World Cup Preview; Group C and D Puts Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and the United States Up Against Some of Europe’s Finest
June 8, 2010 By Andrew OReilly
The 2010 Word Cup begins this Friday, June 11, in South Africa and as Ryszard Kapuściński wrote, “in Latin America…the border between soccer and politics is vague.” So to prepare our readers for the upcoming games, The Latin America News Dispatch has compiled a list of all the countries in this year’s World Cup, highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and players to watch from each nation. Each day this week, LAND will showcase two of the eight groups in the World Cup, culminating with Friday’s opening round matches.
With all the star power in players like Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, England is the clear favorite to win Group C, but the U.S. is looking fierce in their run-up to the Cup and U.S. fans should be happy to be lumped in Group C. Algeria and Slovenia are unproven teams and will have a lot of work to do if they plan to make it to the second round.
Editor’s Picks: England, United States
Strengths: The U.S.’s three goalies, including Everton’s Tim Howard, are three players that England would love to have on their team. Add to this that Landon Donovan ripped up the Premier League when he was loaned to Everton for two months as well as the young talent in Jozy Altidore and the U.S. seems destined for at least the second round in South Africa.
Weaknesses: Despite all the upshots for the U.S., they are still not in the first tier when it comes to being a soccer powerhouse. They struggle with maintaining possession during matches and coach Bob Bradley will need to drill the boys to keep them sharp in this aspect. On the defensive end, arguably the team’s best defender A.C. Milan’s Oguchi Onyewu is just coming back from undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his left knee and may not be as sharp as hoped for.
Player to Watch: While there has been much (well-deserved) talk about Jozy Altidore, the man to watch for the U.S. is Fulham’s Clint Dempsey. He’s been enjoying a good season in club play over in England and knows how to put the ball in the back of net when it counts. Paired with Landon Donovan and Altidore, Dempsey could have a big World Cup.
Strengths: Algeria’s Desert Foxes have a very experienced back field thanks to Madjid Bougherra, who plays for Scotland’s Rangers club, and Portsmouth left-back Nadir Belhadj.
Weaknesses: Algeria has the heart but not the experience playing at this high of a level. They’ll need to play smart, focused soccer in order to have a chance at advancing. Algeria is a squad that wants to win, but when things go poorly for them they also begin to lose their cool. Maintaining composure is key.
Player to Watch: Playing for Siena in Italy, striker Abdelkader Ghezzal is one of Algeria’s most experienced players and will have to be the anchor of the Algerian squad if the team hopes to advance to the next round.
Strengths: Little Slovenia beat Russia to get into the World Cup with a squad that features no real star players. They’ve also got a solid defense that doesn’t allow many goals.
Weaknesses: The lack of star power on Slovenia will also be the team’s downfall, as without a go-to man they’ll have to spread the ball around to score. With no real threat this puts Slovenia at a clear disadvantage.
Player to Watch: Milivoje Novakovic scored five times during World Cup qualifying and is the closest thing Slovenia has to a star player. While he’s spent most of his professional career playing in Eastern Europe, he now plays for Germany’s FC Köln, which means that he’s seen some solid action in the Bundesliga (16 goals in his second season in the league). He will need to fulfill the duties of both player and on-field coach if he hopes to guide for some of the less experienced players on Slovenia toward an upset.
Player to Watch: In all competitions in 2009-2010, Wayne Rooney scored 50 goals. Needless to say, the guy is prolific and is playing in the best form of his life.
Germany is the hands down favorite in this group. The three-time World Cup champions (1954, 1974, 1990) have made 16 total appearances in the tournament. They’ve got a deep team that plays with as -to-be-expected efficiency and are a team that should never be counted out when it comes to winning it all. This is Serbia’s first World Cup under the country’s name. They’ve played in nine World Cups as Yugoslavia and in 2006 played as Serbia and Montenegro. With this experience and Manchester United´s Nemanja Vidic, the White Eagles are not to overlooked. Australia faces a tough road, but the Socceroos, led by Tim Cahill, could be one of the surprises in South Africa. Ghana is plagued with a host of injuries to the African nation’s more experienced players, but their young talent could help spur them into the next round.
Editor’s Picks: Germany, Serbia
Strengths: They’re Germany, so expect more of what we’ve seen in the past from the boys from Deutschland. Efficient and well-coached, Germany has proven time and time again that on any given day they can compete (and beat) any team in the world.
Weaknesses: The injury to Michael Ballack could pose problems for Germany. The Chelsea midfielder was the captain of the German squad and lent both skill and leadership to team. It will be up to de facto captain Philipp Lahm to lead the team as well the duel threat of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to put points on the board. The two have done it before, but every World Cup is different.
Player to Watch: The 21-year old Mesut Ozil has impressed many German fans with his finesse and attacking. The young man of Turkish descent is a true playmaker who can score with style.
Strengths: Playing in Africa is a huge advantage for any team in the African nations and Ghana is no exception. They’ve won four African Cup of Nations titles (although the last one came in 1982) and the their young players showed they have the skill needed to win after taking home the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009. The Black Stars hope to keep this success up in South Africa.
Weaknesses: Many of the team’s more experienced players, including Chelsea’s midfielder Michael Essien, are sidelined with injuries. This puts a lot of pressure on Ghana’s young stable of talent. These young players have shown they’ve got the skill at the U-20 level, but they’re more or less untested when it comes to the majors.
Player to Watch: Asamoah Gyan, of France’s Stade Rennais F.C., is one of those young players who will need to step it up in South Africa. He’s seems confident coming into the World Cup and believes that the team can win even without the injured Essien. Isn’t confidence half the battle?
Strengths: Serbia features one of the world’s top defensive duos in Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Both players are much feared in the Premiership and will cause problems for any team hoping to score. Besides their defense, the Balkan nation also likes to play an aggressive, attack-minded game that should keep both players and fans on their feet.
Weaknesses: Serbia suffered a bad defeat during a warm-up match with the so-so New Zealand squad. This loss brings into question how well-prepared Serbia is coming into South Africa. Who shows up in the pitch will decide how far Serbia goes in the World Cup.
Player to Watch: CSKA Moscow’s Milos Krasic is a truly outstanding winger. The young Serb is being courted by Italy’s Juventus and England’s Arsenal and Manchester United mainly for his ability to create havoc on the pitch and score when he wants to. Also his haircut alone can scare opponents!
Strengths: The Socceroos have a solid goalkeeper in Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, who the team will need to rely on if they have any shot at making it into the next round. Besides the goalie, Australia is also a very defensively sound squad so the goalie-defense combo should make Australia’s matches low scoring affairs.
Weaknesses: The team lacks the sort of depth that many other squads in the World Cup have fielded and also recently have played some fairly disorganized soccer. The team’s friendly against the United States (3-1 in favor of the U.S.) had the Aussies looking confused.
Player to Watch: Tim Cahill, who plays on England’s Everton alongside U.S. goalie Tim Howard, showed that soccer is not just a tall mans game. Despite his 5’10” stance, Cahill has a propensity to score with head. He also sees the pitch well and chooses his chances carefully. A true opportunist.
Photo Credits in order: World Cup banner by Shine 2010 -2010 World Cup Good News @ Flickr, Clint Dempsey by wjarrettc @ Flickr, Abdelkader Ghezzal by SkyPiercer at Wikicommons, Milivoje Novakovič by Robert Jerin @ Wikicommons, Wayne Rooney by toksuede @ Flickr, Mesut Ozil by Новикова Юлия @ Wikicommons, Asamoah Gyan by Pymouss44 @ Wikicommons, Milos Krasic by enot_female @ Flickr, Tim Cahill by Camw @ Wikicommons.
Thanks to Mark Scaccia for his help on this piece.