2010 FIFA World Cup: If Each World Cup Team Were an NFL Team
With 32 teams set to compete for the greatest honor in world football, I wondered how these squads would match up to the 32 NFL teams.
Some answers were very obvious (see: North Korea and Oakland), while others were more of a stretch.
The factors considered include team history, current chances for their upcoming venture — the cup or the 2010 season — and prominent players, among other more random looks.
Slides are divided by the World Cup groups, going all the way from A to H.
And keep in mind, there are many more bad teams in the NFL than in the World Cup.
So if you're country gets a last place NFL comparison, maybe it goes beyond just the results.
Group A — France
This is not the same France team that finished as wrld runners-up in 2006.
Zidane is gone, Theirry Henry isn't the big factor he used to be.
The team is not winning the World Cup this go-round.
Yet the team commands respect on name alone, and should escape an easy group.
The Bears went 7-9 this past season, disappointing fans after acquiring Jay Cutler. Both teams had disappointing regular seasons, if you count France's qualifying play.
In fact, after qualifying on a fraudulent goal against Ireland, the French shouldn't even be in the tournament.
Both teams have one past championship (85 for the Bears, 98 for France).
Both teams currently posses one unquestionable superstar still in his prime (DE Julius Peppers and France Striker Franck Ribery) and one player just past his prime (Brian Urlacher and Henry).
Group A — South Africa
Initially, I considered Houston as South Africa. Both teams experienced long layoffs from the sport, with the Oilers leaving and the FIFA ban pre-apartheid.
But then I thought about the now.
South Africa has been decent in the past, making two straight Cups in '98 and 2002. But if not for hosting this edition, they likely wouldn't have qualified.
The Seahawks have a similar history, experiencing some near great teams, and even a Super Bowl appearance, in the Shaun Alexander era.
Yet, the Hawks didn't even sniff the playoffs last season. They only won five games.
But going into the World Cup and the 2010 season, neither team can be counted out because of the best home field advantages in their sport.
No host has missed the second round of the World Cup. That stat plus a not-too-tough schedule means Bafana Bafana have a minor chance at getting to the second round.
Seattle stands in much of the same situation. Qwest Field the loudest in the NFL (and this coming from a Vikings fan who'll defend the Dome to the death).
They are one of the last teams truly getting a boost from its home crowd.
Group A — Mexico
No one team really made much sense with the Packers until Mexico was considered.
A team with an intense fan base, a distinct homefield advantage during qualifying, and a squad that gets involved in heated rivalries, El Tri draws many similarities to The Pack.
First, look at the teams next big stars.
Aaron Rodgers lay in waiting for years behind messiah-turned-pariah Brett Favre, and now it is his time to prove himself.
The Mexicans possess the Favre-per say of the sport with the World Cup's oldest outfield player, Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37). He overshadows Carlos Vela, the next big player in Mexico.
Packers and El Tricolores fans both live and die by their team's success and failure, making it all the more painful for the teams when they've lost a hold on their divisons to heated rivals in recent years.
The U.S., which is quickly becoming the top player in CONCACAF, is disconcerting, to say the least, for Mexico.
And no Packer fan can be happy seeing their older leader taking the rival Vikings to the NFC Championship.
Both teams are not bad by any means, but need their young players to step up if the future is going to get them back to the summit of their sports.
Group A — Uruguay
A strict disciplinarian for a coach who is doing a pretty damn good job of returning a former champion back to a winning record.
This description fits both the 49ers under Mike Singletary and Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez.
Singletary, a great player for the historic 1980s Bears teams, may run the hardest training camp in the NFL. His "hill training" is exactly what it sounds like.
Tabarez had a decent career, but has made his name with a rigid brand of coaching. He's taken Uruguay to multiple World Cups.
Also, both teams are historic powerhouses who faded during the late 1990s.
The 49ers had their time, winning five championships between 1981 and 1994, then had a some bad years, and went 8-8 last season.
The Uruguayans were the early powers of international soccer, winning two World Cups (1930, 1950). But they missed the World Cup in 1994 and 1998.
Singletary's boys and the Uruguay team are looking at this next chance as the one that will re-solidify them as top teams in the world.
Uruguay has an easy group and wouldn't shock too many if they went to the quarterfinals, while many thought the 49ers were going to have a breakthrough season last year, and believe it again this upcoming year.
Group B — Argentina
While the Jets are not necessarily as consistent of a power as the Argentine team, their histories and current administrations parallel each other.
Argentina has won two World Cups, in 1978 (A massive upset) and in 1986 (behind the greatest individual Cup of all-time from Diego Maradona).
Both of those victories remind followers of Joe Namath's individual promise, and subsequent delivery, of victory in the Jets only Super Bowl win in 1967.
Now, both sides are led by controversial and outspoken coaches in Maradona and Rex Ryan.
And both coaches are going to be the key to future success — although Maradona should worry about not over-coaching.
Also, the Argentinians have the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. In no way am I comparing Mark Sanchez to Messi.
But both teams cannot overcome underwhelming performances by their important players.
Group B — Nigeria
This is one of those comparisons where it's not really the quality of the teams, but their cultures.
Nigeria is a huge country, one of Africa's largest. In that sense, one would think that the team would be better than they've been.
And they've made the second round of the World Cup twice, but haven't been a player on the international scene for some time.
Buffalo is one of the NFL's craziest fanbases, in a town with no baseball or basketball team.
The Bills used to be good, losing in four straight Super Bowls, possibly the most heartbreaking streak in sports history.
But recently, they've reverted to being terrible and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 (The Music City Miracle game).
If Nigeria is known for anything, it's defense. And the Bills D wasn't atrocious in 2009.
Buffalo gave up 30 plus points four times, but held opponents under 18 points in a number of games.
If Nigeria is at all effective on their home continent, it will be through low scoring victories.
While there's not much in common besides defense and crazy fans, these two teams could see moderate success in 2010 if they're able to find ways to hold opponents scoring down.
Group B — South Korea
I was surprised by how well these two team's mesh in comparison.
South Korea is known as one of the most consistently mediocre teams at the World Cup.
They ran to the Semi-finals when they hosted the event in 2002, but have not advanced from the group stage in their other six appearances.
The Panthers have one super bowl appearance in their 14 year existence, and only three other playoff appearances beyond that.
Yet for their four very good seasons, they've only had two bad seasons with four or fewer wins. Both the Koreans and Panthers are consistent enough to get to the Cup/win 7-9 games, but neither has been able to secure the ultimate prize.
With this season's rosters, both are very top heavy talent-wise. The South Koreans have a 'fab four' that includes Manchester United midfielder Park ji-Song. The Panthers have Deangelo Williams and Steve Smith, but not much beyond that.
Group B — Greece
Both the Greeks and the Titans (funny right, Greek Titans), are led by long-tenured coaches who have led the team to surprising success.
Otto Rehhagel has led the Greeks since 2001, an eternity in international football, and gave them they're greatest success with a Euro 2004 title.
Jeff Fisher and the Titans have been together more than 15 years, and have seen multiple playoff seasons and were famously 1-yard away from the Super Bowl title against the Rams.
Performance-wise, both teams are not necessarily bad, not necessarily great, and will probably finish at the middle of their groups in upcoming fixtures because of top-heavy divisions.
Lastly both teams have statistical wizards on their side, as Theofanis Gekas was the number one scorer in European Qualifying, and the Titans posses last year's leading runner in Chris Johnson.
(Also, I know LenDale White doesn't play there anymore, which makes the picture even funnier to me.)
Group C — USA
Taking careful consideration for my favorite side, I think the Chargers are the most apt analogy for America's team.
The U.S. has had a long time since success, with it's only mark before 2002 being that 1-0 defeat of England in 1950.
San Diego took 9 years off between playoff appearances from 1995 to 2004, which for the NFL is some time, and has recently returned to prominence only to disappoint in the playoffs every year.
In the last World Cup, disappointment was an understatement for the U.S. who had high expectations only to end up getting a single point.
Athletically, two of the team's best players are odds-defiers. Darren Sproles is one of the NFL's best runners despite being just 5' 6", while the U.S.A.'s best player, Landon Donovan, is not a natural athlete by most people's standards and both are known as incredibly hard workers.
Lastly, both team's just went through rough recent exclusions from their teams. The Chargers had to let the franchise's most recognizable face go in Ladanian Tomlinson after another declining year.
The U.S., meanwhile, was unable to include Charlie Davies in its 23-man roster after a nasty car crash, even though many thought he would be put on the roster after getting fit again.
Group C — England
Where to start. So many similarities between the teams:
The Eagles haven't won an NFL championship since 1960, and have lost the only two Super Bowls they've played in. England won it's only World Cup in 1966, and has gotten past the quarterfinals just once since.
Fans of England and the Eagles are notoriously intense. The Eagles' famous for booing Santa Claus and cheering injuries, while the English practically invented the idea of hooliganism.
The Three Lions and Philly's Footballers have recently said goodbye to team mainstays in David Beckham (injury) and Donovan McNabb (traded) for the upcoming season.
Finally, team players have seen controversy in the past season on both squads. The Eagles picked up known dogfighter and convict Michael Vick as a backup quarterback, while England captain John Terry got in trouble for sleeping with (former) teammate Wayne Bridge's ex.
Granted, the Eagles do not have anyone as dominant as Wayne Rooney anymore, but until England can get past the quarterfinals of a Cup, it really doesn't matter how good he or anyone else is.
Group C — Algeria
Behind my favorite team, the Vikings, I've probably watched the Redskins more than any other team in the NFL because I live in the D.C. area. And thinking of a team that is as Jekyll and Hyde as the Skins, it has to be Algeria.
The Desert Foxes are known for playing to their opponents level. They defeated Egypt to qualify for the World Cup, probably the best team not in the tournament. Then they promptly lost Malawi in the African Nations Cup. Then they beat another great Africa side in Ivory Coast. In short, Algeria plays big in big games, and even smaller in small games.
The Redskins received grief from its fans last year when they lost at home to the Chiefs, and gave the Lions one of their two wins on the season.
Yet the Skins beat a good Broncos team and pushed the eventual champion Saints to overtime before losing, a game they would've had if not for a number of late gaffes.
Also, both teams (or at least players on the teams) have a reputation for dirty play. Algeria gained a reputation after their playoff game against Egypt for roughhousing, and got away (video evidence shows) with a number of cheap shots on their most hated rivals. The Redskins biggest player, DE Albert Haynesworth, is infamous for his head stomp maneuver injuring a rival player while still with the Titans.
Don't expect Algeria or the Redskins to do much in the way of a cumulative season, but with their rough play and inconsistency, these teams are both always ready to pull an upset.
Group C — Slovenia
These are two teams that just don't get much attention.
Slovenia is the smallest country in the World Cup, with just over two million people inhabiting the small European nation. Jacksonville is the smallest TV market in the NFL (the Packers have a smaller city population, but a much wider reach).
Both teams are newcomers to the sport on their scene, since Slovenia first qualified for the World Cup in 2002, and the Jaguars are the NFL's second youngest expansion team 14 seasons in.
Yet the Jags and the Slovenian's franchise youth and sizes haven't stopped them from success in the past year.
Slovenia defeated Russia, a more-than-decent side to qualify for the Cup, and conceded just six goals in qualifying.
Jacksonville had a decent year against easy teams with a 7-9 record, but did beat the Titans and the Jets during 2009.
Neither team is expected to do much in coming seasons, but considering their small size and obscurity, both franchises are doing pretty well.
Group D — Germany
Simply put, both the Germans and the Patriots are excellent.
Deutschland hasn't missed even the quarterfinals of a World Cup since 1954. The Patriots are the team of the 21st century.
Both team's aren't necessarily the best every single year, but are always near the top in their respective footballs.
While the Pats have had more recent success than Germany, Joachim Low's side have been runners-up at the 2002 Cup and the 2008 Euros, no easy feat.
Also, both team's are led by captains with smoking hot wives in Brady and Ballack, and though Ballack won't be playing in this World Cup due to injury, he was big in their qualifying bid.
Thinking directly in the now, neither the Patriots or the Germans are the absolute favorites for their upcoming slates, but because of their histories, you can count neither team out.
Group D — Australia
After decades as a cellar team in the Fifa rankings, Australia is a legitimate threat to advance to the 2nd round for their second straight World Cup.
The Socceroos escaped a group with Japan and Brazil in 2006, and a four points against Ghana and Serbia in group play should get them out in this Cup.
Formerly known as the Bungles, Cincinnati has had a minor football Renaissance featuring Chad Johnson-Ochocinco and Carson Palmer. Marvin Lewis' crew made a surprise run in 2009 and finished on top of a tough division.
Also similar between the teams is that they've both transitioned well from inexperienced to top-tier.
Led by Ochocinco and some key defenders, the Bengals could easily make another push in 2010 to the playoffs.
Meanwhile Australia has returning World Cup players in Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill that bode well for the second round.
Group D — Serbia
First off, the Serbians main colors are red. And yes, this is one of those stretch comparisons. But there's some traits that are even.
The Serbians are in constant flux. Not just as a roster, but as a nation. This is technically their first World Cup, but that's just because the Serbs have separated from Montenegro, whom they qualified with in 2006.
While the Chiefs haven't done anything as dramatic, they had a new coach this past year, and have had six different quarterbacks start a game since 2006, from Brodie Croyle to Trent Green to Matt Cassell.
Yet Cassell, in the most important position in football, may be comparable to Serbian keeper Vladimir Stojakovic. Both didn't get playing time until recently, but not because of age.
Cassell earned himself a contract playing for the injured Tom Brady in 2008 for the Patriots, while Stojakovic has played just 16 league games in three years because of injuries.
Don't expect either the Chiefs or the Serbians to do much in upcoming years, as these are two franchises in disarray. But both have well supported coaches, and should take each win as a large moral victory.
Group D — Ghana
How does a west African nation compare to the team from the mountains of America? In two ways.
First, both teams overachieved in their recent campaigns. In Ghana's only World Cup in 2006, they reached the second round even though they were in a group with the U.S.A., Italy, and the Czech Republic. This past season the Broncos finished 8-8, but at one point were 8-4 and well exceeded the expectations of NFL previews everywhere.
Also, both sides posses coaches who have replaced their predecessors with ease. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is a strategy whiz whose game plans are exceptional, while Ghana's Milovan Rajevac has turned this team into a tactical wunderkind.
The coaches and the overachieving are trademarks of both of these squads, which could help with easy divisions ahead of them. Ghana should beat at least Serbia or Australia, and grab a point somewhere else to have a chance at the second round. Meanwhile, Broncos could easily sneak into the 2011 playoffs in a weakened AFC West.
Group E — Holland
The Dutch are widely considered to be the greatest team to never win the World Cup, while the Vikings have faltered in all four of their Super Bowl Appearances.
Yet, unlike the Bills, a team that lost four straight Super Bowls at one point and has never won one, the Vikings have not faded back into obscurity. Maintaining good teams throughout the late-1990s and 2000s, the Vikings are known to lose in the later playoff rounds.
The Netherlands side is most famous for losing two straight World Cup finals (1974, 1978) despite being considered the best team in both of those tournaments. The team in the bright orange jerseys as remained a large player on the World Cup scene, but has not reached the finals since that 1978 campaign.
As far as the current sides, the Dutch are known for "total football" and being a high scoring side whose attackers are prone to injury. Sounds a lot like Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, who should be seen as the best running back in the NFL, if not for injury problems and an issue with fumbling.
Much like this year's Vikings, expect the Dutch to go far, but lose in the Quarter or Semifinal round.
Group E — Denmark
Both Denmark and the Texans are becoming the "little teams that could."
Denmark is in a group where they could get to the second round with little trouble, and is putting out on of the best teams in its history for South Africa.
The Texans have assembled a team that many think will make the playoffs this coming season, the first in franchise history.
The key for both teams is their defense. Denmark relies on a stingy back line that led to six shutouts in its 10 qualifying games. The Texans are not statistically in the top of the NFL in D, but has Mario Williams up front, as well as rookie of the year Brian Cushing and two solid defensive backs in Bernard Pollard and Dunta Robinson. The Texans should have an improved ball-stopping squad in the coming year.
One other major similarity for the sides is they have an unquestionable star on offense. The Danes Niklas Bendtener has scored 20 goals in his career at Arsenal and is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. And when it comes to NFL wide receivers, few (if any) are superior to Andre Johnson. Both are athletic, and can singlehandedly keep their team in a game with a big play.
Group E — Japan
Ok, Japan's not THAT bad, but their weaknesses as a squad are reminiscent of the Browns as a franchise (the post-1999 franchise that is).
The biggest trouble that Samurai Blue (actual nickname) have is away venues. Japan hasn't won a World Cup game in the two other Cups they've qualified for outside of the Cup they hosted in 2002. The Browns won just two road games this year, one over the Bills (6-3, worst game of the season), and the other in Kansas City.
Also, Japan has a penchant for underachieving, which was evident in the 2006 Cup when the team gave up a 2-0 lead to lost to Australia 3-2, and then didn't dominate a relatively easy qualifying group leading up to South Africa.
The Browns can claim the same potential-gone awry feelings. The team made the playoffs in 2002, only to see more dreadful seasons after that until a surprising side in 2007 that went 10-6. But again, the 2008 and 2009 teams couldn't maintain success and expectations are low again for next year.
Again, don't think that Japan is that pitiful of a franchise, but the worries for the Browns and the Japanese are the same year-in and year-out.
Group E — Cameroon
Cameroon is a good team, as is Arizona. But in their current states, both teams look like fringe playoff teams, no more no less.
The Indomitable Lions are led by two players who are world class: Midfielder Alex Song and face of the team forward Samuel Eto'o. The Cardinals have their two stellar wideouts in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but with Kurt Warners retirement that's pretty much their offense.
Also, both team's have defenses that are solid but unlikely to take over a game. The Cardinal's D won them the game in the first round of the playoffs, but not before giving up 45 points to the Packers. Cameroon conceded a goal to Togo in the team's African qualifier loss. And while they only gave up two goals in their last six qualifiers, many question what the line will do against the Netherlands and Denmark in the group.
Finally, both sides have easy divisions to compete in, keeping them in the races. Cameroon could find itself in round two for the second time ever with defeats of Denmark and Japan, both feasible. The Cardinals have done well in a division that includes bottom-feeders Seattle and St. Louis.
Group F — Italy
In international football, fewer teams are as polarizing as the Azzuri. And in the NFL, the Cowboys dominate both ends of the Love/Hate spectrum.
Similar colors and absolutely rabid fanbases are not the only similarities between the teams, as their personnel are somewhat even also. The defending World Cup champions have many notable players such as Camronesi, Grosso, and goalkeeper Buffon, but most agree that the Italians do not have a singular dominating player.
The Cowboy's Tony Romo is good, but is by no stretch a "big-game" performer. The Stars also have better-than-average players in Miles Austin, Marion Barber, and Terrance Newman, but again not one who will just take over in a big game.
The two teams also have storied histories, with Italy winning four World Cups and the Cowboys winning 5 super bowls, but neither side is expected to be a championship threat in their coming runs.
Group F — Paraguay
As far as a specific comparison, this one was too easy. Paraguay arguable best player, Salvador Cabanas, may miss the Cup while trying to recover from a gunshot wound he received in January. The Giants lost one of their best players in Plaxico Burress during mid-2008 when he shot himself accidentally then was arrested for carrying an illegal weapon.
Beyond just players in trouble with firearms though, both teams had a recent stretch of success — the Giants' Super Bowl upset in Super Bowl XLII and Paraguay's two straight World Cup second rounds in 98 and 2002 — before lackluster campaigns after that. The Giants went 8-8 this season despite expectations, while Paraguay didn't get out of round one in the 2006 cup.
Finally, both teams ebb and flow with the play of their stars. It's hard for Paraguay to overcome scoring droughts from Oscar Cardozo and Roque Santa Cruz, while the Giants rarely get a win when quarterback Eli Manning isn't playing his finest football.
Group F — New Zealand
This is just a simple numbers game. Disregard the few glory years of the Rams, and the All Whites and Rams are just two not good teams. New Zealand has even longer odds to win the World Cup than North Korea with some websites placing their odds at 2500 to 1.
The Rams just completed a one win season, and are not going to improve anytime soon.
New Zealand qualified for the Cup with the easiest road of anyone, with they're only loss to Fiji. And no World Cup team should lose to Fiji.
Both teams have just one great player, with Rams running back/Fantasy God Steven Jackson, and center back Ryan Nelson, and in sports with 11 on the field, that's not enough to get victories on the big stage.
Group F — Slovakia
I'm really sorry Slovakia, but the similarities are too close to give you anyone else. Two major things in particular show me that the Slovaks are the Lions of the World Cup.
To being, this is the first World Cup for the country as just Slovakia. Under the Czechoslovakia banner, they provided half of teams that were runners up in two World Cups, but not since the early 1960s. Detroit's least fine team hasn't won a championship (which wasn't yet the Super Bowl) since the Eisenhower administration.
As for the future, both side's losing ways must be broken by young prodigies. Matt Stafford is the Lion's Luke Skywalker, the next kid supposedly come to take them out of the doldrums. Slovakia is in a similar situation, with arguably its best player being 22-year old Marek Hamsik trying to play the role of top scorer.
Group G — Brazil
Which team Brazil is compared to is probably the top honor in this list. And so the most successful international side deserved the historically most successful NFL team.
Brazil have won 5 World Cups, and had a Cup dynasty winning 3 out of 4 from 1958-1970.
The Steelers have 6 Super Bowl wins, including two this past decade. Brazil won one World Cup in the 2000s.
While in the past Brazil has been an offensive minded side, they've resembled the Steel Curtain more and more under their new coach Dunga, who has a top goalkeeper (Julio Cesar) and defense that's been winning games with fundamental and sound defending. The Steelers are known throughout the league for their trademark hard-nosed play under all three of it's past coaches.
Group G — North Korea
This was the most obvious comparison in all of the 32, at least in my opinion.
The Raiders have been lackluster at best in recent years since making the Super Bowl in 2002, while the North Koreans are famous for their past success in their one World Cup. In the 1966 tournament in England, the Koreans made it to the quarterfinals and had a 3-0 lead on Portugal, before losing the match 5-3.
Now, both teams are in a state of despair, with the North Koreans drawing the toughest group in the World Cup with Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast. Many pundits are wondering if the Koreans will even get a point in their group.
The Raiders finished last season 5-11 and never had a shot at the playoffs with Jabba Russell at quarterback.
Both sides are chaired by a brutal dictator, and both have engaged in public controversy recently. The Raiders fired coach Lane Kiffin under suspicious circumstances just a few games into the 2008 season. The North Koreans tried to slip through Fifa regulations before this World Cup by putting only two goalies on their roster and listing a striker under the GK position in trying to skirt the three keeper minimum on every World Cup roster.
Group G — Portugal
Christiano Ronaldo is not the best player in the world, but he may be the most important to his team. And no player in the NFL matters to his squad more than Peyton Manning.
As young prodigies destined for success, both Ronaldo and Manning have lived up to their hype, and performed well on the big stage — in Ronaldo's case during his time in the EPL for Manchester United.
Portugal coach Carlos Quieroz is unpopular in Portugal for some roster decisions, and while Jim Caldwell isn't necessarily unpopular in Indianapolis, there is no way he can overcome the popularity of Tony Dungy who won the Colts only Super Bowl.
Group G — Ivory Coast
Both teams are marked by a great crop of players that may be just a couple years past its prime. The Ravens have that stellar defense whose age creeps higher into the 30s every single season, while Cote d'Ivoire may have missed its opportunity with a poor showing in the 2006 Cup.
The Ravens and the Ivory Coast are both lead by players known for their insane passion and commitment to every game, which has a notable effect on the rest of the team. Ray Lewis does his pregame dance before every Ravens game to get his sideline jacked up, while Didier Drogba is a scorer for Ivory Coast that's stated his belief that soccer can stop a civil war (which it did in the Ivory Coast for a while).
As far as the futures of the teams, they are a group of veterans who are on their last legs, but still have a solid few years of effectiveness left within them.
Group H — Spain
Spain has a well-deserved reputation for choking in the World Cup. Del Bosque's best finish was fourth place, and that was at Brazil 1950.
But flash back to before Super Bowl XLIV, and wasn't that the Saints? Team with a tough past, but always fun to watch, with intense fans.
Yet both team's have turned things around. The Saints are the champs, and the Spaniards won the European tournament in 2008.
The Spanish are the favorites to win this World Cup, with many bookies putting them at 4 to 1, and their hype is warranted. The team just scores goals, and in their final World Cup tuneup defeated Poland 6-0. The Saints also have a reputation for scoring, and both team's have impact offensive players: David Villa and Fernando Torres for Spain, and Drew Brees and Marques Colston for New Orleans.
With the Saints succeeding finally in 2010, this is the only future comparison I'll make, because I think it will finally be the year for Spain as well.
Group H — Switzerland
Think about how important soccer is to a European country. Imagine your squad losing to Luxembourg just after tying with Israel as your first two games of qualifying. Panic.
Remember how much Falcons fans panicked when Vick's dogfighting charges came out? I may venture that the Swiss and Atlantans cheering for their teams questioned it all with those two incidents.
Yet, somehow both teams have come out of their dark spots and emerged better teams. The Swiss have slowly climbed back into contention for the second round with sound tactical finshes and a defense that gave up just two goals in the last six games of qualifying (and in the same game, no less). Meanwhile the Falcons have drafted well and navigated bad coaching to get a 9-7 record last season.
Both sides have a franchise player now, the Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be the teams signal-caller for years, and the Swiss have forward Alexander Frei who was put on this earth to score goals.
The Falcons and Switzerland both have the worlds best leading their divisions (The Saints and Spain respectively) but in coming campaigns, the two squads could easily defeat the other two conference foes to advance to greener pastures.
Group H — Honduras
They were the last team to qualify from CONCACAF, and the Bucs were the bottom-dwellers of the NFC South.
This match of teams is not all negative though. While Honduras making it out of their group would be a shock, the purpose of this World Cup is more to prepare for a knockout run in 2014. The team is very young, with just 6 of it's 23 players over 30, and because of that is known to get discouraged easily.
The Buccaneers only won three games in 2009, but they are also a young team with a future. A first year coach (Raheem Morris), and a young quarterback (Josh Freeman) lead a team composed of mostly 30 and unders.
One other comparison to be made could be that if both team's have a signature, it's defense. The Bucs of course have had vaunted Ds, and if Honduras gets a few points in South Africa, it'll be in a low-scoring contest.
Group H — Chile
Chile is better than you think, and so are the Dolphins. My roommate this past year was (of all things in Iowa) a Dolphins fan, so I took in a few games and actually found that those Fins aren't that bad!
Now, Chile may just seem like another South American team whose name isn't Argentina or Brazil, but the Chileans are a high-scoring side that put up 3 or more goals five times in qualifying. The Dolphins averaged 26.2 points per game during its 7 wins last season.
Also adding to these teams potentials is their front office. The Dolphins made a splash (GET IT?!) when they hired legend Bill Parcells to run their football operations. And after winning just 1 game the season before, they've experienced quite a turnaround. Chile is in the same boat (I've got more Ocean puns if necessary), hiring a futbol legend in Marcelo Bielsa. If not for Bielsa, Chile may not have qualified, but he's turned them into a legit side that could do some damage in South Africa, especially if they can somehow get a point from their game with Spain. The lesson is basically don't sleep on either of these teams.