Tag Archives: Group B

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 B – South Korea


I’ve been waiting all week to write this preview – absolutely can’t wait! Not! This preview really has been a struggle.

THE BASICS

• Nickname: Taeguk Warriors
• Colors: Red and white
• FIFA Ranking: 47
• How They Got Here: Went undefeated in the semi-finals and finals of Asian qualifying.
• World Cup Pedigree: 8 World Cups (including every one since ’86); finished fourth in 2002 (when they were co-hosts).

THE PLOT

The glory days of ’02 seem to have passed by with little noise. The squad looks decidedly weak in key areas. They lack the quality European footballers that most other sides have a smattering of at the very least. The South Koreans have a reputation as hard working, supremely fit and industrious, but they’ll be undone by a tad of physicality. They also have plenty of pace at their disposal and will fancy their chances against the Greeks and try to snatch draws against the other two fancied sides. The nation is completely football mad and a sweeping wave of euphoria could help them. They’ll be desperate to supersede whatever their Northern partners achieve.

THE DIRECTOR

Huh Jung-Moo

I’m not gonna lie here – I don’t have a clue about this bloke. But not to worry, I’ve done a little research. Apparently he used to play for PSV in the Netherlands, becoming one of the first major exports from the far East. They’ll probably be dreaming of wonder boss Guss Hiddink making a dramatic return to the helm – and maybe this will be their best chance.

LEADING MAN

Park Ji-Sung

Park has become a mainstay at Man United and is regularly used in the big games by Sir Alex. He’s a likeable fellow – typically Asian – polite, small, crafty and always one to keep his emotions in check. The fact that he plays for the Reds and comes from the part of the world that offers the biggest consumer market on the planet, makes his shirt one of the most widely sold of any player. He is unspectacular and incredibly efficient, which fits the mould of the archetypal South Korean. (I apologize in advance for the horrible music. The video is quality though.)

SUPPORTING CAST

Park Chu-Young (forward, AS Monaco) is renowned as a free-kick specialist and this will be one of their main sources of goals. He’s known to hit them with his right or left.  He isn’t just in the side for dead balls, either, he’s one of the fastest players at the tournament. A true speedy gonzalo. Lee Young-Pyo (left back, Al-Hilal [Saudi Arabia]) has had stints at Tottenham and (Korean favourite) PSV and his move to the Arabs must be for a final big payout. He’s a true veteran and is renowned for – you guessed it- his pace. He could trouble the Argentinians on the counter or with wide sweeping runs. Or maybe not… Lee Woon-Jae (goalkeeper, Suwon Bluewings) It’s worth mentioning this guy – he’s participating at an incredible 5th World Cup. He must be bored of it by now…

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Surrounding Park Ji-Sung in the midfield will be a duo of very talented British-based midfielders, Ki Sung-Yueng and Lee Chung-Yong. These guys look to have the goods, particularly Chung-Yong who seems a talented poacher. He was signed out of absolutely nowhere by Bolton and Megson, and featured in yours truly’s fantasy team for periods of the EPL.  Sung-Yueng has been dubbed “The Korean Gerrard” and plays for Celtic. Unfortunately, the Korean Gerrard is not really of a similar ilk. In Korea, these two players are dubbed the “double dragon” and the pressure on their shoulders at this tournament and into the future is nothing short of immense.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Young-Pyo

Unsure who to pick, the only real dirt I could find on the squad centred around this guy. In 2006, he allegedly requested the authorities to drop all Buddhist players in favour of Christians. Sounds like North Korea to be honest.

FORMATION

The team will play a tight 4-3-3 that isn’t as attacking as it sounds. they focus on possession football looking to constantly pass and move and pass and move. It won’t be like Barcelona possession football, but it does the job.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“I Am Legend”

Park Ji-Sung, like Will Smith, is the only big-name player in this production. If you’d like to make a joke about Argentina and zombies, the floor is all yours.

TRAILER

USELESS TRIVIA

The South Korean national anthem, “Aegukka (Patriotic Song),” was sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” until 1937 when it received it’s own original score.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

There are a few options here: A match up with North Korea would simply be too much to handle for many Koreans and fortunately for them, the chances of this happening are negligible at best. The most popular player in Europe/Latin America/Western World in Lionel Messi will hopefully swap shirts with the pride and joy of the East in Park Ji-Sung when the teams face off on June 17. Rest assure, there will be more than a few flashbulbs exploding. This will be a true fairytale moment.

FINAL VERDICT

The Koreans will fancy there chances to get out of the group. They have been granted a dream group. They won’t have to worry about too much physicality (all these teams seem to have been lumped into group D) and will favour their fitness against the likes of Nigeria, Greece and Argentina. You just never know with this type of team. If their passing is really “on” then they could control the ball for long periods against better sides. They’ll trouble others with their exceptional pace out wide and could be a surprise package in 2010. However, after their run in 2002, maybe it’s someone else’s turn to make a good run – maybe Australia?

Decent quality midfield + unprecedented home support + plenty of speed + relatively easy group – untested against quality opposition – lacks a real game breaker = Will probably finish with one win, one draw and one loss – it’ll come down to goal difference in this group and maybe the Africans (at home) will get the nod.


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World Cup Preview – Group B – Greece


I like Greek food, but does Greek football have the same aromatic punch?

THE BASICS

• Nickname: To Piratiko (literally, it means, The Pirate Ship. How awesome is that!? and thank you wikipedia…)
• Colors: Blue and white
• FIFA Ranking: 12
• How They Got Here: Finished second in their qualification group, defeated Ukraine 1-0 aggregate in a two-leg playoff.
• World Cup Pedigree: Qualified for one World Cup (’94) and failed to score a single goal.

THE PLOT

If you were to stop reading now, then I couldn’t really do much to stop you. Do not watch any games that involve the Greeks. Definitely do not attempt to get your non-football loving friend to like soccer by showing them the Greeks. These guys are down right boring. It is little wonder that the majority of Greece has moved away from football and towards basketball. Also, if someone mentions Euro 2004 once more, whether it be in commentary, analysis or post game interviews, then passthesugar will just let the game go. For how long can this side simply hold onto the ghosts of 6 years ago and rely on that fluke to prove their footballing worth? How they are ranked 12th is beyond belief…

THE DIRECTOR

Otto Rehhagel

The septuagenarian German is a folk hero in Greece after his anti-football approach (read: suffocatingly boring soccer) led the upstarts to their highest plateau — winning Euro 2004. The man they call King Otto has quite a bit of coaching pedigree, particularly his golden 14 year stretch at Werder Bremen. To say he is idolised would be an understatement, and he is probably their coach for life. If he has a heart attack on the side line, then don’t be surprised. After that little blast, however, like any good manager he has a way with words and have a look at some of these quotes. Particularly memorable is the one about no opposition, and his expert insight into goalkeeping.


“I told the lads: don’t be too afraid if Thierry Henry appears in your dreams at night.”

Rehhagel ahead of a quarter-final meeting with France at UEFA EURO 2004

“I want to know the aftershave used by every player in Europe.”
Rehhagel on getting his players to stick to their men

“Saving easy shots is easy. Saving difficult shots is always difficult.”
Rehhagel on goalkeeping

“Some you lose, and some are won by your opponents.”
Rehhagel after a bitter defeat

“If you finish first, you’re in the right. So I’m in the right. You can speak to me again when I finish fifth.”
Rehhagel to a reporter unconvinced by success

“We play our best football when there’s no opposition.”
Rehhagel asked how he would return a team to winning ways

“The truth is out there on the field.”
Rehhagel answering criticism of his defensive tactics

“Football is like maths, two plus two makes four. If you reckon two plus two makes five, you lose.”

Rehhagel attempting to explain football

“If I lose a couple of matches, the people who were throwing flowers at me suddenly throw the pots as well.”
Rehhagel asked what would happen if a losing streak continued

“In the past, they all did as they pleased. Now, they all do what they can.”
Rehhagel on the secret of his success with Greece

“I started thinking about the Swedes back in 1958, when Pele scored his first goal.”
Rehhagel on opening day opponents Sweden at UEFA EURO 2008

“I need players who are better with the ball than with a microphone.”
Rehhagel on media interest in his players

LEADING MAN

Georgios Karagounis

It’s very likely that, without the Panathinaikos midfielder’s superb play, Greece wouldn’t have won Euro 2004. But really, he is well past his prime, despite popping up with a few goals of late. For a lot of the season he’s been stuck behind the re-energised and impressive Cisse and he must be sick of seeing those tattoos.  He scored this goal to open the tournament against Portugal in 2004, and will have to rekindle the glory days if they’re to stand any chance:

SUPPORTING CAST
Theofanis Gekas (forward, Bayer Leverkusen) has an awesome name and sells the most shirts for the Greek authorities. He’s their top scorer and biggest goal threat (compared to the teams already profiled is he really a threat?). Surprisingly, he topped the scoring charts across Europe during qualification. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (defender, Liverpool) seems to save his best for the national side. At Liverpool he has widely been held as one of Benitez’s better transfer decisions and largely a success. Throughout January, particular, many experts labelled him as the rock that Liverpool were looking for in defence. Honestly, I didn’t see it, but he’ll at least add a bit of muscle and experience to the squad. Kostas Katsouranis (midfielder, Panathinaikos) is the glue that holds the midfield together and was a star on the Euro 2004 team. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really done all that much since then…

AT LEAST TWO COMMENTATORS WILL LABEL HIM AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Georgios Samaras plies his trade for Celtic with some success. Think Peter Crouch, but not as tall and not as good, and then you have young Georgios. Rehhagel would never risk playing two up front, so his best chance will be off the bench when the side needs goals (this should happen on all 3 occasions) With a new manager at Celtic, a couple of poacher’s goals and he could pop up on the radar of a few of the Premier League’s lesser clubs (hint hint Mr di Matteo)

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Rehhagel

Don’t really have anything here – so let’s blame the old man. I’m sure you’ll recognise him too, so he gets his picture on the blog. A possible villain could be the fans, who aren’t renowned for their politeness or etiquette.

FORMATION

Rehhagel will employ a 4-5-1 which is often actually a 5-4-1. (I told you not to watch!) It’s boring, but effective. Unfortunately, sitting back against the likes of Messi probably isn’t the smartest option. With this formation, they’re always a chance of two draws and a loss, which probably won’t be enough anyway. There were times during qualification where the team adapted a more progressive 4-3-3. It won’t rear its head unless the team is chasing the game.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“My Dinner With Andre”

Only, without the promise of food at some point. And slightly longer and less interesting. (I just like Greek food, so searched for any movie with Greek food, but nobody needs to know that right..)

THE ADVERTISMENT

The “highlights” of their 1-0 victory over Ukraine in the second game of the two-leg knockout. Click play at your own risk!

USELESS TRIVIA (ACTUALLY NOT SO USELESS)

In the entire history of the World Cup, Greece has never, ever, not once scored a goal in the competition. Of course, they’ve only ever been in one World Cup… but still.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

After frustrating mighty Argentina for 90 minutes and holding onto a precious 0-0 draw, who are missing one Lionel Messi, the Greek goalie lines up a stoppage-time freekick. He clobbers it. It seems to hang in the air forever. It hangs. It hangs. It is perfectly weighted and falls to some Greek dude, who gracefully cops it in the face. The ball falls to a cluster of players, who collide, leaving the ball perched precariously on the pile of bodies. Maradona is heard groaning from afar, wishing he picked Cambiasso and Zanetti (and hadn’t ruined passthesugar’s Argentina write up). Rehhagel gets involved in a side line tussle with Diego that threatens to spill onto the pitch (yes the ball is still sitting there use your imagination!). Some Greek idiot has thrown a flair goalwards and as it hits the ground, it creates enough wind to push the ball off the mound and roll it goalwards. The ball slowly rolls into the back of the net giving Greece their first and last goal at a World Cup. The entire country is blindfolded to their 20 goal drubbings in the other group games, showing the same sort of memory loss that they possessed when they erased everything except Euro ’04 from their small brains last time.

FINAL VERDICT


The draw could’ve been much, much worse for The Pirate Ship (seriously, how awesome is that nickname?). Besides Argentina, there’s not another team that consistently puts goals on the board. South Korea is a workman-like team with supreme fitness and Nigeria are a physical team without a ton of bite. If they were in almost any other group (except maybe H), the Greeks wouldn’t have bothered turning up in South Africa. This group could easily be decided on goal difference and this probably isn’t their strong suits. Draws won’t be enough and it seems to difficult to predict a victory over the other sides.

(insert plus sides here) – lack of plan B – lack of quality in attack – the fact that they’re Greece = three and out with maybe a draw.

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World Cup Preview – Group B – Nigeria


A classic African team, who everyone would love to see do well. There supporters won’t have to travel too far either:

THE BASICS

• Nickname: The Super Eagles (rarrr)
• Colors: Green and White
• FIFA Ranking: 20
• How They Got Here: Barely. Won African qualifying group by beating Kenya 3-2 on the last day of matches.
• World Cup Pedigree: 3 appearances (’94, ’98, ’02), advanced to the second round twice.

THE PLOT

The Nigerians have one of the best records at the World Cup of any African team, progressing twice out of three attempts. To say that football is a passion in Nigeria is somewhat of an understatement. It really is difficult to comprehend their national government conducting hearings in front of parliament to figure out why the team loses. The Africans are still emerging into the modern world and many of their players struggle with their western surroundings at some of the bigger clubs. They’re renowned as a rowdy and undisciplined bunch and are the sort of combustible side who you really shouldn’t bet for, or against. They have a brand-spanking new coach at the helm. Rest assured, there’ll be one African side that makes a major run in the cup (think Croatia ’98 or the Koreans in’02) and the Nigerians will be hoping it’s them.

THE DIRECTOR

Lars Lagerback

Nigerian Shaibu Amodu was finally dispatched by the Swede Lagerback, after their disastrous qualifying campaign. Amodu was abysmal and by all reports often employed some peculiar tactics. Lagerback has the reputation of a disciplinarian, which could go either way – he could finally smack the team into shape, or simply become too overbearing on the free-spirited players. Lagerback is renowned to get the most out of lesser sides (similar to one Guus Hiddink) with his sides having a reputation for being giant killers. With some doubt over the Argentinian’s temperament, he’ll be hoping for a result in this vein. Lagerback faces a race against time having only recently stepping into the role. He could be short in his preparations and organisation.

LEADING MAN

John Obi Mikel (midfielder, Chelsea)

Mikel was considered one of the best African exports back in ’05, but recently, his form has tailed and the likes of Essien, Adebayor and even Drogba have shown considerably more promise. Under Grant and Ancelloti at Stamford Bridge, Mikel hasn’t been a regular feature and recently has been hampered by continual injury problems. He’s a classic midfielder, who is just as strong without the ball. His distribution will be vital for the Nigerians. Have a look at this to see what I mean:

SUPPORTING CAST

Obafemi Martins (forward, Wolfsburg) was always one of the most exciting players, if not always the most effective, in the Premier League a little while ago. He’s everything you expect of an African striker: Fast, temperamental, flamboyant and has one of the best celebrations going around. Unfortunately, one of his other trademarks is his ability to disappear off pitches and have little impact on games. Nwankwo Kanu (forward/midfielder, Portsmouth) skippers the side at the ancient age of 37. He’s done a lot in world football and the former West Brom man should bolster his side’s midfield, rather than being plonked up front. This isn’t ideal, however, as the old boy’s legs look a little weary to say the least. Taye Taiwo (left back, Marseille) has emerged as a much needed decent quality defender. Typically, he’s forged a reputation through his long range blistering shots on goal rather than any defensive steel. Danny Shittu (defender, Bolton) is on this list for obvious and ignominious reasons.

AT LEAST TWO COMMENTATORS WILL LABEL HIM AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Victor Obinna (midfielder, on loan to Malaga) fell out of favor with Inter Milan, but found seems to have found his legs in Spain. A good performance at this year’s Cup might land the 23-year-old a transfer to another of Europe’s bigger clubs. He has a Seria A winner’s medal in his top drawer and captained the Super Eagles at the Beijing Olympics no less. Maybe if that loan deal with Everton had been completed we’d be able to tell you a little more about him.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Mikel

He’s a naturally aggressive player, which works to his advantage when things are going well. When things go downhill, his aggression turns to petulance. Anyone who remembers the role he played in the ugly 2007 League Cup Final against Arsenal can attest to that.

FORMATION

Who knows what they’ll play with a new coach. Their strength is a physical presence in the centre of the pitch, but despite this, in the past they’ve played a 4-3-3 with a bent for goals and more goals. Lagerback could opt for a 4-2-2-2, which passthesugar is tipping to become the formation of South Africa 2010.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“The Hurt Locker”

It takes a really, really special breed of cat to try and run a national team like Nigeria’s. The expectations are immense (the government wants a semi-final run at least) and the parts are so combustible (the 2002 squad squabbled over compensation and were run out in the first round). Lagerback has the experience and the expertise… but sometimes the bombs go off anyway.

THE ADVERTISMENT

A titanic struggle with the Kenyans to book their plane ticket to South Africa. (not before coming from a goal down)

USELESS TRIVIA

In 2008, after a poor showing in African Nations Cup, the national senate in Nigeria called for an investigation to figure out what went wrong.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Apparently the government has demanded a semi-final appearance. I guess then, that this fairytale should lead to World Cup victory, but really that’s too much even for this column. The Nigerians will hope that an indifferent Argentina turn up in the group stages and they sneak to the top of the group. Otherwise, the French will fail to top their group with the dangerous Mexicans claiming top spot. A second round showdown between the teams in green will be a battle of attrition, which the Nigerians, and their exceptional fitness win deep into the second period of extra time. Whichever scenario pans out, they’ll fancy their chances against the Germans and English who are both overvalued. Mr Mikel will be striding out in front of a packed Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on July 6th in their semi final against the mighty Brazil.

FINAL VERDICT

The Super Eagles should enter the tournament full of confidence, particularly considering their group. The Greeks aren’t the most imposing and the Asians will be well out of their comfort zones. They’ll even fancy their chances of a thrilling 6-6 all draw with Maradona and his set up. Their biggest obstacle in front of progression is the Nigerians themselves. They’ll be too physical for South Korea and too fast for Greece and even boast similar talents to their potential opponents in the second round (Mexico and France). If they have a bit of luck (favourites don’t always win remember) then they could find themselves in a quarter final showdown. It’s in Africa for the first time and they’ll feel comfortable amongst the surroundings.

Some quality in every position + kind draw + African wave of momentum – no one to really score that wonder goal to send them through – combustible nature – lack of depth = Second round exit at the hands of either Mexico or France after extra time.

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World Cup Preview – Group B – Argentina


A few of you readers have been screaming for more and well… here it is! We start our look at group B with Argentina.

THE BASICS

• Nickname: Albicelestes (white and blue sky) (is Pumas only the rugby team?)
• Colors: White and light blue
• FIFA Ranking: 7
• How They Got Here: Finished fourth in South American qualifying, with six losses and more controversy than Justin Beiber.
• World Cup Pedigree: 14 World Cups, winners (’78 as hosts and ’86), runners-up (’30, ’90), quarterfinals (’66, ’98, ’06).

THE PLOT

So much of the talk around Argentina focuses on their manager Diego Maradona. One of the greatest players to ever tie up the laces and grace the World Cup arena is now at the helm for his beloved country, but not before he smashed a whole bunch of drugs and changed body shapes more times than Jenny Craig. The Argy Bargies are one of the most talented sides in the comp and bring a whole lotta samba to South Africa. Expectations are typically high, however, and the pressure to perform is immense. The undisputed best player in the world, Lionel Messi, could be the hero, but rest assured, the cameras will be on Maradona just as much. Will his one man band take some of the focus off his team and help them to win, or completely backfire and leave them unstructured and outplayed?

THE DIRECTOR

Diego Maradona

Where to begin? Maradona should have been the greatest player in history. Have a sneak peak at this: (yes it’s true that’s really him!)

But he was the architect of his own undoing. After leading Argentina to a glorious (and controversial) victory in 1986, he was suspended from football for 15 months in 1991 and booted out of the ’94 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine. (big muscles, small pipi) He then ate one too many crab cake, and ballooned to an enormous size. Many even suspected he was on the verge of death early last decade. He announced in 2007 that he had quit drinking and using drugs and the cult figure took over as manager of Argentina in 2008. The team has been, to say the least, unspectacular. They lost six times in qualifying, including a 6-1 drubbing in Bolivia. He used 78 players in qualifying, never using the same lineup twice. It must be near impossible for Diego to run a squad like this, or even remember their names, and the majority of the football world wish that he’d just piss off and leave it to someone else. Noted play-makers like Juan Riquelme decided to retire rather than play for Diego. It’s unsure whether world-class midfielder Esteban Cambiasso will even make the final World Cup roster due to his personal differences with the gaffer. Maradona’s time in the job so far will probably be best remembered for his antics when they qualified that included several (sic) graceful swan dives and a whole lot of belly wobbling that made the headlines everywhere.

LEADING MAN

Lionel Messi

Thousands upon thousands of words have been heaped upon the floppy-haired wizard. I won’t spill any more. After all, I think Ray Hudson said it best when he said: “What he is, is like something out of Greek mythology, man. A little short-legged bull, Lionel Messi, covered with eyes.” Or “Messi is to his team what M&Ms are to E.T.” Ray Hudson is a remarkable man. A global treasure. If anyone can understand either of these quotes then let me know…

SUPPORTING CAST

Javier Mascherano (midfielder, Liverpool) is a tireless worker and excellent distributor who’s had a bit of an off season (like most of Liverpool) in the Premiership. He’s an experienced lad who has a certain aura around him that can only help the South American’s cause. Carlos Tevez (forward, Manchester City) is a bulldog with the ball and an absolute terror with it in the box. He’s scored 23 times with Manchester City and showed that he is pure class. Over the last season, he’s revolutionised forward play, showing a willingness to track back and pressure the opposition from the front. He seems to always strive for that extra little bit of effort and could be the inspirational leader that they need. Javier Zanetti (defender, Inter Milan) is a veteran of two World Cups (’98 and ’02) but was controversially left out of the ’06 team. He’s old, and their whole defence is old, but there’s no substitute for experience and Zanetti has bucketloads of the stuff. Esteban Cambiasso (midfielder, Inter Milan) is an interesting addition in this section. Failing to make the squad over and over, Cambiasso may have to leave his legacy as it stands and watch the action in South Africa from the comfort of his lounge room. The bald headed holding midfielder will forever be remembered for scoring that goal that left many a supporter gasping for air after 23 passes. In passthesugar’s humble opinion the likes of Veron should be behind Cambiasso in the pecking order.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Sergio “Kun” Aguero (forward, Atletico Madrid) and Gonzalo Higuain (forward, Real Madrid). Maradona will probably not, unfortunately, find room for both these budding stars in the starting lineup (or even one of them) as they face the stiffest competition for a forward place of any of the teams in South Africa. The Madrid duo will hopefully push Maradona’s hand into playing a 4-3-3 that is suited to this particular team if ever there was one. Last time out the likes of Messi rose to prominence and particularly for Aguero a strong showing could see a move to a big, big European club. These guys will mean that Argentina won’t have a problem scoring goals.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Maradona

Absolutely no one will be surprised if Argentina wins the entire tournament. On the other hand, no one will be surprised if Argentina loses in the second round (or, gasp, the group stage). Maradona is that bad of a manager.

FORMATION

The team will play a 4-4-2 with Tevez and Messi up front and two defensive midfielders. Diego seems to live vicariously through Messi, as he persists to play the Barcelona star in a similar role to that which he used to fill. Messi is given free reign to float across the attacking third to play the killer ball or make the incisive run that he’s capable of. Alongside Tevez, however, and without anyone playing a midfield distributor role that Messi plays in front of at Barcelona, the formation doesn’t really seem to be a perfect fit. The Argentinians would be better off with a 4-1-2-1-2 or a straight 4-3-3 if Diego can’t do the maths.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

Any Jackie Chan movie

Jackie Chan and Diego Maradona are very similar (without the drug part for Chan). Think about it. Both men are amongst the most remarkable specimens in their field (Chan at martial arts, Maradona at dribbling), but both make questionable decisions (Chan making “Shanghai Noon” and Maradona’s cocaine phase). Though, to be fair. Saying that Maradona makes questionable decisions is like saying a hurricane is just an average thunderstorm with a little bit of wind and water. They also tend to be afterthoughts in conversations about the greatest ever because for much of their working life they have been considered sort of a joke. While Jet Li was making serious movies, Chan was doing “The Legend of Drunken Master.” While Pele was selling the game to the entire world, Maradona was getting tattoos of Che on his arm. Having said all of that… most Jackie Chan movies (like “Super Cop” and “Drunken Master”) are awesome. Just like most of the time Maradona touched the ball on the field.

TRAILER
This is what the Argentineans do best: a 23-touch goal that’s just spectacular.

USELESS TRIVIA

The country has one psychologist/psychiatrist per 100 residents.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

The Argentinian’s fairytale script could only lead to lifting the cup. Who cares about that hard draw everyone’s talking about, Messi and his men sweep their opposition aside with a flurry of passing and wonder goals. The whole thing will end with more swan dives from Diego and just like in ’86, Maradona will be carried from the field after “masterminding” their World Cup winning tactics. In a seemingly eerie resemblance, Messi will show his true class and subsequently begin to take drugs and turn into a Maradona-esque enigma. To cap it all off, Maradona announces the beginning of his campaign to become Argentina’s president while still on the winner’s podium (knocking out the unaware Sepp Blatter in the process). Obviously, he wins, and proves to be a worse ruler than Chavez.

FINAL VERDICT

When I looked at the odds, I simply couldn’t believe that Argentina were so far down the favourites list. Sure, there manager is a total nut-job, but managers of national teams are renowned for being figure heads more than anything else. How much can a manager do in a month anyway? (Watch Maradona make me eat my words with several drunken and nude rampages through Soweto) No team in international football can boast such an array of attacking weapons. They are all proven goal scorers. It seems, however, that every team we’ve previewed so far has a weak defence. Hopefully that’ll lead to a tournament full of goals! For Argentina to really give the tournament a shake up, Messi will have to fire as he does for Barcelona. So far, he’s gone missing for his country, but if he turns it on, then he’ll be able to take care of many of their group opponents by himself.

Sheer attacking brilliance + the best player in the world + an easy group – troublesome defence – joke of a manager – having to face Spain before the finals = A heart wrenching quarter final exit at the hands of the fancied Spaniards. It all seems very cruel, as Diego has finally got his act together. This will be the game of the tournament have no doubts.

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