sprechen sie fußball?

9 weeks to the start of the World Cup Finals 2006 in Germany, and I feel duty bound to spread the word about the planet’s most popular sport’s biggest festival, so I will post every Friday until after the tournament is over.

Now it’s time to go over the eight first round groups one by one and try and predict how I think they will pan out. The results I predict here will eventually become real bets with PaddyPower.com as I try to put my money where my analytical mouth is.


Though he was a hero for my Spurs even though they never won anything with him at the club, I doubt the German fans will feel the same about his reign as national manager.

I can think of three different ways you can approach the answer to the question which is on many football follower’s lips : “How will the host nation do at this year’s World Cup finals?”

First, you would have the response of a casual observer, who would no doubt speculate that playing in front of their home crowd would have to give the Germans an edge over the other 31 participants in the tournament.

Then, you would have the more season football supporter, who would be aware of the form guide and be able to tell you that with the exception of Michael Ballack, they have produced very little in the way of world class players over the past decade or so. They would also tell you that apart from the obvious advantages to the local economy, being the host nation carries with it a number of hidden drawbacks, for example, an immense amount of pressure to win it all, as well as a lack of competitive preparation in the months leading up to the finals as the hosts gain automatic qualification.

Pessimism over Germany’s chances can also be supported by the fact that the job of national team coach was something of a poisoned chalice when it went on offer after the European Championships in 2004. There are a number of quality homegrown coaches out there, most notably Ottmar Hitzfeld as well as Otto Rehhagel, who actually led Greece to victory in 2004. Neither of them were willing to step forward, however, and eventually the post was accepted by former goal-scoring hero Jurgen Klinsmann, who had no previous managerial experience, and who also was allowed to assume his new role while himself being based in California. It didn’t exactly augur well for a successful German campaign.

Finally, you have my perspective. If there is one rule of thumb I have learned over the years following the World Cup finals, it’s this : “Never, EVER, rule out the Germans.” This fact was borne out in 2002 when despite a succession of extremely average performances, they still got all the way to the final where they succumbed to Brazil. I firmly believe that though they will more than likely make heavy weather of the first round, Germany will squeak through and once you get out of your group, anything can happen.

Just in case you don’t know, maybe I should tell you how the World Cup final tournament works before I go on. The 32 qualifiers are drawn into eight groups of four teams. You play everyone in your group once, giving you three first round games. With three points for a win, one for a draw/tie and none for a loss, the four teams are ranked in order and the top 2 in each group progress to the next stage. The 16 remaining countries then play a knockout format until the champions are crowned after the final.

Germany were drawn into Group A along with Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador. Again, the casual observer would see this as an easy draw for the home side. The thing about the so-called “unfashionable” teams is that many of them are coached by experiences Europeans and South Americans, and they can turn them into teams that can be extremely difficult to beat over a 90 minute game.

Given all of this, I present to you my predictions for Group A.

June 9 Germany v Costa Rica 1-1
June 9 Poland v Ecuador 3-1
June 14 Germany v Poland 0-0
June 15 Ecuador v Costa Rica 0-1
June 20 Ecuador v Germany 0-1
June 20 Costa Rica v Poland 1-2

These results would see Poland winning the group with seven points, followed by the lucky Germans with five. I will place a total of ten euros on that sequence of results taking place, and do likewise with the other first round groups. I wonder if I will at least make my eighty euros back come the knockout stages…



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