Twenty-one days until the best sports month in four years: the World Cup in South Africa. A quick guide to how some the region's teams are shaping up, with my amateur handicapping included (Full disclosure of the depth of my knowledge: I won a bag of peanuts on a bus in Panama last week for being the only person on the bus who could name Italy as the 2006 champ).
Honduras: Carlos Costly broke a bone in his foot and will miss the Cup, making it even tougher for the Catrachos to get out of their extremely difficult group that also includes Chile and reigning Euro Cup champs Spain.
Prediction: Eliminated first round
USA: An easy first group and some really fantastic players: Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore are dangerous up front. José Torres, known as "El Gringo" when he plays with Pachucha of the Mexican league, is developing into a strong midfielder and captain Carlos Bocanegra anchors a defense ahead of one of the world's best goalies in Tim Howard. Not making it out of the group with be a big disappointment.
Prediction: Advance to quarterfinals.
Argentina: Would have the most talented attacking front in the world if they only had Lionel Messi. "La Pulga" is simply playing at a different level from everyone else in the world. Add Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Man City's Carlos Tevez and Argentina seems like it should be the clear favorite. Unfortunately for Los Pibes, Diego Maradona is their coach, and his team struggled to qualify for the Cup while Maradona was close to crazy.
Prediction: Advance to final.
Brazil: For a change, not the top pick to take home the Cup. Dazzling playmaker Kaka has struggled with injury in his first year with Los Merengues of Real Madrid but insists he'll be in top form come cup time. Can never count them out, but this seems like a somewhat down year for Brazil.
Prediction: Advance to semi-finals.
My winner: England take home their first cup since 1966, beating Maradona's Argentina to avenge his "Hand of God" handball that robbed them in '86.
Thoughts, comments and/or patriotic rants (it's the World Cup, after all!) are welcome.
Online Sources: ESPN Soccernet, El Heraldo, YouTube
Image Source: Football-wallpapers.com