Suck, Part Two a.k.a. World Cup Germany 2006, Part Four.

Not an impressive effort by the United States today. I must confess that over the course of these three games, I have come to doubt Arena’s judgment, which is tough considering how much he’s done for the Men’s National Team over the last eight years. But in a game that we had to win in order to advance—no ties, no overtime, no PKs—we didn’t have our best offensive lineup on the field. Last I checked, you have to outscore the other team to win.

Beasley belongs on the left wing. Period. Not in the middle, not on the right. He had a few good moments in the Ghana game, but he was subpar throughout the tournament. Part of that was due to playing in the wrong position.

Donovan is not a front-liner. He needs to be involved in the buildup, but he was positioned too far up to do that. He is an attacking midfielder or a second striker.

Eddie Johnson should have started up front. He and McBride should’ve been up front, Donovan right behind him, with Beasley at left mid and Clint Demspey on the right.

Speaking of Clint Dempsey, I’d have to say he was our best player in this tournament. No big mistakes, a good game against Italy, one nice goal when we needed it. He was a bright spot.

Oguchi Onyewu played much better against Italy and Ghana than he did against the Czechs. Good for him, and he almost had a goal today. The penalty kick called against him was an inexcusably terrible call. Minimal body contact, no arms, no hands… awful call. But I look at it this way: your opponents can’t get penalty kicks if they don’t get into your penalty box. Conversely, you won’t get any penalty kicks if you don’t get into your opponents’ box. If we’d spent a little more time camped in Ghana’s end of the field, we might have picked up a make-up call.

The lessons? We need to play better from the very first whistle. We gave up the first goal in all three games, which is deadly because in soccer it’s typically easy to defend a lead by putting 8 or 9 guys back on defense (in this World Cup, the team that scores first is 27-6-6 so far).

Oh well. Perhaps it was my fault. Perhaps by mixing the American gear with the Italian gear I jumbled the good vibes our team needed to win. Another plausible explanation is that a person can only send psychic energy to one team at a time, and the one that gets it is the one whose gear is closest to the wearer’s chakras—and since I had the AC Milan jersey on underthe American flag, Italy’s players from Milan would have received the karma.

I was right about one thing: both the US and the Czechs were badly overrated. Italy and Ghana played well and will move on.

At least Italy advanced. Now I can root for a foreign country with a totally clear conscience. If the seeds fall the way I think they will, Italy should be a semifinalist at the very least. They’ve played two good games, and that game against the US was too bizarre to hold against them.

For the Round of Sixteen I’ll go with Germany over Sweden, Argentina over Mexico, England over Ecuador, Holland over Portugal, Italy over Australia, Brazil over Ghana… and I guess we have to wait for the rest of the First Round to finish up tomorrow. But I’ll make some calls anyway: Switzerland will win Group G by beating Korea, France will finish second by beating Togo. Spain will win Group H, Ukraine will finish second. In the next round Spain will beat France and Ukraine will beat Switzerland.

That would set up Germany and Argentina in the quarterfinals, which should be a very good game since I think they’re two of the best three teams in the Cup. The England-Netherlands quarterfinal would be tough to call, because neither team has played as well as they can. England might be in more trouble because of the injuries to their strikers. Brazil and Spain should meet in the quarterfinals, and the Brazilians—Ronaldo in particular—are playing better and better with each game. Again, Italy should beat Australia then beat Ukraine or whomever they end up facing in the quarterfinal.

Check back in a few days after my predictions again prove to be wrong.