Although I'm predicting South Africa could pull an opening day upset (if not draw) against El Tri, I'll say their good enough to bounce back and get 2nd place here. Lame duck French manager Raymond Domenech will be put out of misery early, and I love what Uruguay has up front with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. I was real close to taking South Africa to get through, but a late call from one of my sources suggests that's the wrong call :)
Uruguay - Winner
Mexico - 2nd
Could Diego Maradona possibly screw this up? Struggled to qualify, but Argentina gets a cupcake group. I'm saying Messi shows the world why he's the best player on the planet, gets them thru this group and onto a possible favorable match-up against the Group A runner-up. Hopefully, for the casual fans sake, we won't be robbed of seeing this man play for awhile. Alas, I've got them getting to the semis. Nigeria was dealt a blow with the John Obi Mikel injury, but they've still got enough quality to get past South Korea and defensive minded Greece to get through. And I'm a long time Obafemi Martins guy.
Messi - WINNER
Nigeria - 2nd
Yanks supporters are gonna be pretty disappointed early. Too much world class talent on the England side. While talented players aren't new to the Brits, a top notch (Italian!!!) manager is. Fabio Capello will have England prepared for a long run in this tournament...perhaps all the way to the Finals. A tough 2nd Round game looms with either Germany or Serbia (2nd place from Group D - we say Germany), but if they get by here, they could get all the way to the Semis where they'll most likely face Brasil or the Netherlands...otherwise known as Holland :) 2nd place will go the U.S., and Landon Donovan can continue his look-at-me antics for one more round (where they'll lose to Serbia, if not Germany).
England - Winner
Yanks - 2nd
Tough group, but we'll go with Germany to get through the Group Stage as they always do. The loss of Ballack isn't much, in these eyes, but they still won't experience the success they had in 2006. The Germans will take 2nd to our mild upset pick to win this Group: Serbia. We love Stan the Man Stankovic from Inter Milan, and Vidic is a stud on the back line. The Winner of this group will avoid England, and could face a favorable match against the U.S. in Round two vaulting them to the Quarters where anything could happen against the Argentines (but we say that's the end of the line). Australia and Tim Cahill will be hard trying, but they had their run in '06. Ghana's fate was sealed when Essien was ruled out due to injury.
Those savy Serbs - WINNER
Germany - 2nd
I love the Netherlands this year. Wesley Sneijder is top notch, and will be supplying one of the best groups of forwards in the Cup: Arjen Robben (who looks like he'll eventually play), Van Persie, and the hrad working Dirk Kuyt should provide plenty of goals. The ? mark is the defence, obviously. I wanted to pick them to get to the Finals, but just can't see them getting past Brasil and England...in that order. Despite Samuel Eto'o pouting, the Indomitable Lions should get through the Group Stage, only due to the weakness of Japan and Denmark. If they do, it will be favorable for Italy...which we like.
The Netherlands, otherwise known as Holland - WINNER
Cameroon - 2nd
My beloved Italy should win a favorable group. Although I'm not overly optimistic about their long-term chances. Too much was lost from a 2006 squad, and while Gigi Buffon is still the best GK in the world (in these eyes), you need to score a goal or two to advance. If Lippi's return to the sideline provides some magic and the Azzurri can grind out enough 1-Nil wins...perhaps. But if that's the case, the majority of the footie world will be cursing them again for their defensive tactics. I'll be cheering a 5th WC Winner, but I'm not holding my breath. I've got Italy winning the Group, and maybe winning one more against Cameroon, but that's when they'll run up against Spain...loser. Paraguay takes 2nd in this Group, and if things go really array for Italy, they could take the Group. Slovakia and New Zealand...thanks for coming.
the beloved Italia - Winner
Paraguay - 2nd
The "Group of Death" has been dealt a couple of injury blows. Didier Drogba broke a wing, and Nani from Portugal did something to his collarbone. Drogba is questionable, while Nani is out. Portugal and Ronaldo have enough to survive and take 2nd, the Ivory Coast does not. Brasil will get through by playing a more defensive style the Brazilians supporters aren't historically used to. But they've still got a ton of world class offensive talent and a great playmaker in Kaka, and should do well...I've got them getting to at least the Semi Finals, but a that tricky match-up against Holland looms (see above). North Korea...your fate was sealed the moment these Groups were selected.
Brasil - WINNER
Portugal - 2nd
I'm really starting to like this Chile team, but no way can they overtake Spain. Their reward for a 2nd place finish here will be a 2nd round match-up against Brasil...bye bye. Winning this Group in easy fashion will be Spain. Spain has everything: two of the world's best strikers in David Villa and Fernando Torres (Liverpool's #9!!!). Xavi is perhaps the best set-up man on the planet. The back-line is formidable with Puyol and Pique, who is becoming one of the most versatile center backs in the game. And Iker Casillas is balls in net. They're on fire since winning Euro 2008, and they're hungry to win their first World Cup. Spain will beat Argentina in the Semis and go on to beat England (if not Brasil) in the Finals. Spain is my pick to WIN IT ALL.
Those crazy Spaniards - WINNERS
2nd - Chile
2010 World Cup Winner - SPAIN