June 7, 2010

The biggest tournament in the World

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It all started around two years ago with every country in FIFA trying to qualify for this event to determine what team is truly the best in world. Through several qualifying tournaments, playoffs, friendlies, warm-ups, injuries and many controversies, we’ve finally made it to South Africa – the only team that didn’t have to go through it all.

In a tournament that involves this many teams, it would be impossible to break it down in a single post, so for Running The Point’s World Cup final preview, we’ll break it down in to the groups, going two at a time, then have a big ol’ roundup in time for the first kickoff. Today, we’re hitting up Groups A and B and don’t expect us to take it easy on the hosts.

The host’s group, A, is headlined by the most controversial qualifier of the final, perhaps ever. In case you didn’t catch France’s playoff against Ireland, it ended in infamy. Thierry Henry handled the ball twice in the box before passing it for a wide-open goal to clinch their spot in the final. About the only person in the world to miss this egregious act was the one that mattered, the referee. Now, France is in one of the easier groups with a probable chance to make it through. Their squad is incredibly talented, but their coach, who will be dismissed after this tourney no matter what happens, could screw this one up big, like he usually does.

Mexico, by virtue of their nation’s league schedule and commitment to the national side, has played the more warm-ups than most qualifiers and that should help them with team chemistry. Sure, they haven’t looked spectacular in all of their friendlies, but it was a team building experience more than anything. If they can finish on their numerous chances, they should have be able to coast to round two.

Uruguay should not be overlooked in this group. As striker Diego Forlan showed in the Europa League final, he is one of the most in form players out there right now. The first ever World Cup winner doesn’t have the best team in the world, but if anybody in this group falters, there’s a good chance these South Americans will make it through and could even surprise someone once in the knock out stage.

Finally, South Africa has a solid chance to be the first hosts to ever miss out on the knock out stages. In fact, unless they capitalize on their home field advantage, they could actually finish last in their group. Steven Pienaar is the best player they have, and unless he can raise his teammates’ game, it should be a sad, early exit for the host nation.

Group B should be dominated by Argentina and the FIFA player of the year, Lionel Messi. He has yet to truly show off his stunning club form on the international level, but South Africa could be the perfect stage for the tiny dynamo. The only thing holding back the Argentines will be manager Diego Maradona, who could very well blow this whole thing for his country with an ill-timed tactics change or substitution. Throw in an incredible amount of depth and Maradona may not be able to handle it all.

Greece is in turmoil as a country right now and watching their team in South Africa will not help ease that pain. After winning Euro 2004 as the host, they have faltered to regain that form on the international stage. They qualified by winning a playoff against the Ukraine, but never looked impressive while playing in a group headlined by Switzerland.

As opposed to their usual reputation, this year’s Nigerian squad will be stout on defence. Despite playing an aggressive 4-3-3 lineup, the team relies on their back line to get them by. Perhaps the best player, John Obi Mikel won’t be able to help them out this year. He has been ruled out with a bad leg.

The South Koreans benefitted largely from favourable calls in the run to the semifinals in 2002 and, while competing in every World Cup since 1986, they have yet to make it out of the group stage away from home. Their team is also a very small one on defence, likely to be exploited on set pieces.

6 Comments

  1. very nice article. thank for sharing

  2. I love the Brazil team. But I love it coz you have passion for FIFA cuos. :)

  3. FIFA is going to be very exciting!

  4. hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

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