The H Has It
Last of the Groups before I give you my first round predictions. It’s not a hard one. Let’s face it – “it’s an easy one” he said falling into the trap. Argentina got lucky on landing here and they are the class act of the Group. In all honesty, I don’t think they would be the class act of any of the other seven Groups. Having said that, they can now ease their way forward through the opening matches and prepare for stiffer challenges ahead. Gabriel Batistuta stands head and shoulders above the supporting characters although Ariel Ortega will be worth a watch. Ortega is the only guy coach Passarella liked enough to pick for all their qualifying games. In the end he used almost 50 players and six different goalkeepers in their 16 qualifying games so it would be hard to conclude that everything is rosy for the blue and white.
It will be interesting to see if their performances can match their expectations. The Argentine fans will expect nothing less than a month long journey culminating in gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m not sure if they have enough talent in depth to go that far. In the old days, Maradona could carry them single handedly when the going got tough but that luxury is no longer optional.
Japan co-hosts the next World Cup – you know, the one we haven’t started talking about yet. They are young and blissfully unpredictable. They are there to learn. I am safe in assuming speed, skill, and a willingness to run themselves into the ground. Most people assume that that is where it will end – great honour and effort but no second bite at the cherry. Once again, we are mystified by the possibilities of this World Cup. Like all countries, they will have their three games and three chances to prove the experts wrong. Qualifying for round two would constitute an awesome achievement and spark worthy celebrations at “home” and throughout the soccer map. Unlike Japan, Croatia will likely face the wrath of the soccer world if they should falter at the first hurdle and not qualify for the “bigger” games to come. There is no real reason why this should happen, however, and they possess enough fire power to outscore everyone in this Group. Therein lies the beauty of the world’s favourite pastime. If soccer matches went according to plan, we would all tire easily of watching and let’s face it, players would not bother playing. It’s not enough for Croatia to know that they “can” outscore opponents – they have to go out and “do” it. That’s why we will be watching to see “if” they “can” “do” it.
Given that there are thirty two teams in the finals, Jamaica’s odds of 250 –1 to win outright are fair in all the circumstances and genuinely reflects their chances. Basically none. However, the odds of being highly entertained by their games are 100 –1 on. I watched the Reggae Boyz in qualifying play and was impressed by something far more important than their musical styles – their work rate. Quite simply, they outworked their more illustrious opponents and they have been rewarded accordingly. This is obviously a factor which they have added to their game in the recent past and it augurs well for their Group matches. It is no coincidence that coach Rene Simoes dropped some local heroes and recruited players from the English leagues. They are more than capable of causing a “shock” result and throwing this Group battle for second place wide open. It will be fun, folks.
Now there goes my phone again. I’m expecting a call from Pele to discuss his predictions so tune in soon (I’ll post early next time to catch the off) We’re under starters orders.