Football Station


Beauty & the Beast in Group B

Group B –

Argentina

Nigeria

Korea Republic

Greece

Group B looks, off the cuff, a tame group.  Who would say otherwise?  Argentina should have a fairly easy task with all three teams, but, I suppose, the second spot is up for grabs.  The stingy Greeks will be defensively stout, as they always are.  Korea won’t have the home field advantage they had in 2002, but will still have a few tricks up their sleeve.  And Nigeria will probably be tipped to take the second spot, but funny things happen at the World Cup and this one should be no exception.

Greece – Probably the most boring team to watch it football.  How they won Euro 2004 is remarkable, but their defensiveKyrgiakos will test the resolve of attacking play resolve and their grinding out of wins got them the trophy.  The Greeks will look towards Theofanis Gekas for goals, Liverpool’s Sotirios Kyrgiakos for defensive leadership and Giorgos Karagounis for everything in the middle of the park as the Captain is also the most capped at 32 years old.  It’s hard to doubt Greece’s ability after their historic upset of the Euro 2004 tournament.  Still though, it’s hard to look past the attacking threats of Argentina and Nigeria.  They will probably watch footage from that 2o04 for inspiration and ideas…seriously.

Korea Republic

Like Greece, the Tigers will be looking to draw on experience and their 2002 World Cup run as the driving force behind this campaign.  Their oldest player and most capped at a whopping 129 games is goalkeeper Woon-Jae Lee and their most experienced at an elite level is without question Manchester United midfielder and captain Ji-Sung Park.  Park will float in right behind Dong-Gook Lee in attack with Chung-Yong Lee looking to press forward on the left as well.  They will have to rely heavily on their work rate to get them through as they are quick but not as quick as Nigeria and not as technically gifted as Argentina.  If they progress it will be because of their hard work and a little luck.

Nigeria – Do not underestimate the Super Eagles in Group B, as they have terrific pace and a lot of experience in the squad.

Obafemi Martins will lead the line against Group B

Three members (Joseph Yobo, Yakubu, Victor Anichebe) of it ply their trade at Goodison Park of Everton in England.  Portsmouth (Kanu, John Utaka), Fulham (Dickson Etuhu), Bolton Wanderers (Danny Shittu) and notably Chelsea (John Obi Mikel) boast Nigerian players.  Obafemi Martins is another player I’m expecting to make things happen in South Africa.  Martins once played for Newcastle and now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany.  His pace paired with the pace of Victor Obinna will give the physical Greeks something think twice about as well as the rest of Group B.  The captain, Kanu, stands the most capped, and his creative play will allow Martins to perform well, however his age has looked more noticeable as of late.  In qualifying they conceded only one goal in six matches and had a perfect run.  With John Obi Mikel steadying the ship in the middle of the park, breaking down attacks, and starting moves forward, the Nigerians are well equipped in all areas.

Argentina – How do you solve a problem like Argentina?  Maradona’s rag-tag group of players look unbeatable on paper, but have failed to impress as Maradona has come under intense scrutiny back in Argentina.  Obvious stand outs for the team are Lionel Messi, who has more individual honors than you can count on both hands, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and up and comer Angel Di Maria.  Their attack is probably the best in the world with Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Messi and Milito all big time names.  Their midfield is commanded by the hard tackling Javier Mascherno and their defense steadied by Martín Demichelis.  The only question mark over La Albiceleste is the team chemistry.  For some reason, they have not been able to click into full gear and many are hoping they find their feet soon.  Maradona is taking the majority of the blame as he rotates more players in and out than anybody ever has.  His style is almost similar to Rafael Benitez’s bizarre rotation policy at Liverpool.  Still though, they’re not the best at the tournament, but they are too good to not advance out of their group and past a few more games.

Prediction –

1. Argentina

2. Nigeria

3. Greece

4. South 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