group A 2nd PlaceSouth AfricaMexicoMexico
Group B WinnerArgentinaArgentinaArgentina
Group B 2nd PlaceNigeriaGreeceSouth Korea
Group C 2nd PlaceEnglandEnglandEngland
Group D WinnerGermanyGermanyGermany
Group D 2nd PlaceGhanaSerbiaGhana
Group E WinnerNetherlandsNetherlandsNetherlands
Group E 2nd PlaceDenmarkCameroonJapan
Group F WinnerItalyItalyParaguay
Group F 2nd PlaceParaguayParaguaySlovakia
Group G WinnerBrazilBrazilBrazil
Group G 2nd PlacePortugalPortugalPortugal
Group H WinnerSpainSpainSpain
Group H 2nd PlaceChileChileChile
Final 8Nigeria

4th PlaceItalyItaly
3rd PlaceUSABrazil
2nd PlaceBrazilArgentina
World Cup ChampionArgentinaUSA

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup: Judgment Week

With the conclusion of the Spain-Honduras game this afternoon, each of the 32 teams in the 2010 World Cup have completed two games. There have been some surprises, such as Switzerland beating Spain and New Zealand playing Italy to a draw. There have been some downright terrible calls, including the "no goal" in the US-Slovenia game.

Thus far, only two teams have been outright eliminated: Cameroon and North Korea.

Two squads have qualified for the Elimination Stage, but still have work to do if they want to win their groups outright.

The Netherlands have advanced from Group E

Brazil has advanced from Group G

Here are the scenarios in play over the next four days that will determine who moves on to the Knockout Stage and who goes home in shame.

If two teams have the same amount of points at the end of the group stage, the tiebreakers are as follows:
1. Goal Differential
2. Goals Scored
3. Head-to-Head

Group A

Games Remaining:
Uruguay vs Mexico
South Africa vs France

Tuesday June 22 10:00am

Uruguay and Mexico are obviously in the drivers seats in this group. In order for one of them not to make the next round, they would have to be caught on Goal Differential by the winner of the France-South Africa game. If either game ends in a tie, Mexico and Uruguay advance.

Due to goal differential, Uruguay can win the group with either a win or tie. Mexico needs to beat Uruguay to win the group. France and South Africa both need help. With a -2 and -3 goal differential respectively, the winner of their game will have to make up the goal differential between them and the loser of Uruguay-Mexico (teams with a +3 and +2 GD).

Most likely outcome: Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B

Games Remaining:
Argentina vs Greece
South Korea vs Nigeria

Tuesday June 22 2:30pm

Interestingly enough, even though Nigeria has yet to win a game in the group, they have one of the simplest roads to advance: beat South Korea and hope Argentina beats Greece. Argentina is almost guaranteed to make the next round and would need a million things to happen for them not to. Diego Maradona's squad will advance with either a win or tie against Greece, or a South Korea loss or tie. The Argentinians can advance even if they lose, as long as BOTH South Korea and Greece don't make up the goal differential of 5 goals.

Greece and South Korea are both in similar scenarios. If both teams tie, South Korea advances. The easiest scenario for South Korea to advance would be to beat Nigeria and hope Greece loses or ties. In order for Greece to advance, they need to beat Argentina by more goals than South Korea wins by or score 2 more goals than the South Koreans.

Most Likely Outcome: Argentina wins the group in a walk. Greece was only able to beat Nigeria because Nigeria was down a man. I still like Nigeria to sneak in here, but South Korea is playing well and in all likelihood will probably advance. It would be great to see at least one African team advance to the Knockout Stage.

Group C

Games Remaining:
USA vs Algeria
England vs Slovenia

Wednesday June 23 10:00am

Everyone and their mother knows the scenario for the USA. Beat Algeria and you're into the next round. The US can also advance with a tie and a tie between England and Slovenia (if England doesn't score 2 more times than the US) or a tie and an England loss. Slovenia's road might be the easiest, but they play the toughest team in the group. A win or tie against England will get Slovenia into the next round.

England has been heavily criticized for their uninspired play this World Cup, but are still only a victory away from advancing to the next round. Algeria needs the most help to advance, needing to beat the US and Slovenia to beat or tie England.

Most Likely Outcome: If the US doesn't concede any early goals to Algeria and can keep their rhythm going they found late against Slovenia, they should be able to make the next round. I don't have much faith in England at this point after their flop against Algeria so I'm going to say that Slovenia gets in with a draw against England.

Group D

Games Remaining:
Ghana vs Germany
Serbia vs Australia
Wednesday June 23 2:30pm

Ghana represents the African continent's best hope for getting a team to the knockout stages. However they might have an even tougher test than Nigeria to get there. They are charged with securing at least a draw against a German team that is surely out for blood after their loss to Serbia. Germany and Serbia can also reach the next round with victories. Serbia still lags behind Germany in the tiebreaker department based on Germany's slaughter of Australia, but can make some of that up against the Socceroos. Australia needs a win and a victory by Ghana to make the next round.

Most Likely Outcome: Ghana seems to be in the best position atop the group, but they face their toughest opponent yet. Their draw against Australia put them in a position where they need to get at least a point out of their game with Germany. Serbia seems to have the best chance of advancing, based on their matchup with Australia. Ghana's squad has a lot of injuries in the midfield, and I just don't think they'll be able to hold on against Germany (though as I said before, I would love to see African teams advance in the tournament).

Group E

Games Remaining:
Netherlands vs Cameroon
Japan vs Denmark
Thursday June 24 2:30pm

This might be the easiest group in the whole tournament to explain the scenario. The Netherlands have already clinched a spot in the next round, and will win the group even if they lose to Cameroon as long as Japan or Denmark do not make up the Goal Differential. The winner of the Japan-Denmark game will reach the next round. If the game ends in a tie, Japan will advance. Cameroon has been eliminated.

Most Likely Outcome: Netherlands and Denmark, even though Japan has the advantage of only needing a draw.

Group F

Games Remaining:
Paraguay vs New Zealand
Italy vs Slovakia
Thursday June 24 10:00am

If Group E was the easiest to figure out, Group F is the hardest. All four teams could still make the next round and any of the four could easily be eliminated. Paraguay has the easiest route, needing a win or tie against New Zealand OR an Italy loss or tie. Italy advances with a win OR a tie and a New Zealand loss. New Zealand can shock the world and advance with a win over Paraguay or a tie and an Italy loss. Slovakia can advance with a win and New Zealand loss OR a win and making up the 4-goal Goal Differential with Paraguay.

If both games end in a draw, Paraguay will advance and whichever team scores more goals between Italy and New Zealand will advance. If both games draw with the same score, a coin flip will determine whether Italy or New Zealand advance.

Most Likely Outcome: Wow, gotta say I would love to see New Zealand be able to advance here, but I honestly don't think it will happen. Italy has whined and cried and dove their way into two draws already, and I see them just squeaking by Slovakia (though a draw is a very real possibility). I don't think New Zealand will be able to hold on to their lucky streak to force a draw against Paraguay but they will still be able to go home with their heads held high for what they achieved in this World Cup.

Group G

Games Remaining:
Brazil vs Portugal
Ivory Coast vs North Korea
Friday June 24 10:00am

Brazil has already advanced and North Korea has been eliminated. That being said, Brazil-Portugal might be the best match of the first round. Portugal is coming off a 7-goal explosion against North Korea and Brazil is, as always, one of the best in the world. It will be almost impossible for the Ivory Coast to reach the next round after Portugal's hammering of North Korea. The Ivory Coast would need a win over North Korea AND to make up the 9-goal differential with Portugal.

Brazil wins the group outright with a win or tie, and Portugal wins the group with a victory over Brazil.

Most Likely Outcome: Brazil and Portugal. It's going to be one hell of a game. Set your DVRs.

Group H

Games Remaining:
Chile vs Spain
Switzerland vs Honduras
Friday June 24 2:30pm

Despite having more points than 28 of the 32 countries in the World Cup, Chile is still not safe. They play one of the top 3 teams in the world and will also have to hope for Honduras to play Switzerland close so that the Swiss don't catch them on goal differential. Chile advances with a win or tie or a Switzerland loss or tie. If Spain and Switzerland win, Chile will have to rely on goal differential against the Swiss to carry them to the next round. Spain can reach the next round with a win OR a Switzerland tie or loss. Switzerland needs to beat Honduras and for Spain to lose or tie in order to advance. The most likely scenario for advancing is for Spain and Switzerland to win and the Swiss to make up the 2-goal Differential against Chile. If the Swiss tie Honduras, they need Spain to lose in order to advance. Despite sitting at the bottom of the group with two losses, Honduras can still make the next round by beating Switzerland, Spain losing, AND making up the 4-goal Differential between them and the Spanish.

Most Likely Outcome: This might be one of the most messed up groups in the end as 3 teams could very well end up with 6 points at the end of the day. It will likely come down to goal differential and despite Chile sitting on top of the group, I think Spain and Switzerland have the advantage here heading into the final game. I don't think Chile's +2 goal differential margin will hold. All it would take is a 2-goal win by Spain and a Switzerland win to knock Chile out of the tournament.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pens Draft Preview: Risky Ray?

Just to note: This is a guest post by Pat Canella
With the Stanley Cup Finals all wrapped up and the Windy City rocking out and celebrating, it's just about time for all of the other 29 NHL teams to hunker down and prepare for the rigors and surprises of the offseason. Since this is predominantly a Pittsburgh blog, I can probably say that our beloved Pens have some offseason work to do. Just to start, they need to focus on re-signing various defensive players (most notably, Gonchar, Eaton, and newcomer Jordan Leopold) and showing the door to almost all of their soon-to-be free agent wingers (Poni, Fedotenko and Bill Guerin).
This Guy = No Heart.

There's bound to be some debate over who to sign and who to dump, but one thing is for sure -- the Penguins are a depth team and I'm positive that Mr. Shero will be holding onto that first round pick (#20 overall). But the question arises, who to pick? What position to pick? These questions are very much narrowed by the fact that Pittsburgh is "stuck" with only a few options for the draft. Last year, they did a tremendous job of drafting defensive prospect Simon Despres, a stay-at-home kind of guy, who will hopefully be a mainstay on the Pens' blue line soon enough. It's important to note that even though Despres was 30th overall, he was ranked #8 out of all North American players.

So who will be drafted 20th overall this year? If Ray decides to hold onto this pick (which, I am assuming he will), then here are a few options that can be had. Let's look at the one everyone wants; Kirill Kabanov!

Name: Kirill Kabanov
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 173
Shoots: Right
Final Rank: 31st (2nd round)

Though the final ranking isn't too pretty, there's reasons behind it, according to Central Scouting and other prospect organizations. Back in 2009, this guy was touted as "the next Ovechkin," and as much as I dislike Ovi, I'd love to have a clone of him on the Pens. This is not to say Kabanov is a clone however; his off ice issues (though debated) are the main reason he has fallen a bit further from the tree than most would like. He bolted from Russia to North America to play for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL (we all understand how finicky that can be, see: Malkin, Evgeni). That's all fine and dandy, but he also went back to Russia to play for the U-18 national tournament, but hey, who can fault you for wanting to play for the motherland? Unfortunately, for every party involved, he was cut from the U-18 team due to his off-ice antics (allegedly, anyway). From his interviews, he seems to be more reserved than Ovechkin is, but he does have that rebellious spark in him as well it seems.

In addition to the Russia debacle, he also broke his wrist last season, so he was out for another significant length of time. Still, in the mere 22 games he played for Moncton in 2009-2010, he racked up 23 points in 22 games (10G, 13A). Not bad, but not exactly great either. It's hard to tell why people love him in my opinion, seems like a lot of hype for someone who has hardly proven himself. His coach says he has tremendous hockey sense, which is very nice, but he has a long way to go. Also, from what I can tell, he needs to fill out a bit more, he looks so skinny out on the ice!

Note: This pick is a risk that Shero may not be willing to take, but it seems that Kabanov is high risk/high reward to most. Though I am almost 100% sure Kabanov is not NHL-ready, he will still need some time in the minors to mature, unless of course, he has a tremendous camp (even then, it's not set in stone).

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Day 1 Change Your Facebook Picture to Your Favorite Founding Father

Just like that, the World Cup is under way. Host nation South Africa scored the first goal of the tournament when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored 55 minutes into the opening match against Mexico. Love the announcers reaction to this goal. That's what the World Cup is all about.

About twenty five minutes later, with the South African crowd buzzing (literally, buzzing, they blow on noisemakers that make the stadium sound like a beehive) Mexico tied it up. Not sure if South Africa was more disappointed that Mexico tied the game or that they don't have anyone on their team named Alejandro.

In the other match of the day, France and Uruguay played to a nil-nil draw. Snore. Both teams managed only 3 shots on goal. France took 20 shots in the game, but only three were actually on target. There's a joke in there somewhere. Either way, this isn't a game you're going to go back and watch on the DVR. 0-0 ties are ESPN's worst nightmare in this event. Thierry Henry is still a joke.

The World Cup continues tomorrow morning with a snooze-fest between South Korea and Greece to be followed by two of the best matches of the tournament. Argentina-Nigeria is sure to be a wide open game.

In honor of the United States opening the World Cup against the bloody Brits, we're starting a movement. It's pretty easy to get on board. Here's what you need to do:

Change your Facebook and/or Twitter picture to your favorite Founding Father to celebrate that other time we kicked some British ass.

Don't have a favorite founding father? Well, here are some options.

George Washington
He crossed a river once, and the resulting picture showed that he did, in fact, have a little Captain in him.

Thomas Jefferson
He had the jungle fever. He also bought Louisiana. Suck it, France.

Ben Franklin
He was from Philadelphia and had the Gout. Also slept around. A lot.

Alexander Hamilton
Challenged Aaron Burr to a duel, because that was just how you rolled back then. He didn't win.

Aaron Burr
Quicker on the draw than Alexander Hamilton.

James Madison
Federalism, baby.

Abigail Adams
Popular choice for the female audience of the blog. Told John to not forget about including women when they wrote the Constitution.

Thomas Paine
T-Paine wrote Common Sense to help spur the American Revolution. But he wasn't done. After that he went to France and helped start their revolution. Total baller.

John Hancock
Signed his name huge so King George could read it. And his name is Hancock.

If you do change your picture, tweet us or post in the comments who you chose for your favorite founder. Pass the idea on to all your friends.

Go America.

World Cup Preview: Knockout Stage Predictions

The World Cup starts today. If you're not bouncing out of your chair with excitement, well, you're like most Americans.

But here's the deal. Saturday afternoon we have a chance to get retribution on the British for BP.

Go America.

Obviously, American soccer fans are going to be interested in what their national team is doing. However, here are some other matches you're definitely going to want to set the DVR for.

Top Five Opening Round Matches
(in chronological order)

Argentina - Nigeria
June 12 10am EST

This promises to be a fast-paced, wide-open game. Though a rarity in soccer, this one could end up 5-4. Both teams are talented on the offensive end and weak on defense. That could mean a lot of goals as neither plays a particularly defensive-minded game.

England - USA
June 12 2:30pm EST

Read some Thomas Paine. Get angry about the Gulf oil spill. Think about how much you hate Mr. Collins. Don't know who Mr. Collins is and why you should hate him? Put down Twilight and read some real literature.

Netherlands - Denmark
June 14 7:30am EST

Two talented teams that have their eyes on deep runs in the tournament. Denmark isn't really on anyone's radar after struggling against tough teams in qualifying. The Netherlands is the best team never to have won the World Cup.

Brazil - Cote d'Ivoire
June 20 2:30pm EST

The #1 team in the world against the best team in Africa. On African soil. One of the best strikers in the world (Ivory Coast's Drogba) will be playing with a broken arm. Ivory Coast may not win this game, but it's a big chance for African soccer to prove they belong on the big stage with the big boys.

Brazil - Portugal
June 25 10am EST

Any time two of the top 3 teams in the FIFA world rankings go at it, it's a big deal. The final day of group play, these two teams may be battling for a spot in the elimination round if Ivory Coast happens to upset one of them earlier in the tournament.

In the second round of the tournament, teams who finished 2nd in their group face teams that finished first. Here is a look at how the World Cup bracket will go down:

Based on our predictions for the Opening Round of the tournament, here are how our brackets would look:

Ian's Bracket
Uruguay - Nigeria
USA - Ghana
Netherlands - Paraguay
Brazil - Chile

South Africa - Argentina
England - Germany
Denmark - Italy
Portugal - Spain

Cory's Bracket
France - Greece
USA - Serbia
Netherlands - Paraguay
Brazil - Chile

Mexico - Argentina
England - Germany
Cameroon - Italy
Portugal - Spain

But what fun are the predictions if they just stop there? We obviously know everything there is to know about international soccer, as you could gather from our erudite previews. Therefore, we figure we might as well go ahead and tell you where you should put your money before the tournament even starts.

Ian's Final Eight

Cory's Final Eight

Now that we skimmed off the fluff, we're left with the creme de la creme. My high school English teacher called his AP kids that. One of the cool aspects of the World Cup is that there is a consolation game for 3rd place. While this may not really matter because there's no bronze medal, it means that getting into the final four guarantees you two more games. Here are our predictions for how the stones will fall after the final games are played.

Fourth Place

Ian's Prediction:
Italy disposes of Spain in the quarterfinals but their age finally catches up with them and they get beat by Argentina in the semi-finals. I predict they lose the 3rd place game in a shootout.

Cory's Prediction:

Italy is pretty good. They will choke. Bank it.

Third Place

Ian's Prediction:
An amazing run for the American team. If they can get by England on emotion the opening weekend of the tournament, they'll be in perfect shape for a deep run. If it goes down as I predict, they'll be able to avoid facing a Top 15 team in the world between England and the Semi-Finals, where they will be promptly stomped on by Brazil. The Americans bounce back and beat the Italians on penalty kicks for the 3rd place prize, the best finish ever in the nation's history.

Cory's Prediction:

Brazil is real good. Not this year.
Second Place

Ian's Prediction:
The current #1 team in the world will face a ton of pressure coming in to the title match. Will they be able to live up to the hype? France has proven to be their Achilles Heel before, an a team that plays a possession-focused game could be their downfall. In the end, they have too much firepower for most teams to deal with. Chances are the championship game goes to penalty kicks again.

Cory's Prediction:
Argentina ain't too bad. They will get it done and finish in second place to...

World Cup Champion

Ian's Prediction:
No European team has ever won the World Cup outside of European soil and that trend continues here. Argentina might not be the most complete team in the tournament, but they have the goal scorers to carry them on a deep run. If they do bring the trophy home, coach Maradona will be able to run over as many reporters as he wants with his car and no one will care.

Cory's Prediction:

If you didn't think I am going to pick the United States then you must be high. I thought Ian might pick the United States too but then I realized he is a traitor and doesn't love America at all. He might as well move to Philadelphia. America shocks the world.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 World Cup Preview: Group C

Teaming up with Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog to do World Cup Previews. Here's his Group H Preview:

Sitting here and trying to tell all of you that we have any idea about what is really going to go on in the World Cup would be a total and utter lie. I might watch soccer a few times a year but I really do try and get into the World Cup, because I love my country. This year we are working with Ian from The Steelers N'at to get a preview together. Between tonight and Thursday we will preview two groups a day and hopefully give you some incite. We teamed up for the Olympics and it was a good experience and I learned a lot about it so Ian and I decided to do this again. Like the previews for the Olympics we will make some predictions at the end which will most likely go terribly, terribly wrong.

My preview is going to conclude with Group C.

Group C

United States

This group should really focus on the two big guns in England and the United States. The Americans got a pretty good draw here. Although England isn’t the best team in the field they are far from the super power that can await them if they get farther in the next round if they can get out.

If the United States doesn’t come thought Slovenia and Algeria will give them a run for their money. The United States has been very hot and cold of recent and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them go on a run and go 3-0 in the group but then again I wouldn’t be shocked if they went 1-2. It is just that crazy. America isn’t a traditional soccer country like England and Brazil and the fans in the states do not take things as serious as they do in Europe so I really feel that kinda gets to the players. Now this might not be consciously but there isn’t that feeling that if the US has a 1-0 lead against England late in the game that they can squeeze the life out of England. It almost feels as if they just hold on and the exhale of the fans at the end of games speaks to that. The US does have passionate fans and even though I am not a big soccer guy I love watching my country play.

Here is a look at the individual teams in Group C:


The closest that Algeria has come to winning the World Cup is when Argentina won it in all in 1986. You are probably wondering “wow how does that mean they are close?” Well the reason is that they were close is because both countries begin with the letter A, close enough in my book. When I talked about Slovenia being mud then I don’t know what you consider Algeria. I could probably tell you that they have a chance because they are an underdog and blah blah blah but I would be surprised if they won a game. They are talked about as being the definition of inconsistent, which I guess could mean they could win but then again the Royals COULD win the World Series this year, but I am not putting my money on it. It was funny actually in one preview I was looking for it said that “It is hard even to find any star player to watch out for.” Wow that really says a lot. They sound like the Browns. Remember when Derek Anderson was supposed to win the Browns a Super Bowl? Imagine the Browns and knocked it down a few pegs for Algeria.

Here is a video of Snoop Dogg, with an Algerian flag, playing video games, getting run over by a truck.

what the hell?


England has one World Cup championship since they started playing the event in 1930. They won it all in 1966 with a 4-2 win over West Germany. That is a long time. England defiantly is the front runner to come out of the C group with a strong midfield that paces the talented team. England loves to push the pace, I guess you can pretty much equate them to the Washington Capitals or Phoenix Suns that when they get the ball they get it up field, fast. The midfield isn’t as strong as it used to be and as Sports Illustrated states “But the exclusion of Theo Walcott, and less surprisingly Adam Johnson and Scott Parker, robs the midfield of pace and bite, and on a bad day, the more established midfielders can look like they've never met.” Skipper (is that what you can call the coach? I have no f’in idea. Some soccer fan from England will probably stumble on this and legit want to kill me) Fabio Capello is widely regarded as turning this team around and looks to get them into the round of 16. The game against the United States will be the make or break if they have a chance to win some in the stage of 16. The country will be pretty upset, even if they move on, with a 2-1 group record losing to the United States.

If you drive a taxi and live in England, good luck trying to fly your countries flag

and yes sir that does mean you can't have a Christmas tree up at Christmas


Slovenia is basically mud. I mean who really knows anything about this team. I bet half of you reading this don’t even know where it is located at. From what I can gather it looks as if Slovenia is a team that is just that, a team. They play well together and they do all the little things. I guess you can kinda think of them as that 59th best team in the NCAA tournament who might win a game because they could do all the little things right against a team that should walk all over them. Their goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic, is tough as rocks, but I am not sure that holds the same as it does in hockey when you say they can steal you a game. They can steal games, but the net is a little bigger in soccer than in hockey. Slovenia also has a couple of young bucks in Rene Krhin and Nejc Pecnik who are 20 and 24 respectively so I am sure the allure of the World Cup will get to them a little bit. Slovenia also represents the smallest nation to reach the World Cup. As of 2009 they have around 2.01 million people. If you are interested in calling someone there the calling code is 386, just fyi.

This is awesome. Slovenia's Got Talent and MJ's Thriller. Unreal.

United States

The United States is also one of those hit or miss type of teams. They can look out of this world during some games and look like they shouldn’t even be in the World Cup in another game. Very frustrating and very bad when you want a nation to really get into soccer, even just the World Cup. The US does not have any top flight strikers and scorers but like England their midfield is the strength. Mid’s Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are really good and have been around for what seems like forever so that is something that the United States is going to have in their favor. Without a doubt the big game will be on June 12 when England and the American square off in South Africa. I know I will be watching this hoping that Jozy Altidore’s prediction is right. If you all remember Altidore told Beckham this at an LA Lakers game earlier this year:

"I saw Becks there and I had to go over and tell him what is going to happen in South Africa," Altidore said, according to Yahoo! Sports. "I made sure he knows how it’s going to be without him playing – USA 3, England 0."

I like it. American’s are cocky by everyone’s standards so give it to them. I hope the United States win 3-0 even though Beckham isn’t playing. A message needs to be sent that the United States is here to play. Sure they are not overly talented and have a very long shot to win much past the opening group play but make it known that we are not going to just roll over and play dead because we are supposed to.

Tim Howard will be the backstop for the team and he is as strong as it gets. Remember at the Confederations Cup when the United States made a run through the field that they weren’t supposed to? They can play some soccer but the injuries are going to maybe catch up with them. Charlie Davies is out after a car accident and Oguci Onyewu is recovering from a knee injury. Those are some big names for the United States and if they had both those 100% healthy they would have a much more potent team. That being said they are still a talented team that can make some noise.

Cory's Prediction: England and United States move on. US takes the group, winning all three games.

Ian's Prediction: US takes the group after giving the British the swift kick in the balls they deserve for BP. England comes in second by default.

World Cup Preview: Group F

We're not going to pretend like we know a lot about soccer. Or that we watch it besides when the World Cup happens every four years. We love any kind of international competition, and the World Cup falls into that category. Like we did for the Olympics, we're teaming up with Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog to preview the 2010 World Cup.

Viva Italia.

Really, that's about all that's going down in this group. The defending champions have one of the easiest draws in the field. No one in this group should challenge them, and they might not give up a goal during group play. New Zealand is still riding Peter Jackson's coattails, Slovakia couldn't convince Miro Satan or Marian Hossa to play soccer, and Paraguay who once tried to fight a three-front war. No, seriously, they did. European historians rag on a bunch of countries (Germany, Russia, Napoleon, etc) for trying to fight two-front wars. Paraguay once took on Brazil (to the north), Argentina (to the south), and Uruguay (to the east) in the War of the Triple Alliance. It was the bloodiest war in South American history, lasting 6 years from 1864-1870. America was too busy screwing up Reconstruction to notice.

Italy (FIFA - 5, ESPN - 11)
Paraguay (FIFA - 31, ESPN - 20)
Slovakia (FIFA - 34, ESPN - 49)
New Zealand (FIFA - 78, ESPN - 92)

Group F

My great-grandparents came over on a boat from Italy. I love my Italian heritage. That being said, their soccer team might be the biggest collection of whiny little bitches I've ever seen. Soccer players are crybabies in general, particularly when compared to athletes of some other sports, but the Italians take it to a new level. If Mario had cried this much he never would have made it past the Goombas to find Peach.

This Italian team is largely the same as the team that hoisted the trophy in 2006. On one hand this means they are an experiences squad capable of making a deep run in the tournament once again. On the other hand, they might come down with osteoporosis halfway through the tournament and have to withdraw.

Italy has arguably the best keeper in the world in Gianluigi Buffon. As hockey fans know, a good goaltender can take you a long way. With the size of the net they have to cover in soccer, well...being a "good" goaltender is all relative. That being said, a lot of goalies have complained about the new ball Adidas made for this World Cup. Apparently it doesn't spin the same off of the foot so it "wobbles" in midair causing goalies to look like buffoons diving for the ball. I think soccer is the only sport in the world where players can blame their ineptitude on the ball.

Here's some footage of one of Italy's star players warming up for the World Cup:

The Paraguay team suffered a huge blow earlier this year when their best player suffered a severe head injury when he was shot in the head in a night club in Mexico City. He did his first interview in March, two months after being shot. He is still on the road to recovery and we wish him the very best.

As for the rest of the team, without Cabanas they really only have one scoring threat in Roque Santa Cruz. UC Santa Cruz's mascot is the Banana Slugs. Probably up there with the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens for most hilarious mascot.
John Travolta rocked the UC Santa Cruz shirt in Pulp Fiction. If we cared more about soccer, we'd post this picture every time Roque scored. Honestly though, Paraguay really doesn't have anyone else that can score. The rest of their team is so offensively challenged, if anyone else scores it wouldn't even be considered secondary scoring, it would be tertiary scoring. Paraguay is likely going to stack up in the midfield and on defense and try to play everyone to a 0-0 tie. Enjoy kissing your sister all tournament Paraguay fans.

No one really knows what to expect from Slovakia this year. They're a young team. Like Justin Beiber young. The oldest player on the team is 25. Now that Marian Hossa's name will be on the Stanley Cup, Slovakia will probably just carry their party over into the World Cup. Given that their first game is against New Zealand, they have a good chance to roll into their match with Paraguay on top of the group.

But no one really knows what the Slovaks will do in this tournament. They have a balanced team that will rely on good teamwork more than individual playmakers. While that was good enough to get them here, and it might be enough to play through New Zealand in the first round, this group is really between Paraguay and Slovakia for second.

Zdeno Chara is also Slovakian and he routinely wins the hardest slapshot competition but gets turned into a pole in the playoffs. If there's one thing the NHL has taught us about Slovakians, it's that they tend to disappear in big-time situations. How many goals did Hossa score in his 3 Cup finals appearances? Yeah, not a lot.

I went to New Zealand on a study abroad trip in college. It was three awesome weeks I'll cherish forever. That being said, Kiwis don't even think of this as the real "World Cup." To them, that's the Rugby World Cup. One phrase that stuck with me from my trip - "Rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen. Soccer is a gentleman's game played by hooligans."

If New Zealand's soccer team comes out and does the haka like their rugby team does, all bets are off. Here is a video

If that isn't sufficiently badass, they could always get a rousing speech from their new manager:

Oh come on, you didn't think I could preview New Zealand without mentioning Lord of the Rings, did you?

New Zealand is making their second appearance in the big show, looking to improve upon their 1982 performance where they went 0-3 and got outscored 12-2, getting shut out by both Brazil and the USSR. Anything better than that will be seen as a significant improvement for the Kiwis this year.

You probably think New Zealanders are called Kiwis because of the fruit. Nope, it's because of the Kiwi bird native to New Zealand.

Ian's Prediction: Italy takes the group easily. Paraguay does enough on goal differential to get in over Slovakia.

Cory's Prediction: Italy will take home the group and I guess Paraguay will take the other spot.