Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Group G preview

Group G features 3 very strong teams one would expect to see in a second round. Only two of them will make it. And then you have North Korea.


Strengths: Brazil, as usual, bring a quality squad to the World Cup. Kaka is one of the best midfielders in the world and is complemented by the likes of Elano. Fabiano is a prolific goalscorer with a goal roughly every 1.5 games for his national side. They also have the talented goalscorer Nilmar in the squad and can afford not to pick Neymar who is 18 and scoring for fun for his club side Santos in Brazil. They also have a player I consider the best goalkeeper in the world in Cesar. This time Brazil also have an excellent defensive as well. They specialise in set pieces and lightning fast counter-attacks.

Weaknesses: It is hard to see many weaknesses in a Brazil starting eleven. Perhaps they will miss Ronaldinho who was not selected. Leaving out Pato verged on the criminal. But despite these high profile omissions they still have a top squad. Brazil do not have however a player up front who is practically guaranteed to deliver the goods in a World Cup as Ronaldo always was. Despite the overall quality - if I was to pick a best eleven from players at the World Cup few Brazilian players would feature - indicating that in most positions there are possibly better players for other countries. Brazil may find it hard to break down teams that sit back and defend due to their style of play.

Formation: Brazil actually have quite a fluid formation and can change a lot within the game depending on factors such as who is in possession etc. They will likely have 4 at the back and a lone striker in Fabiano up front. The midfield 5 change around quite a lot (and thus so does the formation).

Manager: Dunga is an excellent manager. He used to play for Brazil as a defensive midfielder and won the World Cup in 1994. This is his first international assignment.

Qualification: Brazil won the South American section including their first every victory over Argentina in Argentina. It was a comfortable qualification although they only finished 1 point ahead of both Chile and Paraguay.

World Cup pedigree: Brazil have, without doubt, the best World Cup pedigree of any nation. They are the only country to play in every single World Cup. They have won it 5 times (more than any other country) - 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. They were second twice (1950 and 1998), third twice (1938 and 1978) and fourth once (1974).

Chance of progression from Group G: 85% - would have been higher if Portugal and Ivory Coast weren't also in the group.

Ivory Coast (C'ote D'ivoire)

Strengths: Ivory Coast have a team full of talent. Drogba is possibly the best striker in the world. Yaya Toure and Zakoro are two superb central midfielders. They also have the likes of Kalou, Dindane, Kone, Keita, Kolo Toure and Eboue in their squad. It is a very exciting team with a lot of firepower, flair and brilliance.

Weaknesses: Didier Drogba fractured his shoulder in a very recent friendly (about ten days ago) and there were worries that he wouldn't be fit for the tournament. Whilst it now seems likely he will feature it is not certain whether he will be ready for the crucial first game against Portugal. Even if he is there will be question marks as to whether his body can handle it. If anything their weakness comes at the back. There have also been reported bustups in the squad at this year's African Nations Cup. They will need to avoid any arguments to keep the required unity for this team to do well.

Formation: Should be a 4-3-3. Three physically imposing midfielders, a lone striker and two pacy wingers (and full-backs) meant the formation almost picks itself. Providing Sven avoids the temptation to go 4-4-2.

Manager: Sven Goran Erikkson has had many domestic and international managerial appointments throughout his career and has been very successful. For example he has league and cup doubles in Sweden, Portugal and Italy. He is most famous domestically for his stint at Lazio. He also managed England at Euro 2004 and World Cups 2002 and 2006. Sven's England were knocked out of World Cup 2002 by Brazil and Euro 2004 and  World Cup 2006 by Portugal so it is a quirk of fate that he should be drawn with these two countries again. He should add some structure to the flair of the Ivory Coast's game.

Qualification: Ivory Coast comfortably qualified from their group.

World Cup pedigree: Ivory Coast have only had one previous World Cup appearance in 2006. They didn't make it through the group stage after being drawn in the Group of Death with Holland, Argentina and Serbia and Montenegro. They will be hoping to go at least one better this time.

Chance of progression from Group G: 60%. Would really love them to qualify, will be a real dogfight with Portugal.

North Korea (Korea DPR)

Strengths: North Korea defend doggedly, harry in numbers and can be very hard to break down. They play to this strength and are very happy to stay back. They only conceded 7 in 16 games in qualifying. They also have a player called Jong Tae-Se who is nicknamed the Rooney of North Korea/Asia for his brilliant shooting ability. He has scored some stunning goals in his time.

Weaknesses: North Korea do not play width very well, they find goals hard to come by and have a lack of international experience in general. They find it difficult to cope with the aerial threat that teams can possess.

Formation: I have read that this will be a very defensive form of a 3-3-2-2

Manager: Kim Jong-Hun.

Qualification: North Korea finished second in their final Asia qualifying group thereby gaining automatic qualification. They finished ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference (and 4 points behind South Korea) so it was a very tense qualifying battle.

World Cup pedigree: North Korea have only qualified for one previous World Cup - 1966. They had a famous upset 1-0 win over Italy in the group stages. They also led Portugal 3-0 in the Quarter-finals but ended up losing 5-3.

Chance of progression from Group G: 0.5% - they should finish last.


Strengths: Portugal have some incredibly exciting talent in their squad. Christiano Ronaldo is rated by some as the best player of his generation. He mesmerises defences with his dribbling skills and is a clinical finisher. But Portugal also have the superb Deco in midfield and the reliable and experienced trio of Ferreira, Carvalho and Costa available to play in defence. Nani and Simao are also very skilful wingers. They have a settled defence that doesn't concede many.

Weaknesses: In terms of out-and-out strikers Portugal are lacking. They instead rely on the wingers/midfield/supporting strikersto fire the goals. Liedson will quite possibly start in the lone striker role but he has never particularly impressed in terms of being able to trouble the goal. They also lack tempo in central midfield. Nani is also injured. Initial reports said he was out of the tournament but reports have just emerged saying he might be back miraculously quickly.

Formation: Should be a 4-3-2-1.

Manager: Carlos Queiroz - ex Manchester Utd assistant manager who has managed the Portugal team since 2008.

Qualification: Portugal only managed to finish 2nd in their qualifying group (behind Denmark) and only secured that in the very last game (enabling them to finish ahead of Sweden). They then needed to navigate a tricky playoff with Bosnia, which they achieved.

World Cup pedigree: This is Portugal's fifth World Cup only. They finished third in 1966 and fourth in 2006 but didn't get past the first round on their two other appearances in 1986 and 2002.

Chance of progression from Group G: 60%, in a dogfight with Ivory Coast, might just miss out.

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