Well here it is, the night before we launch into Group E mania. We'll start with the noon ET game, Yanks vs. Czechs. I saw the Czechs play in the Quarter and Semi's at Euro 2004, bottom line they were the best team in the tournament right up until Nedved limped out of the semi's around the 28th minute. They went on to lose in extra time, but are here with a ranking so inflated by FIFA the only team that can compete is, well, the US. Unfortunately that really was the end of the Czech window when Nedved limped out. His form at Juve this season has been basically non descript. He may well not be in Turin next season. Rosicky should be the midfield engine, but his horses are old, hurt, or worse yet, both! Poborsky is playing Second Division Czech ball, Koller has been out ALL year getting a new ACL, we already touched on Nedved, and now Baros has a bum foot. They have good wingbacks and a great keeper, if they can get some goals they should be ok. Now the Yanks - so there is no mistake I can't stand Arena, pompous American soccer coaches baffle me...is the arrogance from the success at UVA in the 90's, or the 2 MLS Cups? That's just super Bruce. His close to the vest line-up crap has only given to an uneasy feel within the camp. Can you find 2 starting lineups the same going back to the Confederation Cup last summer? His never ending testing has created ZERO cohesion within this team, and I'm afraid it's gonna show. I want to give the US the nod in this one on sheer exuberance, more precisely due to speed. I hope Johnson starts with McBride, but look for him to come off the bench, and even get one tomorrow. Game 1 is just too big for one of these teams to lose. Kissin your sister it will be.
US 2 - Czech 2 - that's how I see it.
On to the main event - Azzurri vs. Ghana. Again Ghana is the most cohesive African team b/c they simply have one of the best central midfield duos in the entire Cup. Essien and Appiah are a potent combo that can direct the game through passing or their own adventures forward. Plus they will be absolute beasts marking back. I wish we were playing them last in the group, one or both will be suspended with 2 yellow cards accrued through the first 2 games. The question will be their forwards and their ability to convert chances. Ivory Coast was abysmal in cashing in, Ghana cannot afford to be as wasteful. As for the glory boys, we are ready, even with the Serie A scandal, I cannot remember a training camp that has been as harmonious and untied as this one. Lippi is the master choice to lead this rare generation of Italian goal scoring prowess. A Tridente upfront will be as successful as Pirlo, De Rossi and Totti can make them. The necessity of a quick start actually seems to be understood with this unit.....second in the group = Brazil. First and they couldn't meet until the Finals. The boys are ready, and so am I......
Italy 3 (Toni, Gilardino, Grosso) Ghana 1 (who knows)