FIFA says there will be 350 million TV viewers for this 2006 World Cup draw, and even if the number is a fiction, as these figures always are, it's an impressive fiction -- double the fictional audience for the Super Bowl, for instance, and judging by the equally reliable web count, 349,999,967 more than will be checking in here at JABS. The spam in the mailbox indicates we do tend to get a lot of rich, desperate Nigerians, so perhaps they'll turn up to swell the numbers.
I'll be keeping track of the essentials here: the groups, the schedule, the words, the leiderhosen and most importantly, the drinking game, our operative trigger phrase being "Group of Death," or as they say in Leipzig, Todesgruppe.
|Chronicles of Leipzig: The Lion, Heidi Klum, and the the prize.|
And beware. These things have a habit of taking a while to get going. Anytime Sepp Blatter grabs a microphone, you'll get a special Blatter Up! indicator alerting you that it's okay to go to the fridge and make a sandwich, catch up on your email, shovel some snow, etc. According to the BBC website, the draw proper won't start until 3:21 p.m.! That's a whole lot of Blatter Up!, officially licensed singing and mascots.
The rest is up to you, so either email me or use the comments window below.
Here's what we know: Germany as hosts are in, the top seed in Group A. That means they'll play the opener in Munich on June 9, and two other group games, June 14 in Dortmund and June 20 in Berlin.
Brazil is in as well, in Group F. Yeah, I don't know why either, although when you look at the grid, the top teams in Group A and F can never meet until the final. For a quick look at the rules of the draw, this dandy little site has a primer, including some World Cup odds -- including a glittering 80-to-1 on the U.S. If you do that sort of thing, of course. Otherwise, stick to the Todesgruppe game.
The rest is just posturing. Sven-Goran Eriksson is afraid of Australia. Bruce Arena is already backtracking for not being afraid enough. No one wants to face the Dutch or Czech Republic, the two highest ranked teams not to be seeded. And Brazil, as usual, are the favourites on just about every odds board.
We'll be back when this thing gets started.
2:26 pm First mentions of the "Group of Death" on Sportsnet. Yep, they're off and running, four minutes before the thing starts for real. Gerry Dobson refers to the GoD twice, and Craig Forrest once. Man, this game is going to get quite nasty. That's three mentions.
2:33 pm The stage looks like something out of Star Search, if it was designed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts people. The hosts, including Heidi Klum, slip effortlessly from German to English, ang we're underway in Leipzig. And on a cold afternoon in Toronto, e-mailer and footy fan Grace Brown is thinking already of the July 9 championship game of the world's biggest extravaganza:
"What I was thinking is that it would be a fine idea to have an event in downtown Toronto for all the soccer fans. Would be nice to have a jumbo screen set up with some beer tents and watch the final match. Was thinking Harbourfront or Distillery district."
Sounds like an okay idea to me. Especially if we can convince Heidi Klum to show up.
2:34 BLATTER UP!
2:37 Not quite sure because my German is a little out of practice, but I could swear I heard Blatter say "todesgruppe" -- that one doesn't count, I have to hear it clearly. "Make the world a better place through football," says Blatter, switching into English boilerplate. And out comes the World Cup trophy from the Brazilian association president, who bears a striking resemblance to Joe Bowen.
2:42 It gets passed around to Heidi, radiant in a deep blue gown among these shlubs. She takes the trophy from Sepp, who appears to be weak at the knees as he gazes upon her, and together with another one of the dark suits puts it on a little platform to oversee the proceedings.
2:54 This is already beginning to lag, Ravel's Bolero starting up. I'm going to go over and see how Bill's World Cup on the Cheap blog is going.
2:58 Grace Brown checks in again, wanting to take back her email. Too late. She likes England, by the way -- 7 to 1 in most bookie shops.
3:03 Looking again at those odds, you already know one I like -- the U.S. at as much as 100 to 1. This team is ranked 8th. That is ridiculous. Czech Republic 20-1, Ivory Coast 50-1 also not bad -- but 100-1. Where do I sign up?
3:13 The preliminaries are almost over, a magician and his three gorgeous pleather-clad assistants "recovering" the missing trophy and the mascot showing up to sing the official mascot song. Pele's made his appearance. Back with the draw proper. Finally.
3:43 They're underway. Finally. The blogging tool is as halting as the broadcast.
Group A 1 Germany (host)
2 Costa Rica (tournament opener June 9: Germany vs Costa Rica, at Munich)
Group B 1 England
3 Trinidad & Tobago
Group C 1 Argentina
2 Ivory Coast
Group D 1 Mexico
Group E 1 Italy
3 United States
4 Czech Republic
Group F 1 Brazil (holders)
Group G 1 France
3 South Korea
Group H 1 Spain
4 Saudi Arabia
Some early conclusions
Todesgruppe: Two really stand out. Group E, with Italy, the United States and the Czech Republic, and remember only two of the group, which includes first-timers Ghana, going on to the round of 16. Ouch. Group C, who is Sportsnet's choice, looks very tough as well and is probably better top to bottom, Argentina and the Netherlands joined by two very good sides, Serbia-Montenegro and Ivory Coast.
Here's the first-round matches I'm circling:
June 9. Germany vs Costa Rica. The tournament opener in Munich.
June 11. Angola vs Portugal, at Cologne. Colonial matchup.
June 12. Brazil vs Croatia, at Berlin. The champions open.
June 14. Germany vs Poland, at Dortmund. Neighbours with a long history.
June 16. Argentina vs Serbia-Montenegro, at Gelsenkirchen. In a very tough group, the pivotal second matches will loom huge in who comes out.
June 18. Brazil vs Australia, at Munich. The Aussies cheered when they drew into Brazil's group. They'll get whomped here, but the stands should be fun.
June 20. Sweden vs England, at Cologne. Final match of the group, between the top group's two teams on paper.
June 21. Argentina vs Netherlands, at Frankfurt. Two heavyweights going at it, and Serbia-Montenegro vs Ivory Coast on the same day is no slouch.
June 22. Czech Republic vs Italy, at Hamburg. No. 2 in the world Czech Rep. against 12 Italy.
June 22. Japan vs. Brazil, at Dortmund. Should be a fun game to watch, both teams slick and like to play along the ground.
Second round starts on June 24 to 27, Quarterfinals are on June 30 and July 1. Semifinals July 4 and 5. Final July 9.
Oh, and the final "Group of Death" count: I counted eight. So there you go.