Tag Archives: Nigeria

Group Matches (P)review


Round-up Groups A-D

So the 2010 World Cup is well under way, and with a paltry average of 1.56 goals a game after the first round of group games compared to 2.43 at this stage in 2006, I think it’s fair to say that this has not been quite what global audiences hoped or expected. A closer look, however, would suggest that perhaps this lack of goals is not so surprising; the defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation du jour has certainly made itself known at the competition. Let’s hope for some more goals second time round!

So, a quick round up and summary of what can we expect from the rest of the group matches:

Group A

Ok, well South Africa have already lost 3-0 to a far more attack minded Uruguay outfit than we experienced against France back in the second match of the tournament, quite understandably. Whilst the scoreline is slightly flattering in favour of the South Americans, they certainly deserved the win, and South Africa’s discipline was poor. South Africa didn’t show the energy and creativity they did against Mexico, and talismanic midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala was wasteful. Diego Forlan proved his worth to Uruguay, scoring the first two goals and playing a part in the third and they now look well-placed to go through the group.

Coming up tonight is France v Mexico, a must-win game for both teams. France will surely drop the awful Govou for Florent Malouda, in the form of his career, and perhaps Franck Ribery will pass the ball to a player? It’s anyone’s guess! It would be nice to see ‘Handball-Henry’ for more than 20 minutes but seems unlikely given Raymond Domenech’s tendency to be a stubborn imbecile. Mexico will look to speedy youngster Giovanni dos Santos again to provide the flair for the team, as well as the basis for everything good they create – another example of a player who hasn’t had much club game time in recent years experiencing a resurgence in his fortunes at the World Cup. And perhaps ManU new boy Javi Hernandez will get a decent run?

Prediction: France 2-2 Mexico

Group B

Argentina escaped the brick wall of Nigeria with a less than convincing 1-0 win, but we were still lucky enough to witness some of the gold that makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world. Some strange decisions by mad-man Maradona, but that’s not really a surprise at all, is it? He came out and said that the only three players guaranteed starting positions were Messi, Mascherano, and Gutierrez – a fairly startling claim considering the wealth of talent in the squad. Then we witnessed the latter playing at right back, quite different from his left-wing berth at Newcastle – another instance of players too good to be left out, perhaps.  A tough game tonight against South Korea will likely prove a greater challenge than Nigeria. The Super Eagles looked strong at the back but were undone by Heinze’s rocket-header into the top-corner early on. They didn’t look so good up front, but with attacking players like Obafemi Martins, John Utaka, and Kanu supporting the Yak, they will always pose a threat, especially in the air.  Vincent Enyeama put in a great display between the sticks to keep them in the match, and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up 3 points tonight against Greece.

South Korea showed that they’ve got what it takes with a solid 2-0 win over a poor and frankly negative Greece. South Korea meet Argentina tonight in what will hopefully prove to be the most exciting game the group, and could well decide first place. Park Ji-Sung looked good, and their stylish play is in stark contrast to most teams in the tournament thus far. They will have to hold back a bit against Messi’s men, but should put up a good fight. Dark horse for the quarters?

Greece have a reputation for being a strong and organised defensive side, but here they were undone by some slick passing, much more of which is to come when they face Argentina. Up front they looked lacking in ideas. Points for them in the rest of the group will be hard to come by. They have a chance to sneak a draw tonight against Nigeria, but my guess says they will finish as group B whipping boys.

Predictions: Argentina 2-1 South Korea

Greece 0-1 Nigeria

Maradona quotes this week:

“I am not afraid of anyone or anything – unless they are wearing a mask…”

On Pele: “He should go back to the museum and stay there.”

On Michel Platini: “He’s French and we all know how French people are. If they say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ that’s something.”

More insightful than I could ever hope to be. Wonderful stuff, let’s hope they keep coming!

Group C

England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the USA – a decent result for them, despite what most people seem to think. St. Stevie’s early goal – a real skipper’s goal – was cancelled out by Rob Green’s decision to let Clint Dempsey’s pass trickle over the line. What? Surely that wasn’t an accident? Whatever. England should still win the group, and they’d better hope they do, otherwise they can expect to face a rampant Germany in the second round, who on first showing will tear them a collective new asshole.  Despite what most critics seem to think I still reckon Heskey was rubbish and should make way for Crouch, or alternatively, Gerrard move forward and Barry take over in the centre. Cole should replace the lacklustre Milner on the left.

The US, on the other hand, looked lively and much hungrier than England, but still failed to trouble the England defenders too much. Altidore was probably the pick of the bunch, strolling past the creaking bones of Jamie Carragher. Some increased invention from his team-mates in their next match against Slovenia could see a fair few goals scored, and if they’re lucky they might edge England out at the top of the group.

The Slovenia v Algeria match was one of the poorest matches yet. No one on the field could come to grips with the diabolical Jabulani ball, with passes being floated almost out of the stadium. The highlight (lowlight?) of the match came when Algerian keeper Faouzi Chouachi threw West Brom alumni Robert Koren’s tame strike into the side of the net. Both teams looked defensive, with chances on goal coming at a premium. Nadir Belhadj looked lively for Algeria, getting forward regularly from his left-back role, but failed to inspire a goal. Interesting statistic: Abdelkader Ghezzal picked up two yellows in just 14 minutes and 19 seconds, making him the fastest substitute to pick up two yellow cards in World Cup history. There’s really not much else to be said about this game. Both teams will struggle again on Friday night and one would expect England and USA to push on from Group C.

Predictions: England 2-0 Algeria

USA 1-0 Slovenia

Group D

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Nein!

No cheering from the Aussies after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of a clinical German outfit that could have scored even more goals. Lucas Podolski played a big part just as the webmaster predicted, and his fine finish in the 8th minute started the rout. Mesut Ozil also had a strong showing, playing in the roaming role behind Klose. Ballack’s absence was hardly noticed with Bastian Schweinsteiger effortlessly slotting into a deeper role. That said, Pim Verbeek’s tactics were extremely negative, choosing not to field a recognized striker in a compact but ill-disciplined and ill-prepared 4-2-1-2-1 formation. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore looked out of their depth and far too slow at the back. Tim Cahill clearly forgot to eat the Weetbix he so heartily endorses. The only positive comments can come from the performance of Brett Emerton, Wilkshire to a lesser extent, and Brett Holman who injected some much needed energy at half-time. Verbeek’s questionable tactics have come under much criticism, and the Aussies will need to bounce back with gusto against Ghana on Saturday night if they are to have any chance of going through.

Ghana and Serbia produced the first victory for an African nation at the tournament, and it was quite an entertaining game to boot. Serbia looked surprisingly frail at the back, and human giant Nikola Zigic was wasteful up front. They failed to produce sustained pressure on the Ghanaian goal and suffered for it. Ghana were slightly better, pressuring the Serbian defence whenever they were in possession. Asamoah Gyan netted a penalty to take the lead after Serbia had gone down to 10 men, and this win gives them a good chance of going through to the next round. Serbia will struggle with the speed and efficiency of the German attack, and a loss will probably knock them out of the running for second round qualification. Ghana face Australia who will be desperate for a victory, and perhaps in this case, desperation will prevail over superiority.

Predictions: Australia 1-0 Ghana

Germany 3-1 Serbia

Acknowledgements: Thanks to editor and minor contributor, Fishface Shakur.

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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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