Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Updated: July 1, 2:21 PM ET
Minor nations need not apply

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 reports from Germany (and back home in New York). Check back for more updates.

ABC Offices, New York, New York, 5:55 p.m. June 27
So another day of sensational, record-breaking, dramatic, heavyweight football in what is already going down as a classic World Cup. Fly the expensive golden graphics, play the triumphant music, imagine all of this in high definition, because here's what I'm for and against today.

FOR: The 2006 World Cup quarterfinals featuring every winning team since 1954.

AGAINST: And Portugal and the Ukraine.

Really a shame that Uruguay didn't qualify because if they had made it, and the Netherlands had beaten Portugal, we could have had the eight most successful teams in the history of the World Cup. Instead, we have the six most successful teams in the history of the World Cup. And, arguably, the strongest and most intriguing quarterfinal matchups ever.

Here are my:

Davies' World Cup Diary completely biased (and inconsistent) rankings of the eight remaining teams

(1) Brazil: They're peaking at the right time. Argentina's 6 to nil win against Serbia and Black Mountain is a distant memory. Brazil are playing the most fluid, attacking football in the tournament now. The win against Australia looks better on paper than it did eight days ago. And Ronaldo can still play.

(2) Argentina: Still bloody good, but they can't crush good teams. And they can concede goals. Without that Maxi Rodriguez wonderstrike against Mexico on Saturday, they might not even be here.

(3) Germany: All the momentum is on their side, the crowds are on their side, home advantage is on their side, history is on their side … well, football history. If there is any weakness, it is at the back. And if anyone can open them up, it's the Argentineans.

(4) England: This is completely biased. They perhaps should be seventh or eighth. But I still have a feeling that when they're playing their best, they're too physically strong all over the field to be beaten by all but the top three.

(5) Portugal: Would definitely be at four if they weren't a bunch of dirty, fouling, falling-over-grabbing-their-faces cheats (and if Deco and Costinha weren't banned from the England game).

(6) France: Too much talent to not be capable of their best performance at the World Cup (3-1 versus Spain on Tuesday) since they won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1998. They have players who can hurt the Brazilians -- Henry has still not exploded. Brazilians should be ware. Very ware.

(7) Italy: See No. 5, Portugal above. But they'll just be without Marco Materazzi. Can't see them making the semis. Can't see them beating Argentina or Germany.

(8) Ukraine: Yes, it's their first World Cup. But they have Chelsea's 2004 European Footballer of the year, Andriy Shevchenko, and a roster packed with players from a handful of top Ukrainian teams including Dynamo Kiev, one of the most storied and successful football clubs in the history of this football-shaped planet. Unfortunately, as their 4-0 first-round drubbing by Spain indicates, they're just not as good as the rest of the sides here. But it's a funny old game.

Previous Entries
Day 18: Down with England's media
Day 17: Bless you, Becks
Day 16: Germany 2, Sweden U-11 Girls 0
Day 15: Picking the final 16
Day 14: Down goes the U.S.
Day 13: A long walk spoiled
Day 12: Another pants problem
Day 11: Rank and file
Day 10: Sea of yellow
Day 9: America, the beautiful
Day 8: Cheer up, America
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

And here are my:

World Cup Diary highly dangerous and completely hedged quarterfinal picks

1. Germany vs. Argentina … Berlin … Friday

A replay of the 1990 World Cup Final. Different result this time. Germany, even with the home support, won't be able to handle Argentina's midfield and offense. I think there are going to be goals, I just think more will be scored by Argentina. Unless Germany scores first.

Pick: Argengermany

2. The Italy vs. The Ukraine … Hamburg … Friday

Italy. It's got to be Italy. But they have struggled mightily in this tournament at times -- against Australia, against the U.S. They don't do well against teams who speak English. And I have no idea how the Ukrainians' English is. Plus, there has to be some kind of karmic payback for that ridiculous pratfall which Fabio Grosso pulled off in the dying minutes against Australia.

Pick: The Italy (unless the Ukrainians speak really good English and there's karma)

3. Ingerland vs. Portugal … Gelsenkirchen … Saturday

A replay of the controversial Euro 2004 quarterfinal, which saw Rooney break his foot, Sol Campbell have a last-minute winner disallowed, a Lampard goal (remember those?) and a penalty shootout which England lost 6-5. Arguably, the worst day of my life. This Saturday had better turn out differently or my family are in for the most miserable July 4 holiday weekend (already not one of my favorites) ever. Will England play 4-4-2, 4-5-1 or 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510?

Pick: Pi

4. Brazil vs. France … Frankfurt … Saturday

A replay of the 1998 World Cup Final, which was the second-most miserable day of my life. But France won't win this time … unfortunately, because all of England would rather play them in the semis. And if they do win, we still won't be happy because the French will be happy.

Pick: Misery for Ingerland either way

Seriously, Argentina, Italy, England and Brazil. Italy and England will play well enough that some observers will actually believe they'll have a chance in the semis.

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.