The seedings and draws for next year's World Cup in Germany are now out, and the United States, which has worked assiduously over the last few years to shed every European ally it had except Britain and a few former Soviet Bloc countries, finds itself in the dreaded Todesgruppe, or Group of Death. Though the US did quite well in the 2002 World Cup matches in South Korea and Japan, advancing out of the first round to defeat Mexico 2-0 and barely lose to next year's host Germany 0-1, the 3-time champion Germans, who are still waiting for a clear answer about those secret prisons from our Secretary of State, took the American soccer team's poor showings in 1990 in Italy and 1998 in France to heart, and didn't give the US one of the 8 top seeds, though coach Bruce Arena's national team had garnered an international ranking of 8th in the world soccer authority FIFA's system.
So the US, in Group E, will face the 2nd ranked Czechs, the 10th ranked Italians, and Ghana's young team, which is ranked 50th in the world. Many of the other top teams--Germany in Group A, England in Group B, Brazil in Group F, and France in Group G have a much easier go of it. There are also 5 African teams this year--Ghana as already noted, plus Angola, Togo, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast--the beloved Cameroonians and Nigeria's stars won't be present this time through. Among teams from the Americas, Argentina has a tough draw facing the Netherlands in Group C, while Mexico's main challenger in Group D will be Portugal (which the US shocked in a first-game defeat three years ago). Trinidad and Tobago will represent for the Caribbean.
Will the Americans (with DeMarcus Beasley, at right) make it through to the second round? Will Brazil, led by Adriano (above, on right) repeat as champions while once again school viewers on o jogo bonito? Will England's fans be on their best or worst behavior? Will Japan or South Korea replicate their home-field success from several years ago? Will a team from a predominantly Muslim country (Iran? Saudi Arabia? Tunisia?) sparkle this time through? Will the South American teams other than Brazil and Argentina (Ecuador? Paraguay?) dazzle or just fizzle? Who is the next breakout star? Is the Czech Republic's crew as tight as they're said to be? Will Germany waltz all the way to the finals and victory, as it did in 1990? Will everyone feel a ghostly chill whenever they set foot in the refurbished and refitted main stadium in Berlin, which was where Hitler hosted the 1936 Olympic Games and Jesse Owens left his enduring mark?
Ah well, the international talent and beauty fest begins next June, so stay tuned!
It's that time of year--classes ended yesterday with the end of final exams. It was an extraordinarily busy but great quarter. It flew by quickly like a hawk, and I realized reading the graduate essays that I actually didn't get an opportunity to mention Anthony Appiah's new ethics volume or Kathleen Hayles's work on the posthuman in my graduate course, though I'd planned to. I do believe I succeeded in having my undergraduates wrote two long stories, and one of my honors fiction students again broke the mold (I've had such excellent writers in the past) by drafting contemporary ghost stories. Now, back to that committee work--but wait, there's a holiday coming up, you say?