long way round

World Cup 2010: Groups A Through E Preview

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Who will make it out of their groups? Will France, a traditional power house make it out? Will defending champions Italy make a deep run? Does North Korea even have a chance? Will Bendtner become the world class striker that he says he is for Denmark? I'm sure many of you are already reading Soccernet, the Guardian, and goal.com. But to add to your appetite, here's the lowdown, very simplified.

Group A (France, South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay)

France is the clear favorite in this group, with loads of talent. But they have not shown any hunger to win in the past few years. Their 0-3 crashout in Euro 2008 should've seen Domenech fired, but he still continues to give the marching orders that left Benzema and Nasri out. I predict them to not even make it out of the group, even though on paper they have enough to make it to the semi finals.

South Africa are the hosts and other than Steven Pienaar, does not have any player that is recognizable in this part of the hemisphere. Yet, they are playing in their own country, backed by thousands of adoring fans. Plus they are riding on a very strong momentum, recently beating out Denmark in a friendly and winning three matches in a row. Mphela, their striker, is going to be dangerous.  

Mexico is yet another country with loads of talent and inconsistent play. Depending on which team shows up, they will either make it to the quarter finals or crash and burn in the group stage. Carlos Vela has been in fine form, despite warming the bench for Arsenal most of the season. And the resilient Cuatamoc Blanco as the target man (he's too old to be running), Vela supporting from the wing, and with a reliable goalkeeper in Ochoa, they might have the steel this year to shed their image of never escaping the group stage.

Uruguay won the World Cup back in 1930 and 1950. Can they do it again? Probably not. But it will be fun to watch Diego Forlan in what may be his last World Cup. 

My prediction is for South Africa and Mexico to push through.

Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece)

Argentina is exploding with talent. Messi, Higuain, Carlos Tevez, and Champions League final winner Milito warming the bench. Sure, their defense is suspect, and Messi may play out of position (up front in stead of on the wing) but look for them to be a serious contender.

Nigeria, in my opinion, is the biggest underdog of the tournament. Everyone has written them off as an old squad. Lagerbeck didn't have enough time with the team, and after failing to qualify Sweden for the World Cup, his strategy and leadership is put in question. Though my heart says Korea will make it through, my mind says Nigeria will be second to Argentina. Upcoming Marseille star Taiwo will shore up the defence, while Obafemi Martins will re-emerge as the world class striker that he is (and do a back flip celebration along the way). And let's not forget the sriking force of Odemwingie.

South Korea may be a powerhouse in Asia, but still a minnow in the world stage. They lack the traditional clinical striker that knows how to be in the right place at the right time for an easy poach. Lee Dong Gook is perennially injured, Park Chu Young goes silent whenever there's a big game (just youtube AS Monaco v. PSG Coupe de France). I'm hoping they will make it out of the group, but that would mean someone putting the ball in the back of the net. Ki Sung Yeung? Lee Chung Yong? Double Dragon?

Greece won the Euro 2004, but failed to qualify for the World Cup just two years later in 2006, and then in Euro 2008. Their squad is aging and Samaras is warming the bench in Celtic. If Gekas goes crazy they might survive, but I highly doubted. But then again, the same was said in 2004.

Argentina and Nigeria will take the top two spots. Disclosure: In my bracket, I have South Korea making the quarter-finals

Group C (England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia)

England is without its captain and defensive stalwart Rio Ferdinand. Fabio Capello may be a great coach, but the back of the team is suspect with a shaky keeper Robert Green and an out-of-place Glen Johnson. Wayne Rooney may just win the golden boot, but whether England will win the whole thing, only time will tell.

USA has three bonafide stars in their midst: Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey. Now whether those three can make up for the lackluster Oguchi Onyewu, the old and tired Bocanegra, and the nowhere-to-be-found Beasley, is another question altogether. Still, this is perhaps the best USA team in a long while, and their momentum is running high off the confederations cup win over Spain. 

Algeria beat African powerhouse Egypt to qualify for their World Cup final, as well as Ivory Coast in this past African Cup of Nations. Other than that, little is known about Algeria's squad on this side of the world. It'd be hard for them to consider South Africa as home turf, as Algeria is Northern Africa, vastly different from the southern tip of the continent. Still, the fans will be cheering for their fellow Africans and that has to amount to something. 

Slovenia is mostly of younger players that have the resolve and stamina to win games. Look to Mile Novakovic to make things happen, as well as Birsa to deliver the crisp passing. 

In the end, the Yanks and their cousins, England, will make it through. 

Group D (Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana)

Germany may not have their star captain Michael Ballack, but they are well organized and play great football together. Expect to see young stars Marko Marin, Mesut Ozil and now Sami Khedira make a name for themselves this tournament. Khedira is a hidden gem who will now replace the injured Ballack as the midfield general. This multi-cultural Germany is not on anyone's radar, but I expect them to reach the finals with a very potent squad front to back.

Australia had a glorious run in 2006, but that same squad is now charged with taking the Socceroos to the promised land again, but with older and more tired legs. Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer are coming off an excellent season in the English Premier League, but other than that nobody on the team seems to be able to provide a spark. 

Serbia's strength is really in its defense. Vidic, Subotic, and Ivanovic are excellent defenders that will stop the best goal scorers. Zigic hasn't proved to be the target man that his price tag was for, but being the tallest player in this tournament, I'm sure their aerial attack will be useful. 

Ghana is another country without their star captain, Michael Essien. Before his injury, I would've said that Ghana is the dark horse in the tournament, capable of going far with home field advantage and with a very physical team that can run over anyone. But Essien is the engine of the team and without him, they will flounder in the group stage.

Germany and defensive stalwarts Serbia will edge through their group.

Group E (Netherlands, Japan, Denmark, Cameroon)

Netherlands is a very strong team this time around. Traditionally they have always struggled with defense, but Sketelenberg has been having a remarkable number of clean sheets, so he will have a lot of momentum coming into the tournament. Robin Van Persie, despite being injured all season long, has shown goal scoring prowess ever since he returned. Coupled with a speedy Robben on the wing and a midfield maestro in Sneijder, they will go very far.

Japan, like their rivals Korea, is an Asian powerhouse but hardly a contender in the world scene. Honda has had a good year with CSK Moscow, but that probably isn't enough to go against the best in the world (as evidenced by a relative quiet showing in the Champions League). Nakamura is on his last legs and doubt he'll be spectacular, other than his free kicks.

Denmark has everything riding on Niklas Bendtner, the Arsenal man that self-predicted to be the world's best striker in a few years. He's had his bout with injuries and may be questionable for the beginning of the tournament. Daniel Agger will hold the back line, and Juventus' Cristian Poulsen will provide the wizardry for this expectant team. 

Cameroon is in trouble. They have a great squad and look great on paper, but Eto'o, easily the most popular star, threatened to quit the World Cup just a few weeks before. Plus, they recently lost to Serbia in their final friendly. They will have home field advantage, but may struggle to get out of the group, unless Eto'o decides to turn it on. Plus, Makoun and Alex Song will tow the line in midfield.

Netherlands will go unbeaten, and Cameroon will barely ink through.

Posted via email from Long Way Round

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Written by shindz

June 9, 2010 at 2:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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