Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Cup Preview: Group B

We're not going to pretend like we know a lot about soccer. Or that we watch it besides when the World Cup happens every four years. We love any kind of international competition, and the World Cup falls into that category. Like we did for the Olympics, we're teaming up with Cory from the Three Rivers Burgh Blog to preview the 2010 World Cup.

Group B has one team capable of taking the whole thing. Group B also has the advantage of facing Group A in the second round, which means whatever team winds up second in this group will get a team that has faults. As I detailed in my Group A preview, every team in the group has flaws. This might be the easiest group to predict. Argentina is a world class team and Nigeria has the offense, speed, and strength to play with anyone. South Korea and Greece are two of the most boring teams in the tournament. Their game has 0-0 tie written all over it. Argentina has gone all the way before, and Nigeria will likely have the support of the African crowd.

Argentina (FIFA - 7, ESPN - 5)
South Korea (FIFA - 47, ESPN - 26)
Nigeria (FIFA - 21, ESPN - 33)
Greece (FIFA - 13, ESPN - 41)

Group B

Argentina has some of the best attackers in the world, but their team is, well, a disaster. Their coach is one of the greatest heroes in their countries soccer history, having led the nation to the 1986 World Cup. However, a great player does not always make a great coach (see: Gretzky, Wayne). If Diego Maradona fails to advance out of this group, he'll be leading a summer seminar at Greztky's School of Leadership next year. You probably won't hear many positive comments about Maradona during the tournament this year, but that doesn't make him any less the evil genius. He was suspended earlier this year for abusing the media. And this isn't like Dennis Green or Tom Mora abuse. This was the kind of abuse that Americans only joke about. Maradona drove over a photographer's foot then had the balls to call the photographer an asshole. Argentina should walk through this group and get a favorable matchup, potentially against host South Africa, enabling them to advance deep in the tournament and validate Maradona's raucous behavior.

South Korea comes in with really only one star player, and will likely look to play a defensive-minded game and capitalize on the few opportunities they get. They ran undefeated through the Asian qualifiers, but have still been relatively inconsistent. They beat Ivory Coast (FIFA 27, ESPN 14) but lost to China (FIFA 84, ESPN 64). Does anyone really know what to make of this team? It's doubtful they can beat Argentina and their game against Greece has all the makings of a 0-0 crapshoot. Tae Kwon Do comes from South Korea.

Nigeria is a traditional underperformer in the World Cup. They won a gold medal in soccer in 1996 then lost to Denmark in the Round of 16. Will the African crowds rally the Nigerians to a better result this year? There is no doubt this team should be able to come in 2nd in this group. Nigeria is stronger than South Korea and faster than Greece. Heck, Argentina has a shaky back line and if Nigeria's forwards are able to control the pace of the game, they might be able to give them a run for their money. The real question here is the manager. Swede Lars Lagerback, which sounds more like a microbrew you could get at Fathead's than a soccer coach, was brought in late in the qualifiers to instill some discipline in the team. No word yet on whether or not the prince of Nigeria has sent you that $4 million he promised.

Greece's economy is in the pooper, but it's still more exciting than watching this team. This World Cup isn't exactly something that's going to jump-start it either. There isn't going to be a giant spending-spree to buy the teams white jerseys. Multiple publications have called them the most boring team on the planet. Watching them play soccer is like watching basketball in the pre-shot clock era. Yeah, remember when players would just stand around with the ball because they could? If you hope for anything out of this group, hope that Greece doesn't advance and force you to watch them...again. Greece is the type of team that an American audience should avoid watching at all costs if they don't want to adopt the jaded "soccer is boring" mantra. If you're thinking about watching Greece, go with the John Travolta version.

Ian's Predictions: Argentina and Nigeria. Easiest group to pick in the tournament.

Cory's Predictions: Argentina and Greece

No comments: