The Official TSB World Cup Preview Review

With two matches left to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and only one that truly matters, we thought it would be a good time to travel back in time – to June 10 of this very year – and recap what we expected to happen at this iteration of the world's most popular sporting event. ↵

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↵We posed five questions that were answered by me, Brian Cook and a host of Internet authorities that included Jack Kogod (Unsilent Majority), Matthew Tomas of The Shin Guardian, Jon Tannenwald of Philly.com's soccer blog The Goalkeeper and Jack Pierce (2 Yellows) of Avoiding the Drop. Let's see how we fared. Click here to follow our previous answers in full. ↵

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↵Let's get the most important (and jingoistic) question out of the way first, How far will the U.S. team go? ↵Okay, we were all wrong, with different levels of wrongness. I was the only member of the panel to pick the USMNT to win the group, with everyone else picking them to finish second. That said, I had them going to the semifinals and everyone else had them out exactly where they got knocked out, though nobody (other than Cook) mentioned a potential loss to Ghana. ↵

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↵Other than the U.S., who is the easiest team to root for? Who is the hardest team to root for? ↵

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↵We were all on point with this answer. Cook and I both picked "all the African nations" and if you watched any part of the World Cup, you'd know that the entire world seemed to be pulling for the locals to do well. When it looked like South Africa wasn't going to be able to make that magical run into the knockout round that every other host nation had done before them, the entire continent – and much of the rest of the world – backed Ghana seemingly without pause. Heck, even after Ghana knocked out the United States, many Americans found themselves pulling for the only remaining African side. When has that ever happened? ↵

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↵Kogod mentioned Argentina as the easiest to root for and Maradona's squad surely didn't disappoint. The others picked Spain, and have been rewarded, at times, with some dynamically spectacular passing and a scoring touch by David Villa that won't be forgotten anytime soon. Also, it gives them a team to cheer on in the finals on Sunday. ↵

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↵As for the hardest to root for, Pierce picked Germany, but that's probably because he's from England. It didn't help that the Germans have been far more exciting that anticipated. The rest of us picked France and Italy, which played out perfectly. High fives all around! ↵ ↵

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↵Who is the best player in the tournament and (if different) who is the most important player to his team? ↵

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↵We all agreed that Messi and Maicon were the best players. They were both very good, but not good enough to pull their teams through the knockout round into the semifinals, let alone finals. ↵

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↵Cook, Tannenwald and Tomas said the most important player was Wayne Rooney. I guess they were right, in a way. Tannenwald put Xavi of Spain "second" so we'll give him partial credit as Xavi was the Man of the Match in the semifinal. ↵

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↵Pierce said that Didier Drogba was the most important and, in a way, he was right too as his squad was unable to make it out of the group despite the fact that he played, and scored for Cote d'Ivoire. Kogod said Julio Cesar, the goalkeeper for Brazil, who actually had a bit of a gaffe in the match against the Netherlands that contributed to his team's ouster. ↵

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↵Speaking of goalies, I chose Iker Casillas of Spain who has his team in the finals. Pardon me while I finish typing with one hand as I pat my own back. ↵

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↵Bonus question: Who is the early prediction for the Golden Boot? ↵

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↵Oh, Brian. Cook picked Rooney to win the Golden Boot. Roo-ins, I tell you. ↵

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↵The rest of us have fared better, taking the safe route of David Villa who leads the tournament along with Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder, with five. Tannenwald picked Miroslav Klose who is tied for third with four goals and could still win the title with two in the third-place match. Diego Forlan and Thomas Mueller are both in the mix as well. ↵

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↵What will be the biggest storyline of the World Cup, other than the results of matches? ↵

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↵This is where I was totally off. I thought the weather would be an issue and it's only really affected a handful of matches. Consider this my Wayne Rooney Golden Boot. Cook thought the storyline would be how bad a decision it was to go to South Africa, so the jury is still out on that. Right now, it's been an incredible success. Will that still be the case in five years when there are empty stadiums instead of schools? ↵

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↵The other two major storylines were the ball and the vuvuzelas. In a way, those choices were both right, for the first few weeks. It took a while, but players got the hang of the Jabulani ball. And it took a bit longer, but the vuvuzelas haven't been a major topic of conversation since the knockout stage began. You almost forget about them after a while. Kogod's original answer, however, is perfect, as the tournament storyline really has been split down the middle: ↵

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↵⇥Probably the vuvuzelas, because they'll annoy tens of millions of viewers for a month. Granted, the same could probably be said about the referees. ↵
↵The referees have been, since the middle of the group stages, the definitive storyline of this World Cup. They've been so bad that FIFA will be changing the process by which games are officiated in the future. That's a shame, really. ↵

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↵Okay let's pick this thing. Who will be in the final four and who is going to win the 2010 World Cup? ↵

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↵I'll just reprint our picks below: ↵

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↵⇥Cook: My final four is England, the Netherlands, Serbia, and Spain, with Spain winning over the Netherlands. ↵⇥

↵⇥Kogod: England, Brazil, Argentina, Spain. I'll take Brazil over Spain in the final. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Shin Guardian: Final Four: France, Brazil, Argentina, Spain. Winner: Brazil ↵⇥

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↵⇥2Yellows: Final Four and winner - England, Serbia, Spain and Brazil. Brazil to win the whole thing. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Goalkeeper: England, Brazil, Germany, Spain. Brazil wins it all. ↵⇥

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↵⇥DL: My final four: U.S., Netherlands, Argentina, Spain. Winner Netherlands over Spain. ↵⇥

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↵It's pretty obvious that nobody had Uruguay. Only one of us had Germany, with two hindsight-is-20-20 terrible picks of a Serbia team that finished last in its group. France was pretty awful as well. ↵

↵It looks like the final will come down to my pick of the Netherlands vs. Cook's pick of Spain with both of us getting the final match correct. The winner should get a cup of some sort…maybe a TSB mug will do. Do we have mugs? We should have mugs. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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