By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2

Editor's Note: Michael Davies is blogging the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file multiple reports from Germany (and back home in New York). Check back for more updates.

Tribeca, New York, 6:45 p.m., June 16
OK, I'm all packed and ready to go to catch my flying Man Cave to Frankfurt. But before I leave, here are:

Nine Things to Make You Feel Good before the U.S. take on Italy

1. The U.S. will play better than they did against the Czech Republic. But that will teach Bruce Arena for letting the CIA do the scouting report. They failed to locate the weapons of U.S. destruction -- Nedved and Rosicky. I hear he's having Zagat do the Italian scouting report. This "clever midfielder" "penetrates even the toughest defenses" with his "laser-guided passes." But, look out for "typical Italian whinginess" as "he rolls around on the ground as if he's been kneecapped" after even "the slightest touch."

2. Even if the U.S. doesn't win, we're still better than the Italians at not cheating -- or fixing our entire league. If there is match fixing in the MLS, that might be the saddest crime in history.

3. Oguchi, Cherundolo and Ching. Really fun names!

4. It's just a game. As Bruce Arena said, but if it were a war as Eddie Johnson said … I don't think there would be much doubt about the result. Ever driven a Fiat?

5. There's no way that the Italians can play in those shirts. The Italians are wearing the least-comfortable World Cup shirt since the scratchy, Uruguayan, woolen turtleneck shirts of the 1930s. I have no direct evidence that the Uruguayans ever played in woolen shirts, but it seems conceivable.

6. Whatever happens, I am going to start a German sausage importation business. Because, let's face it, no one consumes enough calories in this country.

7. The U.S. will get wide. They must get wide, they have to get wide, to hit Brian McBride. Seriously, the U.S. can beat this team if they play at their best. There is pressure on the Italians, who do not want to finish second in the group and face Brazil in the second round.

8. The look on Bruce Arena's face. He is one of the most fun people to look at on the closeup cutaways and during postgame interviews. I like miserable people.

9. The fact that you care is a positive. More fans come to "U.S. sahrker" every day. As more fans come the country cares more. As the country cares more the more pressure is on the players. The more pressure is on the players the more they'll get used to big-game pressure. The more pressure they're used to, the better they'll do at the World Cup.

Good luck to the U.S. and all you fans Saturday.

I will miss my wife and kids.

I will miss toilet paper of a reasonable width.

I will miss Eric Wynalda.

The Greenwich Street Tavern, Tribeca, 4:55 p.m., June 16
OK, I've given up my search for decent German sausage in New York City. I need to do more research. But more than that, I've decided to start my own German sausage importation business that I'm going to call Welt MeisterSausage.

I'm back at the Greenwich Street Tavern where I just watched the Angola vs. Mexico game called by my friend Rob Stone. He's did a great job, but damn you, Rob Stone, you just one-upped my joke on Angola's Manuel Loco's haircut -- called it the "Reverse Mullet." Genius.

These Mexican shirts rank No. 1 for me for shirts of the tournament … don't think I have mine yet; I'll have to get the Serb on that immediately. Argentina's dark blue, Japan, The Elfenbeinkuste and Germany's classic white rank up there in the top five.

Previous Entries
Day 7: Pants ... again!
Day 6: Sweat and sausage
Day 5: Back in the U.S.A.
Day 4: Welcome, America
Day 3: Clarity at 190 kph
Day 2: England are pants
Day 1: I kiss football
Complete World Cup coverage

By the way, if you're interested in the fonts used on football shirts, check out this ridiculously esoteric Web site, at which they analyze the use of fonts on all sorts of football shirts worn by the world's top players.

Unfortunately, Mexico's shirts were better than they were, so here are my new:

Davies World Cup Diary Completely Biased Power Rankings of the 32 World Cup teams after they've each played one match (or two in the case of Poland, Germany, Ecuador, Costa Rica, England, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Paraguay, Argentina, Serbia-Montenegro, Holland, The Elfenbeinkuste, Mexico and Angola)

1. Argentina: What is higher than No. 1? Ladbrokes have them at 4-1 but wouldn't bet against them if they continue to play like this.

2. England: Just to prove this is completely biased, England remain at No. 2. But if I weren't English, I think I'd have them at 10 or 11. Rooney is back, now we need Harry Potter.

3. Czech Republic: Strong at the back, strong in midfield, strong up front (with Milan Baros back) and the best goalkeeper in the world, Petr Cech, despite the missing letters in his name.

4. Brazil: Let me make clear, these rankings are only based on how they've played so far at this World Cup and frankly, though they only seemed to be playing in second gear against Croatia, they looked human.

5. Spain: History means nothing at the World Cup. I know they've never won it. but are you going to tell me that Dallas or Miami can't win the NBA championship because they've never won it? Success in team sports is based on personnel, coaching, luck and timing. And referees making crap decisions that go in your favor.

6. Ecuador: Those two wins are impressive. No one wants to play them now. England might have to.

7. Germany: They're just gut. Playing at home they're sehr gut. And their uncanny ability to score last-minute goals makes them annoyingly gut. I've forgotten about their defensive lapses against the Costa Ricans. They just leapfrogged Italy.

8. Italy: If they played in more comfortable shirts they might be No. 1. They looked good against Ghana. But it was Ghana. We'll know more about them after Saturday against the U.S.

9. Holland (down 1): They scored two great goals against the Elfenbeinkuste then kind of lost the plot. I am not convinced.

10. Portugal (up 1): They only move up because Holland move down. A big win against Iran won't move them much higher.

11. The Elfenbeinkuste: Even more controversial, yes, because they have lost both of their games and are out of the World Cup. But they've looked powerful in every position, dangerous in front to goal and strong at the back. If they can get stronger in midfield they'll be dangerous in 2010.

12. France (up 1): Count them out at your peril; 0-0 against a talented Switzerland team might not have been thrilling but it was a good result for both teams.

13. Sweden (up 1): Still not fluid but they got the win. That will give them huge confidence. Who knows? Don't tell my Swedish family but I think they would stand a chance against Germany in the next round.

14. Switzerland (up 1): Nowhere near as boring as you'd think based on where they're from and how they played against France.

15. Mexico (down 3): Their performance against Angola was total Pantalones. They now need a result against Portugal to be sure of qualifying.

16. Croatia (down 1): Played great against Brazil -- definitely see them in the last 16. But they really need to rethink those pajamas/uniforms.

17. Australia (down 1): Nowhere near as good as they now they think they are after scoring three goals in six minutes against a Japanese team who literally fell asleep on the field.

18. South Korea: The weakest of the winning teams. But crucially, they still found a way to win after going a goal down. This team has tremendous desire, and tremendous fitness. France and Switzerland wish they didn't have to play them.

Daughter
ESPN.com
My 22-month-old has found a new use for the Paraguay football shirt.

19. Paraguay: They're going home after two narrow losses. Tough, but I still think they deserve this ranking. My daughter is now using their shirt as a stroller blanket.

20. The U.S.A.: Do not despair U.S. fans. You will play better tomorrow. Come on, the USA.

21. T and T: I never would have expected a team from the Caribbean to play such physical defense. T and T are still in this group if they can beat Paraguay and England beat Sweden. But they need to score goals.

22. Angola (up 6): If they beat Iran by two, they could make the next round.

23. Poland: Seconds away from stealing a result against Germany -- but they were dominated all match, created few chances and now they're going home. Which I'm kind of happy about, because I'm kind of scared of their fans, and if they'd beaten Germany, England might have had to play the home nation in the next round.

24. Japan: I guarantee that the last few minutes against Australia were treated like a national tragedy on Nippon TV. I can't see them qualifying for the next round.

25. Ghana: They would be higher (and might have scored a couple against Italy) if they had any natural goal scorers in their side. They're (almost) the Ivory Coast without Drogba.

26. Tunisia: Sorry, find it difficult to care much. Only meeting I paid attention to all day was while they were playing (and almost losing to) Saudi Arabia.

27. Serbia-Montenegro (down 6): The worst beating any World Cup team has taken since Saudi Arabia lost to Germany 8-0 in Japan four years ago.

28. Ukraine: This is how badly they played against Spain. And yet, I still think they'll qualify for the last 16.

29. Costa Rica: Just not that good. And looked worse against Ecuador. But they've got a guy up front in Paolo Wanchope who can score goals. And while CONCACAF sends 3½ teams, we'll see them again.

30. Saudi Arabia: See No. 26 above.

31. Togo: Bye-bye, Togo. Do not pass Go. Do not collect a $200,000 per-player fee.

32. Iran: I've seen them play way better than this. They win the award for crappest goal of the tournament. But otherwise … rubbish.

Tribeca, New York, 12:31 p.m., June 16
Twenty-four passes. I counted them. Twenty-four passes before Argentina's Esteban Cambiasso scored from a sublime Hernan Crespo back heel (really, every team needs at least one player from Chelsea to make it fair). It was the most exquisite goal scored in this World Cup by the head, shoulders, torso, waist, legs and ankles of the Crouchatron. Six-nil. Let that sink in. Six-nil. And you know what, Serbia are quite good -- one goal conceded in their entire World Cup campaign. Not sure how much Montenegro helped, but Serbia, good team. Argentina look like favorites now to win it all, but Ladbrookes, the British bookmakers, still have Brazil at 3-to-1 and Argentina just behind at 4-to-1. I think that represents value.

A quick note to my sweet, considerate, hard-working Serbian assistant, Ana, who has been following her beloved Serbia with great anxiety for the last week.

The Serb
Michael Davies for ESPN.com
The Serb, looking all sorry for herself after the departure of her beloved team.

Ha, ha. You're going home.

Now I'm watching Holland demolish the Elfenbeinkuste. Poor Elfenbeiners. Robin Van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy almost broke the net with their goals. Two-nil.

But wait a minute, awesome goal unleashed (love that word) for the Ivory Coast by Bakari Kone; 2-1.

Now this is a football match. But the Colombian referee, Oscar Ruiz, is doing everything he can to ruin it. A horrible yellow card decision on Didier Drogba, makes up for a horrible yellow card at the other end for Arjen Robben. He's obviously a Gooner.

Graphics and music please. Here's what I'm for and against today. In a brand, spanking new format:

For: Argentinian football

Against: Argentinian hairstyles

For: American "sahrker" optimism

Against: American "sahrker" negativity

For: Oscar the Grouch ("JJ, get away from Daddy's computer!")

Against: Oscar Ruiz

For: The Dutch practice of adding "Van" to regular names -- Peter Van Crouch, Wayne Van Rooney, Brian Van Ching

Against: The Dutch Christian names, Ruud, Arjen, Joris and Hedwiges

Sorry got carried away watching that game. Absorbing. Holland deserved the win though. And the Serbs just arrived to go through my travel schedule for Davies World Cup Diary Deutschland Episode Two.

Check back later for Things To Make You Feel Good Before The U.S. Take On Italy, updated rankings and my quest to find proper German sausage in New York City.

Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.




Michael
Davies
WORLD CUP DIARY