Group B. Slightly, but only slightly, predictable.

Argentina
Greece
Nigeria
South Korea

This is one group that will probably be one of the least exciting to watch, unless passion and drive prove to help the minnows overcome the sharks.

Argentina. Probably one of the most recognizable soccer countries in South America, much less the world. They’ve progressed to the quarters and semis many times and even won the tournament twice (under dubious circumstances in 1978, mind you). Within this team is a cornucopia of talent that isn’t really matched anywhere else. Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world right now, and as he is only 22 he can only get better. I think he will become the greatest player in history, edging out his manager Maradona and possibly even Pele. But he isn’t the only valuable player in this Argentina squad. Gonzalo Higuain was one of the most prolific goalscorers in Spain this year, as well as Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero racking up goals and assists for their clubs. A midfield that includes highly experienced Juan Veron and the Liverpool duo of Maxi Rodriguez and Javier Mascherano provides intense passing and tackling ability with the potential to start great attacks from midfield. Defenders like Gabriel Heinze, Walter Samuel, and Martin Demichelis have a great ability to read the game, and the latter two will be playing against each other this weekend in the Champion’s League final. This squad obviously has a ton of talent, but a few omissions have to be recognized–Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti especially. These guys are some of Argentina’s greatest assets and have proven themselves over and over–they’re also playing in the Champions’ League final this weekend for Internazionale, to not include their skill and experience could be one of Maradona’s downfalls. All this to say that Argentina has loads of talent and experience, but their one greatest weakness that saw them barely qualify for South Africa could be their downfall–Diego Maradona. Still known as one of the greatest players in history, Maradona is also a former (some say still is) drug addict and certifiably insane (in my opinion). His managerial experience is small, to say the least, but Argentina’s deification of him allow the normally crazy South Americans to support him even in his craziest decisions. Argentina could easily win the whole Cup if they had the right manager–thing is, they don’t.

–this is why many people hate Maradona–> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbbsytHDp2o to this he responded that the goal was ‘a little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God’

Greece, unlikely winners of the European Championship in 2004, suffer from a similar problem that other small countries have–not enough players playing abroad. Fortunately for them, they still have a good number of talented players playing home and abroad. Experienced Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos has a very acute tactical awareness as well as the height and strength to outmuscle even the strongest of strikers. The other key man for Greece is Theofanis Gekas, a favorite of mine in Football Manager (video game), this striker has experience and finishing ability rivaling many of the world’s greatest strikers. But, with experience comes a slowing of pace, which Gekas occasionally has problems with. If Greece are to do well in this group it’s going to come down to unbreakable defending and a lightning counterattack. Unfortunately for them, the other members of Group B are extremely quick and will make counterattacking hard, but if Greece does it right they can expose the weaknesses that teams like Argentina will have left open, not expecting Greece to exploit them.

Next up, Nigeria. Probably the second greatest African team in the World Cup, after Ivory Coast. One positive thing about African football is that, because the domestic leagues are poorly run and just generally in disarray, African players often end up playing abroad. Nigeria has players everywhere from Everton, Fulham, and Chelsea in England to Sochaux and Marseilles in France. The players that will make the difference here are John Obi Mikel (despite his lack of playing time at Chelsea, his has loads of quality), Joseph Yobo, Obafemi Martins, and if he can stay under control–Dickson Etuhu. Taking maximum points in their group from teams such as hosts South Africa, and they have the talent to hold Argentina to a draw–provided they can mark Messi, Aguero, and Tevez without any relenting. One slip and Messi will be flying into the penalty area with the ball at his feet. I expect Nigeria to go farther than ever before, assuming they get a fairly easy knockout round opponent.

South Korea, though a burgeoning talent, is still fairly susceptible to the attacking power and solid defenses of the three other group teams. Ji-Sung Park is their main superstar and likely to be their only goalscorer. He is fairly consistent for Manchester United, but one solid player will not win games. As I’ve mentioned before and will mention again, this country doesn’t have enough players playing in Europe and will therefore not have the experience needed against hardened Premier League, etc., players. I predict 2 losses and MAYBE a draw with Greece.

Most interesting match: Argentina v Nigeria–only if Nigeria locks down their defense will they even have a chance at winning this one. I could feasibly see a draw, for Nigeria plays a slow, calculated game that could easily stop Argentina but also slow their own attack. This match will likely end either 1-0 to either or 0-0.

Most goals: Lionel Messi. There’s a reason he scored 4 goals against Arsenal.

Predictions:

1. Argentina- 7 pts
2. Nigeria- 5 pts
3. Greece- 1
4. S Korea- 1

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~ by spenserdavis on May 20, 2010.

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