By Deb Borges
The opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is less than 24 hours away. South Africa is about to make history as the first African nation to be the host of the world’s biggest tournament. Fans have been arriving by the thousands, the atmosphere in Cape Town and Johannesburg can only be described as electric.
It’s finally here.
The opening match between South Africa and Mexico will take place at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. It will be aired live on ESPN at 10 a.m. on Friday, followed by Uruguay vs. France at 2:30 p.m.
Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to wet your appetites with the first two parts of my preview of the tournament. It’s time for me to lay it all out there and tell you who will advance and why, ending with the final destination of the Cup.
There’s no excuse to not join in and watch the biggest, most compelling sporting event there is. People around the world are ready to put their life on hold for the next four weeks. Even fans from countries whose teams did not even qualify for the finals care passionately about the World Cup and so should you.
This chance only comes once every four years -- to be a part of an event that is about pride and patriotism above all else. It’s a time to represent your country, your heritage. It’s time to wear your country’s colors proudly.
So stop subscribing to the typical “soccer is boring” American stereotype. “Who cares, it’s soccer?” is no longer a part of your DNA. Don’t allow yourself to be ignorant to something the rest of the world embraces. We’ve all heard the jokes, the snarky remarks, and the skepticism over and over again and it doesn’t change a thing. In the end, anyone who chooses to miss this event is just foolish.
Watch a few matches. Cheer on the USA when it faces England on Saturday. More than that, watch the stories behind the countries, the fans, the players. Grab your flag, grab a beer, wear your colors and start blowing your vuvuzela, or big long horn that sounds like a swarm of locusts.
The world’s biggest party is finally here.
After taking a look at each group individually last week, it’s time now to make some predictions as to who will win and advance in each stage of the tournament. The World Cup always provides fans with entertainment. No matter how much you follow the sport, these national teams only play together for a brief period of time before the tournament. Some make predictions based on history and past performances, while others look at individual talent, or a team’s success in qualifying games and friendly matches.
This year’s winner could very well take us all by surprise. Here are my picks:
(Top 2 teams after Group play move on)
Group A: 1. Mexico; 2. Uruguay
Group B: 1. Argentina; 2. Nigeria
Group C: 1. England; 2. USA
Group D: 1. Germany; 2. Serbia
Group E: 1. Netherlands; 2. Cameroon
Group F: 1. Italy; 2. Paraguay
Group G: 1. Brazil; 2. Portugal
Group H: 1. Spain; 2. Chile
Round of 16:
Nigeria over Mexico: Mexico’s defense will not be enough to stop the speedy Nigerians up and down the pitch.
England over Serbia: Serbia will put up a good fight in what will be a difficult matchup for the “Three Lions,” but England will just be too much to overcome.
Germany over USA: A close, tough game for both squads. The USA defense will be put to the test and outdone by Germany.
Argentina over Uruguay: Maradona’s squad should have no problem moving past a Floran-less Uruguay.
Netherlands over Paraguay: Without Robben, the Netherlands will struggle. Still it will win over a low-scoring Paraguay.
Brazil over Chile: It’s Brazil and Chile – no explanation needed. Two words: GOALS GALORE.
Italy over Cameroon: While a Cameroon upset isn’t too far fetched an idea, the Azzurri defense will prevail in a tight match.
Spain over Portugal: The border rivals will meet in a highly anticipated matchup. In the end, the team with the most depth will win. Spain moves on.
England over Nigeria: In the hands of Capello England will end Nigeria’s Cinderella story run and get the semi-final spot its been clamoring for forever.
Germany over Argentina: A rematch from 2006, these teams will battle in a closely contested match. Don’t be surprised if the German win on penalty kicks.
Brazil over Netherlands: A battle of the midfields. A battle of two teams with lots of individual talent. Holland’s defense won’t get the job done.
Spain over Italy: Unlike their meeting in the 2008 Euro, there will be no penalty kicks this time. Spain’s depth and talent will be too much for the Italian defense to handle.
Brazil over England: Brazil will face its toughest opponent, but history will repeat itself.
Spain over Germany: The German back line will not be able to stop David Villa & Co.
Spain over Brazil: It will be war! One is used to making it this far, while the other isn’t. In the end, Spain proves it can handle the big game. In a game of two high-powered offenses, Spain shows it has little weakness and ends up winning its first world title.
Deb Borges will need oxygen throughout the next month. Once the World Cup is over she'll be back beating the drum of the New York Jets. Follow her on Twitter at @LilMissNYJet