Tag Archives: Chile

Group Matches (P)review (Cont.)


Following on from yesterdays round up of the first four groups, here is groups E-H.

Group E

The Dutch are known to be chokers on the biggest level, but in this correspondent’s opinion, they have the strength in depth this time round to challenge favourites Brazil and Spain for the little gold statue. With key players like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder coming off the back of excellent seasons for their clubs and teammates like Robin van Persie, Nigel de Jong and Dirk Kuyt in support, they are yours truly’s tip to make the semis. That said, their first showing against a resilient Denmark side was uninteresting and overhyped, and we were not treated to the fireworks a team of this calibre can produce. Robben did not play due to injury, but is supposedly going to be fit for their next encounter against Japan. The team certainly warranted the victory, and they were rarely troubled by the Danes. Nigel de Jong was his solid industrious self as always in the centre of the park, and young Hamburg winger Eljero Elia produced a fantastic 25 minute cameo, which will go a long way to raising his profile in world football. Unfortunately for big clubs looking for a new winger, he’s only one year into his 5-year contract and will cost a small fortune to lure away. Denmark looked weak in attack with Nicklas Bendtner in particular wasteful in front of goal. They will need to really step up against Cameroon if they are to progress out of the group, and with Japan already on 3 points their task is a difficult one.

Cameroon carried some expectancy with them as another team with African hopes behind them, but an unconvincing performance from both teams led to another mostly tedious match.  French Cameroonian coach Paul le Guen played a large role in the loss, opting to leave out Arsenal midfielder Alex Song and playing star striker Samuel Eto’o in a wide right position – the same as he did last season at Inter, but lacking the support he received in that side. He was largely anonymous, and when he found himself in good positions with the ball, he failed to make an impression and seemed slightly disinterested. Left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto also failed to reproduce his good club-form in this match, with much of the attacking efforts centred on his runs up the wing. His crossing left much to be desired however. Japan were very defensive, often getting their whole team behind the ball, and were fairly lucky to score considering they had only 2 or 3 chances the entire match. Expect them to perform in a similar fashion against the Oranje looking to reach first gear tomorrow night.

Predictions: Netherlands 2-0 Japan

Cameroon 1-1 Denmark

Group F

Ageing Italy’s progress from this group was supposed to be easy, but Paraguay put up strong resistance and held them to another drab 1-1 draw. The first half saw the greaseballs passing nice and fluidly but without much to show for it and conceding from a free-kick. Diving bastard Daniele de Rossi equalised in a more entertaining second half after some poor keeping from an Italy corner. New Zealand are next up for Italy and you can expect them to challenge right to the death, just as they did in their opener. Antonio di Natale might find himself with a starting berth, and perhaps Bulldog Gattuso will get a chance to nip some heels. Fabio Cannavaro showed his age with a less than convincing performance at the back, but the consistent Zambrotta showed his worth to the Italian cause. Paraguay left star men Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo on the bench, and although both made appearances, they failed to make an impact. Hopefully either or both of them will play from the start against Slovakia. Paraguay will be delighted with a point against the world champions, but without the error from keeper Villar they could have taken all 3.

Slovakia looked to get their tournament off to a winning start that would have put them in a strong position to progress, but world cup super-underdogs New Zealand put that idea to bed with a rousing finale. Leading 1-0 from early in the second half, Slovakia couldn’t manage to put the result beyond doubt. Then in injury time up popped up centre-back Winston Reid to win the All White’s first ever finals point. Slovakia’s main creativity stemmed from Vladimir Weiss (son of coach Vladimir Weiss, and grandson of former Czechoslovakian footballer Vladimir Weiss) and team freak Marek Hamsek, while Martin Skrtel in the heart of the defense was rarely troubled. They created plenty of chances to further the lead but just couldn’t put it away, worrying signs for the next match, a probable qualification decider against Paraguay.  New Zealands 3-4-3 formation paid dividends as they defended well in numbers and got forward well, though they failed to have much of threat up front despite boasting A-League top score Shane Smeltz and Middlesbrough man Chris Killen. FFTD head writer passthesugar was delighted to see West Brom man Chris Wood take to the field in the closing stages. New Zealand will fancy their chances of pulling off a shock result against the pizza boys on Sunday night, especially with highly rated goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon missing the match through injury.

Predictions: Italy 2-0 New Zealand

Paraguay 1-1 Slovakia

Group G

The Group of Death! Finally! The chance to witness some real hard-fought football with four teams going all out in their efforts to just scrape through against some seriously tough opposition. So Portugal v Ivory Coast was bound to be the screamer of a match it turned out to be. Oh wait a second…it was actually the single worst game of the tournament so far. I can’t believe I tried so hard not to find out the score for this game while I was at uni the whole day doing exams, to come home and watch this rubbish. With the only moment of note being a superb Ronaldo effort that smashed the upright from 35 yards. The two sides actually looked content to remain scoreless. Ronaldo looked disinterested and still hasn’t scored for Portugal in 16 months or something. Deco may as well have not played. Danny – the new Portugal no. 10, was equally anonymous.  The Ivorians looked more interested, but couldn’t get used to the infamous ‘Jabulani’. Didier Drogba made a much-hyped yet uneventful cameo towards the end, and the Toure brothers each put in reliable shifts but there was nothing to write home about. Both sides will need to improve dramatically to get anything out of their next games, even against group underdogs North Korea.

Speaking of North Korea, sorry, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, they put up a pretty damn good fight against the highly favoured but ultimately disappointing Brazilians! NK-an Rooney showed how proud he is to be representing his nation with his waterworks display during the anthem, and he put in a solid shift on the pitch for their Fearless Leader. They showed excellent organisation and discipline in a defensive showing that certainly raised their stature in the eyes of the public. However, bare in mind that Brazil are not at all what they used to be. Nowadays they play in a similar fashion to how their coach and ex-captain used to play – strong, defensive, and unflashy – in stark contrast to what we are used to from the once-stylish South Americans, players like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Denilson et al. With Kaka still struggling to find the form that made him the best player in the world a few years ago, and the rest of the team not really finding their groove. Robinho surprised with a decent performance, and his through ball to set up Elano was delectable. I’ve decided Maicon’s definitely goal wasn’t intentional, so don’t bother trying to argue it. Hopefully Brazil will bring the style back for the next match against the Ivory Coast on Sunday night.

Predictions: Portugal 2-1 DPRK

Brazil 2-0 Ivory Coast

Group H

Well here’s a pretty straightforward group, right? Spain are unbeaten in the last year or so and they’re coming up against a Switzerland side missing both their top scorer of all time and an important winger. Wait, what? Spain lost? Are you sure? Blimey! The supposed best team in the world were outclassed by a stellar defensive performance, surely the best in recent years not masterminded by Jose Mourinho. New Barca boy David Villa was guilty of complacency when he decided to go for the entertaining to score rather than the simple, golden boy Torres looked ordinary when he came on towards the end of the match, Casillas certainly could have played better, and Xabi Alonso’s 30-yard pile-driver that smashed off the woodwork showed that it was just not Spain’s day. To give an example of how defensive Switzerland were, Gerard Pique spent most of the match playing as a striker rather than centre-back. For the Swiss, Stephan Lichtsteiner put in a rock-solid display in defense even after losing Philippe Senderos to injury, and Gelson Fernandes put away a brave goal to put them in the lead in what is undoubtedly the upset of the tournament thus far. Spain will need to regroup and show their class in what they expect will be an easy win against Honduras, whilst Switzerland face the daunting task of playing a threatening Chile.

Chile played some of the best attacking football so far against a lackluster Honduras. 21-year-old Alexis Sanchez shone the brightest with a fantastic display down the right wing, and they really should have won by more. Chile’s crossing was fantastic throughout the match, Mauricio Isla also playing a big role when coming forward from right back. Honduras were outclassed all over the pitch, and hulking centre-midfield Wilson Palacios was less influential than he is generally for Tottenham. He should have been sent off in the second half, too. The Central Americans clearly missed their highly rated striker David Suazo, and they will hope he returns to full fitness soon. Unfortunately we were not able to witness any more Palacios’ on the field, though Wilson had two brothers warming the bench. Hopefully they will all play together before the tournament is out. Wigan man Maynor Figueroa was disappointing at the back. Chile will need to find their scoring boots if they are to succeed against the Swiss steamroller, whilst the Hondurans will probably be playing for pride against the Spanish.

Predictions: Spain 3-0 Honduras

Chile 0-0 Switzerland

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Team of the Week


Remember, this is only based on first group round matches (even though you’re reading this after sides have played a 2nd match)

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...

Goalkeeper

At the back we’ll employ the Nigerian Enyeama who shaded Howard of the US and South African Khune. Enyeama was the only thing preventing 1-0 from an extra zero; 10-0. It felt like one of those days where Martin Tyler pulls out the “he looks determined to not be beaten”, a phrase that gets its fair share of air time. Just as a preview: This bloke has booked his spot for next week with an astonishing display. Running out of superlatives.

Defenders

After one of the lowest scoring starts to a world cup we’ll play the defensive minded 5-4-1. It’s a shame that this wasn’t even the most defensive formation we saw, but nevertheless credit must be given to several stand outs who looked harder to break down than a pistachio. If we could play 3 right backs we probably would. Maicon and Phillip Lahm would have been certain starters in any given week if it wasn’t for Mauricio Isla bursting onto the scene for Chile. Isla showed a consistent attacking bent and a prominent threat down the flanks. Looks the complete package.

Stephane Grichting, Winston Reid and Oguchi Onyewu make up our flat back three. Other candidates include Frenchman Toullalan and Jung-Soo Lee who featured in a fluent South Korean display. It’s ironic that Reid books his place as a goal scorer. Grichting was simply colossal at the back and we very nearly played the entire Swiss defence. Onyewu stepped up for the US in a crucial game for them that could give them an outside chance to finish top of the group.

Bursting down the left, PTS fancies Gabriel Heinze who is once again picked predominantly for his aerial goal threat. Heinze’s goal was a superb header. He showed promise throughout the game as well.

Nadir Belhadj and Phillip Lahm are the most significant omissions (defending omissions) from our starting 11.

Midfielders

PTS has gone with Danielle de Rossi as the quarterback for the side. While the Italians didn’t get the result they hoped, they looked comfortable on the ball. De Rossi was central to all of their efforts. Alexis Sanchez will start on the right of midfield after leading his Chilean buddies to a famous opening win. He showed why Real Madrid are chasing his autograph. Creative genius at its best. He gets the nod as vice captain too, after showing his bag of tricks against Honduras. On the left of midfield it has to be Giovanni dos Santos who was an obvious standout way back on the opening night. The Mexcian showed incredible touch and while played centrally for his country, will threaten from the left for passthesugar. Our attack minded central midfielder is Mesut Ozil (Captain) who announced his arrival on the biggest stage in style. Tipped by passthesugar to “get yourself labelled as the hottest property by a commentator”, everyone at FFTD will be on the lookout for that phrase tonight when Ze Germans play Serbia. Had the ball on a string over the 90 minutes and could have scored a hat trick himself. Ozil captains the side, as he was the best performer of the first round.

Park Ji Sung, Lukas Podolski, Tshabalala and Fernandez are all unlucky to miss out. Abou Diaby was also a standout in a poor French outfit. While Slovakia didn’t live up the hype fuelled by passthesugar himself, Vladimir Weiss in the centre of the park still showed more quality than many of his compatriots.

Forwards

With no strikers impressing, we’ll squeeze an extra midfielder into the squad. Lionel Messi showed his Barcelona form is a transferrable commodity and that he will be the player of the tournament come July 12. While this selection is controversial, we’ll tell our players to keep the ball at their feet after the Jualani looked more eager to skid away than a horse at the start of the Melbourne Cup. Messi will look for the trio of Sanchez, Santos and Ozil to run into the space behind the defence.

Asamoah Gyan was the only player to even vaguely push for a place and could be considered unlucky. The Socceroos strker, Not Available, was also unlucky to miss out. Maybe the Asian Rooney Jong showed he’s not totally talk, but he wasn’t particularly impressive.

Substitutes

We’re limiting ourselves to picking players that actually came on as substitutes. The standout was probably Eljero Elia who gave Holland some much needed width and flair when he was introduced late into the game. We won’t be making too many subs, so remarkably, he’ll be the lone player on the bench. The Mexican sub that set up the goal is hard done by…

The Gaffer

Several coaches showed they’re still important in football, but the Swiss mastermind, Ottmar Hitzfield, will be in charge of the locker room. A bit more defensive please – and don’t have a heart attack either!

The fans

It has to go to the South Africans, who were unwavering in their Vuvuzela blowing skills. They celebrated madly before the tournament and after Tshabalala’s goal. They made the 1st week memorable in the homeland.

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“Hi ahh FIFA God? I’ve just got 10 questions…”


1. Will there be any innovation?

The World Cup used to the ultimate tactical breeding ground for tactical and the driving force behind football development. Brazil premiered the 4-2-4 at the 1958 World Cup and the world quickly followed suit, only for Alf Ramsey to move things on again eight years later when his Wingless Wonders gave birth to the modern 4-4-2. Holland’s 1-3-3-3 and attendant tactical discipline made a huge impression, both sporting and culturally, in 1974, but in recent years innovation has given way to conformism. Here’s to hoping…

2. Can Spain get the balance right?

As they showed off for the umpteenth occasion in their 6-0 mauling of Poland on Tuesday night, Spain look as dominant a side as ever pitched up at the sport’s showpiece event. The names of their star players roll off the tongue with beguiling ease, but del Bosque has a difficult decision to make about the attacking third. A 4-1-3-2 would allow him to deploy David Villa and fit-again Fernando Torres in attack, but leaves an undermanned defense. A 4-2-3-1 would see Sergio Busquets starting and, remarkably, Torres (largely held in the top 3 world strikers) on the outer. Can Villa and Torres fit into the same forward pairing? Or are they the new Lampard/Gerrard unworkable.

3. Will Dunga’s vision for Brazil be vindicated?

This World Cup has been a long time coming for Brazil. Dunga espoused his tactical vision for the side way back in July 2006 and to date he has enjoyed great success, winning the 2007 Copa América, the 2009 Confederations Cup and qualifying for the World Cup with ease. There’s nothing secret about the system: 2 holding midfielders as guards for the back four, true Brazilian forward minded full backs, Ramires or Elano in the midfield “shuttler” role on the right side, Kaka the creative genius in the central area, with Robinho on the right in a similar role that Bellamy seemed to perform better at Man City. Brazil were favourites last time, so will they live up to the hype in 2010?

4. Will Maradona go with three at the back?

Win, lose or draw, Diego Maradona won’t be far away from the headlines throughout the month. After a tumultuous qualifying campaign, it still doesn’t seem Diego’s settled on a particular formation. The Pumas emphatic 1-0 win over Germany in March (they were clearly the better unit), it looked as though Maradona had finally found a working set up. After declaring “this is the team to win the World Cup” he seems to have rescinded from his remarks and many have speculated that he’ll open with a narrow back 3. Gutierrez will support the defense as a right wing back, allowing the enigmatic Tevez to start alongside Messi and Higuain in arguably the most explosive trio in the World Cup.

5. Can Capello get the best out of Rooney?

Few teams in the competition seem to rely on one player as much as England rely on Wayne Rooney. Throughout qualification, it seemed that Capello had found the formula to extract the rampant best out of his star, but recent disciplinary troubles have emerged and could derail the striker’s and all of England’s hopes. That formula includes the unheralded Emile Heskey. Heskey has been derided and abused for the majority of the past 2 years. But the majority of his criticism has come from uneducated football spectators. Most of the critics acknowledge that Heskey’s role isn’t to score himself, but rather he plays the selfless and industrious role in order to make space for the dangerous Rooney and Stevey Gerrard. To prove my point, this is an albeit diplomatic Rooney,“It’s actually mainly at club level I’ve been [playing more] in front of goal; with England I’ve been playing off Heskey, in the hole, and then when we haven’t got the ball, either me or Steven Gerrard go out and defend for the team on the left,” Rooney explains in this month’s edition of FourFourTwo. Crouch and Defoe have been underwhelming of late and a successful forward pairing will be more crucial than a successful Wayne Rooney.

6. Which African team will stir up some continental frenzy?

The finals are begging for an outstanding African side to upset some of the more fancied outfits. It was always going to be the Ivorians, lead by the flamboyant Drogba, but an atrocious grouping (the number 1 and 3 ranked sides in the same group) coupled with injury to their main weapon has seen optimism abate. Cameroon have shocked the world once before, but don’t seem to have the talent to do it all over again. Ghana are an inferior side without Essien and will struggle in a physical group. Could it be South Africa? The home side has never failed to reach the knockouts, and the second lowest ranked side will need to outperform their wildest ambitions to qualify. They haven’t lost in 12 matches now, and have been in camp for around 3 months – anything passed the group stages could unite a nation with a chequered past.

7. How will Chile’s 3-3-1-3 formation fare?

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Chile finished 2nd in qualifying, scoring 32 goals in just 18 matches (just one less than Brazil). Marcelo Bielsa’s youthful Chile side are somewhat of a revelation and Bielsa’s unorthodox set up will be a refreshing sight. Dominant flanks are the key component – almost daring the opposition to go through the centre – with Udinese livewire Alexis Sanchez and former Liverpool man Mark Gonzalez playing wide alongside the talismanic Suazo up front. The magnificent Matias Fernandez looks a little lonely in the centre circle. Last time Bielsa experimented, in 2002 with Argentina, it was utter failure.

8. Anything worth calling Asia about?

The Aussies are token Asians and are undoubtedly the best chance from the region. But they’ve lucked out in the draw and will need to overcome 3 quality opponents to replicate their success in 2006. Japan looks to be hitting awful form of late, and North Korea will offer more interest off the field. Could it be the South Koreans to shock the globe again? They are a typically organised and efficient Eastern team and are superior to their unflattering FIFA ranking. Recent wins in friendlies have given them a little momentum.

9. Will the US finally prove themselves as superpowers in football?

The Americans are never short of confidence, and 2010 is no different. Their side doesn’t look to have the superstars required, but a nation of this size will be a tough challenge for any opponent. A semi final appearance could be the injection the domestic scene has been hankering out for years…

10. What will South Africa 2010 be remembered for?

Will it be a controversial penalty? A moment of idiocy by a player? An outstanding solo performance? The coming of age for a superstar? The birth of African football? A new footballing giant? Maradona’s nude run?

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World Cup Preview – Group H


Rounding out the group stage we have Group H featuring the likes of Chile, Honduras, Spain and Switzerland in what could turn out to be one of the most exciting and competitive groups of the tournament; one the goes down to the very last minutes.

Chile

Known as La Roja (The Red One) or El Equipo de Todos (Everybody’s Team) the Chilean’s qualified for the tournament in highly impressive style finishing 2nd during the CONMEBOL qualifiers, only just behind the mighty Brazil, by a solitary point. Their most recent outing saw them simply go through the motions with an easy 3-0 victory over Israel. Tonight they take on New Zealand in their last warm-up game, with the Webmaster suggesting another simple win.

The Red One’s have been a revelation under the guidance of former Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa (known as Loco Bielsa, “Madman” Bielsa) Since being appointed there has been significant change to the Chilean line-up, with the Madman fast tracking many younger players and instilling a more attacking mindset. It is his influence that has seen the team rise to number 18 in the current rankings meaning they’re not a side to take lightly.

For Chile to qualify they will be looking to the likes of their Monterrey man, Humberto Suazo who spent much of last season on loan to Spanish side Real Zaragoza. He is the complete striker, known for his lethal ability inside the box and deft touch and is no stranger to getting on the score sheet (holds a Chilean record for the most goals in a season, 51, not bad.. see below for his top 10 of 2008, some are just ridiculous!). However over the course of his career he has had various problems with ill discipline and if Chile are to progress they will need him not only to be scoring but to stay away from any cards. He is also nursing a hamstring injury (adding to the stupidly long list of injured stars going into the WC) and Chile will be desperate for him to recover in time. Chile will also be looking to their captain, Clauido Bravo, for inspiration. The man from Real Sociedad took over as captain after Chilean legend Marcelo Salas retired in 2008 and was an influential figure for Chile in the qualifying stages, playing in all 18 qualifiers. Bielsa and the Chilean hopeful will be looking for much of the same from the man between the sticks. (PS. he scored a direct free kick earlier this year – see below – not the most impressive ever but still… also his save of a Ronaldinho’s penalty wasn’t bad – again see below)

The humble opinion of the Webmaster has Chile scraping through just ahead of Switzerland. Getting 4 points after beating Honduras, drawing with Switzerland and a loss in their final game against Spain. This will see them tied with Switzerland on 4 points but ahead on goal difference, sending them through to the round of 16 where they’ll be sent home by Brazil after topping group G. This is all based on the assumption Suazo manages to play at least 2 of the group games.

Honduras

Known as Los Catrachos the Hondurans qualified for the World Cup Finals for just the second time in their history by winning their final match of qualification 1-0 against El Salvador allowing them to claim 3rd position in the CONCACAF qualifiers, narrowly going ahead of Costa Rica (only by goal difference).  They are without a win in their last 5 games, including a 3-0 loss to Romania and a 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan in the last week which doesn’t suggest too much can be expected from them over the next couple of weeks.

Reinaldo Rueda took control of the Catrachos in early 2007 and has been widely regarded as a huge success for the nation, ultimately resulting in their qualification for this year’s World Cup Finals. He has had previous experience having been in charge of the Colombian national and U-20 sides.

Unfortunately for the Honduran’s two of their most influential players are.. (wait for it.. yes you guessed it..) under injury clouds. Wilson Palacios has become an influential man in the middle of the park for Tottenham since joining in 2009, he is known for his tireless work rate and physical presence (see video below). The rest of his Honduran side will surely be looking to Palacios to use all of  his experience gained in the EPL (with both Tottenham and Wigan) and his form could prove vital if the Catrachos are to cause any upsets and progress through to the top 16.  The other player the Catrachos are looking to is Inter man, David Suazo (known as La Pantera, the Panther – no relation to Humberto Suazo) who is currently on loan at Genoa. Suazo is known for his speed and strength as well as his eye for goal, having bagged 16 international goals and over 100 goals during his time in Italy (some goals from 05/06 below). He too is under an injury cloud but is expected to be alright for the first game, again positive news for the Hondurans, who are looking to prove that they can be an international force.

The lack of exposure of the majority of their players to the major footballing leagues around the world is going to make the 2010 World Cup a rather tough task for the Hondurans. Unfortunately they will finish in last place in the group after losing all 3 games; although if Palacios and Suazo manage to find the kind of form that they are capable of the Hondurans might be able to spice things up, making life difficult for both Chile and Switzerland as they fight it out for the 2nd spot.

Spain

Known as La Furia Roja (The Red Fury), the Spanish side qualified for the world cup barely raising a sweat, winning 10 out 10 qualifying games scoring 28 goals and only conceding a measly 5 goals. After a less than impressive 1-0 victory over South Korea last week, Spain routed Poland 6-0 over night in their last warm up game to put them in a good position before the first game against Switzerland.  Spain have recently been overtaken in the FIFA rankings by Brazil moving them down to 2nd but still remain one of the favourites to take out the World Cup.

Vincente del Bosque took over the Spanish national side from Luis Arangones after the success of Euro 2008. Del Bosque brings to the team the experience of is his playing days, during which he won 18 caps for Spain, as well as the experience gained from his various coaching roles including two separate stints at Real Madrid. Since taking over, Del Bosque has stuck to a squad largely similar to the winning Euro 2008 squad, although he has handed caps to 5 new players including 2 Barcelona emerging talents in Bojan and Sergio Busquets.

Where to start with the leading men in the Spanish side..? There are numerous match winners in the current Spanish line up (not to mention the ones that could be on the bench – which other team has the luxury of  the class of Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes on the sidelines – just to mention the keepers! As well Cesc Fabregas, who could also find himself along side them – although the webmaster hopes not!). The recently signed Barcelona man, (having just left cash strapped Valencia for just 40 million euros) David Villa who is known as El Guaje (The Kid in Asturian – whatever that is?), was in absolutely breathtaking form during the Euro 08 Championships in which he won the Golden boot for his 4 goals in 4 games, which didn’t even include the final. Del Bosque will be looking to Villa to recapture this form and to link up with his striking partner in Fernando Torres, particularly after they progress from the group stages (check video below for some of Villa’s best – the song isn’t bad either). Another influential man will be Barcelona star, Xavi. Xavi is up there with the best midfielders in the world and is known for his sublime technique, vision and work rate. Like Villa, Xavi will look to emulate his achievements during Euro 08 where he was awarded player of the tournament. He has vast experience in the big games that he can rely on, from previous situations for both Spain and Barcelona having won the Spanish Primeira 5 times, Champions League twice, U-20 World Cup and of course being instrumental in the Euro 2008 achievements. With his Barcelona team mate Andres Iniesta alongside him the Spanish midfield will be a force to be reckoned with. The defence isn’t bad either, boasting the likes of Puyol, Ramos and Pique.

If we are to believe the FIFA 10 World Cup game simulation based on current FIFA rankings Spain should overcome Brazil in the final of the World Cup on penalties (wouldn’t that be interesting). It could however be not too far from the truth, only time will tell. The webmaster suggests that like their qualification Spain will breeze through the group stage of the competition with 9 points, with wins over Chile, Honduras and Switzerland. After progressing they could have a tough draw facing the likes of Portugal or Ivory Coast in the 16, then Italy in the Quarters before, Argentina or Germany in a difficult semi. Whoever it turns out to the webmaster feels will not matter as Spain should progress through to the final and from there who knows?!  

Switzerland

Known as the Schweizer Nati the Swiss team qualified for the World Cup by impressively topping group 2 of the UEFA qualifiers. After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, they bounced back to get a 1-1 draw with Italy to round up their preparations before the tournament. Switzerland are the perennial mediocre side, who are always neither terrible, but never great. They will by no means be the most attacking side around and wont share the flair of the beautiful game we might get to see from their first game opponents, Spain. In 2006 they achieved the novel feat of being the first side to not concede a goal throughout their campaign. That kind of form at the back in 2010, could see them succeed.

Under the guidance of Ottmar Hitzfeld, (known as der General “the general”) the Swiss side favour a dull style that supports a compact defence matched with an efficient and hard working midfield. Hitzfeld has had experience playing as a striker for various European teams and Western Germany. He also brings to the field his vast experience in the managerial arena having managed Bayern Munich twice and Borussia Dortmund. He has a total of 18 major titles during his managerial career and has twice been elected World Coach of the Year. He is also one of three managers to have won the UEFA Champions League/European Cup with two different clubs. This kind of experience could prove to be important for Swiss prospects.

One of the leading men for the Schweizer Nati will be Alexander Frei (funny free kick of his below) of FC Basel. Frei is not only the influential Swiss captain but is also Switzerland’s leading goal scorer with 40 international goals in 73 games. The former Borussia Dortmund man proved  his worth by scoring 5 goals during the qualifiers. Frei will look to link up with Blaise Nkufo (formerly of FC Twente, having just joined Seattle Sounders FC), the 35 year old has vast experience and showed he still has a knack for goal by scoring 5 goals during qualification. Another important man for the Swiss side will be Valon Behrami. The 25 year old West Ham man has suffered due to injury over the last 18 months but will no doubt be influential if the Schweizer Nati are to progress from the group, that is, if he’s fit (he’s the token player who is under injury cloud for the Swiss, how surprising!).  He is a very versatile player who can play on the wing, full back or his preferred role of central midfield. His experience in the EPL and Serie A are of significant value to the Swiss midfield. Other Swiss players to look out for are Bayern Leverkusen star Tranquillo Barnetta, who will line up along side Behrami in the midfield and Philippe Senderos (who apparently today signed a 3 year deal with Fulham..?). Senderos will be one of the tough men at the back known for his ability to header the ball (see his two goals below) and ability to position himself well to make up for his lack of pace. He too, has vast experience from his days at Arsenal and brief loan spells at Milan and Everton and Hitzfeld will look to Senderos to provide a solid defense hoping to repeat the feat of not conceding a goal as they did 4 years ago.

In the view of the webmaster the Swiss match against Chile shapes as their defining game, if they can pull of a victory a place in the round of 16 awaits them. A second round appearance in ’06 is probably a fair reflection of their standing in the pecking order, but they’ll look to go one better after losing out to a relatively poor Ukrainian side. However the webmaster suggests they will lose the first game to Spain, then draw with Chile before winning their last game against Honduras. This will see them tied on points with Chile but losing out on going through on their goal difference.

Webmaster over and out.

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