THE WORLD CUP 2010

13 Jul

And so onto the World Cup and so too the beginning of the division of the world into two categories – those who can imagine nothing better than 4 weeks of unrelenting football and those who pretend not to be interested. For those of you in the latter category I feel deeply sorry and defy you to change the channel, attempt to drop tennis into a conversation or find a tabloid that hasn’t dedicated a spread to the most televised event on the planet. It is of course the first time the tournament is being held on African soil and about time too. We thought we weren’t ready for it, well we better be because the time has come. South Africa has already done the continent proud and I look forward to them carrying it on over the next month, as this celebration of culture and football takes over my life and yours. History has already been made and I foresee a lot more in the making. So without further ado, here are my predictions of how the groups will shape up. Add your comments and let us know what you think.

Group A

South Africa, Mexico, France, Uruguay

This is always my favourite group as it contains the tournament hosts. History tells us that no host nation has ever failed to qualify from the group stage and this has a habit of prompting greatness from teams that have sometimes been written off and don’t we all just love an underdog story? What a terrible bit of history to make if South Africa don’t make it out of the group, they know that, you know that, their opposition know that. Every game South Africa play will weigh heavily on more than just the hosts and that may play to their advantage, and let’s hope so too. 2002 saw rank outsiders South Korea make it all the way to the semi-finals, so I hope the South African camp has watched videos and asked Guss Hiddink just how he did it.

That said, Group A should be awesome to watch. The Mexicans have been blooding a young, transitional squad; the French come into the tournament unseeded after an unconvincing, controversial qualifying campaign and; Uruguay know how to win the World Cup having done so in 1930 and 1950. France could easily be the sleeper team of the tournament. One handball in qualification and the world seems to think Les Blues can only get by on luck and the ref not seeing it. This will suit the 1998 champions and 2006 runners up down to the ground.

France to win the group, Uruguay second… here’s hoping South Africa have something to say about that.

Group B

Nigeria, Argentina, Greece, South Korea

Keep an eye on Group B. All round the group boasts teams who are always there about in some form or other. Nigeria is one of Africa’s proudest footballing powers, Argentina have strength in depth not to mention Maradonna at the helm (he is the gift and the curse though), Greece are capable of pulling out surprise results and South Korea are one of the most consistent teams coming in to the World Cup. Every game has the potential to bring you to your knees and that’s exactly why I love football. I get the feeling that they’ll all take points off each other and this will come down to goal difference.

Nigeria did not impress in the Africa Cup of Nations, but they did make it to the semi finals.

I almost have to call Argentina to top this one, but they made qualification look terribly difficult. Greece coach Otto Rehhagel deploys fantastic tactics and the nation are due some footballing luck while South Korea come into the competition in great form and under very little pressure.

Argentina to win, Nigeria second but it was hard not to call South Korea.

Group C

Algeria, England, USA, Slovenia

When it comes to counter-attacking football you’ve got to respect the Desert Foxes. It worked against Egypt to get Algeria into the World Cup and it got them into the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Any team that plays five at the back but can still tear you apart with a killer goal is all right with me. Algeria have nothing to lose and will lavish the opportunity to cause an upset for any of the other three.

Many will expect this group to be a stroll in the park for England, but they come into the tournament with injury concerns that strike fear into even the most fervent of supporters. England would be crazy to take any of their group games lightly and will be wise to respect each of their opponents. Two words, Wayne Rooney. Once dubbed “the future of English football” it is Rooney’s time to shine. The hopes of a nation rest squarely on his shoulders, head, knees and toes. England have to keep the best striker in the world (there I said it) on the pitch as he brings so much to the side from goals to inspiration. The USA will hope to scupper England’s plans. Come the Group C opener if the USA have a good day and England a mediocre one I foresee a shock final group standing. Still not quite ready to mix it with the big boys, the USA have gone from strength to strength in recent years with scars of experience to prove it. The USA can really play football and the rest of the world is about to see that. Which brings me to Slovenia. It doesn’t say much for a team when one of your best players is between the sticks, but this is the World Cup, the arena where dreams are shattered and unlikely heroes unearthed. Slovenia have already hoofed Russia out of the tournament via the qualifiers proving to be a tough side to beat. Like I said keeper Handanovic keeps up his end of the bargain, which drives the team forward. So watch out for Novakovic, he scores goals.

England to win and, I’m sticking my neck out here, Slovenia second.

Group D

Ghana, Germany, Australia, Serbia

What a group and to get the clichés rolling it has been named the group of death. Another group in which teams will take points off each other. Ghana look like outsiders with the loss of Michael “The Bison” Essien, but believe me they are far from a one-man side. I think they will field one of the youngest teams ever, but certainly at this World Cup and power to them. You’ll remember that they are Under 21 champions and African Cup runners up so be prepared for Ghana to rock the World Cup.

Germany alike, are without inspirational captain Michael Ballack… injured by a Ghanaian player Kevin Prince Boateng so expect sparks to fly in that clash. Not the strongest German side I’ve ever seen but they command respect and will do well this World Cup. Australia still lack a cutting edge in attack, but are still a very strong side who play at the highest level throughout. Expect close games and who knows, with Cahill lurking around they stand to put themselves in a great position. The Serbs have some of the best organisation and are tough to break down. Competing in their first World Cup as an independent nation, Serbia will stamp their place on history as they did in qualification, finishing above France in the group stage. They are capable of winning key battles all over the pitch, pressing forward as a well oiled machine.

Germany tops this one, with Ghana a strong second.

GROUP E

Cameroon, Denmark, Holland, Japan

A fabulously difficult to call group I feel. All the nations have a proud history in the World Cup and will take no quarter this time around. You have to look back as far as 1996 to recall Cameroon’s proudest World Cup moments, lead by the enigmatic Roger Miller, Cameroon captured hearts across the globe. The Indomitable Lions however, failed to make it to the finals in Germany and will be looking to right those wrongs, with the mantle once again falling to the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Geremi Njitap. Cameroon made it as far as the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, and will carry some momentum into the World Cup.

Holland’s “total football” has stood the test of time and the Flying Dutchmen rank amongst the elite in world football. Having surprisingly failed to qualify for Euro 2008, Holland will be firm favourites to win this group as they now have a point to prove. But could that be their eventual undoing? Denmark won a qualifying group that included heavyweights Portugal and Sweden. A well-organised side, the Danes will take heart from the news of Robben’s possible exclusion from the group opener and try to claim an important scalp. The Japanese co-hosted the 2002 World Cup and like South Korea did the nation and tournament proud, only coming undone in the round of 16. As underdogs go, Japan will make this a very exciting group with quality all round and as their qualifiers and friendlies show, they can score against anyone. I’m having a hard time splitting Japan and Cameroon, but here it goes.

Holland to win the group, Cameroon second.

Group F

Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia

This should be an easy one to call and therefore has shock results written all over it. Of course current holders Italy will win this group… or will the “experienced” players be a liability rather than a blessing? Of course New Zealand will finish bottom… they actually aren’t a bad side and taken likely they will punish you. Which brings us to the middle two. Every ounce of me says Paraguay to finish second with a side that have established their relationships over the years, not to mention a wealth of talented strikers to share the goal burden. So Slovakia third… but the more I learn about this side, the more I like their chances. Some young, adventurous midfielders should set the group alight with plenty of dribbling and pace, one to watch. That said,

Italy to boss the group, Paraguay… no Slovakia… no Paraguay to come second.

Group G

Cote D’Ivoire, Brazil, North Korea, Portugal

You have to feel for the Elephants being drawn in this group. Much fancied as the African team that could lift the cup, hearts sank when Drogba’s Cote D’Ivoire were drawn in a second group of death. The Elephants played a promising Africa Cup of Nations, only to be dumped out by Algeria in a fantastic quarterfinal match. Drogba injured. News that shocked the world and undoubtedly stacked the odds against the Elephants. Cote D’Ivoire need to rise to the occasion and perhaps this is exactly what they need to get through the group. If Drogba doesn’t play, the Elephants will have to live up to their name and work as a herd to get through. If Drogba doesn’t play, Kalou leads the line, not a bad replacement and hopefully up to the challenge of taking centre stage and stepping out of Drogba’s shadow. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and every Elephant has every chance of writing their name into football folklore.

Brazil. Ranked 1st in the world. Everyone’s second team. Goal threats from players adored the world over and surprising for an attacking Brazil side a resolute defensive line up that doesn’t leak many goals. When you have the luxury of being able to leave out a player like Ronadinho you’ve got to fancy your chances. Portugal have had an uninspired journey to the World Cup scraping through via the qualifiers. Cristiano Ronaldo still doesn’t seem to lift the Portuguese as he has club teams and the Portuguese will hope they don’t need to rely too much on one man to achieve greatness. I will confess I don’t know much about North Korea, but they did not come this far by chance. You’ll expect them to be the whipping boys of this group, but they have a great defensive record and certainly know how to counter.

Brazil to win Portugal second.

Group H

Chile, Honduras, Spain, Switzerland

Last but by no means least is another tasty treat of a group. The Chileans come to South Africa as a surprise package; full of creative genius, the wonder boys have been running circles round many a defence and hopefully will run riot in the group stage and beyond. The promise of pace, dribbling and confidence makes the Chileans unmissable, they will be a pleasure to watch. Honduras boast a wealth of talent that will astound the unknowing. Extremely disciplined and committed to a collective cause, the Hondurans will do more than just make up the numbers and give each team a run for their money. Spain’s recent ascendancy within world rankings means they come into the tournament as stern favourites. Their remarkable 15 game winning streak and 35 games unbeaten marks them as one of the best sides the world has ever seen. Current European champions, the Spaniards come in firing on all cylinders. But they are not without fault, Spain haven’t earned the title of perennial underachievers on sheer brilliance, having stumbled time and time again on the world stage. It should be a great tournament for Spain and they will feel due a performance worthy of champions. Switzerland come in off the back of a well hosted Euro 2008 where they earned many a stripe and have moved from forward in leaps and bounds since. My only concern about the Swiss is a pretty leaky defence, which will be their undoing against the attacking sides in the group.

Spain easy winners, Chile a valiant second.

Remember to have your say, let us know how you think the groups will pan out.

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One Response to “THE WORLD CUP 2010”

  1. Tirta Suryana July 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    nice to know you n nice info

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