Friday, May 28, 2010
South Africa: Pool B
Pool B is next up. Led by one of the strongest teams in the field of 32, this pool could turn out to be interesting.
Argentina is my personal favorite for the Cup at the moment. First of all, they're led by their head coach Diego Maradona, I'm not sure if anyone has really heard of him... They haven't won it since 1986, but after making the quarterfinals in 2006 and winning the Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, I think they're an even better team for South Africa. Up top, they have one of the world's biggest stars in Lionel Messi (44 caps, 13 goals) as well as Carlos Tevez (52, 9). At the midfield, Liverpool teammates Javier Mascherano (57, 2) and Maxi Rodriguez (36, 12) anchor the corps. Mascherano has also been named captain for the Cup this year. Also for the first time since 1994, Javier Zanetti will not wear the light blue and white stripes on the pitch with his countrymen. But with a still veteran defense corps, I think Argentina will be not only one of the toughest teams to score against, but one of the toughest to stop.
South Korea has not made it out of the first round with the exception of 2002, when it was held on their home turf. I don't expect them to give anyone much trouble this time around, either. Nigeria will be playing in just their fourth World Cup, on their native continent, but they have been slipping since their 9th place finish in 1994.
Now, Greece hasn't qualified since 1994, when they lost all 3 matches in the first round, failing to score a goal. In 2004, they were victorious in the EUFA Euro Cup. Most of their current squad plays in one of Greece's football leagues, but there are a few names who will step up and try to prove themselves to the world. Angelos Charisteas has the second most caps with 83, and is the squad's leading scorer with 24 goals. He will play alongside fellow striker Theofanis Gekas (47, 20). At midfield, and leading this Greek team will be Giorgos Karagounis (92, 6). They may not look like much, but I think Greece is still a team on the rise who will surprise people.
There's no doubt in my mind that Argentina will steamroll this pool. Nigeria may get a win here, with the help of the home crowd, and Greece will have to step up on offense, which has been lacking in the past, and if they do, I think it will be their goal differential that will push them through with Argentina to the Round of 16.