Welcome to the 2nd edition of  World Cup 2014 predictions, compliments of Dude, our world cup spirit canine. Some of you may recall ‘Dude-stradamus’ , our Euro 2012 prognosticator and his knack for pick that tournament’s winners. We’ll as many of you saw yesterday, Dude is back to kicking butt like he did in 2012. He went 2 for 3 on 6/13, including picking the exact final scores for the Mexico and Chile matches.

Today is the only 4-match game day during WC14 so let’s see what tricks Dude has up his sleeves …

COLOMBIA vs. GREECE [Noon EDT start, ABC]

columbia1Colombia … a crazy talented squad even without the striker services of the talented Radamel Falcao. Falcao is still nursing his torn ACL, but Monaco teammate and attacking midfielder James Rodriguez as well as productive forward Teofilo Gutierrrez should easily carry the Colombians past the group stage. Unless you are greek or a lover of no offense, the Greeks offer a dull and methodical football style … this won’t work vs. Colombia. Dude is confident in a convincing Colombian victory.

 

 

 

URUGUAY vs. COSTA RICA [3PM EST start, ABC]
uruguay1

Dude says it does not take a rocket scientist to predict the winner in this one. His favorite player is Freddy Mercury aka Luis Suarez and Cavani. Together they will crush the Costa Ricans who always look really strong in CONCACAF qualifying until they get tested by ‘real’ squads or the snow (LOL).

 

 

ENGLAND vs. ITALY [6PM DST start, ESPN]
england1

The 2nd epic match within the first three days of  WC 2014. We actually see this one going sort of like Spain-Netherlands (in terms of dominance) but in England’s direction. This is the first time I remember the English being underdogs and not hyping up their big tournament chances … it suits them well. Although they have a young, unproven squad I think they can dominate the Italians especially since we just heard that Italy’s goalkeeping legend Buffon is out with an ankle injury. Go England … make it count.

 

 Japan vs. Ivory Coast  [9PM DST start, ESPN2]

japan1We love Shinji Kagawa from his Borussia Dortmund days so hopefully we’ll see him dominating play for Japan. Cote d’Ivorie has Man City’s Yaya Toure in charge supported by ‘oldie but goldie’ Didier Drogba. This match-up looks even and Dude thinks we’ll see an entertaining scoreless draw.

It’s time for our first edition of  World Cup 2014 predictions, compliments of Dude, our world cup spirit canine. Some of you may recall ‘Dude-stradamus’ , our Euro 2012 prognosticator and his (in)ability to pick that tournament’s winners. We’ll Dude is back and has been sharpening his skills to provide you with invaluable insights and predictions for World Cup 2014. Dude was off yesterday but showed up this morning ready to do this thing and “pick em like he smells em”.

MEXICO vs. CAMEROON [Noon start, ESPN2]

Mexico winsMexico’s media darling Chicharito nee Javier Hernández Balcázar will do what he does for Premier League club Manchester United which is sit on the bench. The Mexican NT announced the buzz-worthy decision yesterday, but Dude thinks having the ‘little pea’ come off the bench as the ultimate WC joker will put Mexico on top … and keep them there.

 

 

 

 

SPAIN vs. HOLLAND [3PM start, ESPN]

spain1It’s a rematch of the 2010 WC final and the result should be the same. Spain still has the Dutch’s number and despite an aging Spanish roster, there’s way too much quality and strike power now including Athletico Madrid/Chelsea bound goal-getter Diego Costa. It’s known that Holland is looking to avenge its awful EURO 2012 campaign but they’ll have to wait until their second match versus the Socceroos.

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA vs. CHILE [6PM start, ESPN2]

chile1Chile’s strong WC qualifying results (3rd behind Colombia and Argentina) will translate to a strong world cup squad. Chile’s Alexis Sanchez successfully emerged from Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona this season and the lightning-quick forward will be looking to lead Chile in Brazil. Juventus’ Arturo Vidal is the team’s big star but injury might keep him out of the first match. The Socceroos are an inexperienced bunch and seemingly the weakest of the country’s last 3 NT’s. Chile will win this one with ease.

Greetings TRF readers, welcome FIFA World Cup Fanatics. It’s been a while since we brought you some Fussball insights, commentary and biased opinions. Consider the drought over and buckle in for our 2014 World Cup coverage. Watch this space for #WC14 notables and quotables, player profiles, match previews and reviews, cool footie pictures and vids, strange WC factoids and world cup stuff you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

For starters, here’s a handful of useful links to enhance your world cup viewing experience:

World Cup printable bracket: Thanks to Eight by Eight, we can all print-out our WC match plan and keep it close by. Why use an app when you can waste paper!

Full world cup match broadcast schedule: Everything and everything about who is showing what, when and who’s commentating each of the 64 matches starting June 12th

SI World Cup TV coverage guide: Much condensed, at a glance version of above

FIFA World Cup Fantasy League: Build your WC Brazil fantasy team with FIFA’s official McDonald’s Fantasy game. Easy to set up … why not!

Must See Pre-WC TV: Tuesday night at 8:30 PM Eastern, ESPN will air the final 1 hour episode of Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil, an awesome behind-the-scenes look at USMNT’s road to Rio. Don’t touch that dial because “There is no Tomorrow”, a close up of the Brazilian NT at 9:30. In case you miss all of that, there’s no avoiding the 24 hour ‘Countdown to Brazil’ soccer TV marathon starting at 3PM on June 11th and ending at 3PM on Thursday, just in time for ESPN FIFA Match Day, the live pregame show leading into the tournament-opening match: Brazil vs. Croatia from Arena de Sao Paulo.

GAME ON! TRF

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The one and only 1. FC Kaiserslautern Soccer Club It is a question we are often asked in life, usually as it relates to that first kiss, the first sexual encounter or our first real love interest. As you know, The Real Futbol is a soccer blog so our ‘first time’ memories are squarely focused on the beautiful game and what first got us dreaming of bicycle kicks and last second match winners.

In this post, our ‘first time’ will take you to Kaiserslautern, the quaint town’s footballing pride and joy, Germany’s Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and the crown jewel of it all, Fritz Walter Stadium (auf dem Betzenberg).

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team.

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team

My first trip to “K-Town” to see the ‘Roten Teufel vom Betzenberg’ was some 26 years ago. I was not particularly pumped up to see FCK play but definitely curious since this would be my first professional soccer game. I had zero expectations going in and was more excited about sampling the Stadion eats and treats then I was about having a front row seat to some of the most fanatical Fussball ‘Fandom’ in all of Germany. The roughly 50 mile drive from Roemerberg was one to remember as the last 20 miles of our route was bumper-to-bumper traffic chock-full of FCK fans commuting to this Friday evening match from all over the region.

The FCK Westkurve ist one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

The FCK Westkurve is one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

Cars were decorated with FCK scarves, flags, decals and any number of fan items you can imagine, passengers wore their FCK jerseys and jackets and took every opportunity to ‘serenade’ the home team with a Hupkonzert (car honking concert) and popular FCK fan songs.

By the time we parked at Kaiserslautern’s Messeplatz and took the bus up ‘Zum Betze’ (the ‘mountain’ where the stadium sits), I had forgotten about Bratwurst  and Cola and was part of the mob singing “Hoeher Hoeher FCK” at the top of my lungs and quivering with excitement about what I would experience next.

The Betzenberg in Kaiserslautern (also known as Fritz Walter Stadion) is the home of the FCK red devils

Back then, all German Fussball stadiums had legitimate terraces (standing room only supporter sections) so nobody except a few pampered VIPs would dare sit during the game.

The Red Devil is FCK's lucky mascot, devil horns and all

The Red Devil is FCK’s lucky mascot, devil horns and all

Standing during a 90 minute soccer match may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but I can’t think of a better way to intimately experience the pulse of the game, every bad shot, every hair-raising foul and of course every sweet goal.  I remember we played Bayer Leverkusen and the legendary South Korean striker Cha Boom known not only for his awesome name but thunderous ball striking ability. The biggest highlight by far was admiring the vast sea of red, made up of 20,000+ FCK supporters crammed into the West-end fan section (the legendary FCK Westkurve)

The rest of the evening was a blur but I remember coming home and discovered I had left my voice in Kaiserslautern. What a night! What a team! What awesome fans! I was hooked for good.

Fritz Walter Tribute Choreography

FCK fans honor hometown hero and Germany World Cup winner Fritz Walter with a choreographed pre-game celebration to remember

Second division German Bundesliga soccer is back after an action-packed first week of the 2013/2014 season ended on Monday with freshly relegated Fortuna Duesseldorf’s 1:0 victory over Energie Cottbus. Our Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern was equally successful in its season opener with a fairly ‘decisive’ 1:0 win in Paderborn last weekend. Simon Zoller celebrates FCK debuteDie Roten Teufel featured a ‘new look’ Elf with four starters making their FCK debuts including Finnish International Alexander RIng and youngster striker Simon Zoller, both of whom thoroughly impressed, and in the case of Zoller, even netted the winning goal. This Friday evening FCK hosts FC Ingolstadt 04 at the Betzenberg marking both the FCK Faithful’s first look at the ‘new and improved’ squad as well as the return of former coach Marco Kurz and FCK defender Leon Jessen. Although Kurz got the Pfaelzer boot (aka his dismissal from the club) back in March of 2012, K-Town is still a fan of the well-traveled Fussball teacher and Lautern fans won’t quickly forget his leadership and coaching ability that led to FCK’s Bundesliga promotion back in 2011, after four long years in 2. Liga.

The mystical Betzenberg in K-Town

The Betzenberg and the Fritz Walter Stadion are the pride and joy of Kaiserslautern and every 1. FCK fan around the world. Built in 1920 and majorly upgraded in time for FIFA’s 2006 World Cup in Germany, the stadium packs in 50,000+ fans and is known throughout Germany and Europe as one of the toughest ‘away’ places to play.

Match wise, Kaiserslautern should have the upper hand, especially if you look at the teams’ last four encounters dating back to 2008 (3 wins, 1 draw) and this season’s FCK squad and its new weapons both among strikers and midfielders. Add to that, the support of 40,000+ hometown Lautern fans at the Fritz Walter Stadion at the Betzenberg and “6 points after 2 matches” should not come as a surprise.

Some things are just meant to be … We expected Boston and all New Englanders to rise up, rally and hunt down the Boston Marathon terrorists, we knew Manchester United couldn’t be relegated to 2nd place for long and to no ones surprise they easily re-claimed the English Premier League championship this year. It’s with the same conviction and confidence that I predict that 1. FC Kaiserslautern, ‘das Herz der Pfalz’, will once again be ‘first class and at the conclusion of the 2013/2014 2. Bundesliga Season be promoted back to the German ‘Oberhaus’.  Like team GM and FCK legend Stefan Kuntz said after the relegation playoff to Hoffenheim in May, “what saddens me the most is that we have first class fans who deserve to support a first class team.” I admit I was crushed after ‘die roten Teufel’ so narrowly missed promotion this year, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was too early and the talent pool was too thin to make it last. FCK Erst Klassig

Kaiserslautern is a so called Traditionsverein- a club with tradition, tradition for being a strong member of the German soccer Elite not a ‘yo-yo’ club consistently fighting relegation.  Before the 1996 season, Kaiserslautern was one of only four of the original sixteen teams that had played in each Bundesliga season since the inception of the league in 1963, never having been relegated. Since then, FCK has been relegated thrice with the darkest period being the 2008/09 season when the club was one loss away from being demoted down to the 3rd German Liga. Stefan Kuntz, who was brought in as savior and GM in 2008, has had his share of ups and downs (near demotion to league 3 and relegation in 2011/12) but continues to build a solid foundation for future success. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of 1.FCK’s preparations for the 2013/2014 season on TRF and the Bundesliga Fanatic and an ‘Ausflug nach Kaiserslautern’ pictorial later this month.  For now, let’s remember what the squad accomplished last year and agree ‘Das war Erstklassig’. Maybe not first class in terms of gaining promotion, but first class for re-energizing fan spirit and the unequivocal Herzblut that defines FCK fans throughout the region and all over the world.

US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (130)US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (106)US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (138)We spent last Saturday baking in the DC sun with the hopes of watching our German National Team Fussball heroes during their final practice session before the friendly vs. the U.S. Men’s team on Sunday. We were not disappointed and as posted previously, got our share of action shots. Granted, we would have enjoyed seeing the absent ‘A-listers’, but seeing some familiar faces and many more fresh ones was still a thrill.US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (61)

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U.S. Soccer celebrates its 100th anniversary with back-to-back matches on Sunday, June 2, in Washington, D.C., and Toronto, Canada, respectively. The Men’s National Team faces Germany at 2:30 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium and the U.S. Women’s National Team takes on Canada later in the day.

Germany vs. U.S. on American soil. While there is no shortage of story lines and themes to the DC Showdown, I am most intrigued by … the reunion of the WC 2006 managerial masterminds, but this time on opposite sides; Germany’s ‘C’ Mannschaft vs. U.S. ‘Chinese fire drill’ squad; Germany’s battle with the local heat vs. U.S.’s balancing act of conserving energy ahead of next week’s ‘do or die’ WC qualifiers.

Although we circled this date on the world football calendar back in late November 2012 when the German’s mini ‘US tour’ was first announced, much has changed in terms of what we’ll see on the field come Sunday afternoon. For one, the untouchable Juergen Klinsmann is no longer the USMNT golden child; his leadership has been questioned by key NT players, his coaching strategy and big change management initiative have been ridiculed, and most importantly from a results standpoint, his team’s standing in the overall World Cup qualification standings is less than rosy. However, with all that said, we should not forget what a great day this will be not only for US soccer but for Germany’s contribution toward making the 100th year celebration a memorable one.

Supporters of the German National Team watch the ‘Jungs’ practice one more time before Sunday’s U.S. match

Thanks to some pre-match alerts and our ‘know-it-alls on Twitter, we learned that the German and US team were inviting the public to an open practice session yesterday late morning and early afternoon. We headed straight to RFK Stadium upon landing at Reagan National and were joined by a hundred plus other Germany supporters, most of them local expatriates, with a few US sympathizers (waiting for the UMNT to take the field) mixed in.

While the fans’ enthusiasm is undeniable, so is that of the media. We were very surprised to see Germany’s Sky TV Sport News crew walking around the grounds looking for soundbites including TRF’s opinion on the state of German and US Soccer as well as the current popularity of  U.S. boss Klinsmann. In addition, we spent some time with Woody, a overachieving University of Maryland grad student, who decided to battle the DC heat and soak up the German’s practice session first hand as part of a digital media assignment. We had a great chat about the upcoming friendly and soccer fandom, in particular as it relates to our support for the German side.

We spent the rest of Germany’s practice session snapping photos of  Poldi, Mertes, Miro, Drachsler, Jogi Loew and the rest of the boys so here are some samples …

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The Euro 2012 curtain has just closed and a resounding victory for defending Euro and World Champion Spain over reborn routinier Italy is now history. Still, this leaves us some time to offer up our reflection on Euro 2012 … 12 ‘food for thought’ delicacies to hopefully tide you over for a while.

Good Guys Finish Last [Poland]: Who was not rooting for co-hosts Poland to do well at Euro 2012? After all, their Borussia Dortmund super stars trio, Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, helped power Borussia Dortmund to its second consecutive German league title. While they were eager to put on a good show for their home fans at Euro 2012 their collective team performance was anything short of impressive. Dismal goaltending and an underwhelming offensive performance kept the Poles out of Group A contention and the elimination rounds

Head Games Trump Talent [Germany vs. Italy]: A side-by-side comparison of the two footballing powerhouses showed a clear advantage for the Germans but history and head games prevailed as the Azzuri proved once again that history does indeed play an important role in future German NT performances. In trying to change the course of a loosing history vs. Italy, Germany’s Joachim Loew made major tactical changes leading to a clear victory by the Italians.

The Perfect Storm [Ukraine v France, Group D match-up]: Euro 2012 made history by delaying a group match due to bad weather. Thunder and lightning kept players sidelined for a while before being able to finish their Group D match.  Ukraine’s Group D showdown with France at Donetsk’s Donbass Stadium was dramatically suspended after thunderstorms forced the teams off after just five minutes.

Don’t  Believe the Hype [Euro Host preparedness]: All this talk about disorganized hosts and fears of ultra violence and hooliganism dominated the pre-Euro headlines. Yes, there were some reports of boneheads and idiots misbehaving and even more news of transportation and field condition issues, BUT, overall this tournament went off without a hitch.

How ‘beautiful’ is the game? [Spain]: Many have called this the most boring and uninspired Spanish performance in recent times. Why? Because they are so disciplined and routine that flawless play, even if not flashy has to be criticized? As a Germany supporter I can tell you, I wish we played boring and uninspired … it might have landed us in the finals.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Holland]: What happened to the fierce Dutch team that made it to the 2010 world cup final? ESPN’s Alexi Lalas called it early on in the tournament when he said Holland  had lost its shine. 0 wins and 0 points was an all time low for the Dutch

Against all Odds [Italy]: Betting scandals, economic issues, low popularity rating for the national team, and a 3 game losing streak headed into the Euros, all means  nothing when Italy plays in a World Cup or Euro tournament. They made it to the final, a lot more than expected.

Natural Born Captains [Euro Goalies]: I have the advantage of having watched the finals, but Iker Casillas is a bad ass. He did what he needed to do in Spain’s convincing 4:0 trashing of Italy in the final, and like his other goalie captains Buffon (Italy) and Hugo Lloris set the tone for his side’s attitude and aim. It’s not coincidence that 6 of the 16 Euro 2012 captains are defenders.

(No) Luck of the Irish [Ireland’s disappointing Euro tournament]:Who was not  excited about having Ireland back at an international tournament? Especially since an old Italian icon led them there. Unfortunately, they fizzled much like a morning after alkaseltzer and left no lasting highlights or memories. They are actually to blame for Italy’s advancement to the next round based on a lopsided win vs. the hapless Irish.

Down but not Out [Greece]:I picked Greece to finish last in Group A of Euro 2012, thinking Poland, the Czechs and Russia would all be stronger and leave the Greeks behind. In an impressive show of resiliency, the Greeks delivered Russia a  crushing defeat and much like their Euro 2004 run, surprised the experts by advancing to a Euro 2012 quarterfinals.

Decisions, Decisions [Germany’s talent ‘problem’]: Is there ever too much thing of a good thing?  Well, in Germany’s talent (and deep bench case) the answer may be yes.  Every pre-game discussion this Euro started with who should start – Podolski or maybe Schuerlle or maybe Reus instead of Mueller. This lack of conviction on the national coach’s end led to a lot of second guessing as well as a good measure of over confidence due to the depth of talent at Loew’s disposal. In fact, the number of talented subs available to Germany vs. Italy may have led to the sketchy decision-making  and play calling.

From Russia with (no) Love [Russia’s fast start and slow finish]:  It seems like no one really likes Russia; be its political views, how it’s citizens are treated or its national  football team. The few international stars have worn out there welcome in England and elsewhere so an opening 4:1 thrashing of the Czech Republic made for some headlines.  In the end (last game of the Group A matches), the Russian lost out to the surprise Greeks and entered the tourney without much fanfare.

The Euro semifinals are here at last and our match predicting canine Dude is once again ready to give it his best. Today, he’s focused on Spain vs. Portugal and tomorrow he’ll reveal his picks for the classic match-up between Germany and Italy.

Then, there’s this business of the mole in the Germany camp that leaked the Germany starting lineup before the Greece quarterfinal match. While we know it wasn’t the actual hole digging mammal that dun it, the distraction might be the perfect remedy to pre-Italy match jitters.