In preparation for this column, I predicted the result and score for each World Cup game. My son, Matt, did the same. He, however, predicted according to his heart more than his head, and as a result, Italy, which plays too defensively for him, “lost” all three of its group games and went home early.
But I figured I needed more than just my son’s fantasies and my own prognostications, so I assembled a panel of local soccer fans to serve as “experts” for a roundtable discussion about the results of the upcoming World Cup.
To participate in this discussion, the panelists had to meet my stringent requirements. First, I had to know them. Second, they had to have followed soccer for more than half their lives. Third, they had to be willing to get together at my house on a Saturday morning, drink some coffee and eat my wife’s delicious scones.
My fellow panelists consisted of local coaching legend Bret Gillis; John Hearn, another coach and an English ex-pat; and Tim Maximoff, who not only coaches soccer locally but also holds a degree from Harvard (and that must be worth something).
Here are some of the conclusions we collectively reached.
Who are going to be the best teams to watch during the World Cup?
**For seeing team play: Spain. They maintain possession and pass the ball wonderfully.
**For individual talent: Brazil. Brazilians grow up playing “the beautiful game” and prize creativity in the sport.
**For pure excitement: Japan. Huh? Japan? Yes — when a game gets too boring, they turn around and kick the ball into their own net. In their last two “friendlies” leading up to the tournament, they scored a combined three goals for their opponents.
How far will the United States go?
**We think they will make it out of their group but lose in the Round of 16.
Who will win the most highly anticipated game in the English-speaking world, U.S. vs. England, on July 12?
Who will score the most goals, and thus receive the coveted “Golden Boot?”
**We think David Villa of Spain will score the most, but Wayne Rooney of England and Fabiano of Brazil also have a good chance.
Will the host country, South Africa, advance?
**For the first time in history, we think that no, the host country will not advance past group play. Mexico, Uruguay and France, its first-round competition, are too good.
And, most importantly, who will win the tournament?
**We predict that Spain will win the tournament. If they do pull it off, it will mark the first time a European team has won the tournament outside of Europe! We also expect the Netherlands and Brazil to go far in the tournament and would not be surprised if either of them won the World Cup.
Our predictions are based on, to us, sound logic. These are the things we think should happen. But human factors, of course, influence the results of the games. Maybe there will be a surprising team, like South Korea in 2002 or Cameroon in 1990, each of which advanced farther than anyone would have predicted.
Perhaps some unheralded country like Honduras or New Zealand will shake up the soccer world with shocking wins against the world’s powerhouses and make the “experts” look sheepish.
Only time will tell.
Greg Olson has taught history for 11 years at Baymonte Christian School in Scotts Valley. He has played soccer for more than 30 years and coached for nearly 20. He earned his doctorate in history from Claremont Graduate University in 2008.