the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
The U.S. Men's National Team heads to Estadio Azteca on Tuesday, March 26, to face Mexico in the Final Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in Mexico City. The game kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN, WatchESPN and Univision. Fans can follow the match on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and via Twitter @ussoccer.
Click HERE for ussoccer.com's match preview.
U.S. Under-20 Men vs. Mexico Under-20 Men
Estadio Cuauhtémoc; Puebla
March 3, 2013 @ 7 p.m. ET
FOX Soccer, Galavision
The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is looking to do something no previous U.S. U-20 MNT has done in the history of the U-20 qualifying tournament – win an outright final. The USA faces Mexico in a highly-anticipated title game at the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 3, at Estadio Cuauhtémoc in Puebla, Mexico. The match will be broadcast live on FOX Soccer and Galavision.
Given the interest here in the European Championships, I figured it might be fun to make some predictions about the World Cup 2014 as an OT diary. Sure it's not about University of Michigan sports, but this is the offseason, right? Hope it's okay with everyone, and please know that this is a one-time deal...my next diary is going to be another Reading the Tea Leaves installment, and very much about Michigan football, and the American kind at that.
Back to the subject at hand, I came up with a simple methodology for determining the favorites based 6 measures: quality of attack, midfield, defending and goalkeeping, as well as depth and team cohesion/tactics. Each is rated on a 5 pt, like this:
5 = Elite
4 = Good
3 = Adequate
2 = Problematic
1 = Poor
Obviously, these are all subjective measures, and are based on a combination of “on paper talent” and “recent performances in international competition.” Things can and will change by 2014. But I’m pretty happy with the results. I looked at 8 teams, 7 of which I figure are plausible “favorites,” while the other is England, a national team that will inevitably end up being treated as a favorite, regardless of how undeserved that title might be.
First, a breakdown of teams by the 6 categories, ranking them only according to the measures outlined above:
1. Spain (28/30)
2. Brazil (25/30)
3. Germany (24/30)
3. Italy (24/30)
3. Uruguay (24/30)
6. Portugal (23/25)
7. Argentina (22/25)
8. England (18/30)
Spain is clearly top, and deservedly so. The only weakness, really, is their attack, and it’s still not bad. Besides, with a healthy David Villa, that could get upgraded to a 4 by the time the World Cup starts. Looking at second place, it’s debatable whether Brazil should be ranked higher than Germany, and doing so is perhaps a bit unfair to the Germans. However, I felt that the German defense and goalkeeping were exposed against Italy, and really when you think about it, they weren’t quite as good as they were cracked up to be. Another case could be made for Italy leapfrogging Germany, since they beat them handily in the semi-finals of Euro 2012. This would probably boil down to the argument that I undervalued the midfield. But I think, beyond Pirlo, it’s not great, and they probably overachieved at Euro 2012.
I’m pretty happy with the other assessments. Of course English readers (are there any?) might scoff at giving the Ashley Cole-led defense a meager 3, but I think if you look at Euro 2012 objectively, you see it’s well-deserved. Even with arguably the best keeper in the world behind them and a 1980s-Italy-style turtle strategy where the defenders and at least 2 midfielders stayed back, they still managed to allow 4 goals in 3 group stage games…and against decidedly mediocre competition as well. Add to that a lack of depth, the usual lack of cohesion and a tactical approach they don’t have the defensive personnel for, and you can see how far England has fallen behind the leaders. They might come together as a team by 2014, but a quarterfinal appearance would be their ceiling at World Cup 2014, and they'd need some friendly seeding to even get there.
Adjusted for Playing in Brazil
All that said, it should be noted that no European team has ever won a World Cup in the Americas, while only one South American team has ever won in Europe. Then there’s the way good home teams often do really well (
1970 Brazil winning in Brazil, 1974 West Germany winning in Germany, 1998 France winning in France, etc.). That suggests the need to make some adjustments based on the fact that World Cup 2014 is in Brazil. My methodology here is to give Brazil +2 for playing at home, and other South American teams +1 for playing near home. On the flip side, I penalize European teams -1 for playing in South America, with the exception of Portugal, whose common language, cultural ties and relatively friendly colonizer/ex-colonial relationship should make them feel more at home than other European teams. So they get no bonus or penalty. The new rankings come out like this:
1. Spain (27/30)
1. Brazil (27/30)
3. Uruguay (25/30)
4. Germany (23/30)
4. Portugal (23/30)
4. Italy (23/30)
4. Argentina (23/30)
8. England (17/30)
This leads to the uncontroversial notion of Spain and Brazil as co-favorites, but with Uruguay as the potential dark horse. Given their Copa America victory and 4th place finish at World Cup 2010, this may not be entirely surprising. Then there’s a 4-way tie for 4th place. I ranked Germany at the top of the pile because I think they have the highest ceiling, and Argentina the lowest because I remain unconvinced by basically everyone on that team not named Lionel Messi.
Of course, who makes it to the final also has to do with bracketology and seeding. In the recent European Championships, Portugal might have made it to the final had they faced Italy instead of Spain in the semi-finals. (I'm pretty sure Germany would have lost to Spain, though.) Still, I'm going to put my proverbial cards on the table and say--if there aren't any major injuries or other unexpected calamities befalling the teams in question, my way-too-early prediction is that Spain, Brazil and Uruguay will comprise 3 of the 4 semifinalists.
The first two may be hardly controversial, but for good reason. No one has beaten or even scored on Spain in a knockout match since 2006. They've won an unprecedented 3 tournaments, and are still young enough that a 4th is entirely plausible. Brazil may not have the 1958, 1970 or 1994 team, but they won in 2002 with a side that had trouble qualifying, and this time they're at home. Uruguay gives me the same "hey these guys could really do it" feeling that Germany did in 2010 and 2012, which of course makes it unlikely they will, but a return to the semifinals does seem likely to me.
The 4th semifinalist is up for grabs. After 3 consecutive tournament semifinal appearances, this is Germany's moment to prove it's not the Second Coming of Pre-2008 Spain, a gloriously talented team with dazzling skill but with the collective psychology of the Maginot Line. Can they do it? Or does Portugal surprise? I'll leave that one up to the (association) football gods.
I just read an article in ESPN magazine about the prevalence of international crime syndicates fixing soccer matches (online article is here). Since I am not an avid soccer fan at all, this was the first I had ever heard of this, and I was pretty shocked. The craziest thing to me in the article was this:
and in an under-21 friendly, Turkmenistan reportedly beat Maldives 3-2 in a "ghost match" -- neither country knew about the contest because it never actually happened, yet bookmakers still took action and fixers still profited.
For those of you who are more avid fans, how widely-known are these practices? From the article, it seems like most of this is taking place in Africa, Asia, and Scandanavia; have they infiltrated the US scene at all? I feel like it would be difficult to see an MLS game take place with 7 goals, all from PKs, and nobody get suspicious about it. But when someone's offering you more money than you would otherwise make on a game, I can see why refs would be willing to do that.
CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C
United States (1-0-0) vs. Panama (1-0-0)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Kickoff: 8 pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Telefutura, univisionfutbol.com, CONCACAF TV
USA’s all-time record in Gold Cup group play: 24-0-2.
USA Starters: Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Ream, Bocanegra; Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, Donovan; Altidore, Agudelo.
USA Subs: Hahnemann, Onyewu, Edu, Wondolowski, Lichaj, Kljestan, Bedoya.
Same starters, same subs as the Canada match.
U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A