The Group B consists of Argentina, Nigeria, Greece and South Korea
I think for the first time since 1990, Argentina is not placed in the Group of Death. There will bean uncertainty in their group stage in every world cup. Be it the 33 Passes goal of world cup 2006 against Serbia-Montenegro or the bad decision of taking Riquelme off the field and very late launch of Messi against Germany in Second Round – not only the players even the coaching decisions were uncertain.
And this time they proved their uncertainty more than ever with a lackluster qualifying campaign and making it to the final at the last moment. Maradona making changes left, right and center , I think he tried more than 40 players before coming up with the final 24. The sacking of Riquelme created a uproar in the country but Maradona will be hoping his star protege Messi to click this time. The reason why Messi scores better for Barcelona is their strategy runs around him but Argentina is like that – it all depends on how the big stars come together as a team and decisions of Maradona at crunch situations (hope he doesn’t do a Pekerman)
Coach : Diego Maradona
Star Players: Lionel Messi, Juan Sebastian Veron, Carlos Tevez, Diego Milito, Higuain, Gabriel Heinze and Angel De Maria
Prediction : Sure shot QF berth if they top the group – One of the Dark Horses – even Italy were dark horses last time. My favorite team too 🙂
They shocked the football world with the Euro 2004 win. It should have been the birth of another European Giant but they ended up as an one tournament wonder. With the country’s economy in doldrums and aging squad, Otto Rehhagel has a tough job in his hands. They will expect to spring a surprise against South Korea and Nigeria in the group. I don’t see them crossing the group stages by any chance.
Coach : Otto Rehhagel
Star Players: Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Theofanis Gekas and Kostas Katsouranis
Prediction : Second round shot will be a miracle
Stars in Nigeria? I wouldn’t blame you if you ask the question. If you follow EPL, you would find some unsung stars who come from the African Nations. With the talent they have, Nigeria has always under performed to their potential. They once beat Argentina to win the Olympic Gold Medal, stunned a few teams like Bulgaria and Spain in previous world cups but never seemed to cross the extra mile. As some pundits claim that the first match between Nigeria and Argentina would be crucial, I wouldn’t because I think Argentina will come through victoriously in the match. I reckon Nigeria vs South Korea will be the crucial match, which will decide the number 2 in the group. Can the green eagles go the extra mile?
Coach : Lars Lagerback Star Players : Nwankako Kanu, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obefmi Martins and Victor Obinna Prediction : Second round if they see through the Korean Challenge
I still remember that last minute burst in one of the Group games against Germany in 1994 World Cup and almost spoiled the chances of Germany. But 2002 really showed why South Koreans are the most improved team in world football. Although they qualified for the tournament as they were co-hosts, they proved their mettle by making it to the semifinals with spirited performances and wonderful coaching by Guus Hiddink. But the South Korean team proved that they can beat any team on a given day. Will they able to recreate the magic this time around. As i said earlier, their match with Nigeria will be very crucial.
Coach: Huh-Sung Moo
Star Players: Park Ji Sung (Man U), Park Chu Yong, Ki-Yong Song
Prediction : Second round if they beat Nigeria
The Group C consists of England, USA, Algeria and Slovenia
England will be relatively happy with the group they have got because Algeria and Slovenia are considered to be the minnows of the tournament. Even a tight match with USA would not be a problem for England. But the real problem lies in the injury prone team – Rio Ferdinand was ruled out of the World Cup (Captain’s curse again!!?) recently and that makes the defence department weak. It may not be hindrance in the group stages but it will pose a bigger threat in Knock out stages. Another big issue will the mid-field where two giants play along side – Stephen Gerrard and Frank Lampard but the problem is they have not clicked together. Stars will not be problem but making them play together will be the issue in hand for coach Capello
Coach: Fabio Capello Star Players: Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Frank Lampard, Stephen Gerrard and Ashley Cole Prediction: Second Round for sure – Second dark horse for the tournament
USA If i tell you USA has a real chance of making in to the QFs, will you believe me? But if i say they ended the 50 match unbeaten streak of Spain in the semi-finals of Confederations cup – will you? May be.. Yes they can be as dangerous as that, I happened to see that match and boy what a spirited performance it was. USA will make it to the second round this time but moving forward will be tough as they probably meet Germany in the knock out stage. But I would say – don’t take them in lighter vein.
Coach : Bob Bradley
Star Players : Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altidore, Maurice Edu and Landon Donovan
Prediction: A second round exit
Algeria and Slovenia
The minnows of the tournament as the pundits put. Algeria has made it to the World Cup football first time in 24 years and Slovenia although spoiled the chances of Russia, is still considered to be the minnows of the tournament. If they make it further in the tournament, it would be a real surprise
Coaches: Rabah Saadane ( Algeria) and Matjaz Kek (Slovenia)
Star Players: Madjid Bougherra, Rafik Halliche, Abdelkader Ghezzal and Rafik Djebbour (Algeria) – Samir Handanovic, Milivoje Novakovic, Robert Koren and Zlatko Dedic ( Slovenia)
Prediction: A First Round exit