Stark reality

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  June 14, 2010

Fantasy Football: we beat England, win Group C, beat Australia or Ghana in the round of 16, then have a winnable quarterfinal match against France or Mexico or Nigeria. Possible?
Possible, but unlikely. Winning our group will be tougher than many imagine — Slovenia and Algeria are both underrated. As mentioned, we also see Serbia edging out Ghana now, and that will be a very tough match indeed for the US. And although we have a history of beating Mexico, they're vastly improved since the last time they met. Getting past the quarters will be tough.

More Fantasy Football: after winning the Champions' League with Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Manchester United, Portuguese manager José Mourinho — "The Special One" — caps his career by leading the US to victory in the 2018 World Cup?
Mourinho has often said he wants to end his career with the Portugal national team, and so he'll likely end up there. Having said that, nothing against Bob Bradley, but the USA could really do well with an experienced foreign coach — look how much Australia have improved since the Dutch tactician Guus Hiddink was there. Mourinho is unlikely; someone like Germany's 2006 coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, who lives in California, is much more probable.

Now that we're on the eve of the Cup, how would you update your predictions?
As we said, we'd move Ghana down our list without Essien. Taking their place, Serbia would have to be moved up far higher, along with Germany even without Ballack, whom we had just behind Ghana and Italy, and both those teams look significantly weakened. We have Argentina as our #2 team, but since their squad has been solidified and Diego Maradona's tactics have finally become clear, we'd say their chances have increased, though still not enough to take our top spot, which belongs to Dunga's Brazil.

Read the Starks' World Cup blog at  realclearsports.com/blognetwork/the_cup_running_over.

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