World Cup Analysis: The draw to end all draws

The 2010 FIFA World Cup finals draw has just been made in South Africa and as ever it makes for interesting reading.

Starting with England first; we were drawn in Group C and got quite lucky. The opening match on June 12th against the USA is no gimmie, considering their exploits in the Confederations Cup over the summer, but ties against Algeria and Slovenia were about as good as we could have been hoped for from pots three and four.

The Three Lions have never played the former French colony, who booked their place at the finals by winning a play-off in the neutral venue of the Sudan against Egypt after both teams finished with identical records in African Qualifying Group C. With a 100% record over Slovenia, albeit having played them only once in the 2-1 friendly win at Wembley in September, and seven wins out of nine against the United States we do have reason to be confident about safe passage to the knockout stages. My picks to progress would be the Americans, with England winning the group.

The same cannot be said for Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal. Drawn alongside Brazil, the Ivory Coast and an unknown quantity that is North Korea in Group G, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco and Simão Sabrosa may struggle to negotiate their way into the last 16. The absence of a top quality centre forward may prove costly as the Portuguese defence will have to contend with two of the best in Luís Fabiano and Didier Drogba in opposition ranks. Dealing with the pace of Nilmar, scorer against England in Qatar last month, will also prove troublesome.

Naturally this is all injury permitting, but another concern for England’s conquerors in the 2006 quarter final shootout is the absence of defensive fullbacks. José Bosingwa loves to get forward for both club and country, something that Brazil can exploit. The Elephants are not just a one man team either with Emmanuel Eboué, Kolo Touré and Salomon Kalou playing alongside Drogba in the Premier League, Yaya Touré and Didier Zokora plying their trade in La Liga and a whole host of others in the Dutch, French and German top flights. I’m going for the Ivoirians and Brazilians to advance here.

Next what about the hosts South Africa? The standards of excellence Nelson Mandela hopes from his fellow countrymen may be a bridge too far in Group A against France, Mexico and Uruguay. Benni McCarthy’s return to the national fold is timely with returning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira now in charge for his second spell, but even with home advantage I am not optimistic for Bafana Bafana. There just isn’t enough quality about them for progression past the group stage to be viable, so finishing third would be an achievement.

Yes, the French struggled in qualifying and only made their way to the finals in controversial circumstances, but with the influential Franck Ribéry to return this will be the last hurrah for an aging squad much like our own. Mexico have a fantastic coach in Javier Aguirre who did an outstanding job at both Osasuna and Atletico Madrid and I am hopeful they will make it to the knockout stages.

Uruguay have a number of great individual players, especially going forward, but their defence may be a problem. Diego Forlán, though a flop at Manchester United, has been a revelation in Spain both for Villarreal and Atletico and Luis Suárez of Ajax has been linked with moves to a top European league, reflecting his outstanding form. Service to these frontmen will be crucial if the first world cup winners are to go forward though my picks are France and Mexico.

Argentina, drawn in Group B, will face Nigeria, South Korea and 2004 European champions Greece. This is a tough one to call as the Diego Maradona factor is a wildcard. With a José Pekerman or Alfio Basile in charge you would expect them to qualify as group winners. Their success will hinge on exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents. Argentina will need to outclass the Nigerian central midfield and test their defence and the same with the Koreans.

The Greeks have based their success on defensive displays but have a real partnership in Fanis Gekas and Angelos Charisteas up front. I am inclined to say getting a goalless draw against them is not a bad result, but the one area where there might be some joy for Maradona’s men is in wide areas. Ángel Di Maria has impressed in Europa League displays for Benfica, but there is a wealth of talented width at their disposal with Maxi and Lionel Messi in Spain and the up and coming left-sided player Jesús Dátolo at Napoli. Despite my reservations about the man in charge, I’m going to back Argentina to make it, but the other place in the knockout stages is wide open.

Germany, for me, has the most difficult group. Games against Australia, Serbia and Ghana await the three time world champions. Anything could happen in Group D, but of the four I think Australia are least likely to qualify. The lack of a striker will hurt their chances, with the current best options being Celtic’s Scott McDonald who has failed to net in fifteen appearances for the Socceroos or AZ Alkmaar’s Bret Holman with a solitary goal to his name in twenty-nine.

I really fancy Serbia to get far in this competition; the majority of the squad are playing in Europe’s top leagues now and dealing with Nikola Žigić’s height will be a stern test for even the top defenders. They have good players in every position and I expect them to do better than their last outing in 2006 when they finished bottom of their group with no points. Ghana have a solid midfield with Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah, who is hoping to put his injury nightmare behind him at Bologna. Playing one up front suits them and they have a great chance of making the last 16.

Returning to the Germans I feel they are weaker than before and there are question marks over the strength and depth of their squad. I fear for them if Miroslav Klose or Lukas Podolski gets injured and their central defence is an issue. This seems like a group of death, but if pushed I’d pick two from those three to progress.

Group E sees Holland up against Denmark, Japan and Cameroon. I see no problems for the Dutch negotiating their way to the knockout stages. Even if the opposition scores against them, none of these sides will be able to contend with the rich attack the clockwork orange has at its disposal. It’s more a question of who joins them in advancing; again its one from two. The Japanese may well have been the first nation besides the hosts to qualify but their defence won’t be able to contain Samuel Eto’o or pick up Jon Dahl Tomasson when he drops deep and I hope he breaks Nielsen’s goalscoring record! I’d have to toss a coin to determine whether the European or African nation progresses. That may well hinge on their match against one another.

Reigning world champions Italy have an easy draw in Group F, pitting them against Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. I can quite easily foresee Marcelo Lippi’s side qualifying with maximum points and the Kiwis finishing rock bottom with nothing. My heart says Slovakia to finish second but my head says Paraguay. The South Americans have the advantage of major tournament experience over the first time qualifiers, but the Slovaks have a strong midfield, with Marek Hamšík the pick of bunch for his guile and creativity.

Lastly Euro 2008 winners Spain are in Group H alongside Chile, Honduras and Switzerland. On paper this should be no problem for Vicente Del Bosque as I just can’t see their opponents being able to contend with Fernando Torres and David Villa. The playmaking of Xavi and Andrés Iniestia is a further headache for the other three teams so I expect them to qualify as group winners. Based on experience alone I would go with the Swiss to complete the last 16 line-up. Honduras has one or two players, the likes of Wilson Palacios and David Suazo of Internazionale that catch the eye but that won’t be enough. As for Chile they have Matias Fernández, South American footballer of the year in 2006, to provide flair and Roma midfield stalwart David Pizarro. Again two quality players don’t make a team and I doubt that either side will be able to keep the Swiss strike force out.


  1. Good points overall. I think group E could be more complicated than you make out though. If the dutch turn up then they’ll progress with ease but they’ve not got the easiest of draws. Japan will be well gelled as a unit and appear to have a hitman themselves with Shinji Okazaki. Cameroon will be well suited to the African pitches and conditions and Eto’o is up there with the best in the world.

    I also think you underplay the chances of Honduras and Chile given that the swiss team is far from star-studded. Chile finished a mere point behind Brazil in qualifying and recorded wins over Argentina and Paraguay. In addition Humberto Suazo finished as the top scorer in CONMEBOL qualifiers. Honduras meanwhile can rely on their talismanic striker Carlos Pavon who will want to finish his illustrious playing career on a high.

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  2. I’d rather play Claudio Lopez on the wing that Maxi Lopez. LOLZ!

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  3. Why discuss things that you know nothing about?

    If you don’t know about a particular team, either do your research or admit you don’t know.

    Chile’s section is probably the worst, as you omit the 5 most important players on the team and opt to mention a player who has retired from the NT and one who only played half the games

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  4. 7 Dec ’09 at 10:45 pm

    Crimson Lizard

    Think editing got the wrong Maxi :P

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  5. zasal, that must be the least necessary comment ever, nobody knows much about Chile. Good article!

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  6. 8 Dec ’09 at 12:37 am

    Crimson Lizard

    Perhaps zasal would like to tell us who these five Chilean wonder players are.

    Also let’s here who people will make it through the group stages and tips to do well in the tournament.

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  7. 8 Dec ’09 at 2:59 am

    chilean supporter

    This Is A Horrible Analisis If Your Getting Payed Then I Myself Could Find a Job in this industry you do not know nothing about some of the teams you have mentioned chile
    does not play with david pizzaro he retired chile won more games then brazil finished one point benieth brazil they have players as humberto suazo top goal scorer in south america matias fernandez alexis sanchez a starlet from udinese and jorge valdivia not to mention arturo vidal or jean beausejeur or fabian orellana ur article is poor and you should do RESEARCH BEFORE U WRITE SUCH ARTICLES!

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  8. 8 Dec ’09 at 3:01 am

    chilean supporter

    thats your fault peoples you no nothing about the chilean team
    which came second in the conombol for those who dont know its the southamerican qualifiers! learn your football people theres only 32 teams to get to know before june!

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  9. Dear chilean supporter,

    Your English is as flawless as your football team. Chile aren’t going to win the group but will definitely challenge for second place.

    I do agree with the comment about Group E. I think that the Netherlands always fail to turn up in top form at the World Cup (always meaning in the last twenty years; though with one of the best teams ever they failed to win in 1974 (and ’78 to an extent) so I don’t think they’re as clear cut above Denmark and Cameroon as you’d like to think – Cameroon are one of the power-nations in Africa with the advantage of South African support (I suspect?) and Denmark are a great team when they play on form. Japan is also an international powerhouse at times and though it would definitely be ranked last on paper, they’re not going to go easily and could well be the team that decides the top two.

    Group A is also not as clear cut as it seems. France should be through if they turn up with even their B team on form but Uruguay have played well in the last year, Mexico are always competitors and South Africa are playing at home and to be honest have a relatively good team this year. It’s really all to play for and I think that it’ll simply be whichever teams play on top form that will do well in that group.

    In terms of our hopes – England won’t have an easy victory (we’ve lost the only World Cup match we’ve ever played against the USA – albeit in 1950) but we should be solid (though, again, we played Slovenia in May and only beat them by one goal).

    Oh, Australia>Serbia :P

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  10. Jason- you don’t know anything about football. Don’t waste our time.

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  11. 8 Dec ’09 at 3:09 pm

    chilean supporter

    Dear Anon
    Well My English Is Pretty Good I Just Cant Be Bothred to write it perfectly for you.
    (ANON) I Never Said They Could Win The Group But They Will Chalenge For The Group
    Even Your Self Knows That Chile Aint Flawless jeje But At least you could mention More Chilean Players Then 2 Such As The Writer :)
    Not to Mention That A Player Like David Pizzaro Retired Chilean Football 3years Ago
    Hopefully This You Will Be Able To Understand Try to Reply back in spanish.
    Thank You

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  12. 8 Dec ’09 at 3:11 pm

    chilean supporter

    My Bad Anon This Msg Was For “J”

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  13. Well, I watch international football at every opportunity and am beating my Dad’s workmates at fantasy football this year so I do know who’s on form and who isn’t – and I do play football. Plus my brother is a World Cup Trivia genius so I’ve picked up a lot of that stuff too….. but your outlook completely depends on your personal beliefs and I believe that this year’s Netherlands team isn’t as strong as half of the teams in the last decade; and they didn’t turn out to perform.

    Ultimately a lot will depend on how well the teams train together in the month before the World Cup and who gets injured at an awkward time – my money’s on Rooney ruining our chances :P

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  14. I hope Chile go out first round!

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  15. 8 Dec ’09 at 9:11 pm

    Woden's hero

    Even if Chile finish second in the group they will face the winners of Group G which will be Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast. So the last 16 is the only realistic target for the Chilean team. The Chile team will definitely not equal or emulate their 1962 predecessor’s achievements in South Africa next year.
    Concerning the main blog, a lot of injuries, sackings and changes of form may occur between now and June. The formbook may change, with friendly’s occurring next year and also domestic competitions. Your thoughts about who will progress out of the group stages would have been more relevant nearer the competition. Also your thoughts on who will win the world cup and why would have been interesting.

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  16. I think that Brazil will win. The spanish have a great squad but i really think the brazilians will turn it on. Players like Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano seem to turn it on when playing for the national side and can tear any team to pieces if they’re on their game. Their defence is weak but like any Brazilian side they’ll look to outscore their opponents and I think they’ll succeed.

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  17. 9 Dec ’09 at 2:49 pm

    chilean supporter

    Look For Chile Gettin To The Round 16 Will Be An Accomplishment,
    Im Not Saying We Could Win The World Cup But We Are Gonna Fight for It Aswell As Other Teams But I Do Think That Spain And Brazil Can Turn Out Vunerable!
    I Do Think For Spain They Will Be Fatigued And They Wont Acustom To Southafrica As Well As The SouthAmericans,
    For Chile I Think They Can Beat Spain In The Group Stages Against Brazil We Droped Momentum In 2Minutes And They Scored 2 Goals Chile Played hand In hand And who ever Watched that game Chile Vs Brazil When Chile Went Away They Would Of saw That chile Have lost 5 Games In The Qualifiers But At The Same Time Had more Possesion Say We Had A More Potent Strike Ratio We Could Do Alot Of Countrys Damage
    I Followed My Team Threw EveryGame Ive Watched Them But Iam Realistic.
    And Theres Only A Few Teams That Can Beat Us
    I Do Think Brazil Will Make It To the Semis And I feel Argentina Wil Step There Game Up
    Australia Wont Make It Threw Against Serbia! And I Dont Think SPAIN will Win The worldcup!
    Thank You THis Is On My Belif And No OtherS!

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  18. Pretty terrible article, to be honest. No verve, little insight… sounds like someone reading the Sun then putting it slightly more complicatedly.

    “Returning to the Germans I feel they are weaker than before and there are question marks over the strength and depth of their squad. I fear for them if Miroslav Klose or Lukas Podolski gets injured and their central defence is an issue. This seems like a group of death, but if pushed I’d pick two from those three to progress.”

    So lets get this straight, “if pushed”, you’re picking two from three (of a group of four) to progress? Why not go the whole hog? “If pushed, Gary, I’d say two teams will progress from each group, and furthermore, it’s my view that one team will go on to win it.”

    If you’re gonna write about football, at least have the balls to provide an opinion, rather than just saying what every single person thinks when they look at the draw.

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  19. (but not an opinion like “J”s…

    “Well, I watch international football at every opportunity and am beating my Dad’s workmates at fantasy football this year so I do know who’s on form and who isn’t – and I do play football. Plus my brother is a World Cup Trivia genius so I’ve picked up a lot of that stuff too….”

    Haha, can this guy be serious? yeah guys i beat my dads mates at fantasy football im a pro p.s. my bro? yeah football genius guys)

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  20. I didn’t say I was a genius; I said that I had a perfectly viable viewpoint based on knowledge of many of the key players in the World Cup squads. Thanks for insulting me by telling me I’m not a football genius – I’m fairly aware of that fact – but giving opinions and making predictions is the mark of a fantasy football game anyway: trying to predict which teams will do well, which players will score… I don’t really see how “Robin Ganderton” can say that his opinion is any more valid when his website is dedicated to recounting stories of him taking mind-altering drugs. Yeah, I’m the failure here. Really.

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  21. The problem with articles like this, from my perspective, is the dishonesty of the writer in not acknowledging his ignorance or doing his homework.

    I know about the Chilean national team. I know that David Pizarro retired from the NT, that Jorge Valdivia has overtaken Matias Fernandez as the starting ’10’ etc…

    the problem is that the rest of the information, which is limited anyhow, is untrustworthy when in the one section i do know something about you demonstrate such ignorance

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  22. 6 Jan ’10 at 12:22 pm

    Nkeng Fobeteh

    All is well as far as wprld cup preparations are concern for African representatives. Look at Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon. Beware!!

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