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It's the Favorites Again

In 2002, the World Cup order was thrown out of whack: no France, no Argentina, no Italy, and no Holland, which failed to even qualify for the finals. Instead, the likes of Turkey, Senegal, South Korea and the United States helped give some actual global balance to a tournament traditionally dominated by two South American teams and a half-dozen European soccer powers. This time around the favorites' have roared back: traditional powers Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Italy have all made the quarterfinals, as has England, Portugal, France, and Ukrainethe sole newcomer. With the exception of Ghana taking second away from the Czech Republic in Group E, this hasn't been a tournament of upsets; even Ukraine hasn't had to make any upsets in getting this far. Aside from Ukraine and Portugal, each of the quarterfinalists has won the World Cup before. On Friday, three-time champion Germany faces Argentina, which has won the competition twice. That match will be followed by another three-time winner, Italy, against the debutants from Ukraine. On Saturday, 1966 winner England plays a tricky Portuguese side, and the big match sees '98 winner France against five-time winner and defending champion Brazil.

Read the whole story at Associated Press »

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