Tag Archives: Group A

South Africa 2010 round up so far and what’s still to come..


With just the final round of group games remaining there are only 90 minutes of World Cup 2010 left for half the teams. Lets take a look forward to the remaining games and reflect back on what’s happened thus far.

Anelka & Domenech -the men at the center of the French controversy

In Group A it would appear that both Uruguay and Mexico have all but secured their spot in the final 16  and a draw between the two of them tonight would see them both go through. However a draw for Mexico would see them finish 2nd in the group meaning a show down against Argentina in the next round – obviously not ideal, so it makes for an interesting final game and gives a glimmer of hope to both the rainbow nation and a largely underwhelming French side. For South Africa, it appears they will be the first host nation to fail to emerge from the group stages and for the French it would be a travesty if they actually scrape through. They have been beyond disappointing thus far and clearly their much publicised internal problems are effecting the performances on the pitch – there must be plenty of Irish fans around the world who cant help but smile – fair play I say!

The Webmaster suggests Mexico will have the goods tonight in a narrow win which will see them top group. Hopefully the narrow defeat will still leave Uruguay in 2nd spot leaving them the unfortunate task of facing Argentina. South Africa and France to draw sending the French team to their holiday destinations, where they clearly want to be, and leaving the South Africans to join the rest of the country in the stands; blasting on Vuvuzelas.

Maradona's faith pays off - Higauin hits a hat-trick against South Korea

Moving on to Group B Argentina are sitting pretty at the top of the group and as long as they avoid defeat tomorrow they will go through in first place. Two pretty solid performances so far see them on 6 points and gives them an opportunity to give some of the remainder of the squad a run out tonight. The Greeks face the tough task of needing at least a point from the game against Maradona’s men to stay alive. When you combine their inability to score with the class of the Argentinian outfit their chances look slim. It is also likely that South Korea will handle any fight from Nigeria and go on to win their final game.

The webmaster predicts Argentina will make light work of the Greek side, recording another win and topping the group on 9 pts leaving them to meet Uruguay in the next round. Whilst Korea’s victory will see them finish in second place and through to the final 16 to face off against Mexico.

Capello brings squad together - time to perform!

Group C appeared to be the easiest group of the lot and the fact the likes of England and the USA have struggled highlights the disappointing nature of the tournament so far. Admittedly USA were robbed of a victory against Slovenia, with an outrageous ruling out of a late winner – the ref had almost blown the whistle before the free-kick was taken. Unfortunately unlike the webmasters’ predictions, England have reinforced their status of chokers with two disappointing performances against USA and Algeria. Despite the poor performance so far, a victory against Slovenia will see them sneak through, so all hope is not lost. There also appears to be a rift in the English camp, a claim that the players have denied, but there is no doubt the pressure has mounted on Capello and his men and they certainly need to turn it around against Slovenia.

The webmaster suggests that both England and USA will pull of a victory in their final game leaving USA in 1st place ahead of England on goal difference – meaning England will face the tough task of Germany in the next round.

Have we seen Harry for the last time?

Mathematically anyone in Group D can still make it through, making for a very interesting last round in the group. Germany started off so well with a convincing victory over Australia but were then shocked in the second game by a determined Serbian side who managed to pull off a very unlikely victory, especially after a poor performance against Ghana. Australia have been on the receiving end of two arguably harsh red cards that has put a massive dent in their world cup campaign. After a disappointing effort in the first game they came out against Ghana with a bang. Everything started so positively and grabbing an early goal put us right back in the mix, but Kewell’s red card and the resulting penalty really put us under the pump. In all fairness Australia still deserved to win the game and really did a fantastic job with only 10 men for such a long period – if only Wilkshire actually tried to score instead of passing to the keeper, things could have been very different. Personally the webmaster felt Ghana were very disappointing – surely they had to try and go for the win against a 10 man Aussie team especially knowing a win would have secured their spot. They now face the task of coming up against Germany in the last game.

Based on the performance against Australia, the webmaster sees Germany recapturing the form they showed in the first game and brushing aside Ghana with ease. This will leave qualification open for Australia to pip both Ghana and Serbia at the line. The webmaster cannot decide between a draw or Australian win, but either way it will then come down to goal difference for the team in 2nd and 3rd.

Sneijder Celebrates after scoring against Japan

Moving on to Group E: we see the Netherlands who are one of only two teams that have already booked their spot in the  final 16 – along with Brazil. The dutch have had two solid performances but have definitely not hit full tilt just yet and will be banking on the return of Arjen Robben to spark some more life into the side come the knock-out stages, if not against Cameroon. Japan and Denmark face off in their last group game which could prove to be an exciting one with the winner going through. A draw would send Japan through most likely in second spot as long as Holland can secure at least a point against a Cameroon side that hasn’t really turned up.  Cameroon are already knocked out of the tournament after two lacklustre performances against Denmark and Japan and are just playing for pride against the Netherlands in the last game.

In the view of the webmaster Netherlands will progress in first place after another victory over Samuel Eto’s Cameroon, setting up a likely round of 16 battle with defending world champions Italy. Japan should be able to at least draw their game against Denmark which will see them against Paraguay in the next round.

Something tells me we wont see this again - thank god!

In Group F we have seen Paraguay almost sew up their spot in the final 16 with impressive performances against Italy and Slovakia. In their final game they are coming up against a resilient New Zealand  team who are determined not to lose, however as long as they avoid defeat they will go through in first place. Captain Ryan Nelsen has proved a colossal force at the back for the All Whites making them very tough to break down. Incredibly, if New Zealand could pull off another draw as well as Italy drawing with Slovakia with the exact same result the decision of who goes through will come down to a drawing of lots!!! This is because New Zealand and Italy will be tied on points, goal difference, goals for, goals against and the result between them was a draw – ridiculous but here’s hoping!  Alternatively if New Zealand win they will go through anyway. The current world champions, Italy, have been a massive let down so far in a world cup which has highlighted below par performances from some big teams. They have been highly unconvincing but will still get through with a victory over Slovakia in their final game. For Slovakia their is a glimmer of hope, should they beat Italy they will progress alongside Paraguay.

Whilst the webmaster would love to see 0-0 draws in both games so we can draw lots to see which of New Zeland and Italy will go through (you know you want to see that!), it appears unlikely and if it happens both games would be rather boring. Rather the webmaster suggests Paraguay will beat New Zealand and Italy will beat Slovakia sending Paraguay to meet Japan in the next round and Italy to face off against Holland.

Portugal celebrate one of their seven goals

Moving on to Group G, where we have Brazil who have already qualified for the round of 16 but could lose out on first place if they lose to Portugal in the final game. Brazil overcame a very determined North Korean outfit in their first game before a more convincing display against Ivory Coast in the second game. They will however be without Kaka in the game against Portugal after a sending off on the back of a ludicrous second yellow late in the game against Ivory Coast. Whilst Kaka has been largely disappointing thus far, his presence will still be missed. Portugal on the other hand started quite poorly against Ivory Coast, where they barely posed an attacking threat, but lifted to another level last night as they humbled North Korea in an embarrassing 7-0 victory. They were simply electric once they got going last night in a performance that has seen them almost guarantee a spot in the next round. Even if they lose to Brazil in the final round it would take a huge win for Ivory Coast over North Korea to swing the goal difference back in their favour. Ivory Coast had started so well against Portugal and in the view of the webmaster were unlucky to not come away with 3 pts from the game. A disappointing result against Brazil coupled with Portugal’s massive win last night has virtually put an end to The Elephants’ campaign. North Korea are already knocked out of the world cup  and will be determined to show their worth against Ivory Coast in their final game.

The webmaster feels the Portugal/Brazil game could be too close to call and could possibly end in a draw which would suit Portugal as I’m not convinced either will want to win, with the reward for coming first, a showdown with pre-trounament favourites, Spain, in the next round. Ivory Coast should have the goods and defeat North Korea but will still bow out due to goal difference.

Gelson Fernandes celebrates a shock winner against Spain

Finally, Group H is left in quite an interesting position. Chile currently sit top of the group with 6 pts, but are still a chance to miss out on the knockouts. They come up against Spain in the final game where a single point would confirm top spot for the Chileans. For Spain it is virtually a must win game as if they fail to win and Switzerland can secure victory over Honduras, the pre-tournament favourites will be on their way home. In what has been the upset of the tournament, Spain managed to lose their first game against Switzerland. They dominated possession but just could not manage to put the ball in the net. A comfortable 2-0 victory last night over Honduras has put them back on track, but Chile pose much more of a threat and Spain will need to step it up quite significantly to secure 3 pts. For Switzerland last nights result was a disappointing one however a victory over Honduras by 2 goals or more should send them through irrespective of the result in the other game. Mathematically Honduras could still go through in 2nd spot should Chile beat Spain and Honduras pull off a big victory over Switzerland, although it appears unlikely.

The webmaster suggests that Spain will overcome Chile in the final game and that Switzerland should also beat Honduras in their final game which will leave Spain, Chile and Switzerland all tied on 6 pts. This will then come down to goal difference to work out who finishes 1st and 2nd. If both Switzerland and Spain win by 1 goal that would see Spain top the group on a better goal difference with Chile and Switzerland tied on goal difference, goals for and goals against and Chile would go through due to their result between each other (1-0 to Chile last night). Leaving Spain to face Portugal and Chile to face Brazil in the next round – PS I might have got this wrong.. feel free to let me know if I have!

So despite some uninspiring games so far we are getting towards the business end of the competition and hopefully that will bring about a more attacking brand of the beautiful game, more like what we got to see last night from Portugal. The webmaster just has three requests for the remainder of the world cup:

  1. the ref’s stop being so trigger happy or rather whistle happy – we have seen far too many yellow cards, some resulting in red cards for really poor decisions
  2. no more diving – I’m so sick of seeing these prima donna’s diving around for absolute rubbish, its plain embarrassing and brings a lack of class to the game we love so much – the webmaster would love to see a straight red card be given for diving, if we impose that for a few matches diving will never be seen again!
  3. no more complaining about the damn ball – it’s a ball, it’s round –> KICK IT! preferably into the goals..  if you’re a keeper –> CATCH IT OR STOP IT! quite simple.

Laughable..

Webmaster over and out.

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World Cup Preview – Group A – France


Viva le France – the French are always contenders even if they resemble a bit more of a circus this time round.

Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay South Africa Mexico

The Basics

• Nickname: Les Bleus
• Colors: Blue, white and red
• FIFA Ranking: 10
• How They Got Here: Finished second in European qualification group; threw the ball into the net to see of Ireland
• World Cup pedigree: 12 World Cups, 1 title (’98, when they hosted), second place (’06) and third place (’58, ’86).

The Plot

The French seem to have a never ending production line of talent and this time round it’s no different. They’ll be in the mix once again and face immense pressure from the French public to perform consistently. Les Blues have a youthful and attack minded squad – full of players smattered across the biggest clubs in Europe. They have a clown of a manager, Raymond Domenech, who is stifling conservative and old fashioned, not to mention his stubborn persona. Rest assure, when the French lose to South Africa 7-0, we’ll have to watch Domenech put on another one of those disbelief-type performances for the press. The French will have lofty ambitions and will expect nothing less than final 4 football.

The Director

Raymond Domenech

It is unbelievable that this bloke remains in charge. It’s almost as though the media has given up leaking rumours of him being sacked. I suppose he’s shown stickability. But he hasn’t shown much else. And it’s not just the press and public that is calling for his head, with players (there are countless quotes) often remarkably condemning the gaffer. He is known to leave his starting 11 up to the astrological signs of the day and they only just scraped into the Cup. It really is remarkable to even consider them missing out with their talent. This guy truly is the mickey mouse of this year’s tournament (despite one Maradona!)

Leading Man

Franck Ribery (midfielder, Bayern Munich)

Ribery is one of the hottest properties in world football and the majority of the French attack will flow through his feet. Ribery started the trend of inside out wingers, who offer a direct goal threat more than a passing/crossing one. He has been prolific for Bayern and will replace the figure of Zizuo who was so pivotal in their previous outings. Recently, however, Ribery’s shady character has come to the fore and his underage prostitution case in France, which is only one of about a billion controversies swirling around the French camp, could affect him in South Africa. If the French go far, he could be a roughie for player of the tournament.

Supporting Cast

Thierry Henry (forward, Barcelona) and the French national side conjure up all those images of his infamous hand ball that led to emergency political meetings between the respective nations. He’ll be an important cog, whether he features predominantly or not, as he adds some much needed experience to the youthful pot. Karim Benzema (forward, Real Madrid) has been linked to every club in the world in a typically media driven chase for his wares. He’s in and out of the starting side at Madrid and has not been a regular in Domenech’s setup to say the least. If he makes the pitch then he is a dangerous quantity who shouldn’t leave the Froggies short for goals. William Gallas (defender, Arsenal) hasn’t had the most spectacular season for the Gunners, but is one of those tough and experienced defenders that every side needs. He’ll be right at the heart of their defence which is certainly not the side’s strong suit.

Unknown Talent

Yoann Gourcuff (attacking midfielder, Bordeaux) has remained an unknown quantity purely because of the relatively low coverage and interest in the French league. Rest assured he is a rare talent. More than Ribery, he is a direct replacement for Zidane and plays the creative role for the side. Gourcuff was the irresistible driving force behind Bordeaux’s rise to the crest of French football. Many pundits looked at the Frenchman to bring back the traditional number 10 to world football, however, recently the experts have regarded him as a holding midfielder who’ll line up next to the solid if not spectacular Diarra. Yoann is one of those players with big expectations and is primed to break through to the elite group at the top of world football. Watch for him to become a household name in June.

The Likely Villian

Domenech

This picture just about sums it all up…

Formation

Despite their prolific attacking side, Domenech refuses to get rid of his beloved two holding midfielders and favours leaving just the one striker on the paddock. This is the most obvious example of the manager relying on his tactics in Germany and a failure to evolve with the world game. Almost every side in Germany played the 4-2-3-1 and the French will line up like this once again – sigh.

The Strip

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“She’s Out of My League”

Domench is the nerdy guy and the French team are the really hot blonde. No one thinks it should work (and, more often than not, it doesn’t) but somehow they are holding the relationship together.

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Useless Trivia

The French drink more bottled water per capita than any other nation in the world. (Useless)

The Fairytale Script

The French dispatch all those pre-cup doubts with three emphatic wins in the group and proceed to the final four where Ribery scores a trademark thunderbolt from well outside the box to send them to the final. Screw that – the real fairytale here could come for Ireland. It’s the 22nd of June and it’s late on in the final group match. The French are being held by a stubborn home side who are still harbouring hopes of a remarkable qualification. The Mexicans are sitting pretty on top of the group and with their two wins and one loss, so the French are staring down the barrel of a first round exit. Gourcuff passes to Ribery who switches to the forward run of Malouda. The Chelsea star whips in a fizzing ball towards the substitute Henry who rises above the Afrikaaners and punches the ball into the top left net. The referee (and karma) blow the whistle ruling the goal out and giving Thierry a straight red. South Africa hold on and the French are sent packing.

The Final Verdict

Despite the circus that the side has become, the French still possess one of the most potent attacking forces in the comp and are really only the laughing stock of the top 6 sides, rather than the laughing stock of the tournament. In Germany, similar doubts were harboured and they proved everyone wrong. Ribery, undeniably, is capable of that wonder goal that could send them into the second week of July. However, being the combustible commodity that they have become, a similar scenario to 2002 (where Senegal became everyone’s second favourite side) could ensue, despite their easy group. If they don’t win the group, then a mouth-watering match up with Argentina will result.

Outstanding attacking weapons + Strong reputation and history – Domenech – Domenech – not a title winning defence – Domenech = top of the group and a quarter final farewell, as the Poms finally win a penalty shootout.

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World Cup Preview – Group A – Mexico


The Mexicans are famous for more novelty items than anyone else, and when it comes to the football field they have a particularly novel approach – attack, attack, attack!

Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay South Africa France

The Basics

• Nickname: El Tri
• Colors: Green and white with a hint of red
• FIFA Ranking: 17
• How They Got Here: Qualified second in CONCACAF.
• World Cup pedigree: 14 World Cups, advanced as far as the quarterfinals only twice (’70 and ’86, when they were hosts).

The Plot

Historically the Mexicans have struggled and to be honest don’t look to have the side to mount any serious challenge this time round. A largely anonymous bunch of youngsters and attack-minded, right-sided players leave them unbalanced at best. They’re ranked 17th so are right on the cuff of the next stage on paper. They couldn’t have hoped for a better draw and should feature beyond the group stages.

The Director

Javier Aguirre (Mexico)

In the central American nation, Aguirre is considered somewhat of a sporting god, having overturned the run of poor results under the guise of Sven Goran Eriksson. El Tri were very much an under fire side, but since he’s stepped into the role, they’ve gone 5 wins, 1 draw and just the 1 loss. They’re yet to face any serious tests however, with a relatively timid qualifying zone, and Aguirre will have to ensure that they’re not underdone in South Africa. He hasn’t been afraid to shake things up – handing recalls to legendary Cuauthtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Ochoa between the sticks.

Leading Man

Giovani Dos Santos (midfielder, on loan to Galatasaray from Tottenham)

Dos Santos is a typically Mexican player. Largely overrated, and a bit of a flop. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of quality in the youngster who wears much of the attacking responsibility for the side, both in terms of creating and finishing chances. He’s featured at a number of clubs on several loan deals. The latest is a spell at Turkish giants Galatasaray. He has plenty of pedigree, winning the prestigious silver ball for second best player in the 2005 under 17 World Cup in a side that took the cookies. By all reports, Dos Santos has progressed considerably in a team full of experience with the likes of Kewell and Neill sure to pass on a few world cup secrets to the boy. On the big stage, however, he’s known to struggle, achieving little in spells at Barcelona and Tottenham. If he fires, however, the Mexicans should be a handful. Check him out below…

Supporting Cast

Mexico have enough quality across the pitch to be a bit of a dark horse. Indeed, it was a tough challenge to pick one standout player, and in the end Dos Santos isn’t that much of a star. Instead, the Mexicans have a core group of players who possess the talent to succeed (get passed the group) in South Africa. One of the most publicised moves by the new manager has been the inclusion of Blanco (midfielder, Veracruz) who has already attended Korea and Germany as a World Cup participant. He’s the centre of everything for the Mexicans and his performance and ability to stay injury free (he’s 37 years young) will go a long way to determining their success. Rafael Marquez (defender, Barcelona) is struggling under an injury cloud. If he recovers he could be the difference between qualification and failure. Their largely porous defence will get a huge boost with his inclusion in the lineup. Additionally, Ocho (goalkeeper, Club America) is held by many expert pundits to be the best shot stopper on the planet.

Unknown Talent

It seems a little strange to include Carlos Vela (forward, Arsenal) in this category, but he hasn’t made his mark just yet and remains on the fringes at Arsenal (Wenger picked him up as a 16 year old out of absolutely nowhere for the measly 150 00 smackaroos). He’s the type of player that could really shine at the Cup and make a name for himself as one of the best young talents in the world. However, in keeping with the name of this section, the bloke that you wouldn’t know about is Andres Guardado (winger, Deportivo de La Coruna), who is yet another quality attacker to wear the green shirt. He’s in the same mould as a Lennon or Walcott and is a nightmare for defences. He was also a member of that under 17 winning side. If he shines then look for Wenger to come running for this creative youngster.

The Likely Villian

Marquez. No one in America has forgotten his studs up challenge on keeper Tim Howard. He has a worrying history of dismissals in big games. It may be true that we only chose him because of the photo – but it looks as if he’s about to launch a zorro-like attack on the dude who he’s staring at.

Formation

Mexico claim to play the conventional 4-4-2, but on the pitch its more like a 4-1-5, not dissimilar to the Gunners (is this about Mexico or Arsenal). Guillermo Franco will partner Vela up front and then the rest of the midfield is given free reign in a fluid and attacking set up. Dos Santos, Blanco and Guardado often feature as forwards in their club sides and will constantly press up the pitch. In qualifying this trio was described as lazy and disinterested as they often fail to trackback and help out in their own half. This makes the holding midfielder Gerardo Torrado (whoever that is – but say his name five times fast and you’ll get the idea) a pivotal player.

The Strip

It’s Sorta Like…
The Mexican
Pretty bizarre and very confusing, but featuring enough big name players to just get it over the line. In a typically two-faced story, you’re sure to be left guessing what’ll happen next.
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Usless Trivia

Mexico is the proud record holder of the most people to ever dance the Michael Jackson epic “Thriller” thanks to their tough jail standards. It’s the one in orange jumpsuits if you can’t remember. And yes, there’s 12,937 of them. And yes, I’m running outta hosting space, so you’ll have to search youtube for this one yourself.

The Fairytale Script

The Mexicans will burst onto the World Cup radar with an impressive 4-0 victory over the hapless South Africans to spoil their party (and possibly kill already underwhelming local interest in the tournament). They’ll snatch an impressive draw against under fire France and with a narrow win over the dangerous Uruguayans, they’ll be sitting pretty top of the group on goal difference. They’ll account for the Nigerians/Koreans in the round of 16 and key man Marquez will have put his injury woes aside in time for a showdown with the Poms. The arrogant and pompous English will sing a lot but be played off the park by their prodigal attacking force winning in a classic 4-3. They’ll go all the way from here gaining a wave of momentum on the back of special taco sauce that is shipped to their training camp. Alternatively, they’ll finish second in the group and polish off the Argentinians next. USA will follow suit and oblige by knocking off Group D winners Germany. Confused? Well… this would leave a mouth watering clash between bitter rivals USA and Mexico and for many, this will be enough of a fairytale…

Final Verdict

The side, under new manager Aguirre, looks electric. They’ll loom large as a danger game for the Frogs and could have enough class to upset the group favourites. Even if they progress in second and face the Pumas they’ll be a darkhorse to keep going forward. They have an extremely solid looking spine to the line up in keeper Ochoa, defender, Marquez midfielder, Blanco and Dos Santos and forward, Vela. Goals won’t be a problem and if Marquez recovers in time then they’ll be good value to outperform their surprisingly poor official ranking of 17. The Mexicans typically struggle away from home and discipline is not their strong suit either. They have the world cup opener against South Africa which is not a kind draw and will have to spoil the entire continents party to progress to the next stage. If they look good at the outset then start telling your mates that they’re a real darkhorse threat. Most of their world cup winning under 17 team will be pushing for a start and they’ll be expected to put forward a strong showing. However, this may not be their time and they’ll be building for a cup winning side in nearby Brazil ’14. (You heard it here first)

Outstanding attacking weapons + impressive qualification + easy draw – poor discipline – weak defence – inexperience = top of the group and a loss to England in the quarter finals.

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World Cup Preview – Group A – Uruguay


Next up on the chopping block is Australia’s favourite South Americans.

The Basics

• Nickname: Los Charruas
• Colors: Royal Blue and White
• FIFA Ranking: 18
• How They Got Here: Finished fifth in South American qualifying; defeated Costa Rica 2-1 in a two-game playoff. (surprisingly)
• World Cup pedigree: 10 Cup appearances, 2 championships (’30, ’50); last appearance in 2002, failed to progress past the first round.

The Plot

These games can’t seem to take a trick, facing yet another nail biting elimination qualifier to book their place in South Africa. Going into the game, Costa Rica were strong favourites having produced a number of strong showings against the more glamorous nations of the South. Really, Los Charruas are nothing more than mediocre and in danger of simply making up the numbers. 6 draws, 6 losses and 6 wins in qualifying marked an unflattering performance, but their group couldn’t have been better. France struggled to get through without a helping hand (hear the Irish from here…), Mexico are the most overrated team in world football and South Africa – well see our post here. These guys were world cup powerhouses in a different time, will they turn back the clock?

The Director

Oscar Tabárez (Uruguay)

Never heard of this guy. Not gonna lie. Apparently he led the Uruguayans to the ’90 finals. They moved passed the group stages there, and a similar result here will likely make Oscar a national hero. He’s had stints at Boca Juniors and AC Milan with success at the former and largely derision at the latter.

Leading Man

Diego Forlán (forward, Atletico Madrid)

Forlan is a classic old-timer and been around the block many a time. His role will extend well beyond the pitch taking on a mentoring role, particularly for the persona that is Saurez. He’ll likely sit just in behind Saurez and isn’t one to shy away from a long range blast. Forlan has dominated soccer in these parts over the last decade and his talismanic dashing golden locks mean that he’ll be more of a poster boy than soccer prodigy this time round, as his ageing body gets the better of him. Check out this montage of the man throughout the ages:

Supporting Cast

The blues have a smattering of quality across the squad, but as with every team that hails from these parts, it’s always difficult to get a gauge of them compared to teams with the majority of their squad based in Europe. Recent player movements towards these leagues will boos their chances.. Any team could turn up on any given day. At home at altitude they’d be unstoppable, but in Africa they may struggle. Luis Suarez (Forward, Ajax) is undoubtedly a prodigious talent. Scoring a ridiculous 33 goals at Ajax (who didn’t win the league with a goal difference of 81 on last count), Saurez has shown a consistency throughout 2010 that has been sorely lacking. He was just as lethal in qualifying with 10 meat pies in qualifying. Nesotr Muslera (Goalkeeper, Lazio) has learnt his trade in the goalkeeping mecca that is Rome. He’s only a recent addition to the squad and didn’t feature in early qualifying. Recently, he’s cemented his spot and will play a key role in their efforts in June.

Unknown Talent

Normally, the young up and comer is a fast, wide midfielder with plenty of tricks to dazzle. Few take the next step up in the grind of club football that follows. Martin Caceres (Defender, on loan to Juventus from Barcelona) is a tough defender who is making his mark across two of the biggest clubs in Europe. The bottom line is that if he’s good enough for the Catalans, he’ll be good enough for me. Look for the right sided or central player to impress. It’ll be hard as he’s surrounded by some under-par colleagues.

Likely Villain

That man Suarez just keeps popping up. Known for his talents off the field (think nightclubs and women) he’s just as likely to turn up late for training as he is to score any match winners. It’s also a sure bet that he’ll attract the ire of the officials. Really, Suarez is a bit of a liability and Tabarez will be relying on Forlan to keep him in line. With this photo you can just tell can’t you?

Formation

Tabarez favours an attacking 4-4-2 with plenty of width and an attacking midfielder. Don’t be surprised if Forlan plays a central link man role and the team lines up with more of a diamond midfield than a flat line. In true South American gusto, Tabarez loves to play three at the back and just bank on scoring more than the other side. To that end, their clashes with South Africa and Mexico will be some of the more entertaining of the tournament.

The Strip

It’s Sorta Like…

All About Eve

Los Charruas last won the Cup in 1950 – this movie won the Oscar in that year. Neither have mattered much since then.

The Advertisment

Both Forlan and Saurez pocket goals in their 2-1 victory over a wily Ecuador.

Useless Trivia

Uruguay has the best collection of nicknames in the field. Midfielder Cristian Rodriguez is known as “The Onion,” head coach Tabárez is known as “El Maestro,” veteran Sebastian Abreu is “El Loco (The Madman),” Muslera is known in Italy as “Castorino (The Little Beaver)”. Hah!

The Fairytale Script

Uruguay will account for South Africa with ease and will only need to nab a draw against either the Mexicans or French. If Suarez fires then they’ll be a definite chance against Mexico ranked only just behind them in the rankings. They’ll have a mouth watering derby showdown against Argentina next up and given Maradona, anything is possible. They’ll face the Germans in the quarters who are arguably the weakest of the big names this time round, and then only have to go through on penalties against perennial chokers Spain. Back in the final, history will get them over the line.

Final Verdict

Strong Ranking of 18th + below average group + stood up in the big games in qualifying (eg against Costa Rica away from home) + quality attack – untested and too light in defence – unpredictability = 3rd in the group (but only just)

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World Cup Preview – Group A – South Africa


What better place to start our journey through the World Cup starting field than with the home country – South Africa.

Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay Mexico  France

The Basics
• Nickname: Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys)
• Colours: Gold and Green
• FIFA Ranking: 90
• How They Got Here: Automatic Qualifier (Host country)
• World Cup pedigree: Qualified for the ’98 and ’02 World Cups, never progressed to knockout stage.

The Plot

So far, a host country has never failed to progress beyond the group stages. That’s quite a pedigree, but this time round, the host nation just happens to have the lowest ranking of all the 32 candidates.

Director

Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil)

A better man for the job is hard to find than the curious Brazilian. He has achieved great success, think ’94 Brazil, and tremendous failure, think ’98 Saudi Arabia where he was given his marching orders before the group stages were even complete. However, he has experience as his hallmark, and for the men of the South this is a valuable commodity.

Leading Man

Steven Pienaar (midfielder, Everton)

The majority of the Saffers are home grown talents who ply their trade in the unglamorous South African Premier Soccer League. Steven Pienaar is the obvious standout here and much of the host nation’s chances lie squarely on his diminutive figure. Pienaar has forged a successful career in the English Premier League with Everton where he has been in and out of the starting line up. Always eye catching with his turn of pace, technically gifted feet and extravagant hair, Pienaar has been a consistent performer since his move to the Toffees in 2007-08. 2010 has been a big year for the former Ajax child prodigy despite being ruled out for 11 weeks of the season. In 2009, Pienaar was an understudy to the mercurial Mikel Arteta and played much of that campaign thanks to the Spaniard’s injury. 2010 has seen him cement his spot despite Arteta, culminating in 3 successive league goals at the turn of the year. Pienaar should be well rested after his stint in the injury ward and primed for a big tournament in South Africa. He’ll marshall any attack mounted.

Supporting Cast

Really, there’s little to show off here. Benni McCarthy (Forward, West Ham United) has been underwhelming in 2010 at the London outfit. He is South Africa’s all-time leading scorer, but really, his better days seem well behind him. McCarthy is never too far from controversy and maintains a less than perfect relationship with his manager. Aaron Mokoena (Defender, Portsmouth) is another player plying their trade at an unsuccessful club. Portsmouth’s defence can be considered porous at best, and the man branded as the axe by local media hasn’t done much to stop their relegation. He’ll lead the defence and wear the captain’s armband in June.

Unknown Talent

Nothing to spruik here. The best I’ve come up with is Katelgo Mphela (Striker, Mamelodi Sundowns), who by all reports is lightening quick. The secret got out in the Confederations cup, where he was used as a sub and scored twice to send the Spaniards to extra time. Parreira will use him in the latter part of games if they find themselves behind and in need of goals (he’ll probably play every game).

Likely Villian

The veteran Matthew Booth fits the mould perfectly more for his looks than anything else. He’s a tall centre-half with no experience outside South Africa. He’ll have a torrid time marking the likes of Anelka, Benzema, Henry and Ribery and is most likely to be the scapegoat of any failure.

Formation

Without any real quality to speak of, Parreira plays an unflattering 4-2-2-2 (check my maths). Don’t expect the two holding midfielders to offer anything going forward – they play more like an extra two central defenders. The system has been attacked by every known pundit, but the Brazilian tactician is sticking to his guns.

The Strip

It’s Sorta Like…

House Party

No one seems to be complaining too much about making the trek to Africa. Rather, everyone’s happy they’re throwing the party. But really, Bafana Bafana aren’t the main attraction. Once the bigger nations arrive, the South Africans will be pushed aside.

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In this clip the South Africans look more like South Americans. The first goal is all class. A long passing build up combined with lots of movement off the ball, leading to a well-taken finish. It also features an absolute free kick cracker from the afore mentioned Mphela. The 3-2 loss to Spain is not a bad result. Watch in in Spanish here

Useless Trivia

More than 50% of all paragliding records have been set in South Africa

Final Verdict

Only qualified thanks to technicality + Lowest ranked team + Group of Disorder (France and Mexico struggled in qualification) – Home nation never missing out on knockout phases = Bottom of the group (3 losses without a goal)

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