Tag Archives: North Korea

Group Matches (P)review (Cont.)


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

Group E

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

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

Predictions: Netherlands 2-0 Japan

Cameroon 1-1 Denmark

Group F

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

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

Predictions: Italy 2-0 New Zealand

Paraguay 1-1 Slovakia

Group G

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

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

Predictions: Portugal 2-1 DPRK

Brazil 2-0 Ivory Coast

Group H

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

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

Predictions: Spain 3-0 Honduras

Chile 0-0 Switzerland

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World Cup Preview – Group G – Group of Death


Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Brazil, Portugal and North Korea make up the penultimate group in our arduous journey through the 32 sides.

North Korea

North Korea’s qualification for South Africa has added plenty of flavour and “combustability” to the Finals. Derided as world cup strugglers, the hapless Koreans are a strange and slightly ironic inclusion in the Group of Death. The fact that censorship in North Korea is so tight, so that the population will apparently be led to believe that they will win the trophy, no matter what, means that their draw in the hardest group of the lot is largely irrelevant.

They’ve appeared once before (’66) and reached the quarter finals that time, but if that happened in 2010 I’ll shut down the blog. Kim Jon II is arguably their biggest asset and there are widespread rumours about collusion and corruption following the side everywhere. When Yong-Jo said yesterday that he’d score in every game, it was apparently a political stunt. (Confirm someone…) Their best player is Chong Tese (in Japan), or Jeong Dae Se (in Korea). Think that’s confusing? Well: he was born and raised in Japan to South Korean parents, and there are plenty of rumours that he was forced to pledge his allegiance to North Korea. If that’s all too much, then don’t worry, just know that he’s their best attacking weapon and is labelled the Asian Wayne Rooney somewhat ridiculously. Chloe Kum-Chol is apparently not a girl, and is also apparently a young Christiano Ronaldo in the making. (I can’t believe I’m reading this stuff either)

The Koreans don’t take embarrassment too well, and will be the only country without a live telecast. All the games will be edited and then shown, which will leave many nationals wondering why only around 10 minutes of the Brazil game makes it onto the broadcast. Previewing this side is downright difficult, but what was I expecting! From what I’ve read, they’re defensive bullies (sounds about right). They’ve had a less than ideal preparation as they tried to name a striker as a 3rd choice keeper, only for FIFA to rule that he’ll have to play as keeper. Hopefully they’ll test this ruling in the opening game, otherwise they won’t feature in too many highlights reels.

ps It’s worth mentioning that their 5 – 3 loss, after leading 3 – 0, to Portugal in the quarter finals of ’66 was one of the best world cup games ever. If you’re looking for an exotic?

Brazil

The Brazilians have surprisingly snuck under the radar somewhat. The only reason they’ve hit the headlines has been their strong criticism of the Jubalani (that’s the ball). In general this treatment from the media seems fair. Despite recently overtaking Spain as the number 1 ranked side, on paper the Brazilians lack any genuine superstars that they usually bring to the table. Sure, they have plenty of quality, but we’re automatically comparing them with the top 2 or 3 sides. It’s a given that they’ll feature deep in the finals, and a semi final showdown with Spain is a mouth watering clash.

It’s strange to talk about a Brazil side that could struggle for goals, but that’s the case in 2010. An outstanding goalkeeper, outstanding defence, and impressive midfield is coupled with a stuttering forward line. Robinho, however, has showed solid form recently after returning to Brazil clubland and he’ll hold the key for Brazil. If Robinho fires, then they will be nearly unstoppable. Maicon, Julio Cesar and Kaka are also three of the best footballers going around and fitness concerns over the latter two must be giving their coach Dunga a splitting headache.

They’ve got a terrible draw, but realistically there wouldn’t be a group that they weren’t favourites. Fortunately for them, they face the Portugese last, so they’ll be looking to wrap up qualification with wins against North Korea and the Ivorians before that. If the Portugese need a win to qualify it could be an interesting scenario. Be wary of tipping against the Brazilians until they reach Spain, where you may as well flip a coin. It is worth noting that the South Americans have embarked on a tour of Africa and performed dismally against sub-par opposition. But they only need to be ready come knock out phase. While they may not look the dominate side of yesteryear, write them off at your own peril. Last time they fell at the quarters, so they’ll have revenge on their minds…

Portugal

The Portugese were ranked 9th at the draw, which meant that which ever group they were lumped into would almost automatically be labelled the group of death. They’re a side who are coming to the end of a golden era that failed to produce any major titles. The side features a new breed of Portuguese, and expectations aren’t particularly high. Their dour goalless draw with Cape Verde, no less, would not have done much to instil confidence. They do have Ronaldo, and any team with a superstar of his quality will be dangerous.

In the past, they’ve been teased as magazine cover boys, but the perennial under achievers won’t play with quite as much flair as usual in South Africa. It’s worth mentioning Carlos Queiroz who is considered one of the game’s finest tacticians after being a long term understudy at Man United. Much of their inspiration will be source elsewhere, however, and Ronaldo will be the talismanic figure for the Portugese. Another outstanding club campaign, just about all that’s left for the superstar is an international trophy. Football’s pretty boy is a renowned diver and tantrum thrower, so hopefully he won’t be any distraction to the cause. Many pundits have recently argued that the emergence of Messi as the game’s numero uno, has let Ronaldo concentrate of his feet, rather than his hair gel, and passthesugar would have to agree. Single handedly getting his side to the semi finals would just about confirm his legendary status in the game.

The Portuguese have a tough group and a tough knockout phase future. Even if they slip into 2nd spot, they’ll face the daunting Spaniards in the 2nd round. They’re not genuine dark horses anymore, as the world knows their potential, and so they could struggle in 2010.

Cote d’Ivoire

Everyone’s 2nd favourite side have once again been lumped into the group of death. After their debut on the world stage saw them with a near impossible draw (Netherlands, Argentina and Serbia/Montenegro) they’ve been hard done by once again. Their match up with the Portuguese could be one of the matches of the tournaments. They breezed through qualification, with just the 1 draw and wins for the remaining games, and look the strongest African side in the home continent. The World Cup is begging for a decent run by an African side, but it looks a little tough for the Elephants.

The orange clad players have more quality than usually present in African nations. They’re still the only nation to have never been shut out in a World Cup match – firepower is their biggest asset. Didier Drogba is another legitimate superstar to grace Group G, but recent injury concerns over a broken arm are threatening his participation. I’m a little over reporting injuries, so I’ll leave it to: Drogba = awesome, Drogba = score from anywhere, With Drogba, Ivory Coast = outstanding side! The remaining players still offer plenty of talent. There’s a underlying Arsenal theme running through the squad – the North London scouts must have taken a fancy to the African nation, as the Toure brothers, Eboue and now Gervinho have all been courted by Arsene Wenger. Besides these world class midfielders, they possess Solomon Kalou of Chelsea who managed to crack Ancelloti’s starting line up deep into the campaign.

With Drogba in doubt, Seydou Doumbia is his likely replacement, and has the chance to etch his name into several big club’s wanted list. He hit the back of the net 30 times in only 29 appearances for The Young Boys (an awesome name for an awesome club) and will look to step up in the captain’s absence. The major worry for the side is the keeper Boubacar Barry, who has been described as “error prone” in just about every article on him I’ve care to read. It’s a shame that they can’t produce a decent shot stopper. Gaffer, Sven-Goran Erikkson, has hardly covered himself in glory with his recent managerial appointments, but still charges some of the biggest fees going around. Hopefully all the money isn’t being poured down the drain and he crafts the unstructured African way into a tactical masterplan. (Doubtful)

Without Drogba, they’re destined for 3 and out, but with him in the side, PTS was tipping a surprise quarter final appearance. Morale is said to be low, after crashing out of the African Nations Cup at the quarter final stage. Either way, they’ll struggle to get beyond the 2nd round. They’ll have to come back in 2014 and just hope for an easier draw.

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