The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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The World Cup Draw

USA-England. Ghana-Germany. Argentina-Nigeria. Argentina-Greece. Brazil-Ivory Coast. Brazil-Portugal. Mexico-France. Landon Donovan v. David Beckham. Michael Essien v. Michael Ballack. Kak√° v. Ronaldo v. Drogba. Poor North Korea getting so thoroughly destroyed in Group G that even its own state media will have a hard time finding a positive spin.

(Seriously, one of the great unheralded subplots of this World Cup is going to be the North Korean media facing its greatest challenge yet. We’re going to see a whole trove of stories about how the August Wave of People Prosperity Power valiantly sacrificed itself 4-0 to a laughably inferior Ivory Coast team in order to demonstrate the glorious sportsmanship of the scientific and militant youth fraternity of the Juche. The human creativity on display will verge on the science-fictional. We could see a movie about this one day.)

I will take this World Cup draw, even if Spain and Italy are going to float to the knockout rounds on their backs in a canoe, and even if France are probably going to sneak through.

As for the USMNT: it’s not the Group of Death, which is pretty clearly Group G, and everyone’s celebrating, but I’m trying not to get too excited. There’s no reason to expect a result against England (in all seriousness, why should we be confident about this matchup? because of 1950?), Algeria proved their credibility against Egypt, and Slovenia is not as much of a pushover as we think. They just sent Russia home on an ox-cart, after all. Yes, we should go through, although if we lose to England on June 12 and Slovenia beat Algeria on June 13, we’re going to have a nervous few days before a huge game against Slovenia on the 18th. Then again, if we beat England, we can probably write our own ticket.

I love a good beginning.


  • Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
  • Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
  • Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
  • Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
  • Group E: Holland, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
  • Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
  • Venerable Assemblage of Revolutionary Proficiency and Death: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
  • Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

Read More:

The World Cup Draw

by Brian Phillips · December 4, 2009

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