Football Station


Set Your DVR For…Pt. 1

Group A –

– South Africa vs. Mexico –

The young Mexican will open up defenses in Group A.

Yep, the opening game.  It will be the first test for both sides hoping to make it out of one of the more exciting groups.  Recently marred by the Benni McCarthy scandal, the nation will be eager to get behind their boys and cheer the Bafana Bafana to victory. However, they are coming up against a battle ready Mexican side featuring the likes of Andrés Guardado, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Cuauhtémoc Blanco.  But, it is important to stress the effects that homefield advantage can have on a squad (cue 2002 South Korea).  Whatever happens in Group A, it should amount to some fireworks.

Prediction

South Africa 1 – 2 Mexico

– France vs. Mexico –

To say France has drastically underachieved in qualifying could be putting it lightly.  Les Bleus have one of the strongest rosters in the world, but have failed to live up to that potential.  Forever famous for his handball (the Hand of Gaul), Thierry Henry, the French’s leading scorer, will look to net early and often against a Mexican side that isn’t without its flaws.  Rafael Marquez has only just returned from injury and could be prime for a runaround, a fact that Franck Ribery knows assuredly, as well.  One of the only consistent performers for the French, and only recently, is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.  The youngster has been in superb form for Lyon and will more than likely attract the attention of big European clubs in South Africa.

Snugglin'

Prediction

France 1 – 1 Mexico

Group B

– Argentina vs. Nigeria –

Most likely the most anticipated match-up of Group B, as the attacking flair of the Africans and the unrivaled talent in the striking

department of the Argentines should provide fireworks.  The Nigerian defense isn’t half bad either.  With the likes of Joseph Yobo, Danny Shittu and Taye Taiwo, they won’t be push overs.  However, when you consider the opposition of Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Milito and Higuain up front, it’s hard to be confident.  Expect a high scoring match with little being offered by either team to defensive standoffs.

Prediction

Argentina 4 – 2 Nigeria

Group C

England vs. United States –

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this match, as the two nations have an illustrious history.  Wartime foes and allies, fierce

So much Wayne. So much angst.

rivalries in sports (Ryder Cup anyone?) and the constant claim that the Americans will never be up to snuff in the footballing world.  And with a squad like England’s, it’s hard to argue…at least this time around.  Despite losing Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry (for the opener only), England still has plenty of bite.  Their pacy wingers will be eyeing up the slower Yank defense and licking their lips.  However, the Americans prosper as underdogs and have proved it before against Spain, Italy and nearly Brazil.  They also do have a few game changing players in their ranks in the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.  Michael Bradley will surprise some critics at this World Cup for his stifling defensive work but will have his hands full with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard…especially if Ricardo Clark starts and keeps being useless.

Prediction

England 2 – 2 United States

Group D

….All.  The Germans look favorites to top the group, who could blame them?  They are historically dominant and just legit all the time.  Without Ballack, there will be a big hole in midfield that some undersized plugs will try to fill, but the Germans will still manage to oust this group.  The Ghanians will obviously be missing their star man, Michael Essien, but there is still hope as Asamoah Gyan will be a viable option up top and Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah will look to anchor down the middle of the park.  The big physical play of the Serbs could see them through this group as they have sufficient talent all over the pitch, namely defense. Aleksander Kolorov, Branislav Ivanovic, Neven Subotic and Nemanja Vidic…enough said.  They won’t allow many goals and won’t be devoid of goal scoring options up top.  The Australians might be the underdogs of this group, but not by too much.  Their defensive work, like the Serbs, could make up for any menace they lack going forward.  Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill and keeper Mark Shwarzer will be up to the task to snuffing out more than enough attacks.  The question is: can they hold off enough of them to get forward themselves to score?  We don’t think so.

Prediction

Germany to take top spot, with Serbia and Ghana slugging it out for second.  Slight edge Serbia.

Group E

Cameroon vs. Denmark

Simon Kjaer will be entrusted with stifling Samuel Eto'o

The two would-be runner up contenders will contend what we believe to be an intense contest.  This is backed up by a little guycalled Christian Poulsen.  He’s explosive, he provokes players and he’s violent.  After run ins with Francesco Totti, Gennaro Gattuso and Kaká, Poulsen has made a name for himself as a bit of a dirty player.  That coupled with the intensity sure to be building up within the Cameroonian midfield could lead to a show.  Don’t put it past Poulsen to make a racial slur, provoke one of the Lions.  That said, Cameroon have an iconic hitman in Samuel Eto’o, however that may be slightly scuppered by the big Danes, Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer.  Cameroon are also dealing with internal team issues with Samuel Eto’o being called out by legend Roger Milla, essentially for being a baby.  Denmark will look to snuff out attacks with their big boys in back and counter through their young gun Nikolas Bendtner.

Prediction

Cameroon 1 – 0 Denmark

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Champions League Draw in Full

The draw in full

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

Analysis:

Group A:  Group A will be a very interesting group to watch unfold.  Juventus, Bayern and Bordeaux all have a great chance of reaching the knockout rounds, but it may all come down to how each of them play Maccabi Haifa – the Israeli champions.  In my eyes, whoever drops points to Haifa, doesn’t make it to the next round.

Prediction:

Bayern Munich and Juventus progress

Group B: Manchester United will be disappointed with all the traveling they will be doing, especially to Turkey where the hooligans go mad every time United come to town.  Wolfsburg is also going to be a bigger threat than they’re given credit for, watch for them to nick points in group play.  The Russians will be a stingy opposition and may steal points in the Motherland, but away from home may struggle to find their feet.  Wolfsburg are my dark horse of the tournament.  I don’t think for a second they deserved the fourth pot, but now find themselves with a tall order.  They can push for the knockout round, and their match against CSKA Moscow will make or break their run.

Prediction

Manchester United and Wolfsburg progress

Group C: Group C, along with F, is a “group of death”.  Somehow, Madrid dodged the British bullet (which makes for a more exciting knockout stage!), and they should find themselves in the knockout round before too long.  AC Milan have had a dodgy start to their campaign, and if they don’t start clicking could start dropping points in group play.  Marseille have been a tough nut to crack in years past, and with the addition of Morientes to their attacking play, will give Milan and Madrid a test.

Prediction:

Real Madrid and AC Milan to progress

Group D: The boys from London should have a spot in the knockout round if they keep their heads about them.  The only thing I would worry about is that they’ve been giving up goals early in the EPL and come from behind to win it, and may well do so against more formidable sides in this competition who won’t be so forgiving.  Atletico are always impressive to watch and I don’t see anyone but those two making it past this group.

Prediction:

Chelsea and Atletico Madrid to progress

Group E: Liverpool can’t have too many complaints here, they were grouped with great teams in Lyon and Fiorentina, but, to be honest, they should be able to cope.  The Merseysiders should claim the top spot, but the second one is completely up for grabs.  Fiorentina and Lyon are both squads that have firepower up top (Mutu and Govou) and can work to break down their opponents.  Fiorentina would love to have Melo back in their squad as I have no doubt he’d love to break up the Frenchmen in attack.

Prediction:

Liverpool and Lyon (by a hair!) to progress

Group F: This is it.  The group of death. We have the reigning Spanish and European champions as well as the Italian and Ukrainian league winners.  I’ve had to keep my mouth shut all day so as not to drool all over my desk.  Mourinho vs. Guardiola.  Eto’o vs. Pique.  Ibrahimovic vs. Cordoba.  Chocolate vs. Vanilla.  Coke vs. Pepsi.  Bert vs. Ernie.

Prediction:

It’s not going any other way.  Barcelona on top, Inter taking second.

Group G: My pick (and yours if you have sense) for the tamest group.  Not a lot to gawk at here.  Rangers and Sevilla will probably make the next stage, as I don’t think Stuttgart have enough bite to make any marks here.  Unirea Uriziceni will just be happy to be in the competition, and will love the fact that they have be thrown into this group.

Prediction:

Rangers and Sevilla to progress (in that order)

Group H: Arsenal may have the best of the English teams, and Wenger will be hard pressed to find something to complain about (if you can believe that!).  But remember the torrid time Standard Liege gave Liverpool last season in the qualifying rounds, as they could give group H some trouble.  Gunners aside, this group is fairly balanced.  Each team will fancy their chances at nabbing the last spot into the knockout stages.

Prediction:

Arsenal and Standard Liege to progress