Friday, June 11, 2010

Group D preview

Group D is a fascinating group. Possibly fights with Group G for the title of 'Group of Death', all games should be tightly fought contests.


Strengths: Australia have a decent side with many having plenty of European experience. Cahill is the key man as he provides bite and skill in the attacking midfield, as well as the crucial knack of being in the right place at the right time to score goals. He was instrumental in their opening 3-1 win against Japan in 2006 (when they were 1-0 down with 7 mins to go) and will hope to be the same again. Schwarzer is an excellent goalkeeper despite his advancing years. So much so, Arsenal have tried a temporary solution to their goalkeeping problems by signing him. Kewell is constantly injured and not the player he was 8 or 9 years ago but he does have an element of class that, providing he is and stays fit, could come in handy. Australia work very hard together as a team and put a lot of effort into their defence. As Sports illustrated noted: "The Socceroos probably deserve better than to be hailed for their never-say-die attitude, but it remains their standout attribute". They also have some good talent on the fringes - players like Hollman and Valeri.

Weaknesses: Australia have the second oldest squad in the tournament. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the experience factor could be vital. However considering the fact their golden team of four years ago has only changed a little bit means that they are certainly no surprise factor and it might also mean they aren't as spritely as they once were. Cahill is suffering from a neck problem he picked up in a friendly and is doing his damndest to be fit for their opening game against Germany. Australia is lightweight on attack - Kennedy will not scare anyone, they may have to rely on the midfield popping up with a few. Whilst Australia are strong on defence if you look at the defenders individually none of them are particularly highly rated, Lucas Neill probably being the pick of them.

Formation: Likely to be a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders allowing wingers to support the striker. Cahill will be the cog in behind the striker

Manager: Pim Verbeek was assistant to Guus Hiddink for South Korea at the 2002 World Cup and to Dick Advocaat for the 2006 World Cup. Apart from a brief spell as manager of South Korea after this he has little experience as an international manager. He is quite conservative in his approach, probably a major reason for sticking with the old guard and not taking a punt on the likes of Tommy Oar.

Qualification: Unlike a number of previous tournaments Australia did not play in the Oceania confederation - they played in the Asian zone. In many previous cups they have been undone after winning Oceania and then losing to the fifth placed South American team. The top two teams in both of the final two qualifying groups would gain automatic qualification - Australia did it at a breeze, finishing first with 6 wins and 2 draws.

World Cup pedigree: This will be Australia's third world cup. In 1974 they went home after 1 draw and 2 wins, in 2006 they famously qualified for the second round ahead of European powerhouse Croatia, only to be beaten with the last kick of the game against Italy - a controversial penalty won by Grosso and converted by Totti.

Chance of progression from Group D: 45%, expect them to put up a good fight and not miss out by much.


Strengths: Germany are one of the major players in every tournament. They are taking their youngest squad to a World Cup in 76 years with an average age of just under 25. Whilst this is partially forced upon them due to injury take nothing away from these young guns. There is considerable talent within the squad and they will expect to shine at the tournament. I think they might just make people sit up and take notice. Despite this they will still have the experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger, striker Miroslav Klose and defenders Arne Friedrich and Per Mertesacker to call upon. Schweinsteiger is a fantastic attacking midfield player and will need to really step up to the mark in the absence of Ballack. Their midfield stocks have the potential to be frightfully exciting with a lot of positive things said about Khedira, Ozil, Kroos and Marin. They also boast in Klose and Podolski, two players with great scoring records for their national team (around 1 goal every 2 games). Their defensive line-up also appears strong. Interestingly only one player in their squad plays outside of Germany - Boateng at Man City.

Weaknesses: Germany have been dealt a few blows with injury. Their talismanic captain and goalscoring midfielder Ballack was ruled out of the tournament and they have suffered the blows of an injury to first choice goalkeeper Adler and the suicide of Robert Enke who was another contender. It feels strange writing it (with their history of goalkeeping excellence) but Germany have worries in goal. Whilst Klose and Podolski have an excellent record up front, neither have been in very good form in the Bundesliga this season. Kuranyi who was, wasn't selected, although that may be because of his stormy relationship with manager Joachim Low.

Formation: Germany may opt for a 4-2-3-1 with 2 holding midfielders, 2 wingers and 1 in the hole behind Klose.

Qualification: Germany finished top of their qualifying group, 4 points ahead of Russia. The other 4 teams (Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan and Liechenstein) were not much cop.

World Cup pedigree: There have only been two tournaments in which they did not compete: 1930 (withdrew) and 1950 (banned). They have been champions three times (1954, 1974 and 1990), runners-up four times (1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002) and third on three occasions (1934, 1970 and 2006).

Chance of progression from Group D: 75%, probably in first place.


Strengths: Ghana have a relatively strong squad, their most powerful part being their midfield which, despite the absence of Essien, still boasts the very useful Muntari and Appiah. They will rely on Gyan for goals - he has a good strike rate and is their most experienced at international level. They also have experience in defence with both Paintsil and Mensah boasting over 50 caps. They are physically strong and aren't likely to concede many goals given their defensive personnel.  

Weaknesses: The absence of Essien is massive. He is excellent defensively in protecting the back four and also packs a ferocious shot. He makes football look simple. As the cog that energises the whole team he will be sorely missed. Ghana are also relatively lacking in goalscorers up front. Gyan has the excellent strike rate of 1 in every 2 games and Amoah manages 1 every 3 but it is not a squad whose attackers strike fear into their opposition. They lack creativity in midfield which might mean a lack of goalscoring opportunities. They are an aggressive side which could lead to bookings and suspensions.

Formation: - Likely to be 4-5-1 with Gyan playing lone striker. Probably only one of the 5 in midfield will be on the wing with the other four defensively minded. Appiah will be pushed further forward than he does for his club side. It is possible that they will play Asamoah ahead of Boateng so that Ghana have two wingers on the pitch - but this is not expected to happen.

Manager: Milovan Rajevac. Never managed an international side before he is relatively inexperienced. However he is highly rated. He is Serbian which could provide extra motivation for when Ghana play Serbia. (Incidentally Kevin-Prince Boateng is in the Ghanaian squad and could face his brother Jerome who is in the German squad. If this happens it will be the first time brothers play against each other in the World Cup's history.

Qualification: Ghana qualified fairly comfortably in the final group stage of qualification - finishing 3 points ahead of Benin. They only just made it into that final stage however: 2 teams from each group of 4 were to go through to the last stage and they, Gabon and Libya all finished on 12 points - Ghana and Gabon getting through on goal difference.

World Cup pedigree: This is Ghana's second World Cup Finals - in 2006 they did well to reach the second round, finishing second in their group - behind Italy and ahead of Czech Republic and the USA.

Chance of progression from Group D: 50%, may miss out at a whisker.


Strengths: Serbia are rightfully considered one of the dark horses of the tournament. They have some of the best players in the world. In Vidic and Ivanovic (two players who start week in week out at Manchester United and Chelsea respectively) in defence they have two exceptional defenders. Throw in the fantastic defensive midfielder Stankovic and Serbia will be very hard to beat.

Weaknesses: Zigic (who at 6 foot 7 dwarfs Peter Crouch!) and Pantelic are highly rated up front but in comparison to the rest of their team would probably be considered weak links. Pantelic has been on fire for Ajax but at international level only scores at a rate of around 1 in 5, Zigic is much better with 1 in 3. Some of their lesser known names are not renowned individually but they do work well as a unit.

Formation: Likely to be 4-4-2 but with exciting wingers in Krasic and Jovanovic joining the attack whenever they can no doubt they will look like a 4-2-4 at times.

Manager: Radomir Antic has been manager for around two years. It's his first foray into international management but he has about 20 years experience as manager of a variety of top, mainly spanish clubs such as Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid and Barcelona.

Qualification: Serbia topped their qualifying group which included France

World Cup pedigree: Up until 2003 Serbia have always competed as part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia competed in 9 out of 17 tournaments - their highest position was fourth in 1930 and 1962, and they were knocked out in the quarters on three occasions (1954, 1958 and 1990). In 2006 they competed as Serbia and Montenegro and in 2010 they are simply Serbia. In the last World Cup they were also highly rated but had the misfortune to be paired with Holland, Argentina and Ivory Coast and lost all 3 games.

Chance of progression from Group D: 60%, probably in second place but don't be surprised if they top the group. [Their 1-0 friendly loss to the All Whites, whilst magnificent for New Zealand, was probably just an aberration].

No comments: