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Spain will triumph at FIFA World Cup

If the weather doesn’t improve drastically in the next month, most people will be upset. Not I, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup begins June 11 and will keep me indoors for at least four-and-a-half extra hours per day.

If the weather doesn’t improve drastically in the next month, most people will be upset.

Not I, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup begins June 11 and will keep me indoors for at least four-and-a-half extra hours per day.

Thirty-two teams will battle in South Africa during the next month. Well, 32 teams may be entered, but in reality only about eight of them have a true shot at hoisting the trophy on July 11.

Group A features France, Mexico, Uruguay and host South Africa. The French are old and cheated to get in, while Mexico’s star player Blanco played at the 1994 World Cup.

Not a typo.

It doesn’t matter however, as both teams will go through to the round of 16.

Argentina is arguably the only contender in Group B and will likely dismiss Greece, Nigeria and South Korea without much struggle. Look for Greece, which won the 2004 Euro, to beat Nigeria for second.

England and the United States headline Group C and first place in the group may be decided when they face each other on day two of the tournament. England is deep and won’t miss David Beckham, who tore his Achilles tendon a few months ago.

My first shocking pick is Slovenia beating the U.S. to advance as the group’s #2 seed, as the Americans will find a way to lose and disappoint the hundreds of soccer fans in that country.

Group D has Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana. The Germans suffered a huge blow when captain Michael Ballack was ruled out last month. They are young and relatively inexperienced, but they are also resilient in major tournaments, and have reached at least the semi-final in every one, except Euro 2004, in the last 10 years.

Ghana lost its best player, Michael Essien, to injury and Serbia isn’t likely to surprise, so expect the Germans and Aussies to advance.

Here comes my ultimate shocking pick: Cameroon and Denmark will both beat the Netherlands, ranked #4 in the world, to advance from Group E. The Dutch rarely play as a team in major tourneys so, even though they are very talented, I’m going with that. Japan is the fourth team, but that is extraneous information.

Defending champion Italy is the class of Group F, easily the simplest in the field, and should dispose of Paraguay, who should finish second, Slovakia and New Zealand without breaking a sweat.

Brazil and Portugal, entering the tournament ranked #1 and #3 in the world, should have no problem advancing from Group G, especially since Côte d’Ivoire captain, and by far its best player, Didier Drogba broke his arm last week and will miss the tournament. North Korea, the group’s fourth team, will not score a single goal, much like Canada in its only appearance in 1986, let alone win a game.

Group H has Euro 2008 champion and pre-tournament favourite Spain, as well as Chile, Switzerland and Honduras. The all-star Spaniards could start its reserves and still dominate. Chile had a great qualifying campaign, so it gets the nod for second.

Spain and Brazil look to have the best chances to win, but I wouldn’t count out the English and the Germans. Look for those to be the final four teams, with Spain finally winning its first World Cup title.

Clearly I’m excited for the tournament to begin, but I’m also excited to watch a game in English for the first time since 2002. In 2006, I was actually in Europe and went to one game in Germany – a 2-2 tie between Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

I watched nearly every other game, but only in the varied languages of German, Czech, Italian, Danish and French. The highlight of that was the biased French commentator calling the treatment of an Italian injury in the final an application of “eau magie” – magic water.

I also remember sleeping very well that night, as the normally vibrant streets of Paris were rather quiet after Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt and Italy’s triumph.

Start times for the games should be decent for North American viewers, especially the early risers, as they will start at 5:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. MST. CBC will broadcast every game live and show replays in the evenings for those who couldn’t skip work or watch online while at work.

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