2006 World Cup Preview

Since the very first World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930, the international soccer tournament has become one of the most watched and most followed sporting events in the world. While soccer is the international sport and has yet to be really accepted in the United States, the USA team looks to make another strong showing after making it to the round of eight in 2002. But unlike in 2002 the USA will not surprise anyone and will need to come out and play world-class soccer. In 2002 the very young, inexperienced United States team shocked the world by beating Portugal and their star midfielder Figo in order to advance to the second round. But if they expect to make a run this year those same young players will have to make an impact. Both Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley have played on clubs internationally and were key parts of the team in 2002. They both will need to step up and lead the team through the midfield. USA coach Bruce Arena will also rely heavily on his goaltender Kasey Keller to come up with huge saves. Keller will have to continue to prove that he is one of the best net minders in the world. When this year’s World Cub begins on June 9 in Germany, 32 teams from nations across the world will be competing in 64 matches in 12 locations for the coveted cup. Entering the tournament, Brazil and Germany are the favorites to win the cup. The Brazilians, with legends such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, are the most successful team in World Cup history having won five times, including the 2002 cup in Japan/South Korea, and finished second twice. Germany, as the host city that boasts stars such as Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn, has the pressure of a nation riding on its shoulders and after making it to the final against Brazil in 2002 the German people expect a fourth cup added to the country’s trophy case. The 32 teams competing for the title are divided into eight groups of numbered A-H. Each group has one elite team in it. These top teams include Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, England, Mexico, France and Spain. The USA were ranked as the ninth best, missing out by one spot. The perk of being amongst the top eight is that they are cannot be grouped with another one of the top eight. The USA was not so fortunate as they drew Group E with Italy. Being in a group with the Italians is a hard enough assignment but added to the group was the Czech Republic, considered one of the top European teams and ranked number two in the most recent FIFA World Rankings.The fourth team in group E, Ghana, is no cupcake either. Ghana is thought by many to be the top African team and the most feared by European competitors because of their physical style of play and their imposing players.Out of this group only the top two teams will advance to the next round. The USA will start their campaign on June 12 when they take on the Czech Republic followed by a game against Italy on June 17 and finishing with a game on June 22 against Ghana.If the USA makes it out of the group stage they will face a team from group F, possibly Brazil.After the group stage the rest of the tournament is single elimination all the way to the final game in Berlin on July 9.Millions of fans and journalists will flock to Germany this summer to partake in something that only happens every four years and witness the best football, I mean soccer, the world has to offer.