Tuesday, June 08, 2010

World Cup Preview: Group B

On to Group B:

Argentina (4th in CONMEBOL): Argentina's struggles through qualifying provided one of the most compelling story lines to watch. In the end, the side led by Lionel Messi and coached by Diego Maradona was able to qualify comfortably in fourth. Argentina will not lack for talent. Lionel Messi leads a potent attack which features Manchester City's Carlos Tevez and Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero. The most frequently asked question about Argentina is whether or not they can overcome Maradona's coaching to secure glory. Group B shouldn't pose much of a problem for Argentina and a weak Group A should provide knock out round fodder.

Player to Watch: Lionel Messi (ST)

Prediction: 1st in Group B, Semi-Finals

Republic of Korea (1st in Group 2 in Asian Qualifying): If the future lies in Asia, the football world isn't paying attention. Indeed, eight years after Korea and Japan hosted the event, Asia seems to be a forgotten continent. Africa has had an unusually bright spotlight, Europe is always king and South America always draws attention. Asia has been ignored. This probably suits the South Koreans just fine. A lot of ink has been spilled discussing the unexpected qualification of the DPRK, but South Korea, which finished 4 points ahead of their northern cousins has been ignored. Do so at your own peril. The team is led by one of Alex Ferguson's favourite players the always dangerous Park Ji Sung and could well be a nuisance to a bigger country.

Player to Watch: Lee Chung Yong

Prediction: 2nd in Group B. Eliminated in the round of 16.

Nigeria (1st in Group B of African Qualifying): The superpower of Africa boasts no shortage of big names. John Obi Mikel, Obafemi Martins, Dickson Etuhu and the ageless Kanu headline a strong team. The problem for Nigeria has been putting the pieces together. Last day heroics allowed Nigeria to qualify for this tournament and the team looked pedestrian against what was a not particularly difficult qualifying group. Yes, they could get their act together on African soil, but they will need to do so in short order. There are no soft marks in Group B and Nigeria may find it difficult to break down the Koreans and Greeks. Nigeria will probably be a lot of people's choice to move on here. Not mine.

Player to Watch: John Obi Mikel

Prediction: 3rd in Group B

Greece (2nd in Group 2; Defeated Ukraine 1-0 on aggregate): Euro 2004 seems like a long time ago for the Greeks. Yes, they've qualified for their first world cup since 1994, but hopes cannot be high for this team. Then again, hopes are never high for Greece, they weren't in 2004. If their defensive shell is cracked early, it could get ugly for the Greeks who faced little real competition from a weak qualifying group. 2004 was a once in a lifetime achievement for Greece. It's only been six years.

Player to Watch: Georgios Karagounis

Prediction: Last in Group B

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