The Football World Cup is upon us and without a doubt we’ve all got a favorite. Whether it be a team to win each group stage or a team to triumph on the penultimate day in July, there’s surely a team close to the heart or the hip pocket. But I’m sure we’ve all had a sneaky look beyond the group stage to the knock-out games. Well, what if there’s a different result or three along the way?
It is these types of upsets that could create little air pockets of turbulence for the teams, tournament, and traveling fans. You can’t tell me that the traveling caravan of Dutch supporters haven’t looked ahead and bought tickets for the knockout rounds with the thought, and hope, that they qualify from their group in front.
Organizers and promoters are hoping for all teams to play their part and for the right teams to progress to give the fans the matches “everyone” desires. Don’t expect them to lift the coveted trophy but these 5 teams will play some good football and produce displays worth watching…
If it wasn’t for the debutant North Korea (although was North Korean striker Jong Tae-se just high on life when he claimed North Korea will land second place?), this may be the one and only group of death. Three quality teams in Brasil, Portugesa and Cote de Ivore are 3 of the favorites to win the tourney with Brazil being obvious favorites to win the group and most betting agencies have Portugal as the other team to progress.
The bookies predict Brazil and Portugal to be first and second in their group respectively, the Ivory Coast aren’t exactly without their talent. Les Elephants will be able to score a few goals by Drogba and Kalou with the supply coming from the ever impressive Barcelona dynamite Yaya Toure and co. in midfield. Behind them sit Kolo Toure, and the often flappable Emmanuel Eboue.
But one must ask the question. Are the players from Cote de Ivore that good or are Portugese just falling to pieces? Portugal only narrowly qualified for this tournament and then just recently Portugal played out an unimpressionable 0-0 draw with Cape Verde Islands. Even before this game Cristiano Ronaldo had been back pedaling recently after stating that he doesn’t “perform miracles”. I see The Elephants trumpeting over Portugal in their first match, possibly taking a point from Brazil, and clinching the second spot of the group. Sorry C. Ronaldo and bandwagon.
Despite recent comments by injured German captain Michael Ballack stating that his men could lose to any of the 3 other nations in Group D, Germany are the team to back winning this group. The main story is the battle for the other spot in the knockout rounds with 3 strong teams duke’ing it out for one qualification place. Australia, Ghana, and Serbia won’t win the world cup but this battle for the other qualifying place is still to be played out.
Schwarzer is a rock between the sticks and won’t let through much into the onion bag. Moore and Neill are the veteran pair in the center of defence but they definitely lack speed. Australia’s physical midfield should be able to create enough of a presence to disrupt the opposition’s flow but there’s a big question mark over the one-dimensional shape (4-2-3-1) to the Socceroos that coach Pim Verbeek insists on. Cahill will be the key attacking force with support coming in dribs and drabs through players like Kewell and Kennedy.
Australia cruised through their first Asian qualification group but experience gained from the very successful (for a team like the Aussies’ standards) German 2006 campaign. Timmy Cahill is all class lately and if he fires up then we could see Australia progress and even get a point from the first game with die Deutschen.
Well if Sir Alex says the US should do well, that is after the England game, and progress through to the round of 16, then that be it! The US of A had a wonderful 2009 Confederations Cup where Bob Bradley’s men not only beat the switched off Spain but also were leading 2-0 against the other heavyweight, Brazil, until succumbing 3-2.
Towards the back end of the team Tim Howard will be called upon more than a coach would want but I am confident in the Everton no.1. and Captain America Bocanegra should also prove reliable. The midfield is the driving force behind the US and Donavon and colleagues will get going and they should have enough stamina, pace and desire to match England for the most part and definitely get on top of Algeria and Slovenia. Up front there’s a few options but Bob Bradley shouldn’t look too far past Herculez Gomez and the versatile Clint Dempsey. If Gomez and Dempsey can bring with them their goal scoring form that they’ve displayed for Pachuca and Fulham respectively, the US should be able to send a few past the opposing no.1.
Injuries may be the deciding factor for the Stars and Stripes. The squad depth is questionable so any injuries at all will weaken their team considerably. If they remain relatively fit and injury free, I expect the US to wear that new uniform into the last 16 and give England a run for their money in the battle for Group C glory.
There’ll be two African nations to progress. Yes that’s right, home continent advantage. Forget the Cinderella story for South Africa, Cameroon are the best bet to qualify for the final 16. That is of course, once Samuel Eto pulls his head in and gets about his job captaining Cameroon.
It goes without saying that Eto is the man on a mission and that is to score goals; we know that they’re not going to come from many other players. The Cameroon midfield are quality and need to feed Eto and his other tireless forwards. Alexander Song has the potential to break down attacks and Jean Makoun needs to continue distributing and contributing in any way he can.
It will be the Danes to miss out and catch an early flight back but the traveling Oranje RV army will roll on as they'll cruise to the top of their group.
Mexico are just one of those teams that you don’t want in your group. They’ve had a rocky build up but the revolving door in the coaches office seems to be stuck and Javier Aguirre is it. El Tri won’t win the World Cup and they may not make it out of their group but they are a dark horse and anything could happen with them.
Mexico vs. South Africa in the opening match. In my mind, it’s a no brainer with The hometown Boys getting stage fright. Beyond them, the Mexicans face Uruguay and France in two very competitive games. Veteran stalwart Blanco needs to bring his experienced boots with him to direct the play. Hopefully he shouldn’t have to look over his shoulder too much as he won’t have to worry about Ochoa in goals and Marquez in the defensive line, both veterans who pump out solid performances.
Mexico does lack firepower and that could be their downfall. Vela hasn’t come out of the shadows at Arsenal and youngster Dos Santos was left back on the beach with a corona in hand. But never fear! If Mexico don’t do well at all, their WAGs are sure to shine.
…but don’t quote me on all this.