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William Bermant: Local Insight on World Cup 2010

Hear from the UCSB and Westmont soccer coaches on the teams and players to watch and their expectations for the U.S.

The 2010 World Cup begins Friday, with the host nation, South Africa, playing Mexico in the first match to kick off the tournament. There are 32 teams competing, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands and Spain. The United States starts its run against England in the group stage Saturday, and will play Slovenia on June 18 and Algeria on June 23.

William Bermant
William Bermant

To get some insight on the World Cup, I asked UCSB men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg and Westmont soccer coach Dave Wolf for their opinions on which teams and players to watch, how the United States will do, and who will end up winning the World Cup.

Vom Steeg said Spain and Brazil should be the teams to look for because “they play the kind of soccer that is enjoyable to watch” with a unique skill level that is much greater than many other teams in the World Cup.

Wolf said people should watch for Mexico and the Netherlands. He has high hopes for Mexico because many of its players have experience in “big places” such as England and Germany. The Netherlands, a disappointment in the past, may be a “dark horse” according to Wolf. He believes Holland can do great things this year with Wesley Sneijder playing midfield; he had an incredible season while playing with Inter Milan, which won the Champions League finals, the largest tournament for club teams in Europe.

As for star players, Vom Steeg will keep a close eye on Lionel Messi from Argentina because “he can beat players and change the game.” Cristiano Ronaldo is another player whom Vom Steeg expects to watch closely because he is very similar to Messi in that he can do “special things” with the ball and for his team. As for midfielders, watch for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, two spectacular center midfielders playing for England in the World Cup.

Wolf said to watch for Maicon, an outside back for Brazil who is considered “the best at his position.” Steven Pienaar is important to the host nation of South Africa as a midfielder. He has been playing on the English club team, Everton, alongside American Landon Donovan. Pedro, who is not a starter for the Spanish national team, should be followed closely because when he makes it onto the field as a forward, he is ready to establish himself and make himself a big part of the Spanish team.

The U.S. national team has a tough first game in the 2010 World Cup against England. Vom Steeg says the United States should be able to make it past the group stage, but if it loses its first game against England, “it will add a lot of pressure to win the next two games of the group stage.” He says the United States should be able to make it past the round of 16 and maybe even get to the quarterfinals.

Wolf says the U.S. team’s run in the tournament will depend highly on its first performance. It doesn’t matter if it loses the first game as long as it shows it can perform at the level of the other teams in the World Cup. He says the team has the potential to make it past the round of 16. If the players play to their potential, they should be able to beat Algeria and Slovenia.

Vom Steeg hopes Spain or another team that is more attack-minded will be able to win the World Cup in South Africa.

“It will be good for the game to have a team win that is not mostly defense-minded,” he said, adding that the most likely candidates to win the World Cup are Spain and Brazil. In the end, he picks Spain.

Interestingly, Wolf also says Brazil and Spain are most likely to win the World Cup, but with Brazil having the slight edge over Spain. He says Brazil is the healthiest team in the tournament, it has had the least controversy and that it’s a stable team.

At this point, the 19th World Cup is wide open for anyone to take home the trophy. One of my previous club coaches, Jeff Johnson, aka J.J., said offense draws crowds but defense wins championships. We’ll all have to wait 30 days to find out who wins in Soccer City on July 11.

— William Bermant is a Dos Pueblos High freshman and longtime member of the Santa Barbara Soccer Club.

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