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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Buddle’s Show in South Africa

The United States Mens National Team wrapped up its preparations for the World Cup with a 3-1 victory of Australia.  Edson Buddle netted twice (4′, 31′) and Gomez wrapped things up in the 90th minute with Tim Cahill registering a goal in the 19th minute.

The starting line-up saw Edson Buddle paired with Robbie Findley, and the former didn’t fail to disappoint as early on he opted out of slipping Findlay in behind the back line and slotted past Shwarzer.

That is not to say Findley wasn’t impressive.  The pacy striker was making diagonal runs all game and worked himself into some

Buddle celebrates his second with striking partner Robbie Findley.

very good forward positions.  He was incredibly unlucky to see his second half effort hit the crossbar, Clint Dempsey scored the rebound but the goal was flagged for offside as Findley was trying to hit the ball himself from an offside position.  A close call, but it didn’t matter in the end.

Tim Cahill, one of the more potent attacking threats for a relatively toothless Australian side, netted 15 minutes after Buddle’s opener from a corner after he connected at the back to send the ball past Cherundolo, who was on the post.  Both sides were lucky to have not conceded more goals as defensive frailties were evident in both sides.  One man who could have clocked in with possibly two to three goals in Australian striker Joshua Kennedy.  Had he had his shooting boots on today, the Yanks may have endured a much different match.  That said, the score stands, and Joshua Kennedy looked subpar.

Marcus Hahnemann replaced Tim Howard at the break and proved himself an ample replacement with two reaction saves that spared his side some blushes.  Though he was caught in no man’s land on more than one occasion on some crosses, he was very much up to the task of guarding the goalmouth.

Defensive substitutions were Jonathon Bornstein for Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu for Clarence Goodson.  Typically Bornstein replacing Bocanegra would cause some hair to be torn out, however, happily, Bornstein proved his mettle at left back. He was a little cavalier at times, but his defensive work was pleasantly surprising.

Onyewu started the game on the bench, raising eyebrows as to if he was fit enough for the World Cup.  When he came on, he was

How many people did you run over, Gooch?

his usually “Gooch” self, plowing into opposing strikers and posing a force in the box.  However, he did carry himself with a worrying limp from the time he came on, but if he weren’t fit, there is no way Bob Bradley would let him play…would he?

DaMarcus Beasley replaced Buddle in the 79th but didn’t get too many touches before game’s end to show off his stuff.  Clint Dempsey, who was on the receiving end of nearly every harsh tackle by the Socceroos was taken off in the 82′ by the eventual goal scorer Herculez Gomez.  Cross your fingers Yank’s fans, as it looked like he may have been limping slightly on his way out, which wouldn’t be surprising considering his treatment today.  At one point, he and Craig Moore almost lost control after Moore went in hard on the winger.

Gomez put the game to bed after making some space for himself in the box as Donovan expertly drove a cross in to him from outside the area.  Gomez finished one touch with aplomb and has two goals for two games to his name.  Impressive stuff from the front line in South Africa.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good –

The Front Line – The best part of the United States today has to be Edson Buddle.  All the strikers played today were largely untested in these circumstances but all of them came through with flying colors.  They showed attacking flair, speed and grit in getting under the skin of Lucas Neil & co.

Bradley will be instrumental to the States in South Africa.

Michael Bradley –  He has the composure of a 30 year old veteran holding midfielder.  The casual onlooker would never guess he is only 22 years old and still has two more World Cups in him.  He broke down countless attacks, thwarted the always threatening Tim Cahill and began new attacks with neat and tidy passing.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan – Only on here due to formality.  They always put in a good showing and are two of the most consistent national team players we have seen in some time.

Steve Cherundolo – The meandering right back showed quality in defensive duties and foraging forward, providing the killer cross for Buddle’s second goal.  He certainly is staking his claim for the starting RB position against England.  A daunting task, considering his opponent will likely be Steven Gerrard.

The Bad –

Ricardo Clark – I just don’t understand Bradley’s justification for starting Clark.  He is in the same mold as Michael Bradley, only not as effective.  He was near invisible in the first half, save some crunching tackles that usually ended up in a foul, and in the second half was just as ineffective.  He makes passes, but only backwards and sideways.  He generates nothing except a wasted starting spot.

I guess you could add, “Ricardo Clark might have gotten injured” to “The Good” category above…

The Ugly –

Set Pieces – Shocking.  Absolutely shocking.  The United States will be hammered if they do not learn to defend corners and set pieces more effectively.  Was there a single time that a defender met a corner with a header to clear?  I cannot remember a single instance.  Not one.  Every time a corner was conceded, the Yanks faithful held their breath as, once again, the ball hit somebody, hit somebody else, then fell to the floor and was cleared in a scramble.  Marcus Hahnemann made some serious efforts to clear but ended up flapping at nothing two or three times.  It seems as if everybody in the box thinks that somebody else will clear it and get caught ball watching.

If this isn’t remedied in the next 7 days, you can bet that Wayne Rooney will be licking his lips with that newly polished head of his.

Overall –

Not too shabby a result to be taking into the World Cup.  A 3-1 win over a World Cup side will get the confidence flowing, especially in the striking department.  The midfield worked well, despite the fact that they played with only three players in Bradley, Donovan and Dempsey.  The backline needs tinkering, but other than set pieces didn’t look awful.  Onyewu needs to be fit, but looking at his hobble all game, it’s hard to assume he’s 100%.

Cross your fingers and paint your faces.

South Africa waits…



No Ballack. No Essien. Group D is an Open Book

Group D –

Germany

Ghana

Serbia

Australia

Group D will be one of the most entertaining groups, as each team is fully capable of advancing out of the group to the knockout round.  Powerhouse Germany will be favored to take the top spot, however a devastating injury to their talisman, Michael Ballack, could shake things up.  There are some fantastic players scattered throughout the group, several world class at that, and it will be a treat to see it unfold.

Australia – The Socceroo’s are bringing in one of their most talented squads in some time.  After narrowly missing out on a

The Everton midfielder will go for the knockout blow in South Africa.

chance to advance to the Quarterfinals in Germany, the Aussies will be hell bent on avenging their unjust ousting four years ago to a certain diving Italian.  Lead by the industrious midfield maestro Tim Cahill and anchored down by a defensive trio of Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton and keeper Mark Shwarzer, Australia has every chance of advancing.  If they play a resolute defensive game, look to abuse their physicality  and ability to score off of set pieces, we could see a very open group.  Harry Kewell is a very talented who has been bogged down by injuries, but is now fully fit and itching to rebound on the international stage.  Be wary, though, Kewell hasn’t performed well on the big stage for a good deal of time.

Serbia – The Serbs are a loaded gun.  They have talent in about every area of the pitch, but not just in the players you hear about every day.  Yes, they have one of the best defenders in the world in Nemanja Vidic, also Branislav Ivanovic and seasoned veteran Dejan Stankovic to lead the team forward.  However, sleepers like Milan Jovanovic, Neven Subotic, and Milos Krasic could well be the standout performers for the Serbians.  Their biggest problem is their striking department.  The giant Nicola Zigic (6’8”) will no doubt be the target on their set pieces, which they perform quite well.  Whether Zigic performs or not, Serbia has dynamic wingers in Zoran Tosic, Krasic and Jovanovich that will wreak havoc on defenses in Group D.  They’ll also be desperate to make up for past performances on the international level.  But their attacking play could be a refreshing sight in South Africa.

Ghana – As I write, Michael Essien has just been ruled out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with injury.  A horribly devastating blow to a side who were hoping to build on their 2006 World Cup success.  That said, the Black Stars still pack a punch with a strong midfield (with or without Essien), a moderately firm back line, and good options going forward.  Sulley Muntari is now the biggest name on the team sheet, as the Internazionale midfielder will look to bring the team together in the absence of their fallen star.  Asamoah Gyan, the Rennes hitman, will be looked to for goals as will Muntari, who netted two goals in their qualifying run.  Adding more experience to their back line is John Paintsil, who is coming off a highly successful Europa League run with Fulham and will be on a high.  Verdict for the Black Stars?  Down, but definitely not out.

Germany – Die Mannschaft (“The Team”) will be looking to fill the hole left by Michael Ballack, much like Ghana but with

Shweinsteiger will look to emulate his form from 2006.

better options.  Whatever tournament they enter, Germany will always be a contender.  Their squad depth, abundance of skill and experience will make them a card carrying member in South Africa this summer.  Despite some flimsy draws against Finland and a few wins grinded out at home, the Germans were still undefeated in their qualifying campaign.  Miroslav check in with seven goals, the most on the team (Podolski – 6, Ballack – 4, Shweinsteiger – 3).  Germany will pound lesser opponents and their stingy defense will provide any attacking threat with something to think about, but up against formidable opposition could send Germany reeling.  Their physicality at the back and technical ability up front is the blueprint for a perfect team.  Players like Bastien Shweinsteiger will provide Die Mannschaft with the creativity and killer pass/cross in South Africa and is the type of player who will thrive there and become a standout performer.  Another player that should be on your radar is Mesut Ozil, a dynamic attacking midfield of Turkish descent who plies his trade at Werder Bremen.  Ozil is the cutting edge players who knows how to split open defenses with his clever passes and foot skills.  Expect the Germans to topple lesser sides, but they could look suspect in the latter stages of the tournament as their bench is quite barren.

Prediction –

1.  Germany

2. Australia

3. Ghana

4. Serbia