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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Sick Ward…

As it stands, there has already been as many as 5 world class injuries for South Africa.  What do these mean for their respective teams?  Managers and teams alike make names for themselves with how well they cope without their talismanic players.  It is time to take a walk through the sick ward.

1.  Michael Ballack – The iconic midfielder injured his ankle in the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth and saw his last World Cup dream dashed.  What do the Germans have in reserve?  Suprisingly, not as much as they typically do.  Squad depth could be a problem for them in South Africa, especially if they pick up any other serious injuries to key players.  In replacing Ballack there is Toni Kroos, the Werder Bremen attacking midfielder, or maybe the largely untested Stuttgart central midfielder Sami Kheidra.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what the Germans will come up with.  Will this stop them from advancing into the later stages?  Not a chance, they still ooze talent and are always a threat.

South Africa will be without one of the continent's greatest talents in decades

2. Michael Essien – Unlike Ballack, Michael Essien is much more grave injury to his national team.  The Black Stars revolve around the former African Player of the Year, and will struggle to find somebody to fill his overly sized boots.  Sulley Muntari may be brought in from the left to try and steady the ship in the middle of the park to partner Stephen Appiah.  Another option could be young Anthony Annan of FC Copenhagen who could be a legitimate player on the big stage, but only time will tell.  Unlike Ballack again, however, Essien most likely has another World Cup in him.

3. Rio Ferdinand – Woe is England.  Just when everybody thought they were taking a flawless squad to South Africa, Ferdinand

The longtime trusted stopper will have to watch from home.

loses his last chance a World Cup.  Tragic for such a decorated player and seasoned veteran.  Now the question becomes, who will partner John Terry?  Long absent Jamie Carragher?  Injury stricken Ledley King?  Or the recently called up Michael Dawson?  All are capable players but all will be hard pressed to emulate the form of Rio Ferdinand.  Carragher is probably the most experienced, but may be a step behind quicker players in South Africa.  Regardless, England still has plenty of quality all over the pitch and should be able to see their way easily out of their group and past the first round or two of the knockout stages.

4. Didier Drogba – What a shame for the Ivory Coast.  The Elephants are bringing one of the strongest African squads ever to a World Cup and are now without their savior.  Drogba is, without a doubt, one of the top striking talents in the world.  He is big, physical, and deadly.  Still, the Ivory Coast will be able to find some quality backup.  Left in the striking department is Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane, and Gervinho.  To say the least, they won’t be toothless, however they’ll be missing their fangs without “Drog”.  Advancing out of the group a possibility?  You bet.  Is it going to be easy?  Not a chance.