World Cup Preview – Part 4

9 Jun

Group G

Brazil

There has been a huge fuss made in the build-up to the tournament about how negative Dunga’s Brazil are, but don’t believe a word of it. They may not play “samba” football, but this is one of the quickest and most ruthless counter-attacking sides ever seen. For the first time the five-time winners have a world-class keeper in Julio “Loughridge” Cesar. Ramires and Felipe Melo, both criminally underrated, make up an energetic midfield.

Info for non-fans: Professing Christians Kaká and Lúcio are both in the squad, but FIFA has issued a ban on “religious messages” this time round, so there’ll be no cool t-shirts.

Ben’s one to watch: Ronaldinho’s been looking good in the Nike ads…

Prediction: A mix of skill, pace and resilience makes this Brazil squad very strong contenders. If Kaká and Luís Fabiano are on form, they’ll be difficult to stop. Winners.

Cote d’Ivoire

The Elephants will have been dying to get their tusks into this tournament, that is until they herd that a tough draw had placed them in the group of death. Like most of the other African sides, they changed their coach after the African Cup of Nations, appointing mercenary Sven-Goran Eriksson. At time of writing, major doubts remain over Didier Drogba’s participation.

Info for non-fans: Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson is being payed a reported £2million to manage the Backwards Irish at the World Cup.

Ben’s one to watch: Salomon Kalou will be looking to pick up where he left off after nearly scoring in the FA Cup Final.

Prediction: Eriksson wasn’t able to pick Theo Walcott, which was a blow. The potential loss of Drogba, around whom they based their entire system, could be fatal. Group stage.

North Korea

We know very little about the Axis Of Evil members, except that they play a highly defensive system and will aim to frustrate their opponents. The People’s Rooney, Jong Tae-Se, will be relied upon for goals. Tried to name a forward as a third goalkeeper to get around FIFA rules, but their bluff was called, and number 7 Kim Myong-Won is now only allowed to play in goal.

Info for non-fans: North Korea is the Asian Northern Ireland. They have a squad of almost complete unknowns, and rely on one semi-decent striker for their firepower. With a more serene and civilised neighbour to the south, no-one really knows why they bother having their own separate football team. But they do have a great song.

Ben’s one to watch: Park Ji-Sung

Prediction: Could possibly have caused a shock or two in a weaker group, but it’s hard to see them holding out for 9o minutes against their three group opponents. Group stage.

Portugal

After courting disaster in qualification, the Portu-geezers scraped through with a narrow playoff victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored in a competitive match for his national side since Euro 2008, and this will need to change if they are to progress.

Info for non-fans: Expect to see plenty of spooferism, chancerism and peacockery from the boy Ronaldo.

A Ben’s one to watch: The evergreen Nuno Gomes will supply the goals once again.

Prediction: Goalscoring may be a problem, but should make it out of the group unscathed. But finish second, and an Iberian derby with Spain may lie in wait in the last 16. Second Round.

Group H

Chile

A young side playing attractive, attacking football, Marcelo Bielsa’s side are at their first World Cup in 12 years. With Matías Fernández playing as a classic number 10, and Humberto Suazo looking to add to his 10 qualifying goals, Chile will be hoping to catch their opposition cold.

Info for non-fans: “Well Clive, Chile are the world’s fifth largest exporter of wine, but it’s been far from a vintage performance tonight, they’ve really bottled it.”

Ben’s one to watch: Mark González – played for Liverpool, so he must be good.

Prediction: Second only to Brazil in qualifying, Chile’s brand of attacking play will certainly bring goals. Seem well-equipped to progress behind Spain. Second round.

Honduras

This will be Honduras’ first World Cup in since 1982, and they are not there to be whipping boys. A strong, combative and resilient side, they will rely heavily on a midfield core of Wilson Palacios and Hendry Thomas.

Info for non-fans: Hondurans take their football seriously. After losing a playoff to El Salvador in qualification for the 1970 World Cup, a war broke out between the neighbouring states. Striker Carlos Pavón was recently declared the most popular footballer in the world, after a FIFA online poll.

Ben’s one to watch: Maynor Figueroa has proved my view that you should always shoot, no matter what.

Prediction: Their qualifying campaign suggests plenty of guts and a never-say-die attitude, and Honduras will be tough to beat. But constructiveness going forward will also be needed if they are to progress. Group stage.

Spain

The Spaniards arrive at the finals heavily fancied, with a squad packed full of top-class talent, and plenty of confidence after their triumph at Euro 2008. In Torres and Villa, they have two of the world’s best attackers. Daily Mail favourite Xavi’s metronomic but incisive passing provides ammunition for their fearsome forward line. There are worries in defence, with Carlos Puyol never quite inspiring confidence, but so adept are they at keeping the ball that it may not be a problem.

Info for non-fans: Lookers abound in the Spanish team, with beautiful men Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres both near the top of the list.

Ben’s one to watch: Albert Riera

Prediction: With the primate removed from their collective lumber region, Spain have all the necessary components to shine once again this summer. But, as their defeat to USA at the Confeds last year proved, they are not invincible. Runners-up.

Switzerland

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s sides are traditionally built on a strong defence, and this Swiss outfit will be set up along the same lines, although any back-line containing Philippe Senderos will be prone to error. Veteran forward and captain Alexander Frei will be relied upon to supply the goals.

Info for non-fans: As the spiritual home of the wristwatch, expect Clive Tyldesely to make plenty of references to timely interceptions and running down the clock.

Ben’s one to watch: Reto Ziegler is a left-back in the John Arne Riise/Ben Hanna mould.

Prediction: Unless young starlets Derdiyok and Shaqiri can find form, the Swiss look too lightweight going forward to pose a major threat. This is compounded by defensive worries. Group stage.

That concludes the AK.com World Cup preview. Thanks to Ben for the tips, and for being a good sport. Don’t forget to sign up for the Fantasy Football league, details are available if you scroll down the page.

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