Ageism: 46 Mundial years added (Big day yesterday: another day on the calendar knocked down, a game, a Borussia Dortmund sweatshirt (got cursed out by some Schalke fans for that) and an Italy press guide.
Forecast: Raining winners (it’s opening day at Frankfurt’s Galopprennbahn – the racetrack – so of course I’m going. How else do you expect me to spend a day off?)
Finally, it’s time to draw breath here. Yes, a day off. After getting off the train from Dortmund early this morning, grabbing some Chinese takeaway in the station and heading back to the apartment it was time to sit on the patio, having a glass of wine, feeling every one of those Mundial years. Even the birds were quiet.
There’s eight teams left here. From what I’ve seen, here’s how they line up, in order of preference (UPDATED, with the latest odds from the friendly neighbourhood government-licensed bookmaker here, with Mario Basler -- my favourite German footballer -- making an appearance there this Saturday):
|Roberto Abbondanzieri: No glaring weakness here.|
1 Argentina. They’re loaded, and survived a nervy knockout with Mexico. The one team here with no glaring weakness (9-to-2).
2 Brazil. These top two could be the final the way the grid is set up. But their defence looked shaky at times against Ghana – in the first half, there was lots of real estate being yielded. Argentina has enough firepower and skill to exploit that, if they end up meeting (5-2 favourites).
3 Germany. The real revelation here, they’ve been great fun to watch and they’ve got the home-country fever pushing them along. Their defence has yet to be seriously tested, and they’ll get that against Argentina next out, which should be the match of the tournament so far -- prove themselves in that one, and they well could ride it all the way to the final. That’s going to be an either-or game, but the way they play and with that packed house in Berlin, it cannot be anything but thrilling (4-1 second choice).
4 Italy. They’re the real wild-card here, and I may pop by the shop today to see what kind of price they are on the board. They looked like potential World Cup winners in group games against Ghana and Czech Republic, both of them 2-0 wins against good teams. And although they struggled in their other two, they have the best defence among this final eight group (5-1).
5 Portugal. Scolari is the man with the plan but they kinda lost their cool in that crazy one against Holland and they’ll be missing the ultra-important Deco against England. They’re the trickiest team left (11-1).
|Little help, please?|
7 England. They certainly have had the luck you need to go far at the World Cup. They certainly could get by Portugal next out, but too often their chief inspiration Wayne Rooney is playing all by himself (13-2).
8 Ukraine. Apart from a four-goal outburst against a very weak Saudi Arabia team, they’ve scored only one goal. For a team that relies heavily on Shevchenko, they look like they’ve gone as far as they can – and in their first World Cup finals, that’s a pretty good run (34-1).