Mexico stocked up the friendly calendar by scheduling eight exhibitions directly leading up to the World Cup and despite not getting the results they wanted against the top tier nations Mexico still feels they have prepared and equipped themselves properly for this summer’s tournament.
Mexico was drawn into Group A with South Africa, Uruguay, and France. They surely must be confident at their chances to advance from the group.
The Mexicans have advanced through the group stage in the last four World Cups and they look to continue that trend this summer in South Africa. Mexico could easily win the group, but they also are odds-on favorites to at least finish in the top two.
With the experienced Marquez anchoring the defense and a youthful injection to the Mexican attack with Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela, Mexico looks to continue their group stage success.
If Mexico advances pass the group stage they will either meet with the Argentines like in the 2006 World Cup, where they pushed Argentina into extra time before losing on a stunning Maxi Rodriguez strike or one of Group B’s other three nations (Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece).
Mexico clearly has the squad to dispose of any of those three nations, but after that Mexico’s run is sure to come to an end.
After qualifying for the World Cup in most controversial fashion (Henry handball), the French were drawn into what many would call the weakest group of the first round.
Manager Raymond Domenech is participating in his last major tournament in control of the French, and that is to the relief of many France supporters after his controversial squad selection. Some prominent French players that he has left off the roster in one way or another are Nasri, Mexes, Benzema, Frey, and Cissokho.
Having said that, the French do return five starters from last World Cup’s final and they do boast a roster filled with players from Europe’s top clubs.
Led by star Franck Ribery, the French can easily win Group A and draw a Nigeria, Korea Republic, or Greece in the Round of 16.
That being said, France has the ability to reach the quarterfinals, but that is where France’s run would most definitely come to an end due to their lack of firepower up front and absence of a dominant central defense.
This African nation is making their fourth World Cup appearance and will not be satisfied with a group stage elimination. The furthest Nigeria has ever advanced in the World Cup was the Round of 16 in 1994 and 1998.
The Super Eagles have the potential to ride the continental home field advantage to the quarterfinal stage despite this not being one of the best squads in the past two decades.
A second place finish in Group B looks likely as long as Nigeria gets favorable results against Korea Republic and Greece. Once in the round of 16, Nigeria is more than capable of beating any Group A winner. After that though Nigeria’s fairytale run will come to an end likely at the hands of an England or Germany.
The Greeks, who were Champions of Europe in 2004 under manager Otto Rehhagel return to the World Cup for the first time since 1994.
Many would see it as a shock if Greece were to advance to the quarterfinals considering this is only their second World Cup appearance and they have lost all three World Cup matches they have been in by a combined 10-0, but the Greeks are a defensive-minded squad that can’t be easily dissected.
Greece can easily produce a Switzerland-like run from the 2006 World Cup and even advance past the Round of 16 when paired up against a Group A advancer.
The Americans and their fan base expect a deep run in the upcoming tournament. After last summer’s Confederation’s Cup performance, USA is confident that they can compete with the elite nations in the soccer world.
Drawn into Group C, USA will play England, Algeria, and Slovenia. USA usually thrives in the underdog role, so the Americans must get a result against the English in their opening match.
After that they will be favorites in their final two group stage fixtures, where it can easily become 1998 all over again with Algeria and Slovenia playing the Yugoslavia and Iran role.
With a strong Tim Howard between the posts and the experienced captain Carlos Bocanegra leading the defense, USA hopes that Onyewu can get in form quickly or the Americans may run thin in the back line.
Bradley brings the grit in the midfield with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey left to provide the crucial role of forming an attack from the midfield, but USA’s destiny my lay in the hands of its young, strong striker Jozy Altidore.
USA has the fight in them to squeeze past the group stage if they play to their potential. It also helps that the Americans aren’t on European soil, where they have disappointed time after time.
If they avoid Germany in the round of 16, there is no reason to doubt a confident American side from reaching the quarters, but after that the USA run would come to an end.
The Socceroos are looking to build upon an impressive performance in World Cup 2006, where they were eliminated in the Round of 16 in last second fashion against the Italian side that went on to win the World Cup.
Australia casually strolled through their qualification under manager Pim Veerbeek. They will return and depend on some very familiar names in Schwarzer, Neill, Cahill, and Kewell.
The Aussies were drawn into Group D, which can easily be labeled the most competitive group in the tournament. The Germans will be the favorites; The Serbs will be the sleepers, and Ghana will one of Africa’s top threats to make a run in the tournament.
The Socceroos can easily finish at the bottom of this group, but if all goes well for the Aussies they can push themselves into an impressing second place finish.
Their relentless personality and tough style of play would also give them the ability to storm past any Group C opponent they draw in the Round of 16 aside from England.
So Australia can hope for another prime showing on the world’s stage and take it a step further this time around to achieve a quarterfinal berth.
In the 2006 World Cup, when they competed as Serbia and Montenegro, they finished dead last in the tournament.
But Serbia is out to prove themselves this time around after qualifying for the first time as an independent nation. Serbia impressed by topping their group that included France.
Serbia is lead by two veterans in Dejan Stankovic and Nemanja Vidic. Manager Radomir Antic is looking to continue on his very successful start and hoping to do it at this summer’s World Cup in South Africa.
But Beli Orlovi didn’t catch a break in drawing into Group D with Germany, Australia, and Ghana.
Serbia has the talent and squad to compete with this very ready for action group. If Serbia is mentally prepared and organized as a side they can definitely place in their group and advance to the knockout stages.
Once in the round of 16 Serbia will hope to avoid the English, as they would likely be favored over any of the other three nations from Group C. After a win over USA, Algeria, or Slovenia, Serbia’s respectable run would come to an end.
The Black Stars handled qualifying with ease and now look to build from their 2006 World Cup debut. In 2006’s tournament Ghana managed to advance from their tough group before being eliminated by Brazil in the round of 16.
Ghana was done no favors at the World Cup draw, as they were grouped with Germany, Serbia, and Australia in Group D.
Manager Milovan Rajevac, a Serb himself, was dealt a recent crushing blow with the news that Michael Essien will not be able to take part in this summer’s World Cup. This certainly puts a dent in the Ghanaian midfield and lifts the pressure to perform on Appiah and Muntari.
The Ghanaians are another African nation bound to take advantage of the continental home field. This should give them the slight advantage to fight past the tough Serbian and Australian sides to advance to the knockout stages.
Once through to the Round of 16, Ghana is more than capable of disposing any Group C opponent other than England with relative ease.
So the placing of the two groups will be key, but after a Round of 16 victory Ghana will likely be outdone by a classier more complete squad and send the Ghanaians home with their heads held high.
Denmark will be appearing in their fourth World Cup this summer in South Africa. They have advanced past the group stage in all three of their previous showings and they don’t plan on altering that pattern at all this time around.
Manager Morton Olsen’s squad was impressive in qualifying, winning their group that included Portugal and Sweden.
Drawn into Group E, Denmark looks to have a battle ahead of them with a strong Dutch side and tough Cameroon squad competing with them.
Denmark has the toughness and fight to push Holland for a draw in the initial match and they must assure themselves of a point for Cameroon in their second match too.
The Olsen Gang will then most likely need a win over the Japanese, which they are more than capable of producing to grab one of the top two spots in the group.
Once through the group stage, Denmark has the squad to take down any nation from Group F other then the Italians. Once through to the quarterfinals, Denmark’s run to glory would come to an end.
The Indomitable Lions are commonly known as Africa’s most successful soccer nation and South Africa 2010 seems like the best opportunity to add to their reputable resume.
Group E won’t be an easy group for Cameroon to advance out of with Holland and Denmark standing in their way. It doesn’t help that there is some inner-squad animosity with the Eto’o threat to walk away from the squad do to heavy criticisms from Cameroon legend Roger Milla.
Cameroon is going to need Eto’o if they plan on maximizing their potential to succeed at this summer’s World Cup.
If the Indomitable Lions do manage to top Denmark in the battle for the second advancing spot from the group they will also have to hope to avoid Italy in the round of 16.
Cameroon has the squad to eliminate either of Paraguay or Slovakia, but once in the quarterfinals Cameroon’s special run will come to an end.
La Albirroja come into this summer’s World Cup after impressing in the CONMEBOL qualification zone. They defeated each of the other four nations that qualified from their zone (including Brazil and Argentina) and look to ride this confidence into South Africa this summer.
Paraguay boasts an experienced side in defense and a legit goal scoring threat in Roque Santa Cruz up front to compete with the world’s best in this upcoming tournament.
This South American nation is prepared to put together one of their finest showings ever in this summer’s FIFA World Cup.
Paraguay has never advanced to the quarterfinals in their history and with the right matchups this squad can be the first in its nation’s history to do so.
Paraguay should edge out Slovakia for the second advancing spot from Group F and then a Round of 16 match against any nation other then the Netherlands and they will have a great opportunity to be Quarterfinalists for the first time.
The Slovakians enter this summer’s World Cup as a sleeper squad, who if looked past can make any nation pay the price.
This will be Slovakia’s first World Cup appearance as an independent nation after qualifying by topping their group that included Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Poland.
Team captain and Slovakia’s most talented player is Marek Hamsik, who happens to play his club football in Napoli. Another well-known, talented player from this Slovakian side is defender Martin Skrtel who has made a name for himself at Liverpool.
Group F is certain to challenge this Slovakian squad, but a well-prepared side that catches a break here and there can honestly make a run to the Quarterfinals if they avoid a strong Dutch side in the round of 16.