*We're in the final week run-up to the 2011 WCP Cup and it's time to get the tournament predictions in order. I'll cover Groups A, B, C and D on a different day throughout the week, and get to the quarterfinals, semifinals and final on Friday. For Saturday, the first day of the tournament, I'll have an interesting surprise post.*
The Contenders: Past WCP Cup champions Norway and Ireland are going to be the class of the group and will by far offer the most enticing match-up. The two teams have a history: the most memorable game between them being the 2007 final in which Norway prevailed 4-3 in overtime. Neither team is afraid of the other, they both play hard (and sometimes a little dirty), and the biggest challenge will see which teams' defense breaks before the other. Ireland has undeniable skill, Norway has undeniable heart and it will be close. I'm guessing the game on April 17th at 5 p.m. will end in a tie, so I'll give Ireland the group based on the goals-for tiebreaker.
The Challengers: Two teams trying to resurrect past success are Serbia and Portugal. While Serbia has never made the playoffs, it has had some memorable games and memorable goals. Portugal has made the playoffs in the past and has even knocked out Norway one year in the round-robin. Don't take that history lightly as memories seem to last forever when the WCP tournament is concerned. In fact, Portgal crushed Serbia 8-2 when the teams faced off in 2010, so there might be a little animosity in this years' version. The game between these two on April 3rd at 5 p.m. will determine which one has a chance to make it through.
The Pretenders: The final two teams have a chance to make things interesting, but my gut is telling me that England and Sierra Leone are going to fall justthisshort. England had some close ones in 2010 - including tying Serbia 3-3 - but ultimately finished a woeful dead last in Group C behind both Portugal and Serbia respectively. Sierra Leone is the wild card as a new entry, but as I said for Group A and Sudan, new teams rarely show well. I'll give Sierra Leone the benefit of the doubt (I have no idea who is on the team) and say it will beat England when the two play on April 9th at 8 p.m.
Predicted Order of Finish
5. Sierra Leone