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Soccer Watch

World Cup fever!

Four years of "wait until next year" end this Friday, June 9, 11am our time, as World Cup 2006 kicks off in Munich, with host Germany taking on Costa Rica. Starting with that game, and ending with the final, Sunday, July 9 in Berlin, all 64 games will be broadcast live in the U.S. on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2 (and their HD equivalents), as well as in Spanish on Galavision and Univision. I can't go into all the schedule details here, except to note that the first round consists of eight four-team groups playing round robin against one another, with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout round of 16. For the first 11 days, games are at 8am, 11am, and 2pm every day.

The U.S. opens on Monday, June 12, at 11am, against the Czech Republic. It's often said that while you can't win the WC in the first game, you can lose it there, and that's very likely the case here. A loss puts the team in the difficult position of probably needing to beat both Italy (June 17, 2pm) and Ghana (June 22, 9am) to advance out of the first round. The very strong Czech squad, of course, faces the same challenge, so it should be intense. Hope for an early goal at either end to open things up for two very attractive sets of attackers; the longer it stays scoreless, the more both teams might hunker down and be willing to settle for a draw.

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