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World Cup cheat sheet for Americans

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  June 8, 2010 09:24 AM

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Back in 2006, Irish National Baseball team pitcher Cormac Eklof provided us with a terrific primer to the World Cup for the average American sports fan. In this year's cheat sheet, in which he compares each squad to an American sports counterpart, he's got the Americans as the Oklahoma Thunder.

Relatively young, very athletic, huge potential. We could be talking about either USA or The current Oklahoma Thunder. The States are a very fit, very athletic side that will cause all sorts of problems for teams not ready to run for the full 90 minutes. They play nice, attractive passing football and will be involved in some exciting, high scoring games, just like the Thunder in the NBA. The States will be competitive into the latter rounds but will eventually come to their demise against bigger, more physical and more tactically astute sides.

Some other local ties:

Japan:

Oh God, I don't know, we're not going to remember them at all, trust me, they are not going to be around long, so shall we randomly say, the 1992 New England Patriots. Before Brady, before Bledsoe, no discernible features. Fine, that's it so.

Italy:

One of the best defensive sides in the World, even now, four years after defending the cup to death in 2006. With their team built around the strong core of Buffon, Cannavaro and Chiellini, Italy are set to bore us all to death again, sadly. There is no denying though, how excellent a defensive team they are. Italy are the Boston Celtics in the Orlando series in this season's NBA playoffs. They will throttle several teams to death with effective, stifling defence. Much like the Celtics, both veteran, savvy defensive sides, it remains to be seen if the outcome will be positive.

Portugal:

Keep an eye on this situation, it could get ugly. Portugal has all the pedigree, several star players and an ego that would make Burt Reynolds blush. Only problem is, they aren't very good. They struggled mightily to even qualify for the World Cup, and now find themselves in the Group of Death with Brazil and the Ivory Coast. Portugal has a weak team spirit, in part caused by two massive narcissists in Nani and Ronaldo. Watch these guys dissolve like a tablet in water as they get knocked out early, a case of 25 cabs for 25 guys, Portugal are the Roger Clemens era Boston Red Sox.

Spain:

Oh God, it's happening again..

This team has swept all before them. They are potentially the greatest side of all time. They are loaded at every position. They score for fun and have the ability to absolutely destroy any opposition. They are the best team in the World. Wait, are we talking about Spain, or the amazing '07/'08 New England Patriots? Here's where it gets scary if you are a Spanish fan. The Patriots were seemingly invincible. They swept everything before them on the way to the Superbowl, there they were shocked by the defensive minded Giants. Spain are without argument the greatest team in the World. The World Cup, though, is like the ocean to a sailor, a cruel mistress, and often drowns the best team elect in a sea of drama and upsets. Who's to say Lionel Messi won't take the tournament by storm, or worse yet for Spain, a defensive minded Italian team peaks at the right time? The Patriots that lost the big game in Arizona are Spain's best equivalent, and worst nightmare combined.

Great stuff.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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