Assessing My Predictions For The First Round Of World Cup 2006

So, how did I do?  After getting so many predictions wrong during the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, did I redeem myself with my World Cup picks?  Let’s look at the evidence, starting with Group A.
I wrongly predicted that this was going to be "one of the most competitive groups this year".  Everything was decided after all 4 teams played their second games.  However, I was right about Germany making it to the next round.  They did, in fact, finish first (as I expected) with 9 points.  Along with Spain and Argentina, the Germans scored 8 times in their successive victories.  The home team looks very strong going into the round of 16.  I shouldn’t get too much of a big head since that was a very easy call to make. 
There was a genuine surprise in this group which led to my second incorrect prediction.  I felt that Costa Rica would finish second.  As it turns out, they finished last.  Didn’t even win a single game.  (What would you expect from a team that gave up 9 goals and only answered with 3 of their own?)  The general consensus was that Poland (who have had strong tournament showings in the past) would join Germany in the next round.  Wrong.  (At least I didn’t make that foolish prediction.)  The highly underrated squad from Ecuador stunned everybody with 2 straight victories, assuring them entrance into the round of 16. 
Moving on to Group B, I correctly predicted that England and Sweden would move on to the next round.  I just got their placings wrong.  Who knew England would win 2 games during the group stage?  (This is the first time they’ve ever accomplished that.) A tie with Sweden assured them first place.  However, advancing to round two was not an easy task at all for Sweden, who only managed one win in their matches.  I really thought they would take the group and England would squeak through.  Funny how the reverse happened.
Next is Group C.  I got this one exactly right.  Argentina finished first and The Netherlands came in second.  Both had the same amount of points (7) but thanks to Argentina’s absolute thrashing of Serbia&Montenegro they won the group. 
The Group D results were just as predictable as Group C.  Portugal won all their matches and won the group.  Mexico came in a distant second.  I picked both teams to advance in the order they finished. 
Group E was a completely different story.  A very tight group right from the get-go, my prediction that the Czech Republic (the second highest ranked team going into the tournament, right behind defending World Cup Champions Brazil) would finish second couldn’t have been more wrong.  After a strong showing against the overrated Americans (who finished last) the Czechs failed to score a single goal in their remaining matches.  Ghana, clearly the Cinderella team this year, shocked everybody by skunking the Czechs 2-0 and eliminating the underachieving US Squad in their final group match.  We’ll see how this second place team (ranked 30th going into the final stages) will fare in round two.  At least my prediction about Italy came true.  They finished first with 7 points.  (Ghana had 6.)
As I anticipated, Brazil won Group F (although they looked a little shaky in the goal-scoring department early on).  If Croatia had scored on that penalty kick against Japan they would’ve finished second like I predicted.  But the Japanese goalkeeper guessed right, kept the ball out and Croatia had to settle for a scoreless draw.  Australia is going to the next round in their place.
Group G was full of surprises.  First, France continued right where they left off 4 years ago by struggling to score a single goal.  Going into their last match with 2 ties, they finally won a game by defeating Togo, the worst-ranked team in the competition.  I correctly picked them to go through but they finished second instead of first, which was where I thought they would finish.  So, I was half right on that one.  Amazingly, the Swiss took the group with 2 victories and a tie.  Easily the most competitive group this year, the Korea Republic, my pick to come in second, very nearly got through.  (If France lost to Togo, they would’ve had enough points to go through without having to win or tie.)  Sadly, their loss to the Swiss ended their hopes of matching or topping their astounding result in 2002.
Finally, there’s Group H.  Spain didn’t let me down.  I expected them to win all their matches.  They won all their matches.  I expected them to win the group.  They did.  But Saudi Arabia failed to live up to my expectations of them.  (I thought they would finish behind Spain.)  They had a great chance to beat Tunisia (a game which had some terrific goals) but it ended in a 2-2 tie.  Without that crucial victory, it was very difficult to secure victories in their remaining matches. 
I completely underestimated the Ukraine squad.  Their two victories have assured them second place and a trip to the round of 16.  We’ll see how far they’ll go.
So, let’s recap, shall we?  Of the 16 teams to advance to the first knock-out stage, I correctly named 11.  (Not bad.)  As for placings, I correctly predicted where 8 of the 16 remaining squads would finish.  (This needs improvement.)
Coming up next:  who will advance to the quarter-finals?
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 23, 2006
5:31 p.m.
Published in: on June 23, 2006 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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