Saturday, December 10, 2005

World Class Challenge
By Ben Valentine

Well nobody said it was going to be easy.

Sure my boys aren’t exactly in the Group of Death...of which I’ve heard about three or four groups called that already, but needless to say the Soca Warriors aren’t exactly favorites in Group B of the World Cup draw. With match ups against Sweden, Paraguay and a huge showdown with England, Trinidad and Tobago would be lucky to garner much more than a point.

But that’s why we play the games people. England v. Trinidad is going to be huge. The mother country against her former colony. Don’t think it’s important to a country like Trinidad to make a good showing and maybe even pull off an upset against England? Just think back four years when Senegal surprised France in the opening round, 1-0. It sparked nationwide celebrations across the small African nation; not just because it was their first World Cup win, but also because they beat their former oppressors. Sure it was just a soccer game. However it meant more to the people of that country because while they couldn’t change that France had ruled them in the past, or from having a continued French influence today, for one ninety minute period, the Senegalese were superior to the French for the entire world to see. That’s why El Hadji Diouf is who he is now. When he broke world class defender Marcel Desaily and scored the lone goal of that game, he made the world take notice.

That’s not to say Trinidad and England have the same relationship, but believe me, should Trinidad get a win in the World Cup it would be huge. If they beat England, the country would go crazy.

Sure I’d rather the Soca Warriors be in Group D with Mexico, Angola, Iran and Portugal, or Group G with the aforementioned French team, South Korea, Switzerland and Togo. Heck I’d rather have them got seeded where Costa Rica got place, opening up the Cup against the host Germany. They key is always to find the group with that weak second squad. Unfortunately for Trinidad, Sweden is no weak link and might just be as good as the English. Paraguay, like any South American team, is certainly no gimme. Nope, like I said, this won’t be easy. I can’t see anyone picking my boys to finish above last place.

Looking at it however, how can you not be excited getting a shot at the big boys? Friday night, I saw goalkeeper Kelvin Jack on the BBC News being interviewed after he accurately predicted the two squads would meet in the tournament. There was nothing but excitement on his face. You know he wanted England. You know the whole squad wanted England. Most of them play there. Some might figure it to be an audition for a chance to play for a big team in the Premiership or the Nationwide League. Others want it for the reason I mentioned before. Whatever their reason if there was one big team they were going to have to face, I think the Soca Warriors would have picked the boys from Britain.

And you know what? Come June 15th, they’ll probably lose.

However, that’s a reality for then. Right now, it’s time to dream. Cause as unlikely as it would be, there’s nothing to lose with that dream. After all, if they get beat, it’s just a soccer game.

But should Jack, Stern John, Dwight Yorke and the rest of Soca Warriors do
The Soca Warriors Mission: To send England, and this pretty boy midfielder, home crying.

the unthinkable, it will be so much more.

Now for my take on the US. As I’ve said, the US needs to prove itself. The fact nobody is giving them much of a shot in this pool just lends to the fact FIFA isn’t the only people who don’t think the American squad is all that good. I think I’ve seen Ghana get more respect so far than the US, which is surprising to me. If the Americans come out of this pool, then they’ll have earned a place among the world’s top squads. If they don’t, it’s not the end of the world either. However, I’d say it would be a step back.

So which Group is that group of death? Good question. At first glance my inclination was to say Group F: Brazil is always one of the best squads in the world and Croatia is usually a solid bunch. Australia has gotten some rave reviews and the Japanese did make the knockout rounds in 2002. Group E has been picked by some because while the top isn’t quite Brazil level, (who is?) the middle and bottom is probably a bit stronger. Meanwhile Group C has also gotten some looks, with Argentina and the Dutch heading a solid group with Serbia & Montenegro and Ivory Coast. Hard to say with this group, since African teams are always a wild card. Like I said, just ask France. I guess if I had my pick I’d go with Group E as the group of death, only because I think who comes out of there is more wide open. And I think the US will surprise many and make it to the second round. The odd ones out? Italy.

Let’s just hope Landon Donovan actually brings his game to Germany this time, unlike the last time he played here.

(Yes I had to get a Donovan shot in. I hadn’t in months and man it felt good)


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