*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: El Salvador and defending-champion Laos are far and away the two favourite teams in this group. Both teams are a bit below the talent they've had in past years, but there still shouldn't be any real challengers from the other four teams. Laos has taken the biggest roster hit between the two teams and they're still not great at the back, so I'm actually giving the advantage to El Salvador for 2010. Their game on April 16th at 10 p.m. will decide the group.
The Challengers: Columbia and Northern Ireland are once again fielding teams that are disciplined and skilled, but by no means elite. They play differing styles, with Columbia more of a possession and control team, while NI is run and shoot, but neither will get much of an advantage over El Salvador or Laos. These two match up on April 8th at 9 p.m. and it should be an interesting way to start a weekend of good games. I'm thinking that Columbia manages to do better between the two.
The Pretenders: Austria and newcomer Sudan will have their work cut out for them if they want to finish above the bottom two. Austria has never really shown much in past tournaments and they're playing 2011 without their quality starting keeper from past years. I'm not sure which players make up Sudan, but I'll go out on a limb and say that new teams rarely show well (except France) and so they're likely to run into early trouble. Sunday April 10th at 5 p.m. is the day they square off to avoid group irrelevancy.
Predicted Order of Finish
1. El Salvador
4. Northern Ireland