When was the last time there was a league game? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Here’s some stuff from the international break to mull over:
Seeding is a Nightmare
There will be 8 seeded teams in Brazil, meaning that they will not be in the same group with each other. Those 8 teams are Brazil, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Uruguay and Colombia. Italy and Netherlands just miss out on a seed, while the US sits at a respectable 13th.
Now, there are plenty of problems with the FIFA rankings. Currently, Brazil is ranked below Switzerland. Ukraine is ‘better’ than Ghana. North Korea is ‘worse’ than England.
(The US, by the way, is the only team other than Spain whose rank is unchanged.)
But as the qualifying process draws to a close, many questions have been asked regarding the seeding of teams. Does Switzerland deserve a seed over the Netherlands or Italy? Probably not, but Switzerland has been very good in qualifying. True, they’re World Cup track record is terrible (save for a win over a certain Spanish side). But the Netherlands was knocked out of the group stages in the Euro. Same with Italy in South Africa. Each World Cup is a clean slate, friends.
Frankly, the seeding system is imperfect. But it’s not so terrible that people should be offended. Giving all teams who finish atop their qualifying group is silly; Asian teams should not be given a seed over a second-place European team, or South American team. The seeds are largely determined by how you perform in qualifying anyway. Had the US dominated the Gold Cup but stumbled through qualifying, we wouldn’t be 13th in the world. No matter what, there will be a team or two that people feel should be unseeded while another few teams ‘should’ be seeded. It’s the way of the world. But Uruguay’s last World Cup run just goes to show that anything that happens before June is pointless.
Speaking of the Rankings…
How did all of our favorite teams do this past 10 or so days? Prepare for bullet points.
- Wonderful, if you ask me. After the team got the heavy lifting done early, a pair of wins is excellent for Jurgen.
- Bedoya was poor in both games. He will make the squad for the World Cup, but he didn’t help himself.
- Zusi solidified his spot as a starter. Came on and completely changed the game in KC, scored, and then followed it up with a late equalizer with a great darting run and a header that Ibra would’ve been proud of.
- Jones can’t operate without Bradley. I know he didn’t play v. Panama, but he was overrun against Jamaica.
- Altidore slipped back into his frustrated and shady form of the past against Jamaica and improved slightly against Panama. His confidence has taken a hit with his performances in the EPL; the lowest point in his career came in his last stint in England, on loan at Hull when they were relegated. He was a kid then, but may prove daunting.
- Besler is a starter in Brazil. Period.
- Johannsson is the real deal. He’s tearing up the Netherlands right now, and should’ve bagged several against Jamaica. Came on and made no mistake against Panama. A great finish.
- Jurgen is a solid, solid coach.
- Some will continue to say that the US is just beating up on straw opponents. But they just beat a team away in CONCACAF who were fighting for their World Cup lives. They scored a pair of stoppage time goals, after they had secured their future. Professional and strong. A 13th place ranking is well-deserved. The Belgium beating seems distant now.
- My USMNT lineup if the WC kicked off tomorrow:
Johnson Besler Gonzalez Evans
Zusi Dempsey Donovan
- Evans and Johnson will have to be excellent in the next few friendlies. Beasley is pressing, and Jurgen seems to be enamored with Castillo despite his complete inability to defend. The front 3 are all locks, but Dempsey is the least lock-y. His form has been poor for the US since Germany, and he can’t find the back of the net for Seattle. Plus Jurgen isn’t fond of players moving down, and he certainly has.
- A pair for Negredo, his 4th in 5 games for Spain, puts him in poll position for the starting spot. It’s a precarious position — Soldado, and maybe even Diego Costa, aren’t far behind. But this position remains Spain’s biggest question mark.
- Speaking of Diego Costa, it looks like he may be lining up for La Furia Roja soon enough. He and VdB have voiced their desire to see the Atletico Madrid man play in the red shirt, and it looks like FIFA will allow it, as will the Brazilian federation.
- Who’s going to start for Spain at right back? Arbeloa is awful — he was dominated against Brazil. Ramos, Pique and Alba are locks for the other three roles. Juanfran, Monreal, and perhaps even Barca’s Montoya all will give a shout for the spot. But if Arbeloa starts, it’ll be disastrous again.
- I’ve been Valdes’ biggest critic for the past 3 years. Frankly, he isn’t a world class keeper. But his performances for Barcelona this season have been remarkable, and he deserves to start. Casillas is the consummate professional, a natural leader and a legend — but a lack of playing time doesn’t help. In a system like Spain, a constantly alert and in-form keeper is critical; Valdes has proved that he is, right now, the best choice.
- For me, Spain’s lineup if the World Cup started tomorrow:
Alba Pique Ramos Juanfran
Iniesta Xavi Pedro
- Pedro has been great for Spain recently, and deserves the spot over Cesc, Silva and Mata. Expect Xavi to be back to his best after Tata’s excellent squad rotation at Barca. Ramos, Martinez, Iniesta are all untouchables. Juanfran is the shakiest of these spots.
- It’s time to fulfill the hype. Germany are an amazing team but find themselves peaking at the same time as arguably the best team in the history of the game, like Real Madrid and Barcelona. But they’ve closed the gap and this is their chance to prove they belong with the best.
- Ozil is in unstoppable form right now. He’s running the show at Arsenal, scoring goals for Germany and proving he belongs in the same conversation as Iniesta and Ribery.
- Schweinny grabbed his 100th cap during this little spell. He’s critical for Germany, a more attack minded Busquets.
- It’s tough to say who will start for Germany up top. Gomez seems out of the picture. Reus, GER’s top goalscorer in WCQ, is injured. Schurrle had 4 in these two games and Muller started both games. Hmm..
- Starting 11 for Brazil if it were tomorrow, ignoring injuries…
Lahm Hummels Boateng Jansen
Muller Ozil Gotze
- Gotze has been getting nods lately, so I’m going with him. Draxler is making a case, and Reus may start in the midfield and Muller may go up top. Schurrle is also in the mix, perhaps even starting over Gotze. A toss up, but I think Gotze is ultimately the best option.
I’ll stop there, but quick points about a few teams:
- Watch Belgium. They’re criminally underrated, but they are my pick for a final four move in Brazil. They’re deep, hitting their golden age and super creative. Plus they’re young and hungry to prove they’re the real deal. Lukaku is a monster, as is Benteke. Hazard, Dembele, Kevin de Bruyne, Witsel, etc etc.
- England are going to flounder again. They’re held together by old glue. Rooney is still very good and Sturridge is finally fulfilling his potential. But they’re not world class or even close.
- South America will be the story of this tournament. Argentina are absolutely stacked offensively. Colombia are in their prime. Brazil is both hosting and as good as they’ve been since 2002. Uruguay are just as potent with Suarez and Cavani.
Lots of stuff here. But lots of stuff to cover.