Atlas Time: World Cup Preview

10 06 2010

Who’s going to hoist the World’s Cup?  The Brazilians, Spanish, Argentinians, Dutch, English, or Americans?????

The first African World Cup is ready to kick off history in a few days.  The folk’s homeland has been busy in there 4 year prep for history.  Nelson will be at the opening match and matches throughout the month long event.

9 South African Cities will host the World and they will watch the games in 10 stadiums, 5 newly built stadiums for the Cup.  8 groups with 4 teams each and only 2 will move on.  Blah Blah Blah – There can only be one type thing.  How about the fun stuff.  PSD would like to welcome you to our analysis of the 2010 WC aka Time to Ball African Style.

Three Wise Men.

Before we jump into the Groups here’s a little cool info about the first ever African World Cup.

The arenas are divided across the whole lovely country.

The country is divided into nine provinces, with Gauteng, which includes industrial and financial center Johannesburg and capital Pretoria, being the smallest by land size but the richest and most populated. It is also home to three of the 10 stadiums for the World Cup.  Johannesburg with 9 million people, is the largest city.  Cape Town, in the southwest, is the biggest tourist draw and will host a semi-final within sight of famous Table Mountain.

The newly built stadiums are some of the best the continent and world has seen.  Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban has an amazing arch that lights up and can be seen for miles.  O yeah that arch has a cable car for those folks not afraid of heights.  Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit will look cool on TV because of the kick-ass zebra colored seats.

The real treat though is saved for the biggest city JoBurg.  The massive 95,000 seating capacity venue known as Soccer City Stadium will be a highlight from the World Cup.

South Africa has 11 official languages and while English is the main one for business, it is only the fifth most commonly spoken. The others are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda and Southern Ndebele.  South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, meaning this will be the first winter World Cup since Argentina in 1978.

It is 24 years since a World Cup featured stadiums above sea level.  Mexico 86′ was won by Argentina (hum early theme?).  Of the nine South African cities hosting World Cup matches this summer, five are at 4,000 feet or higher. Johannesburg, where the June 11 opener and July 11 final will be contested, is the highest among them, at 5,750 feet. (The elevation of Denver is 5,280 feet.)  By far the Altitude has been the talk of the World Cup.  Though stories of a “weird bouncing” soccer ball, threat of violence, and fear of transportation has also been discussed.  We’re only mere days away from seeing how it will all unfold.  ARE YOU READY

World Cup Groups:  The rank given is my order of finish for the group. (yeah I plotted out ever freaking game!!)

Group A – Every home nation has advanced from the group stages.
1. Mexico – Altitude shouldn’t bother El Tri.
Coaching Style:  Javier Aguirre
In what he’s called his “final” go around with the National side he hopes to equal his group stage success of WC 02′ (Korea/Japan).
Offensive Style:  Wing based talent pushes the action.  The big question is whether Javier’s tough coaching style will ruffle anymore feathers (Giovanni Dos Santos anyone?).  Geez the kind ship that Sven-Goren Eriksson has PASSED.  Javier will have to figure a line-up that produces the most goals.   In the last few days my pick for player to watch has been rumored to be on Javier’s “bench” list – so this may smack me in the face later.  I really love Mid Andres Guardado of Deportivo La Coruna.
The 23 year old winger has the speed, pace and goal-scoring ability to SHINE (55 caps – 8 goals for Mexico).  A lot of people will talk up Man U’s newest signing Javier Hernandez, but Andres is still my pick of players to watch offensively for El Tri (he might start out on the bench against South Africa – which yes that plays into my #2 pick – hehe).
Defensively the team runs through Rafael Marquez.  He may line-up in a “Central Defensive Midfielder” position, but don’t be fooled that just means he can move around a bit more.  His history as the stalwart Central Defender still dominates his movement on the pitch.  He’ll allow the wingers to fly up field while he keeps an eye on the whole scene from his Central placement.  No doubt about who the leader of the Mexican team.  His name is Rafael.
They’ll struggle in the opening match with all the hype, SA’s speed, and yes the FANS.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see an opening draw.  They’ll rebound by crushing the turmoil filled French and the final game against Uruguay will be the highlight of the group.  I full expect to see Javier get his “correct” line-up (that means Andres STARTING!!) and that final game will see them through to the round of 16.  That win over Uruguay also prompted this move………….
2.  South Africa – HOLY SHIT – I’m going against most of the pundits and freaking world.
Coach:  Carlos Parreira – Brazilian Maestro will outwit Uruguay and France!!
He’s been to 5 of these little get-to-gethers.   The talent isn’t anywhere on par with some of the other African clubs, but an interesting lucky draw should help out.
Offensively it’ll be interesting to see if Carlos keeps with his 4-4-1-1 formation or switch to a more attacking 4-5-1 (with three attack mids under the striker).  He’s got the speed of some of his players, but the depth of the team has always been the issue.   Steven Pienaar is the name you should recognize from the squad and rightly so for the tremendous talent he’s shown at Everton.  I like a more local product to “shine” Teko Modise plays for the Orlando Pirates in the South African league.  The explosive midfielder should be the ying to Steven’s yang and provide Coach Carlos the fast winger he loves.
Defensively the Captain is the man to keep an eye on.  The Portsmouth Central Defender will be looked at to cover for the younger defenders.  He’ll most likely be on the leftside with Maccabi Haifa left back Tsepo Masilela.  Tsepo is the young defender that many are looking to step up and there isn’t a better defender to have alongside him then the reliable captain.  “The Axe” Aaron Mokoena anchors the defense.
South Africa will benefit from having the opening game against Mexico.  A draw, or a surprise win, and the African’s are sitting PRETTY.  I don’t see a win, but its easy to see if there is a draw it’ll be the opening match of the first ever African World Cup.  Carlos has seen it all and by far is the best manager.  Its the Brazilians inventive style that has me thinking the African’s can turn a draw against Mexico into points against both Uruguay and France.  That France game should be key and I really believe France looks like the “flame out” team rather then the “winners”.
3.  Uruguay – The South Americans are super strong up top and lack any cohesion in defense.
Consistent is the big issue with this squad.  With there world-beaters at Forward they should be a bad-ass team.  Instead they limped into the WC and there Goalie and Defensive issues will haunt them.  They are better then South Africa, but they’ll fail because they can stay consistent.
Coach:  Oscar Tabarez  – “El Maestro” believes in his attacking style and it’ll bite him in the ass this World Cup.
Offensively the team has two guys who’ve scored 30+ goals in a season and a 6’4veteran that has the nickname El Loco – Yeah this team is fun!!  Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez are the two key strikers (and those 30+ guys), but giant Sebastian Abreu will push for time in what should be his final WC.  Diego is the real talent and highlight of the team, what he’s done in La Liga this decade has been incredible.
Defensively the team is in shambles.  Long-time Goalie Sebastian Viera went through the worst time of his career.  They’ve gone through all “top” three GKs and look to be going with youngster Fernando Muslera (23 years old).  The Lazio goalie has looked the best with the National team, but with a spotty midfielder and aged defensive line the choice is very difficult.  The famed “aggressive” style of past Uruguay teams is most personified in Villarreal’s Diego Godin.  He might not have the fiery presence of his back line mates, but he’s got the size and strength to be a force.
If Uruguay does well in the WC it’ll be because players like Diego Godin step up and make-up for legit Goalie scares.
4.  France – O how the Mighty have fallen.
A sex scandal has rocked some of the key members of French football.  Franck Ribéry, 27; Sidney Govou, 30; and Karim Benzema, 22 all have been linked with under-aged sex allegations.  The truth hasn’t fully come out, so no comment on that, but this has to be a major distraction.  Especially for THREE FREAKING STARTERS.  Its not like Coach Raymond Domenech has the best of reps in French Football.
How you coach when you’ve already been told that Laurent Blanc will take over the moment you’re eliminated.  WTF?  He’s got an aged team with a few bright young stars (three of which are in the sex scandal that’s rocked all of France).  So many issues with this team.
Offensively vets Thierry Henry and Nicholas Anelka will be the strikers with Ribery off to one of the wings in a forward but not striker type role.  The real meat of the attack comes down to the two young play-makers Jeremy Toulalan and Yoann Gourcuff.  The two French based mids are the closest two the next Zidane that France has in the WC line-up.  Gourcuff has really been amazing, but he had a horrible end to the French ligue.  I lean on Jeremy to be the surprise player to be in the best of form.  (Granted you know I think this team fails – its not because of JT).  JT is a more defensive midfielder with great vision for passing, while Yoann is the attacking mid.  JT is the gap between a veteran defense and veteran attack.
Defensively all eyes are on the health of William Gallas.  He’s always been the vocal leader and anchor of a more offensive minded defense.  Without Gallas barking order at Patrice Erva, Eric Abidal, and Bacary Sagna will all linger to close to the offensive side of the field.  Uruguay should have a field day with the lack of a “big” presence like William.  In the end this team is the most turmoil filled club in the whole tournament.  The French flame out and get prepped for the Blanc era.
MEXICO and SOUTH AFRICA move on in Group A.
Group B – Flying High.
The two favorites in this Group B have connections to flight – Argentina’s flag stand for the beautiful Sky and Nigeria’s national team are known as the Super Eagles.  Through in South Korea and Greece and Group B looks like a pretty simple group.  Can SK or GR make a dent in Argentina or Nigeria.  Most likely Not.
1.  Argentina – One of the top Favorites to win it all.
The Superstar and the Former Superstar are the two main cogs of this unique team.  Maradona has made waves with his team selections, weird superstitions, and vocal fights with the game’s greats (Pele anyone?).  He sees himself in Lionel Messi and has put all his confidence in the World’s Best Player.  Messi has been at the peak of his game the last two years and by far the most “watched” man this WC will be the diminutive forward.  Coach Maradona is a very different beast then player Maradona.  He’s become a bit more crazy and cranky with age and drug rehab.  The 4-4-2 is a loose version that allows its star (Messi) to roam.  The real questions with the team revolve around Maradona’s unusual snubs to the team and the youngsters he’s brought up in there place.
Offensively this unit should shine.  Minus the best player in the world this team is loaded with top level talent.  The striker that wins a place with Messi comes down to three high-end fellas.  Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuan, Manchester City Carlos Tevez, and Atletico Madrid’s young sensation Sergio “Kun” Aguero all could start on ANY of the other teams, but you can’t argue against Inter Milan’s Diego Milito as the early starter.  Who knows how Maradona will deal with this 5 man group of super talent.   The midfield is where holes can be found, but it also has the one player I think will step up and shine brightest.  Defensive Mid Jonas Guiterrez is the tall imposing presence Maradona needs to keep teams from “bullying” his small attackers.  Jonas has been a strong and athletic controlling mid.  He allows Javier Mascherano to move more freely in central mid.  Like most Argentinian players fun times will be had!! Jonas, while at Real Mallorca (before his big move to Newcastle), decided to celebrate a goal in a unique fashion.
Defensively is the big concern with Argentina – mainly because Maradona has feuded with Walter Samuel and many of the veteran players.  Also the fact that Champions League winners with Inter Milan Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti are not on the team (WTF Maradona?).  Not having there defensive presence in midfield and defense is going to be a glaring hole.   Since Esteban is by far one of my favorite players I’m not going to give a player to watch in defense.  Maradona will look good in the group stages but his errors in picking the squad will haunt him and all of Argentina.  Messi is the only man who can keep them on the right path.
2.  Nigeria – The Super Eagles are nothing like the previous Super Eagle teams!!
This team barely made it and they changed coaches unexpectedly.  The arguments against them are valid.  They aren’t the same offensive juggernauts of the past.  Yep that’s true too.  The easy answer is they get to play a weak South Korea and Greek teams.  The deeper answer is this team has size, “home field” advantage, and they still have flare.  Watch out this team will catch on fire pretty early on.  They’ll push Maradona’s Magical Men in the first game, but don’t see them winning out against Messi and Millito.  6 points from the other two games sees this team heading into the round of sixteen on a high.
Coach Lars Lagerback – The Swedish Surprise.
He’s never left his homeland as a manager until Nigeria came calling.  He’s had his fair share of success with Sweden and did see its greatest players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson in their prime.  Nigeria needs someone that can find talent in the forward position.  Lars makes a lot of sense and he has a deep and strong defensive backbone to build a winner.
Offensively the team has vets like Everton’s Yakubu and Wolfsburg’s dynamic Obafemi Martins, and midfielders like Almeria’s Kalu Uche and Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel can score as well.  The real players to keep an eye on are the youngsters (who both ply there trade in the recently stout Russian Top League) Fwd Peter Odemwingie and Mid Sani Kaita.  Peter really has a chance to shine with his more forward position.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads them in goals.
The defense is where you start to see the real muscle of the team.  Everton’s Joseph Yobo and Marseille’s Taye Taiwo are the veterans with Chidi Odiah, the third young Nigerian based domestically in Russia, and Rabiu Afolabi rounding out the bunch nicely.  The real heart of the team is in goal.  Israeli based (Hapoal Tel Aviv) netminder Vincent Enyeama may be one of the country’s greatest GKs.  He’s not that big, but he’s a hell of an athlete.  Vincent’s only 27 and the obvious future of the club.
3.  South Korea – Strong Unit just lacks the Nigerian depth.
Park Ji Sung is the big name and the best player on the team.  He’s talent and lives up to his famous nickname – “Three Lung Park” (think about it!).  Coach Huh Jung-Moo believes in spreading the field and pushing the other team for 90 minutes.
A legendary player in his own right Huh will lean on his top level players.  Offensively Lee Dong-Gook and Park Chu-Young are the strikers but injuries and lack of form has plagued them recently.  The real heart of the attack is Winger Park Ji-Sung and his fellow winger Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton apply the pressure.  The Defense is pretty stout, but beatable.  Overall its the pace of the team that kills their opponents.  Will struggle with the talent of Argentina and the size of Nigeria, but should wear out an sluggish defensive minded Greek team.
4.  Greece – They defend you to death.  JOY!
Otto Rehhagel is an icon in Greece for making the national team a winner.   Well that was 6 years ago and now its the same OLD Otto and his bunch still boring us to death.  They have pride and have talent on the team, but their players always look better for club rather then country.  4-5-1 is the formation with 9 staying behind the mid-field line and the one running back and forth hoping for a foul.   Inventive I know!  It does allow for a quick counter-attack that gained Otto all his success in the middle of the decade.  Offensively its all about Theofanis Gekas you’ll hear the more famous names talked about like Giorgos Karagounis and Georgios Samaras, but Gekas is the only real striker level guy.  Karagounis is a great free-kick taker and Samaras has shown signs of his old brilliance, but its an anemic looking offense.  Defensively they are smart and tactically sound, but they aren’t as menacing and big.  They don’t have that guy you don’t want to meet in a dark ally.  The real talent of the squad does come from the Defensive unit though.  24 year old defender Vasilios Torosidis is a name to keep an eye on.
Argentina and Nigeria move on to the Round of 16.
Group C – THE ENGLISH ARE COMING!!!!  O great.
1.  United States – YOU DAMN RIGHT!!!  GO AMERICA!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA – I do have serious arguments!!
I know what you’re all thinking – DAMN AMERICAN.  Well that’s true I’m a homer on this pick and I’ll stick by it.  Not that i’m fully excited about the USA team, but rather I look at England and giggle a bit.  Granted this is all after Rio Ferdinand went down.  Without the Captain I really see those Island folks being DISAPPOINTED with Group Stages.  Lets not forget our (yeah I said our – HOMER REMEMBER!!) best players applied there talents in the heart of London and Liverpool.  Mids (sometimes forwards) Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are by far the leaders of this National team.  Add on the strength from Defensive Mid (coach’s boy) Michael Bradley, Defensive Beast Oguchi Onyewu and of course the anchor (cursing his ass off – he’s got Tourettes) GK TIMMY HOWARD!! Coach of the rag tag bunch is military like Bob Bradley.
The Princeton guy knows his stuff.  He’s not the showman that Bruce Arena was, but Bradley’s choices have been sound.  The real questions of the team stem from Bob’s going with an unproven strike force.  Jozy Altidore is the only real “vet” and he’s not really that polished yet.  Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculus Gomez are all guys that have no real national team pedigree.  Clint Dempsey, during some matches, has been used up top to help out.  In fact its very likely that Clint lineups there against England.  Ironically Bob’s move makes the team better.  Mainly because the man inserted into Clint’s more wing position is fellow English Premier player Stuart Holden (Bolton).  Stuart is a quality wing mid that has goal-scoring ability.  The real offensive player that will be the difference plys his trade in England’s Neighbor.  Rangers (Scotland) Mid Maurice Edu has the power, stamina and attack ability to really come into his own.
The 24 year old gets pushed aside by his more well-known teammates, but don’t be fooled this kid is TALENT.  He’s a beast though Michael Bradley will be seen with the much bigger BARK.  Those two tag-teaming in the central of midfield will be the real highlight for USA.  Defensively the unit is pretty thin and Gooch’s injury concerns are legit (NO DEPTH behind him).  The real key is the INCREDIBLE Goalies America has at its disposal.  Tim is the legit #1 and most deserving of the position.
Rain shots are so cool!!
2.  England – The Mighty Lions will still push forward.
Hey Fabio calm down buddy.  Meet the Coach by the way.  Fabio Capello – Italian Legend and known hot-head.  He’s better the Sven, but he’s felt the sting of injuries and his own SEX SCANDAL (well not his).  John Terry aka PUBLIC ENEMY #1 affair with fellow countrymen Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend – damn near divide a country.
Hey all Fabio did was take away your Captain’s arm band and give it to RIO.  Now the team has TALENT and that is for real.  Offensively midfielders Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Aaron Lennon all are goal-scoring threats.  On top of that you have the giant Peter Crouch praying for a cross or corner kick.  The team still is all about one man though – ROO-NEY!!
The Bulldog is the heart and soul of the club.  Last world cup injuries plagued him and there is concerns still with his delicate feet and ankles.  The Defense lost its leader and anchor in Rio and that is Concern #1 for Fabio.  The other three starters are stout – John Terry, Wingers Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.   A real question mark for the team is Veteran Goalie David James.  He doesn’t seem the same ol’ dominate big fella.  He is 39 years old.  If Fabio goes with Robert Green then England may just go further in the tourney.  Tricky roads ahead for the English.
3.  Slovenia – Stingy and Mean Defense should make things Rough for England and US.
Next to the Dutch, little ol’ Slovenia boasts one of the more tactically sound, mean and effective defensive units in the world.  Its not a team where names are recognizable, but there are a few interesting stories.  Coaching wise Matjaz Kek proved himself in Slovenia league, then the national youth teams and now the senior club.
The only real name to keep an eye on is captain Robert Koren who is unattached to a team as of this week and the WC could be a chance to gain an employer.  The attack midfielder is the real spark of the Offense.  His play-making is going to be key fro Slovenia’s success. The Defense all revolves around its 25 year-old goalie Samir Handanovič.  His time in the Seria A has allowed him the chance to play against the best in the world.
4. Algeria – Desert Foxes had a hell of ride getting through Qualifying.
The Algerians enter the WC maybe the most beaten up club.  A BRUTAL African Nations Cup final against Egypt may go down as one of the UGLIEST soccer matches ever.  And it was the “rematch” that had to be played in Sudan to keep away the crazy fans.  Its a passionate country with rabid fan base.  Sadly they are a team that lacks any real superstar talent to really scare the English or Americans.  Rabah Saadane is the only African head coach in this year’s tournament.  He allows his 4-5-1 formation to be very flexible.
The offensive is pretty unproven and will rely on Siena’s Abdelkader Ghezzal to be the lone striker.  The two Karims (Karim Matmour and Karim Ziani who both play in Germany) will anchor the one side of midfield while the other side is in limbo with a recent injury to Hassan Yebda.  The real heart of the team is in the defense.  Rangers’ Madjid Bougherra is the anchor of the Desert Fox team.  The attacking wing-back Nadir Belhadj is the one threat that can bring Algeria glory.
Group D –  Superstars out for early favorites Germany and Ghana.
1. Germany – Losing Michael Ballack may cost them a World Cup.
Joachim Low has to figure out who will anchor his unit if they hope to repeat 06′ semi-finals performance.   He’s been able to bring up some amazing young talent and those guys should show there stuff this WC.  Offensively they like vets Klose and Mario Gomez up top, both are tall, lanky and effective.  The real play-making happens in the midfield though.  Former wunderkid Lukas Podolski has drifted more into midfield the older he gets and new wunderkid Thomas Muller plays outside on the wing.  The real play-maker and the person that needs to step up in place of Ballack is Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The 25-year-old is considered in the best form of his career. This past season he was one of the Bundesliga’s highest rated midfielders, with more than 100 touches of the ball per game. Low has said Schweinsteiger will assume Ballack’s role as the main influence in Germany’s midifeld for this World Cup.  Its simple this is Bastian’s time to take over.  A lot of the veterans are on the bench this World Cup squad and gives Low a lot to work with.  The defense has height and power (Per Mertesacker), tactical intelligence (Serdar Tasci), pace and control (Philipp Lahm) and speed and more power in (Jerome Boateng).  The crazy events involving the German Goalie issue is well crazy.  Death by suicide last November of Hannover keeper Robert Enke and injury to back-up Rene Adler forced Low to finally has put his faith in Manuel Neuer.  Schalke’s #1 has taken to the National#1 spot quite well.  Hans-Jorg Butt may have something to say about Neuer starting, but I have a sneaky feeling the youngster will steal the show.
Yep RAIN shot.
2. Australia – More then just a boring movie!!
Yeah YEAH – I know Ghana and Serbia are the highly picked clubs to move on, Australia sorta lucks out.  They open with Germany – not that great – but does set up a brutal Ghana/Serbia opener.  I think that G/S game will see the young Ghana squad and the defensive Serbs racking up yellows and possibly injuries.  Australia enters this group with the most Veteran laden team and a solid defensive structure.  Also Australia has the best Goalie and that should give them a shut out of Serbia and possibly Ghana.  Watch out folks the Down Under Gang is hoping to better their Round of 16 berth from Germany 06′.  Dutch Coach Pim Verbeek, a Guus Hiddink protege, runs a defensive counter-attack style 4-2-3-1 look.  Like France Coach, Pim has announced this will be his last tournament as Australia coach.  Unlike the French the Aussie players are a much tighter group and should come together rather then splinter.
Offensively they’ve had to figure a replacement to long-time striker Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell has been touted as that guy.  The real spark comes from the attacking mids who are lead by Tim Cahill.  Australia’s joint top scorer in qualifying, Cahill is his team’s biggest star and most inspirational player.
The Everton mid should work best with Vince Grella and Brett Emerton (Blackburn duo).   Youngster Jason Culina (Only Aussie Top League player in the probable starting line-up) and Vet Mark Bresciano round out a solid midfield.  The Defensive success flows through Australia’s captain.  Lucas Neill is the heart of the team and his brawls with Germany’s big boys Klose and Gomez and Serbia’s 6’8 kid Nikola Zigic will be epic.
3.  Ghana – The Black Stars are missing there Brightest Star.
The Chelsea star will be in street clothes for the World Cup and sadly without there emotional leader and best player Ghana’s hopes are down.  They don’t have a proper replacement for Essien’s pace and goal-scoring.  When he’s been out the team has looked nothing like the same team.  You add on the fact they are the youngest team and his leadership is even more sorely missed.  Ironically Ghana’s coach is Serbian – Milovan Rajevac has tried to install a more defensive minded approach to the team.  Offensively they’ll have to find a replacement for Essien.  The lucked out in Kevin-Prince Boateng switching his German allegiance to Ghana and O yeah he’s the fella that hurt Michael Ballack in Chelsea’s Cup Final against Portsmouth.  To say that Germany vs Ghana on June 23rd will be electric is an understatement (its also the final group game!!).  Kevin should slot in for Essien, but the play-maker to keep an eye on is Udinese’s 21 year old attack midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah.
Defensively the group is a mix of young and old.  John Pantsil of Fulham will be looked at as the leader in the back-line, but this unit doesn’t seem equipped to handle the Germans, the tall Serbs, or the massive midfield attacking Aussies’.  They edge past Serbia in the opener and those points help it slot ahead, just barely though.
4. Serbia – The “Dark Horse” pick just doesn’t impress at further review.
Coach Radomir Antic has a rich history of coaching, but his team doesn’t really meld together for his wing-based attack.  Offensively is the obvious concern – CAN THEY SCORE?  Zigic is a freaking giraffe, but he’s been in poor form.  Milan Jovanovic lead the team in goals in fact, and the Standard Liege line-ups along the wing (NOT EVEN A STRIKER and he lead the team? – YEP I KNOW!).  Don’t get me wrong Jovanovic and Milos Krasic are perfect wingers for Antic’s style, but not having proper scoring threats up-top will undo this talented squad.  Defensively it all revolves around one of the world’s best.  Man U’s Nemanja Vidic is joined by a solid veteran back-line and its easy to say Group D will not be a goal-scoring delight.  The Terminator is a freaking BEAST!!
Sorry Vidic, but I can’t see your team doing anything his WC.  Still love ya though!!
Germany and Australia advance in the REAL Group of Death!
Group E:  Dutch Domination
1.  Netherlands – I’ve picked the Oranje to win the WC since Edgar Davids played.  Can they finally do it?
Well they’ll storm through the group stages for sure.  The hottest team coming into the WC has two of the worlds hottest stars.  Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder and Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben have captivated the Champions League, Italian, and German worlds.
Robben, Wesley and that’s Robin peaking his head in.
They are Coached Bert Van Marwijk a quieter and more tactically sound.  His biggest change was to switch from a 4-5-1 (RUUUD on top)  to a 4-3-3 (Ruud’s retired) look.  The Offense thus has two tiers.  Basically the formation switches to a 4-2-4when Sneijder feels like attacking.  The other two mids Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong are more defensive minded.  Wesley will intermingle with a slew of strikers (the Dutch have DEPTH!).  Arjen will start on one of the wings and Dirk Kuyt should be on the other.  Bert has to decide to go with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (tall and powerful), Eljero Elia (young and FAST AS HELL!!), Ryan Babel (young and lanky), but all most folks think he’ll go with the Robin Van Persie.
Robin (Arsenal) has ruffled feathers a bit of English Premier enemy Dirk Kujt (Liverpool).  Both men have the ability to shine if they get along – its the real question will Robin allow his mouth to push him off the pitch?  Elia might be the real talent to watch for – Robben has looked INCREDIBLE with the kid in the line-up.  Defensively the team has some worries and concerns (ironically they were incredible in qualifying).  Joris Mathijsen and Johnny Heitinga will anchor the center of defense and the few mistakes made during qualifying happened here.  They rely on vet Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the one wing and youngster Gregory van der Wiel on the other.  The big concern is whether Edwin Van Der Sar will be missed in net.  GK Maarten Stekelenburg has not been consistent like his Man United compatriot.  In the end this team looks way to strong to fail in the group stages.
2.  Cameroon – Quiet Lions may regain the Indomitable part of their nickname if they make it out of Group E.
Good coaching, solid goalie, defense and midfield and then there is Mr. Eto’o on top.  This team has all the tools to make it FAR.  Eto’o famous temper seems to be the big issue with the team.  Roger Milla (Cameroonian Legend) already came out negatively against Eto’o work ethic.  Eto’o quelled that issue by buying all of his teammates fancy watches!! Bling-Bling does help.  Samuel will lead the way to failure or success (with Drogba out – Eto’o is the biggest African name).
Coach Paul Le Guen has one of the more offensive minded styles.  A dynamic 4-3-3 that allows 6-foot-3 target man Mohamadou Idrissou.  Eto’o and Real Betis’ Achille Emana will play off each side of Idrissou.  Lyon’s Jean Makoun and Celtic’s Landry N’Guemo will play inbehind Eto’o and Emana.  The real anchor of the team is smack dab in the middle.  Arsenal’s Alexandre Song is the powerful lion that controls central defensive mid and at only 22 he’s the future star of the team.  Defense is athletic and all are proven talents.  Geremi and Alexandre’s cousin Rigobert Song will anchor the one side (both play in Turkey’s top league).  Nicolas N’Koulou of Monaco will stay grounded in central defense as his wing man will fire up the wing.  Tottenham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto is coming into his own right in time for the WC.
3.  Japan – The Blue Samurai’s have a killer free-kick taker.
Shunsuke Nakamura dazzled Celtic fans for the last 5 years (went back home this year – after a very brief stay at Espanyol).  He’s a superb wing and one of the best spot-kick takers in the world.  The best Asian team in a decade relies on a strong midfield.  Veteran Makoto Hasebe is a rover type player.  A midfield duo really controls the team though.  Yasuhito Endo handles most of the control and movement of the offense.
CSKA Moscow’s spark is the real talent to keep an eye on.  Keisuke Honda is only 23 and already a vital member of the squad.  His pace and up-tempo style really can carry the offense at times.
The inexperienced defense just can’t handle the fire power Cameroon and the Dutch possess.
4. Denmark – All about Injured Goalie!
With out the 33 year old Thomas Sorensen in net this team goes from Round of 16 to winless.  Their is NO depth at GK and with a dislocated elbow things are scary for the Danish.  I obviously don’t think he’ll be fully fit, otherwise i’d have them going through.  The team is stacked.  They also have the longest tenured coach and their qualifying over Portugal and Sweden was IMPRESSIVE.   Offensively they allow there wings Christian Poulsen (enforcer role) and Jakob Poulsen (not related) to stay more defensive.  Ajax’s Dennis Rommedahl is more a setup for the talented trio on top.  Vets Martin Jorgensen and Jon Dahl Tomasson will mentor and guide the young superstar next to them.  Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner has a chance to SHINE this WC.
Meet Denmark’s Superstar Nicklas Bendtner.
The Defense is pretty tight with the left side boasting Blackburn’s winger Lars Jacobsen and Fiorentina’s beefy center-back Per Kroldrup.  The right wing back is up and coming youngster Simon Kjaer of Italy’s Palermo.  The heart of defense is at Center-Back.  Liverpool’s Daniel Agger reverts back to his more central spot for the national team.
But the team’s success all comes back to whether Sorenson is in net or not.  If yes see them thru and if not then last place it is.
The Dutch and Cameroon move on.
Group F – The Defending Champs.
1.  Italy – The Champs are vying for there 5th WC title which would match the leading Brazilians.
They bring back 9 players from the title winning squad.  Coach Marcelo Lippi has gone more with proven vets in hopes they have one final farewell to the WC.  Offensively they’ll hope Vincenzo Iaquinta provides the “big” to his two “little” wing-mates up top.  Udinese’s playmaker Antonio Di Natale and Fiorentina’s magician Alberto Gilardino are dribbling machines and will carry the brunt of the offensive output.  The real heart of the line-up is in the more defensive minded midfield.  Claudio Marchisio will try and fill in for Mauro Camoranesi usual wing mid spot.  Wily vet Andrea Pirlo will anchor from the center of midfield and control the free and spot kick taking.  The time has come for this guy to take over his Roma teammate’s mantel (Francesco Totti – retired) as LEADER of the Italians.  Daniele De Rossi is the man that has the entire “BOOT” watching his every move.
Its time for De Rossi to change his nickname of Captain Futuro.  Defensively the team are loaded with experience.  The right side pits vets Gianluca Zambrotta (Mr. Outside) and Fabio Cannavaro (Mr. Inside).  The left wing-back Domenico Criscito is on the verge of stardom while his central partner on the left side is already one.  Juve’s Giorgio Chiellini is the one of the world’s best and with Gigi Buffon in net this unit is still super strong.
Gigi knows who he trusts in defense and his name is Giorgio.
2.  Paraguay – So Many Striking Choice so little time to decide.
Coach Gerardo Martino is a firm believer in tight tactical formation with an offensive mindset.  You want to to much flair compared to the other South American countries, but the system is about scoring more then your opponent.  Midfield is controlled and lead by playmaker Edgar Barreto.  The real fire power is the plethora of strikers.  Borussia Dortmund’s Haedo Valdez and Man City’s Roque Santa Cruz will start, but Benfica’s tall scoring machine Oscar Cardozo and youngster (Haedo’s teammate at Dortmund) Lucas Barrios are itching for a chance.
Roque Santa Cruz has all the eyes on him.
Defense is a bit more unknown and based more in South America.  Captain Paulo Da Silva of Sunderland is the real vocal presence on the squad.
3.  Slovakia – Solid but not enough Scoring to Succeed.
Coach Vladimir Weiss (his son – Jr – is in midfield) has this unit playing smart and technically proficient football.  They don’t put themselves in weird spots they attack when it presents itself otherwise they “pest” you all game long.  The Offense allow coach’s son to attack and push forwards Stanislav Sestak and Robert Vittek.  Player to watch is definitely Napoli’s Marek Hamsik.  He’s a feisty one and could shine brightest for Slovakia.
22 year old play-maker Marek Hamsik.
The defense is all about one man.  Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel is the heart of the team.
4.  New Zealand – Minnows are happy to be in South Africa.
The All Whites (a contrast to the well-known New Zealand Rugby team the All Blacks) are here through the weakest “area” the Oceania Qualifying group rarely boost successful squads (baring those WC that are played in that part of the world!).  Coached by a member of the last New Zealand team to make the World Cup – Ricki Herbert starred for the All Whites in Spain 82′).  Ricki might be on of the few clubs who will rely on a 5 defender base – a sign of weaker teams by the way (just a known thing in soccer).  Blackburn Rovers Central Defender Ryan Nelsen is the only “big” name on the team.
Striker Shane Smeltz is the player to keep an eye on.  He’s showcased great goal-scoring ability in the Australian A-League (Gold Coast United).
Italy and Paraguay move on.
Group G – The Group of DEATH – sure has been for poor Drogba.
1.  Brazil – Um hell-o.
The team is stacked with some of the world’s best.  With legendary coach Dunga in charge watch out.  Though he’s garnered a lot of flak for making his offense flow through his wingers in defense up to Kaka.  Why not let the dribblers up-top take over – well Dunga answered that by keeping a player like Ronaldinho off of the team!!  Dunga’s a bit of a hard ass.  Then again all he has to do is show this…
But those same pundits ask if he’s brought that trophy home as a manager.  The offensive creative force is KAKA.
The rest of midfield usually stay back – Elano and Gilberto Silva do have goal-scoring ability though while Felipe Melo is a pure defensive mid.  Up top Kaka will look for youngster Nilmar and for goal-scoring machine Luis Fabiano of Sevilla.  Also don’t forget the little guy Robinho is another goal-scoring machine.  The defense has its offensive minded wings in Inter Milan’s Maicon and Cruzeiro’s Gilberto.  The center of defense is anchored by veterans and world-beaters Lucio and Juan (Inter Milan and Roma respectively).  They also boast the world’s best Goalie!!  Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar helped pull off Italy’s first Treble team.
2.  Portugal – Drogba’s injury allows CR another crack at WC glory.
You’ve seen the video with his own STATUE.  Um yeah Cristiano is the biggest name in the sport.  Luckily Portugal is stacked with talent but many (including me) think the defensive minded Coach Carlos Queiroz has been the big kog in the machine.  He still runs a 4-5-1 with Sporting Lisbon’s superb striker Liedson left on the lone island of one.  His midfield is split between the attacking CR, Deco and winger Nani and the defensive Raul Meireles and Pepe (a former defender).  The Defense is anchored inside with vets Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves.  Fellow vet Paolo Ferreira and wing-back Duda applies another offensive weapon.  Eduardo is solid in net.  Nani has come up with recent injury news making Portugal’s hope of bettering their 4th place finish more difficult.  The veteran laden teams shares the discord the French National team has.  The difference is CR, Deco, Liedson, and Nani are better and they lucked out with Drogba going down.
3.  Ivory Coast – The Elephants lost there trunk when Drogba went down.
If his arm is ok the Elephants have a real chance to oust Portugal, but without and it’ll be IMPOSSIBLE.  All signs show that he won’t be 100% so count me – out on Ivory Coast celebrations.  Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is a smart and technically sound coach that seems to be on a team not really suited for his style.  His offense is more a basic attack down the middle while Ivory Coast is loaded with incredibly fast and agile wingers.  Drogba is the obvious target but his forward wings Salomon Kalou (Drogba’s Chelsea teammate) and Lille’s Gervinho are great at crossing and tiring out the defense.  I tend to lean towards Central Mids as my favorite folks and Ivory Coast boast one of the best.  Barca’s Yaya Toure is tall, lanky, strong, and has tremendous control.
The defense is anchored by former Arsenal (now Man City) center-back Kolo Toure and Arsenal wing-back Emmanuel Eboue.  Both men work amazingly well and there experience working against Cristiano Ronaldo should make the game against Portugal the group decider.
4. North Korea – The bait for the big mean monsters in the Group of Death.
They are the lowest FIFA ranked team at #106 in the world.   The team is a defensive minded group.  There formation choices should tell you all that you need to know – 4-5-1 (mostly used) and 5-3-1-1 (Bunker defense).  In other words they will bore the shit out of us n yet still get scored on like crazy.
Forward Hong Yong-Jo is the only player to apply his trade abroad.  Also get this bit of fun info they listed one of there more talented STRIKERS as a Goalie entering the WC and sadly he can ONLY play GK because of that move.  If they score a goal they should PARTY it up.
Group G – Spanish Gold.
1.  Spain – If you don’t think Brazil is going to win you most likely picked Spain
Its hard not to argue against this stacked of a unit.  1 loss (YEAH BITCHES USA!!) in 47 straight games!!  Undefeated in Qualifying.  Did I say STACKED LINEUP.  Coach is Vincent Del Bosque and his furry creature that lives on his upper lip have a 96% winning rate = PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY GOOD! (Larry David voice).
Offensively Barca’s Andres Iniesta and Xavi and Valencia’s David Silva will dart into where ever they like.  They’ll figure out the lanes to pass through to the goal-scoring duo of Liverpool’s Fernando Torres and Barca’s newest man David Villa.  Ironically all these Barca folks rely on the controlling nature of the man in the center-defensive mid.  Xabi Alonso is the unsung hero, the no-name leader, the man behind the machine and he’s a Real Madrid guy.
The defense is where most of the character comes out.  Left-back Joan Capdevila is the most unknown of the group, but he is a lethal winger when he flys along the sideline.  Gerard Pique is the tall central defense that will match-up with the bigger forwards.  Carles Puyol is the captain and the long-time vocal presence of the team.  He also shares a love of his hair with Spain’s true super star.  Right Back Sergio Ramos is the flair that the team needed all these years.  He’s freaking lethal. Add on Ramos’ Real Madrid teammate GK Iker Casillas is one of the world’s best.
Puyol, Sergio Ramos, and Iker.
2.  Chile – In what will be the most goal-scoring group – Chile are a big contributor.  Coach Marcelo Bielsa lives up to his “El Loco” nickname and its easy to see his attack-minded Argentinian flare come out often.
The only team that’ll use a 3 defender base with 4 mids and 3 attacking forwards.  Its not my favorite 3-5-2, but its close enough and it’ll lead to EXCITING MATCHES.   If there is a team to see outside the usual suspects then Chile should be on your TVS!!  Its young based midfield with two vets on top hoping for accurate passes.  Rodrigo Tallo is the lone vet in the mid and he corrals the three youngsters – Carlos Carmona, Rodrigo Millar, and Matias Fernandez.  Two of the three strikers will be the more recognizable names on the team.  CSKA Moscow’s Mark Gonzalez is the left-footed fella that some of you may remember playing with Liverpool.  The middle man is Zaragoza’s Humberto Suazo who should be looked at as the main goal-threat.  The real kid to keep an eye on is right forward Alexis Sánchez of Udinese.  He’s made the jump to Italy and shined nicely.  The World Cup should be a chance for him to turn into a major summer transfer.
O yeah he’s 21 years old.  Keep and Eye on this one!!
Defensively they are solid, but always in a numbers game and rely on there GK alot.  Speaking of the net-minder Claudio Bravo is coming off a knee injury that may flare up and be an issue for Chile’s continued success in the WC.
3.  Switzerland – Big Bulky and in the wrong group.
This team is a strong unit and a good pick to move on, but they happened to wind up in a goal-scoring group and I can’t see them withstanding the assaults.  Coached by one of the world’s living legends Ottmar Hitzfeld the team really is a tight group.  He has this unit ready to counter-attack through out the WC.
Offensively Ottmar relies heavily on his two stars.  Center mid Tranquillo Barnetta will be the main cog in starting the offense.  Up top they have there all-time leading goal-scorer and face of the team for over a decade Alexander Frei.  If there is an intriguing player to keep an eye on it winger Valon Behrami of West Ham.
Along the Defense watch out for Valon’s right side partner in defense.  Philippe Senderos is the NAME player in Central Defense, but Right-Back Stephan Lichtsteiner of Lazio is a solid player and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him shine during the WC.
4.  Honduras – The South American’s are here for the ride.
The team is filled with recognizable names, but they just don’t look that good as team (and they BARELY made it here).   Colombian Reinaldo Rueda is all about attack minded football.  He’ll push his wings (Tottenham’s Wilson Palacios and former MLS MVP Amado Guevara) and strikers David Suazo and Carlos Pavon have both been proven goal-scorers.  Can they unite together now is a big concern.  The defense is shaky and the reason why I see Chile and the Swiss figuring out them.  Wigan’s vet Maynor Figueroa is the leader of a lackluster bunch.  The pushing style should make there games fun to watch at least.  They just can’t match Spain and Chile’s goal-scoring and will not be able to crack the Swiss defense.
Spain and Chile move on to the Round of 16.
OK ITS ALL OVER!! WOW!! Check back tomorrow for the rest of the tournament pics just in time for Friday’s opening matches!!!  ITS THE WORLD CUP!!



2 responses

20 06 2010

Nice article and pics

16 07 2014

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