- Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France. It's hard to imagine France not winning this group, but 2002 proved that it could happen (loss to Senegal and ties to Denmark and Uruguay. You can argue that Mexico has it easy to be the second team to make it through. Uruguay is a dangerous team that can surprise any established squad. Then there's South Africa. Clearly the weakest African team in the tournament...but they are at home. Never underestimate home field advantage (think USA in 1994).
- Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, S. Korea, Greece. This group is almost a mirror image of the 1994 group that included Bulgaria instead of Korea. Argentina should win this group, but Maradona's squad has lost to much weaker teams recently. Nigeria struggled to enter the World Cup, but they have the history and the players to dominate any team. Greece is the new Italy, with it's superb, albeit boring, defensive style. Korea has the speed and agility to create chances.
- Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia. This is the "easiest" group the US has had in recent memory but I will give much more details on this on future posts. England should claim victory in this group, but they are prone to injury and much weaker without Gerard, Lampard and Beckham. Algeria is in a World Cup for the first time since 1986. They aren't a terribly strong squad but they have a certain African pedigree that could help them go the distance. Slovenia is arguably the weakest European team, but as they showed versus Russia in the UEFA playoffs, they have the ability to overcome stronger teams.
- Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana. Group of death #1. Germany is the strongest team, but they aren't too far ahead of the others. Serbia has history on their side but they match up equally against Australia and Ghana. The Australian "socceroos" have players in major leagues making the difference in those teams (Kewel, Viduka, Shwartz) and they aren't a weak team anymore. Ghana isn't as strong as they were in '06, but they still have dominant men like Michael Essien pulling the strings.
- Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon. This is a fun group to watch. It could be considered group of death "light" since they are all quite accomplished sides. Holland are likely to win this group thanks to Kuyt, Snejder, Van Persie and company. Denmark is another strong squad that booted out Sweden and forced Portugal into the playoffs. Japan, like S. Korea, has the speed to surprise the opposing defense. Cameroon struggled to enter the tournament but they have the history of being a difficult team to play against.
- Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia. A relatively weak group for the Azzurri. Paraguay should also be able to overcome a much weaker "kiwi" team and another weak European team. New Zealand is possibly the weakest team in the tournament, whilst Slovakia can be another toss-up.
- Group G: Brazil, N. Korea, Cote d'Ivoire, Portugal. Group of death #2. Apart from N. Korea, all three teams have a chance at advancing through to the next round. This will likely come down to scoring plenty against the Koreans for the Ivorians, Brazilians and Portuguese. It's also about getting a result against the stronger teams. Portugal is one of the few countries that has beaten Brazil in recent memory. The Ivorians are one of the strongest teams in the world (Drogba, Kalou, Toure) and they could go the distance. Brazil is just what it is--Brazil.
- Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile. Spain is the best team on the planet and I can see them getting all nine points here. Switzerland are a bit of a mystery but with excellent players. Chile has a squad to reach the quarterfinals, given the right results. Honduras aren't pushovers anymore. Players like Suazo, Costly, Palacios and Guevara mark the difference.
Friday, December 4, 2009
South Africa 2010: the draw
The excitement began today. The party is underway. What will this world cup be like? Here is a quick look at the groups and who has it easier/harder and what surprises we can see. Throughout the time leading up to the tournament, I will post a more personal look at each of the teams, their structure, history, players and memories.