2010 World Cup Preview: Group B

2010 World Cup Preview: Group B

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On June 2, 2010
  • 2010 World Cup, Argentina, Geoff Reid, Greece, Group B, Nigeria, South Korea, World Cup 2010

Will Lionel Messi and Argentina live up to expectations?

By Geoff Reid

This particular group intrigues me, not because it contains Messi, Maradona and company, but because it has gone under the radar in terms of attention with Group C getting most of it on both sides of the Atlantic for obvious reasons, and Group G being classed as the “group of death.” Drew mentioned in his Group A preview that that particular group could be one of the most competitive ones in the whole field, and while that is true, Group B might just be a lot more even then some folks will realize and predict.

Argentina: The clear favorites to top the group and advance as a top seed for obvious reason. On paper, they have the strongest squad, the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, and an embarrassment of talent at their disposal. The fact that the Champions League winning pair from Inter Milan Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso don’t even make the 30 man provisional squad shows that. Quite frankly the biggest question mark over this team is not the players, it’s the manager Diego Maradona. Easily the best player of his generation and in the top five best players ever produced in the world has had his fair share of health problems in recent years and that’s no secret to anyone which is why he was chosen to manage the national side was a surprise to everyone. The squad barely avoided the playoff against the forth nation from CONCACAF which ended up being Costa Rica. The list of surprises Maradona has given us all could go on for days and days, but the squad is picked and ready to go. This side will run into an unpredictable Nigeria first, much like themselves. The second match will have them go up against a well drilled South Korean squad who have some very underrated players, while finishing the group stage against what should be a stubborn Greece side. Messi is the obvious key, but the pressure should not be all on him, and there is plenty of it in the Argentina lineup to go round with the likes of Diego Milito, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, and captain Javier Mascherano.

Greece: The Greeks finished second to Switzerland in their qualifying group and ended up beating the Ukraine in the two legged playoff to advance to their first world cup since USA ’94 where not only did they lose all three group matches, but did not score a single goal. A lot has changed in the last 16 years though, and in-particular their victory in Euro 2004. German coach Otto Rehhagel molded a champion out of defense first and proved to the rest of the world that the term “defense” can really win you championships which upset a lot of purists. Knowing that Greece didn’t have the luxury with talent to win on talent alone, he made his squad unbreakable and counter attacked very well. Expect the same from the Greeks in this tournament. They will be well drilled and stubborn. Main striker Fanis Gekas was top scorer in European qualifying with 10 goals and if he can catch fire, Greece will have every chance of qualifying.

Nigeria: The Super Eagles were handed a fairly kind draw comapred to their African counterparts, but this year’s team is a little different to previous sides. What’s particularly striking is that this year’s side lack that playmaker while past Nigerian world cup squads have had multiple players that could fill that role. Gone are the days of Jay-Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh. The current side do have two decent stikers in Obafemi Martins and Yakubu, but both have been rather inconsistent during national team play. The midfield is also talented with holding midfielders in Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, and Fulham’s Dickson Etuhu, but lack that creative spark. The manager expected to guide the squad this tournament is Swede Lars Lagerback who has disciplined Sweden sides in previous tournaments and he is expected to bring exactly that to the table here. With the squad lacking a real creative spark in the midfield, Lagerback might have been a better choice then originally expected with his style as a disciplined, defensive coach.

South Korea: This year’s South Korean side is a little different in that in this tournament their manager is home grown, Huh Jung-moo, instead of being Dutch with Guus Hiddink taking the country to 4th place as a co-host nation in 2002, and Dick Advocaat in 2006. The squad has trust in the manager, and he guided them through qualifying with ease. The real test is again seeing how the team competes with other nations outside the Asian confederation. With a number of players playing overseas, mostly in Europe, they have players who know how to get the job done. Most notable is captain and Manchester United player Park Ji-sung, a solid player who is a workhorse that will run all day long for the cause. Another accomplished Premiership player, Lee Chung-yong for Bolton Wanderers is gifted technically. Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-yong has been one of the most talked about footballers in Asia over the last 18 months and has a bright future ahead of him. Expected to score the goals will be AS Monaco striker Park Chu-young who is the poster boy for South Korean football. The second is very much within reach for this group.

Group B Prediction:

This is a real tough one, tougher then originally anticipated. Before I give my predictions I believe all four sides have a good chance at qualifying for the last 16. I also would not at all be surprised if Argentina failed to reach the knockout phase because Maradona seems to have the squad in a mess. However, in saying that, the Argentines are blessed with talent and can get by this part of the tournament on talent alone so I believe they will end up qualifying unconvincingly. The side to join them I believe will be South Korea. The South Koreans have never reached the knockout phase outside of their home soil, and I fully expect them to get it done this time. They have enough experience now where just like the USA, they’ve qualified for enough world cups in a row where exiting at the group stage would be a failure.

South Korea 7pts
Argentina 5pts
Greece 3pts
Nigeria 1pt