Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Group H preview

Chile

Strengths: Chile love to attack and do so very well. They attack in numbers and are not a team who sit back. They also put lots of pressure on the opposing players making their attack sometimes seem a form of defence. They have an excellent striker in Huazo who was top scorer in the South American qualifiers. Sanchez is a winger with a lot of promise and M Fernandez is the key in the midfield - he was Best South American Player in 2006.

Weaknesses: With so much attacking prowess it is almost inevitable that their weakest area is their defence - they can put themselves under pressure too readily and find it difficult dealing with the aerial demands, particularly as they are a team prominently short in stature. Suazo suffered an injury on May 30th in a game against Israel, he is struggling to be fit. Chile will need their talisman at World Cup 2010.

Formation: 3-1-3-3. An exciting and clever system.

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa - his second stint at international management, he also managed Argentina from 1998 - 2004. He has been with Chile since 2007. He is a real football personality, a real tactical innovator and has some crazy coaching methods!

Qualification: Chile finished second in the South American qualifying section - only one point behind Brazil and ahead of Paraguay on goal difference. It was a comfortable qualification.

World Cup pedigree: This is Chile's eighth world cup. They have only twice made it past the Group stages finishing 3rd place in 1962 (when it was held in Chile) and to the second round in 1998 - the year of yet another of my World Cup favourite players Marcelo Salas. 2010 will be their first World Cup since then.

Chance of progression from Group H: 65%, probably in second place.

Honduras

Strengths: Honduras play well, within their limitations. They have a strong defence, a powerful midfield and are good on the counter-attack. They conceded the least number of goals in qualifying. 37 year old Pavon is the highest scorer in Honduran history and he and David Suazo will be expected to be the ones to provide the goals. Wilson Palacios, who plays for Tottenham Hotspurs in the Premier League, is the most well known.

Weaknesses: Honduras lack experience of competitive international football which is a disadvantage. Wilson Palacios also recently suffered a problem with his shin that threatened his tournament but it now appears he should be fit for the first game. Honduras playmaker Julio De Leon has been ruled out of the tournament with an injury with just hours to go until the first match. During the whole qualification phase, goalkeeper Noel Valladares was criticised because of his constant mistakes. It would be interesting to know if the Honduran political situation affects the team psychologically.

Formation: Will either employ the defensive 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda has been manager of Honduras since 2006 and was previously manager of Colombia from 2004-2006

Qualification: Honduras finished in the third and final automatic qualification spot in North/Central America, ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference!

World Cup pedigree: This will be Honduras' second World Cup, their first appearance was in 1982 when they famously drew against Spain in Spain. They also drew with Northern Ireland but lost to Yugoslavia. They didn't make it to the 2nd stage.

Chance of progression from Group H: 25%, should surely miss out.

Spain

Strengths: Spain are the favourites for World Cup 2010 and it is not hard to see why. They have lethal finishers like Torres and Villa up front and probably the best midfield in the tournament with the likes of Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta. It is so good that the brilliant Fabregas is not first choice (and it is also likely Torres will be on the bench). Casillas is a top quality goalkeeper and they even have a quality defence with Puyol, Pique etc. They also have a massive strength in depth.

Weaknesses: A number of their players have injury concerns, including Iniesta - but all are still likely to play. They may also be suffering from fatigue from a gruelling Spanish/English domestic season (20 of their squad play in Spain, 3 in England). Out of all four areas on the pitch defence is their weakest, but that of course is relative.

Formation: Probably a 4-2-3-1.

Manager: Vincent del Bosque is in his first stint in international management which start post Euro 2008 (which Spain won) - he has experience in domestic football with the likes of Real Madrid and Besiktas.

Qualification: Spain finished top of their qualifying group recording a perfect 10/10 wins.

World Cup pedigree: This is Spain's 13th World Cup and their 9th in a row. Shockingly their best ever result was fourth in 1950 and have been knocked out in the quarters four times (1934, 1986, 1994 and 2002)

Chance of progression from Group H: 90%, probably in first place.

Switzerland

Strengths: Switzerland are an excellent defensive side. They have an organised and disciplined game. Senderos will be influential at centre-back and Frei is the main man for goals - at international level he scores more often than one every two games. Barnetta is only 25 but he is the third most capped in the squad and is definitely a talented midfielder.

Weaknesses: They are a limited team - they have a few key players, an effective and cohesive will, but lack the spark, firepower and imagination to be sure of winning games. Frei is carrying an injury and should at least miss the first game. He is crucial to Swiss chances so this could play a large influence on their fortunes.

Formation: Almost certainly will be 4-4-2

Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld. He has managed Bayern Munich for a number of years previously but this is his first stint at international management. He is considered a great tactician.

Qualification: Switzerland finished top of their qualifying group, 1 point ahead of Greece.

World Cup pedigree: This is Switzerland's 9th World Cup - their best showing is the quarter-finals of 1934, 1938 and 1954. Since 1966 this is only the 3rd World Cup for which they have qualified.

Chance of progression from Group H: 55%, probably miss out.