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Saturday, May 15, 2010
Dream games

ESPN.com

What's your dream matchup to see during the World Cup? Here a couple from our writers.

Ivory Coast versus Brazil in the final

It would be nearly impossible to dream up a soccer game that would capture the world's attention and imagination more completely than a matchup of an African team against Brazil in the final of the first African World Cup. Any African team would do, but the one with the skill and game to dream about making the final is Ivory Coast. The Elephants have a lot to prove in South Africa, but if they can navigate the gauntlet of Group G and the possible round of 16 match with Spain, they will be well on their way to becoming the first African finalist, and a possible rematch of their first-round game against Brazil.

African hero Didier Drogba and the Elephants, from war-torn Ivory Coast, against the five-time world champions and purveyors of Joga Bonito -- there would be too many storylines to exhaust. The World Cup final match day, July 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, would be an absolute madhouse, the African fans wild with enthusiasm to support their brethren on a historic day for the continent, and much of the rest of the world throwing their support behind the upstart Africans as well.

Millions around the world who had never before taken interest in soccer would be watching what would be billed as the ultimate David versus Goliath clash. And the game itself would likely be memorable as well, with excess talent and plenty of willingness to play open, aggressive soccer on both sides. Wake me up! I'm dreaming already.

-- Brent Latham

Round of 16: Brazil versus Spain

It would be a shame, really, but one scenario above all else is making me drool. Mostly because it would move up a matchup that shouldn't occur until the final by a few weeks, and I am impatient by nature.

It doesn't look like much on the schedule. Game 56: Tuesday, June 29: 20:30, 1H v 2G, Cape Town, Green Point. But after deciphering the schedule we make a startling discovery. Group H will almost certainly be won by Spain, the tournament favorite. In Group G, it is not at all inconceivable that Brazil, the other favorite, would end up in second place, considering that it is bunked in with Portugal and Ivory Coast and given that in the group stage, the difference between first and second tends to be very small.

This dream matchup, which is widely predicted for the final if both teams win their groups, could come about in the second round instead. If such a game were to materialize, the outcome of the entire tournament could well come in just the second round, making it the de facto final.

-- Leander Schaerlaeckens

Group stage: United States versus England

It may surprise some to learn that I do not have a lot in common with David Beckham. However, one of the (very) few commonalities that old Goldenballs and I do share is that he, like me, is an Englishman living abroad in the United States. Thus, for perhaps the only time in our lives, the two of us were able to share a moment when, back in December, the World Cup draw placed England and the USA together into Group C.

As for the game itself, I have absolutely no idea what will happen. England will start as the favorite but, given its injury issues as well as its poor record in World Cup opening games, which shows just five wins in 12 games, the result is far from a formality. Furthermore, history also shows that it is the Americans who prevail when these two nations meet on the biggest stage.

That was the past, June 12 is the future. Make sure you join Becks and I for what could be a memorable encounter!

--Andrew Hush