Saturday, June 05, 2010


The second part of FIFA World Cup 2010 preview will look at the teams in Group B. Here are yet again my amateur opinions.

Nickname: La Albiceleste (White and Sky Blue)
Coach: Diego Maradona
FIFA Ranking*: 7
Last 5 matches: v Costa Rica (3-2), v Jamaica (2-1), v Germany (1-0), v Haiti (4-0), v Canada (5-0)
Past appearances: 15 - 1978, 1986 (Champion); 1930, 1990 (Finalist); 1966, 1998, 2006 (Q-Finalist); 1974, 1982 (Round 2); 1994 (Round of 16); 1934, 1958, 1962, 2002 (Round 1); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Diego Pozo, 21 Mariano Andujar, 23 Sergio Romero
DF 2 Martin Demichelis, 3 Clemente Rodriguez, 4 Nicolas Burdisso, 6 Gabriel Heinze, 12 Ariel Garce, 13 Walter Samuel, 15 Nicolas Otamendi
MF 5 Mario Bolatti, 7 Angel Di Maria, 8 Juan Sebastian Veron, 14 Javier Mascherano, 17 Jonas Gutierrez, 20 Maxi Rodriguez, 23 Javier Pastore
FW 9 Gonzalo Higuain, 10 Lionel Messi, 11 Carlos Tevez, 16 Sergio Aguero, 18 Martin Palermo, 19 Diego Milito

They struggled in the Qualifying - almost lost the fourth automatic place to World Cup while the worst of missing the cut for the last chance play-off too. They lost 1-6 to Bolivia, lost to Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay at away matches. Diego Maradona was once a legendary player but his coaching skills put too much emphasis on try and error in matching up the payers. His method proved to be disastrous and controversial - leading to an unexpected inconsistency in form during the Qualifying round. Huge call up and he had tested more than 60 players since 2008 but the quality of games have improved tremendously over the last few games. The team can depends on a strong attacking squad led by Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Man City's Carlos Tevez. Adding in Veron, Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez on the central line up, the team could be one of the strongest team in the tournament. While the Argentinian players are skillful in individual display, their team-work as an unit is still far from captivity of their rival, Brazil. All the terrible past of qualifying means almost nothing but usually Argentina can breeze past the group stage. They are however, in the same group with South Korea, Greece and Nigeria - dubbed as another tricky group as well. If Argentina can pass the group stage, they are most likely to face France or Mexico in the Round of 16. For the record on the previous World Cup, Argentina can assured of a spot in the final if they were able to pass through the quarter-final round! Can the Argentinian do magic like what they have did for their club? Most likely they can!

(L) Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid, 5 caps, 2 goals); (C) Lionel Messi (Barcelona, 44 caps, 13 goals); (R) Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, 52 caps, 9 goals)

Nickname: Super Eagles
Coach: Lars Lagerback
FIFA Ranking*: 20
Last 3 matches: v Congo DR (5-2), v Saudi Arabia (0-0), v Colombia (1-1)
Past appearances: 4 - 1994, 1998 (Round of 16); 2002 (Round 1); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Vincent Enyeama, 16 Austin Ejide, 23 Dele Aiyenugba
DF 2 Joseph Yobo, 3 Taye Taiwo, 6 Danny Shittu, 17 Chidi Odiah, 5 Rabiu Afolabi, 21 Uwa Elderson Echiejile, 15 Dele Adeleye
MF 10 Mikel John Obi, 13 Ayila Yussuf, 12 Kalu Uche, 14 sani Kaita, 20 Dickson Etuhu, 19 Lukman Haruna, 11 Peter Odemwingie, 7 Chinedu Obasi
FW 4 Nwankwo Kanu, 8 Yakubu Aiyegbeni, 22 John Utaka, 18 Victor Obinna, 9 Obafemi Martins

The Nigerian or Super Eagles as they preferred to be called that, has achieved a moderate success. Once, they are the mighty giant in the African football but has saw slight drop on performances over the years. They missed out the last edition; following a dismay qualifying campaign, at the expense of Angola who created history. Currently ranked 21st and third in Africa behind Egypt and Cameroon, the Nigerian need to find more excitement to return to the glory of their past. The last time they won an African Cup of Nations was back in 1994 and since then, they have constantly chalked up the third prize. With the talents from crop of players who played in domestic leagues in England and Israel mostly, the Super Eagles may be another dark horse that need to be cautioned for. The midfielders like Mikel John Obi and Chinedu Obasi are some of the finest in their generation while the attacking force relied heavily on veterans like Kanu, Utaka or Aiyegbeni. Should we look at their past three World Cup entries, they managed to slot themselves in 1994 and 1998 but scrambled in 2002. While their performance is no where near the 1998's squad which has Jay Jay Okocha, Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi - all whom were the best Nigerian ever had.

(L) Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth, 82 caps, 13 goals); (C) Mikel John Obi (Chelsea, 34 caps, 2 goals); (R) Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton, 51 caps, 19 goals)

Click Read More for more on Group B - after the jump - South Korea and Greece

Nickname: Taegeuk Jeonsa (Taegeuk Warriors)
Coach: Huh Jung-Moo
FIFA Ranking*: 47
Last 5 matches: v Cote d'Ivoire (2-0), v Ecuador (2-0), v Japan (2-0), v Belarus (0-1), v Spain (0-1)
Past appearances: 8 - 2002 (Fourth Place); 1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006 (Round 1); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Lee Woon-Jae, 21 Kim Young-Kwang, 18 Jung Sung-Ryong
DF 12 Lee Young-Pyo, 22 Cha Du-Ri, 15 Kim Dong-Jin, 2 Oh Beom-Seok, 23 Kang Min-Soo, 4 Cho Yong-Hyung, 14 Lee Jung-Soo, 3 Kim Hyung-Il
MF 5 Kim Nam-Il, 7 Park Ji-Sung (C), 8 Kim Jung-Woo, 17 Lee Chung-Yong, 16 Ki Sung-Yong, 13 Kim Jae-Sung, 6 Kim Bo-Kyung
FW 9 Ahn Jung-Hwan, 20 Lee Dong-Gook, 10 Park Chu-Young, 19 Yeom Ki-Hun, 11 Lee Seung-Yeoul

The Korean boys are one of the most experienced Asian team in World Cup history. The South Korean team has participated in eight (including 2010) World Cup finals - the most successful team in Asia. They have also made a surprise fourth placed finish in 2002, propelling their ranking jump to Top 20. The Korean, prior to their 2002 success under Guus Hiddink, was a team to be beaten. They have never won in any World Cup matches prior to 2002. But they are now no more, because they have proven that they can beat teams like Italy, Spain and Portugal and yet they remain as one of the contender from Group B to qualify. In 2006, they were not as lucky because they were dumped in the group stage following controversial 2-0 defeat to Switzerland on the last match. Looking at the current performance, I believe they still have the ability to kill. Korean is a well-balanced team and under current coach, Huh Jung-Moo, the Korean has been a successful unit beating teams like Finland, Cote d'Ivoire and Ecuador, great agility and skills that resembles the team Hiddink built back in the 2002. However, there are times when they lacked of inspirations, particularly in the recent defeat to Belarus. One thing for sure, they have lots of player based in Europe and there are many talented players like Ahn Jung-Hwan, Park Ji-Sung and the controversial Lee Dong-Gook.

(L) Lee Woon-Jae (Suwon Bluewings, 131 caps, 0 goal); (C) Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United, 88 caps, 12 goals); (R) Ahn Jung-Hwan (Dalian Shide, 71 caps, 17 goals)

Nickname: The Pirate Ship
Coach: Otto Rehhagel
FIFA Ranking*: 13
Last 5 matches: v Ukraine (0-0), v Ukraine (1-0), v Senegal (0-2), v Paraguay (0-2), v Korea DPR (2-2)
Past appearances: 2 - 1994 (Round 1); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Kostas Chalkias, 12 Alexandros Tzorvas, 13 Michalis Sifakis
DF 2 Giourkas Seitaridis, 4 Nikos Spiropoulos, 5 Vangelis Moras, 8 Avraam Papadopoulos, 11 Loukas Vyntra, 15 Vasilis Torosidis, 16 Sotirios Kyrgiakos, 19 Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 22 Stelios Malezas
MF 3 Christos Patsatzoglou, 6 Alexandros Tziolis, 10 Giorgos Karagounis (C), 18 Sotiris Ninis, 21 Kostas Katsouranis, 23 Sakis Prittas
FW 7 Georgios Samaras, 9 Angelos Charisteas, 14 Dimitris Salpigidis, 17 Theofanis Gekas, 20 Pantelis Kapetanos

This is a tough team to tell because they are too unpredictable. They smashed everyone's betting money back in Euro 2004 by winning the trophy - and it's glorious day only to that point. They failed to qualify to 2006's World Cup but joined Euro 2008 with losing all three group matches. This time they are back in the World Cup. The last time they were in World Cup was 1994 (the only time they were in) and will remained as the most disastrous outing by a team ever, losing all three group matches and conceded 10 goals, scoring none. The Greek has never had a great football records to cheer out. Perhaps, their unlikely win on Euro 2004 was based on their resilient defenses back then when the George Clooney look alike keeper, Antonio Nikopolidis was protecting their goal post were some of the key factor that lead them to emerge as winner. However, with the current performance which is seriously inconsistent, I am pretty sure the history of Euro 2008 is about to be repeated. They had a tough qualifying rounds and they managed to scrap Ukraine on one goal advantage to qualify. They do not have a strong team in basic, so going to the World Cup with losses in recent friendlies could only meant that they will eventually exits the group stage in the end. They need another run of miracle if they want to advance further.

(L) Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos, 93 caps, 6 goals); (C) Angelos Charisteas (Nuremberg, 84 caps, 24 goals); (R) Theofanis Gekas (Eintracht Frankfurt, 47 caps, 20 goals)

So, for my amateur prediction on which teams should advance to Round of 16 (knockout stage); I would say Argentina to top the group despite their form of inconsistency and lacked of aspiration during the qualifying round. Nigeria and South Korea could battle it all out for the second spot and I expect it too be a little tight although I think Korea Republic may have a slight advantage to go out. Therefore, the match between Nigeria and South Korea is a deciding factor. Greece will remain as an underdog but I doubt any more magical run for them. To the Round of 16....ARGENTINA and KOREA REPUBLIC

Tomorrow we will have more analysis on Group C that comprises England, United States, Algeria and Slovenia.