Teddy would go into the talents of Beckhamura, Paraguay's 4-3-3 formation, blah blah blah. I want to take another approach. There are six federations in soccer--roughly one for each continent. They all have parallels with college football conferences. To wit:
South America--The SEC; dominant with multiple teams that can make a run and impressive depth.
Europe--The Big Ten; still powerful and has 1-2 tough teams atop, but the depth is overrated based on history.
North America/CONCAAF--The Big East; has 1-2 teams every year that can give you a scare, but are rarely if ever in the hunt for anything serious.
Africa--The ACC; similar to the Big East but the top appears to be a lot stronger.
Asia--The WAC; produces a feisty team or two that you wouldn't want to play but is ultimately harmless.
One of my favorite (and most successful) ways to pick bowl games each December is to gauge the relative strength of the two conferences that are facing off. If you have a middle-of-the-pack team from a deep conference (say, a Tennessee) versus a "higher" ranked team from a crappier conference (say, a Rutgers), you're much better off taking the team from the tougher conference with the worse ordinal finish.
And that's what we appear to have here--the clear #2 in Asia versus the #4/5 from South America. This is akin to a Meineke Car Care Bowl where Georgia takes on Nevada, mere days after the #3 team clobbered the conference champ (here, Uruguay over South Korea). Who would you like in that game? Thought so.
Prediction: Paraguay 2 - 0 Japan
If this were the 16th century, we'd be salivating over this matchup. I'm not. Here's how each team comes into the game:
- Spain--unlucky as hell to not get a goal off Switzerland; dominates Honduras; dominates Chile. While everyone calls them choke artists, they have still been near unbeatable in the last 3 years.
- Portugal--didn't give up a goal in the first round, but that's in large part because they played an Ivory Coast team minus their star at 100%, a Brazil team that didn't try, and North Korea, who at last check, was North Korea. They also scored zero goals against the two real teams they played and are only here because they ran up the score on North Korea better than Ivory Coast.
Prediction: Spain 1 - 0 Portugal