CHARLIE’S CHALK TALK- 2010 World Cup Preview- Group C
The Desert Warriors are a team that joins the party in South Africa in a bit of bad form. They’ve had a bad string of games leading up to the World Cup, by losing 3-0 to Serbia, 3-0 to Ireland, and barely beating a bad United Arab Emirates team 1-0. There are problems with this team, and it’s not just my American bias seeping through. The team is not playing cohesively, and do have some key players ruled out of the World Cup like Mourad Meghni, who is the centerpiece of the Algerian team. They emotionally qualified for the competition by defeating their hated rivals, the Egyptians, and did get out of their group in the 2010 African Cup of Nations. The Algerians are a fairly disciplined squad who, like most inferior teams internationally, enjoy putting 10 players behind the ball and trying to counterattack. This makes for some very boring futbol, but when successful frustrates the opponent into forcing the attack and turning the ball over. The Algerian players and American players know each other quite well, with 4 players for each squad playing together at the club level. This should make for some interesting scouting reports between the teams, and an interesting game.
3 Key Players
- Karim Ziani – The French born Algerian is a very creative player in the Algerian midfield. He’s got great control of the ball, and is capable of some absolute gems of passes. The Wolfsburg man is one of the flashiest players in Africa, and has a knack for making defenders look foolish.
- Nadrid Belhadj – Like Ziani, Belhadj is also a French born Algerian who opted to play for his mother country. Belhadj is an exceptionally quick left footed left back. He is great going forward, but is a bit of a liability in defense. Nadrid is smooth on the ball and very calm in possession, almost playing more as a winger than as a defender. He will not struggle against quick wingers, as he’s proved his pace countless times as a left back for English side Portsmouth.
- Madjid Bougherra – Madjid is a versatile player who plays as a defender or in the midfield for Rangers in Scotland. A ball winner and a physical player, Bougherra reads the game very well from his defensive position and often steps in to steal the ball. He’s accustomed to physical play in Scotland, and really uses his body well.
England year in and year out boasts a strong roster of players scattered throughout the best league in the world, England’s premier league. However, the national team still has yet to find their stride and utilize these talented players on the international level. I think that 2010 is finally the year that England makes a good, deep run. They surprisingly and inexcusably failed to make the 2008 European Championship, but have looked strong since firing Sven Goran Erikson and hiring Fabio Capello. The loss of Rio Ferdinand hurts the team, but England has the necessary replacements in Jamie Carragher and Ledley King to fill in for the legendary Ferdinand from Manchester United. The big thing for this team will be either the ability or inability for their two star central midfielders to work together. Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard are among the world’s best center midfielders, but when placed in the same team there is something that just does not work. If these two can work together, England could get incredibly far in this years competition. Team chemistry is a legitimate question, with Chelsea’s John Terry sleeping with a teammates wife and causing a rift in the English locker room. The loss of David Beckham hurts more emotionally and spirtiually for the team, rather than physically on the field but is a loss nonetheless. Beckham is the team’s leader, and everyone in the team respects him immensely for what he brings to the team as a whole. I have them losing in the Semi Finals to Holland, causing 1,000’s of English hooligans to invade and destroy pubs throughout South Africa.
3 Key Players
- Wayne Rooney – The bulldog from Liverpool just has a winning mentality. He can get you many goals and assists, but Wayne offers other intangible characteristics that similar strikers only wish they possessed. His heart and passion for the game of soccer is not matched, and rest assured Wayne Rooney will leave everything on the field for his team.
- Steven Gerrard – Steven Gerrard has the uncanny ability that Michael Jordan had in that he makes what he does look effortless. Gerrard glides around the field touching the ball and playing beautiful pass after beautiful pass. He is now England’s captain, and will eleveate his leadership even more now that he’s wearing the armband. A gem in the middle of the park, Gerrard plays passes that many players in this tournament simply can’t make or simply can’t see.
- John Terry – The former English captain has experienced a dreadful year in his personal life, but make no mistake about it his play on the field has not dipped one bit. One of the smartest defenders in the world, Terry always positions himself to win the ball, and hardly ever makes a mistake. What Terry lacks in speed, he makes up for with experience and soccer intelligence. John Terry is still one of the best defenders in the world, with or without the extra marital affair.
Despite what many are trying to make people believe, the Slovenian’s are not a bad team. This is a country that didn’t even exist before 1990, and this is the defining moment in all of these players’ careers. Slovenia had a very impressive victory against a good Russian team to qualify for the World Cup. Slovenia doesn’t have many star names that stick out, but what they do have is a hunger and a team unity that could have them upsetting the USA or even England. They play very compact and each player seems to know his role, without trying to do too much or play outside of the team. Slovenia should match up very well with the USA, and I wouldn’t put it past them to tie the Americans or even get a victory against them. They are a very prepared team, and seem to be able to get victories against “better” teams.
3 Key Players
Robert Koren – Koren is a player that has faced all of the English players at one point in his career while playing with West Brom when they were in the EPL. West Brom have since dropped to the Championship, but Koren is widely considered the best player in England’s second division. Koren is the captain for Slovenia and plays as a central midfielder. He’s an experienced player that won’t be afraid to clash with some of the great central midfielders in this group.
- Samir Handanovic – Handanovic is a 25 year old goalkeeper currently playing in Italy with Udinese. He’s a 6’4 keeper with a flair for the dramatic, often making breathtaking diving saves. Due to his size, he’s got a great ability to reach for balls that most Keepers won’t get to. He’s underrated by most outside of Italy, and if Slovenia don’t end up getting out of the group it most likely won’t be the blame of Handanovic.
- Milivoje Novakovic – One of Slovenia’s most capped players, and perhaps one of their most known outside of Slovenia. The 6’4 striker’s bread and butter is hanging out around the 6 yard box and capitalizing on loose balls to score goals. He won’t dazzle people with great one on one moves or out run many, but what he does do is effectively hold the ball up and occasionally contribute a rebound goal. He’s not a sight to see, but he’s crucial to the Slovenian’s success in this tournament.
The Americans enter the competition with a string of two good victories against Turkey and Australia. They’re also beaming with confidence from their fantastic 2009 Confederations Cup on South African soil, which saw them take down Spain and nearly Brazil in the final. The United States have qualified for the past 6 world cups, but have yet to have much success getting far in the tournament, except for their surprising 2002 run to the quarterfinals in Korea. The team is perhaps the strongest team they’ve fielded since 2002, and Bob Bradley seems to have a pulse on where his players should be playing and how to get the most out of them. Bradley is an underrated manager, who is extremely aware of tactics and the psychological aspect of soccer. The loss of Charlie Davies to injury presents quite a question-mark at forward, but LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle and Pachuca’s Herculez Gomez have filled in nicely. The Americans attack rests on their 2 skilled wingers/attacking midfielders Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. These are the players that need to be on for them to score goals, not necessarily Jozy Altidore or Edson Buddle/Herculez Gomez. Donovan and Dempsey create all the chances, and need to be taking players on and setting up their teammates for a successful tournament. The defense is a cause for concern. Projected starting Center Back Oguchi Onweyu has not played an entire match this season for AC Milan due to injury, and the other projected starting back Jay DeMerit has looked shaky at times for country and club with Watford in England’s second division.
3 Key Players
- Landon Donovan – Say what you want about Landon Donovan, but he’s the best player ever to wear the stars and stripes for America’s men’s national team. Landon’s recent spell at Everton seemed to rejuvinate him, and provided him with an extra boost of confidence that now makes him realize he has the ability to compete with anyone in the world. Landon’s speed is often underrated, and he has the ability to slip in behind lackadaisical defending and create chances for either himself or for his teammates. He’s an unselfish player, often choosing to boost the confidence of other players on breakaways rather than finish himself, and has a near 100 % success ratio from the penalty spot.
- Tim Howard – One of the world’s best goalkeepers, Howard’s time to be the #1 Keeper for the United States has finally arrived. He has sat patiently behind the likes of Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, and his patience has payed off. He has developed immensely while at Everton, and his reactions and decision making skills have improved by leaps and bounds. Howard organizes his defense very vocally, and makes sure that all his defenders know exactly who they are marking at any given time. This is crucial for a goalkeeper to be as vocal and as big of a leader as possible for a defense’s success.
- Michael Bradley – An absolute firecracker of a player in the heart of midfield for the US, Bradley plies his trade with Monchengladboch in Germany. Bradley’s role in the team is often as a box to box midfielder. His passion for the game, and desire to constantly get better has contributed to where he is at now at this stage of his career. Despite only being 23 years old, Bradley has earned a remarkable 43 caps for his country. Many nay-sayers often dismiss the ability of Bradley due to his father being the head coach, but what Michael Bradley brings to the US National team, no other player in America can bring. Bradley truly believes that he can win any ball, and will chase down opponents for miles trying to win a challenge. He is an aggressive player and serves as the backbone of the American’s midfield. Bradley does not shy away from tackles, and isn’t afraid to man mark his oppositions best mid fielder.