Algeria: Taylor Hicks
Taylor who? Exactly. Taylor Hicks. Apparently he won American Idol a few years ago and then fell off the map. In a way, Algeria shouldn't even be in the tournament. It should be Egypt. Egypt beat Algeria in the African Cup of Nations final, but Algeria later shocked Egypt in the final World Cup qualifier. Egypt is the better team and should be in the Cup.
Taylor Hicks is like every other Idol winner that went on to sell 12 records and end up singing the National Anthem at WNBA and minor league baseball games. Surely there was a better singer in the competition, but for whatever reason, Taylor Hicks won. Will you remember Algeria in the World Cup? It's about as likely as you remembering Taylor Hicks by the end of the next paragraph.
England: Kanye West
Oh Kanye. What a guy. Few would argue that he is wildly talented. Some may justifiably argue that he is the most talented rapper in the world. The man is brilliant, but also pretty crazy. You never know what you are going to get with Kanye. You could brilliance like the albums Late Registration or Graduation with songs like "Jesus Walks" or "Stronger". Or you could get things like his most recent album: 808s & Heartbreak. Which was average at best. And this is just his music. Need we even mention his unpredictable behavior in public? Sure. Why not. Here. Here. And my favorite here (the 1:40 moment is just golden).
England is like Kanye. They are incredibly talented. They have a stacked team led by the fearless Wayne Rooney. He's a beast. Although not really a sexy beast. But he's a workhorse and has amazing ability. Couple that with a strong midfield and England could win it all. Unfortunately, England is also like Kanye in that they are wildly dramatic and unpredictable. They didn't even qualify for the most recent Euro Cup in 2008. In the World Cups they always seem to underperform and finish with mediocre results. Plus, there is always team drama. In past World Cups it was controversial red cards from Beckham and Rooney. This year, one of the players slept with another player's ex-girlfriend. It was a tabloid frenzy in England.
This summer Kanye is supposed to release another album. Just like England this summer, we know Kayne has the talent and the potential to come up with something brilliant. Will the album be Graduation brilliant or 808 mediocre? Will England be brilliant or fall apart like past cups? There's no way of really knowing. Just be sure to watch because no matter what happens, it's guaranteed to be entertaining.
Slovenia: Dead Weather
Slovenia is yet another country formed from the former Yugolsavia. Yugoslavia is essentially like Jack White with all of his many break off bands. Serbia, as noted, is the Jack White off all of the break off since they are essentially the talent base. Dead Weather is Jack White's latest project, but it's relatively unknown, at least compared to other projects. That doesn't mean its not good, just not receiving as much publicity.
Slovenia is the relatively unknown break off country. They qualified for the 2002 World Cup but lost all three of their round-robin games. They failed to qualify for 2006 and surprised almost everyone when they qualified for 2010 by beating Russia - a surprise omission this year. So they have talent. Again though, they are overshadowed in their group by the US and England. Those two teams are the heavy favorites as everyone expects them to advance out of the group. While that is likely, don't count out Slovenia. Remember they are a "Jack White" break off. You may not have given much attention to Dead Weather, but that doesn't mean it isn't quality. Slovenia plays the US on June 18. The US could be coming off a loss from England and will need a victory to stay alive. Don't sleep on Slovenia. If the US does, they could be Dead in the W(e)at(h)er.
It's a pretty simple comparison here. MGMT is one of the best bands of the past couple of years. Are they the greatest band around today? Probably not. Are they in the conversation for the greatest band of all time? Definitely not. But they are really good and talented and there are high hopes for them. Which is pretty much where you find the US right now. The US team is talented. More and more of their players are playing for some of the top clubs in Europe. Like MGMT they are a legit team and they should advance out of this group and maybe even win a game or two in the knock out rounds. But the US is still young and still at least 8-12 years (2-3 World Cups) from being a serious contender. We'll know in the next decade if MGMT is a legitimately talented group that has staying power. Which is probably about the earliest we'll actually see the US making a serious run in the World Cup. In the meantime, enjoy the good music. It's very entertaining, just not timeless yet.
A US National Team video to get you pumped