Football Station


Powerhouse Party – Group G

Group G –

Brazil

North Korea

Ivory Coast

Portugal

You can’t help but feel kind of sorry for the North Koreans.  They finally come out of hiding, and we promptly stick them in the “Group of Death”.   That’ll teach them to try and socialize with the world.  Group D has been called the “Group of Death”, and I can understand the logic in that.  But come on…there’s just no way around the fact that this is easily the toughest group to advance from.  Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal would normally be shoo-in’s to advance to the knockout round, but instead they are thrown into a pit and told to slug it out for the top two spots.  And that’s exactly what they’ll do…

Portugal –

Being seeded in the 4th pot, along with France, certainly created the potential for a Group of Death.  However, the stars aligned

How far can Ronaldo take Portugal in the "Group of Death"?

for a group like this.  When you look at all the teams in Pot 4, there are only two teams that could create a power group, and in Pot 3, the strongest team, without too much of an argument is the Ivory Coast.  Who are the two teams on everybodys’ lips when talking about the real potential to win?  Spain…and Brazil.  Portugal doesn’t come packing pea-shooters though.  They’ve obviously got the 2008 World Player of the Year, Simao & Nani running laps around outside backs on the wings, Deco pulling strings in the middle and Ricardo Carvalho snuffing things out in the back with Jose Bosingwa and Bruno Alves for company.  They certainly have the talent to take them out of the group, however, there is a serious disliking of the manager Carlos Quieroz.  According to the players, he acts like a “teacher” and forces them to watch hours of game footage, and suddenly, the chipper atmosphere left by Scolari is all but gone.  In his formation, however, Ronaldo is played in a free role behind the striker (likely Hugo Almeida), and that, for any team, is a major concern.  Explosive and dangerous, Ronaldo could single handedly carry the Portuguese to the next round.

Ivory Coast –

Losing Didier Drogba is a huge blow to the Elephants, despite reports he still might make the World Cup.  The Ivory Coast’s international website issued a statement, “He’s not at all out of the World Cup. He can still play. We don’t know if he will be able to play the first game — that depends on the verdict of the medical team. But he’s definitely not out [of the tournament].”  Well that’s great news, as they are arguably the most talented African side at the World Cup, and had a serious chance of making some noise in the later rounds.  That said, without Drogba, the Elephants still have some stomping power.  With Salomon Kalou (no Drogba, obviously, but up to snuff), the young Gervinho, The Toure brothers, Sevilla’s Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue there is more than enough potential for them to rough up the Portuguese maybe even the Brazilians.  They have good attacking flair ont he wings in Gervinho and Abdul Kader Keita (of Galatasaray), and should be able to supply Kalou and whoever partners him up top.  However, it will be hard for him to create an aerial threat against the sound Brazilian back line.  If Drogba has any chance of playing in the World Cup, The Elephants will need to find a way to progress into the later rounds.

North Korea

There isn’t a lot of info on North Korea, which I guess is explained by the fact that Kim Jong-Il has shut them off from the world.  What we do know is that they are very paranoid and are hardly answering any questions at press conferences.  Jong-Il also told the nation that they will only get word of the team’s results if they win…it’s going to be a quiet summer.  They haven’t appeared at a World Cup in 44 years since they debuted in England.  However, it turns out that they stormed into the quarterfinals amidst low expectations.  Can they emulate that kind of form and motivation?  Time will tell.  They do play a relatively tight defense, allowing only 7 goals in 16 games, which isn’t too shabby at all.  Tae-Se Jong is their leading scorer and plays his game in Japan with Kawasaki Frontale, and their captain Yong-Jo Hong plays professionally in Russia at FC Rostov.  Their best bet at getting any points will be to outmaneuver the Ivory Coast, out-jinx the Portuguese and…forget Brazil.  These guys are just happy to be here.

Brazil –

Coach and former player Dunga has fashioned El Selecao into quite the machine.  They flow effortlessly from defense into attack

Julio Cesar has been one of the best 'keepers in the world this year and is coming off of a Champions League Final win.

and their counterattacks are clean, crisp and awesome.  Their passing is creative and can cut open defenses before they know where the ball is.  Need proof? Glad you asked… I won’t gush about Brazil, but their chances of winning are pretty decent if they can keep themselves healthy mentally and physically.  With stars dropping like flies and being rushed into our Sick Ward, Dunga will want to take extra special care of his boys.  The spine of the team lies: Julio Cesar, Lucio, Kaká, Luis Fabiano.  All four are masters at their craft and will need an off day to be caught out by a better opponent.  The only ones who look likely to do it could be Nani and Ronaldo of Portugal and Drogba (if he gets fit) of the Ivory Coast.  In midfield, despite the fact that Felipe Melo is having a drab season at Juventus, he has been pretty consistent on international duty.  On attack, it’s almost silly to start, because they attack from all over.  Melo holds down the center of midfield while Kaká, Robinho and Elano all try to feed the ball to Luis Fabiano.  All this to say, they aren’t untouchable.  They lost to Bolivia and Paraguay on the road in qualification and may struggle playing in the colder temperatures of South Africa, as it is winter.  Other than that though, they finished 9-7-2 with a goal difference of +22, meaning when they won, they won big.  Can they claim another World Cup in South Africa?  I wouldn’t bet against it.

Prediction

1.  Brazil

2. Ivory Coast

3. Portugal

4. North Korea

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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




Transfer News – July 9th

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July 9th, 2009 – Sporting Life

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DAILY MIRROR

  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is weighing up a move for Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  • Lionel Messi has urged Barcelona to sign Cesc Fabregas and Javier Mascherano to retain their European crown.
  • Chelsea are ready to make John Terry the best-paid player at Stamford Bridge to fend off Manchester City.
  • Alisher Usmanov has cast doubt on Arsenal’s transfer policy.
  • Newcastle’s wannabe owners plan to put Alan Shearer and Gianluca Vialli together in a managerial dream team.

    Ibrahimovic could be leaving the San Siro this summer.

    Ibrahimovic could be leaving the San Siro this summer.

  • Martin O’Neill wants to take Stewart Downing to Aston Villa.
  • Mark Hughes wants to add Tugay to his Manchester City coaching staff.
  • Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce is ready to swoop for Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones – if Steve Bruce lands his own big-money targets.
  • Fulham are weighing up a £1million swoop for Leeds midfielder Neil Kilkenny.
  • Spurs have sold Didier Zokora to Sevilla to clear the way for Harry Redknapp’s summer recruitment drive.
  • Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is planning a swoop for Crystal Palace kid Victor Moses.
  • Carlo Ancelotti is ready to do Wolves manager Mick McCarthy a massive favour and loan him Michael Mancienne.
  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to send young defender Richard Eckersley out on loan to QPR.
  • Arsene Wenger is closing in on St Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
  • West Ham are poised to sign Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.
  • Everton boss David Moyes is eyeing Espanyol’s Spanish full-back Sergio Sanchez.
  • Burnley starlet Alex MacDonald is going on loan to Falkirk.THE SUN
  • Owner Roman Abramovich has been urged to do all he can to keep ‘Mr Chelsea’ John Terry.
  • Spurs are plotting a £3million bid for Sheffield United whizzkid Kyle Walker.
  • Sunderland will bid £2.5million for AWOL Middlesbrough star Mido.
  • Salif Diao and Andy Wilkinson have both sealed new deals with Stoke.
  • Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is slugging it out with Hamburg for Swedish scoring sensation Marcus Berg.
  • Southampton are in the hands of a German billionaire after being bought at the 19th attempt.
  • Didier Zokora quit Spurs in a £9million switch to Sevilla to protect his World Cup place.
  • Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce could hijack Sunderland’s bid to sign Darren Bent.
  • Phil Neville says he will miss playing against Cristiano Ronaldo, who insists Real Madrid have bought him for a snip at £80million.DAILY EXPRESS
  • Steven Gerrard yesterday signed a lucrative new contract at Liverpool that will keep him at the club for life.
  • New Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is ready to loan Michael Mancienne to Wolves for the season.
  • Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is sure Lee Bowyer can still make a big impact in the top flight.

    Liverpool Skipper will be hands off after reportedly signing another deal to keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career.

    Liverpool Skipper will be hands off after reportedly signing another deal to keep him at Anfield for the rest of his career.

  • Arsenal have warned Barcelona, Real Madrid and other clubs who covet Cesc Fabregas and the rest of their youngsters to stay away.DAILY MAIL
  • Adam Johnson is expected to join the exodus from Middlesbrough after emerging as a surprise target for Chelsea.
  • John Terry will hold informal talks with the Chelsea hierarchy today with his future still shrouded in uncertainty.
  • Liverpool fear they may be without first-choice left-back Fabio Aurelio for the rest of the year.DAILY STAR
  • Barcelona will sanction Samuel Eto’o’s move to Manchester City in order to raise the £40million needed to try and lure Cesc Fabregas.
  • Roberto Mancini yesterday held talks about becoming Portsmouth manager.
  • Chelsea last night told Inter Milan to show then the money for Deco and Ricardo Carvalho.DAILY RECORD
  • Hamilton are in talks with Burnley which should see Biran Easton sign on with the Premiership new-boys.