CHARLIE’S CHALK TALK- World Cup Preview- Group B
I stated earlier in my blog that Charlie interns at Real Madrid, he actually interns at Atletico de Madrid. Anyway this man knows his stuff. This is his preview for Group B!!!
Many fans will be quick to note the presence of Lionel Messi in this squad, and rightfly so, but this team is perhaps the deepest in the competition. Their depth at the forward position is unrivaled. Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez and Atletico de Madrid’s Sergio Aguero could start at forward for any country in the world, but more than likely neither will start up top for Argentina at the World Cup. Argentina plays the sport the correct way, and plays a possession game that is beautiful to watch. Every single player from their Center Back to their Forward is comfortable on the ball, and quickly moves the ball to build up the attack. They build the attack up fluidly, switch the ball with ease, and play well timed through balls from the midfield to the attackers. Argentina gets out of this group easily, and will make a legitimate run at winning the whole thing. The only thing holding them back is their absolute nut of a coach, the legendary Diego Maradona, who’s antics are well documented. Argentina’s difficulty qualifying for this World Cup is a cause for concern and definitely should not be overlooked. They lost many head scratching matches in qualifying, including a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of a weak Bolivian side. Barring an absolute melt down from Diego Marradona, this team should get very far.
3 Players to watch
Lionel Messi – For my money the best player in the world. Electric with the ball and can dribble by any defender in the world with incredible ease, Messi is the most exciting player in the world. He creates chances out of literally nothing, and hardly ever loses the ball. This is his World Cup, and it’s his time to prove he’s the best player in the world.
Javier Mascherano – Mascherano is the best defensive midfielder in the world and is the heart and soul of the Argentines. Mascherano plays as a box to box midfielder which means he often breaks up opposing teams attacks, and then quickly starts his own team’s attack by distributing the ball to midfielders like Jonas Gutierrez and wingers like Maxi Rodriguez. He is the focal point of his entire team’s play, and could even be more important to his teams overall success than Messi.
Gonzalo Higuain – The young Real Madrid striker is in scary good form right now. Although the 22 year old only has a meager 5 caps for his country, he has been tearing it up in Madrid for 3 years now. He has 59 goals in 110 appearences, which is remarkable production coming from a 22 year old at one of the biggest clubs in the world. The kid seems to have nerves of steel, and always finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net when his team needs it the most.
The Greek’s are a true wild card team in this competition that haven’t qualified for a World Cup since the 1994 tournament. Greece won the European Championship in 2004 much to the surprise of every European and finished 2nd in their qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup behind Switzerland. The Greek’s approach to the game is powerful and physical, and will look to try to out muscle weaker teams in their group. Their strengths specifically lye on dead ball situations like corner kicks and free kicks just outside of the box, where they can use their size and ability to create goals off of headers and well timed crosses. This team will struggle against quicker and more technical teams such as Nigeria and to a lesser extent Korea. Their match with Korea will be a clash of conflicting styles, as the Korean’s are shorter in stature and like to play the ball along the ground, while the Greek’s look for long balls to utilize their strength and ability in the air. In the end, I don’t think they have enough talent to get out of the group this year. I don’t think many of their players are ready for the international level, and their inability to change their style of play will hinder their chances of winning at this years World Cup.
3 players to watch
Giorgos Karagounis – The Greek captain is the mainstay in the center of the park for Greece. Karagounis is capable of scoring from a distance, and offers the Greek’s much creativity in the final third. Karagounis is a true veteran, having been apart of the Greek national team setup for over a decade.
Angelos Charisteas – One of Greece’s most capped players at this years World Cup, the forward was a big part of Greece’s 2004 Euro Championship. However, his recent club form has dipped and he has been struggling to get minutes at Bayer Leverkusen. Nevertheless, he may just be Greece’s only threat to score.
Sotiris Ninis – A player that could truly explode on the world scene in this year’s world cup. Ninis possesses incredible technique and is still so young. An elusive dribbler, Ninis can also hit a ball very well from distance. Ninis is only 20 years old with 4 caps for the national team, but is the fulcrom for Greece’s offensive creativity. They will need him to have 3 huge games if they have any hope of having a successful tournament.
The Super Eagles’ chances of escaping Group B took a massive hit when they lost Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel to a knee injury. Obi Mikel is Nigeria’s most talented player, and they will find it very difficult to replace a player of this stature. The race for the 2nd team to get out of Group B has opened up considerably now that Mikel has pulled out of the competition. The fight between Korea, Greece, and Nigeria should make for some very competitive games. Nigeria typically plays a very attractive brand of soccer, and does well building up the attack from the back. There is a lot of individual skill on the ball within the team, but the question will be if they can all put it together. There is incredible speed along the wings of this national team, allowing both of their wingbacks to join the attack while covering defensively at the same time. I look for them to get out of the group stages even with their star player sidelined due to injury.
3 Players to watch
Taye Taiwo – Taiwo is a pleasure to watch. He is a wingback by nature, which means he contritubes both by defending against opposing team’s wingers, and attacking opposing team’s defenders. This is a position that only the best team’s in the world have, as the skillset to do both is very challenging to find. He is strong in both aspects of the game, and is capable of whipping in some beautiful crosses into the box, as he often makes runs into the final third of the field.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni – A true goal-scorer for the Nigerians, the 6 ft striker is a prototypical goal poacher, taking advantage of his opportunities by turning them into goals. He has seen his form dip of late with his club team Everton in the EPL, but possesses the natural goal scoring ability you need in a tournament like this. Yakubu’s going to have to have a good cup for Nigeria to reach their potential.
Obafemi Martins – Wolfsburg’s small, but incredibly agile and elusive # 9 was tearing up the English Premier League before Newcastle unexpectedly were relegated. Martins is an exceptional dribbler, and always looks to take bigger and stronger defenders on one on one. He often wins these battles and creates great chances for his team. In keeping with true Nigerian goal scorer’s, Martins does backflips after every goal….How badass is that?
The Koreans are led by Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Bolton Wanderer’s Lee Chung-Yong. Both of these players offer truly world class abilities from the midfield and are actually pretty similar players. The Koreans as a whole generally play a very disciplined style of soccer and are very organized as a collective team. South Korea has impressively qualified for the last 7 World Cup’s, managing to get out of the group rounds though only once in 2002. This team is very fast and technically solid and can cause problems for teams on counter attacks, but are vulnerable against bigger and stronger teams, especially on set pieces. I just don’t believe they have the right mix of players to get out of the group stages this year. Their run in 2002 was fueled by their home crowd, and was largely considered a fluke. They maintain qualifying for the World Cup every cycle by beating up on weaker Asian teams like Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. They will probably get a point or 3 against Greece, but don’t have the overall talent to compete with teams like Nigeria and Argentina.
3 Players to watch
Park Ji-Sung – A rockstar in Korea, the Manchester United man has incredible technical ability, and often sees the game 2 or 3 plays in advance. He is incredibly smart with the ball, and is an industrial player making well timed and smart runs off the ball. Even though he is not constantly in the first team at Manchester United, he is an important player for them and plays quality minutes every year.
Lee Chung-Yong – You know, i’m really starting to like the players that Korea is starting to produce. Yong had an exceptional 2008 Olympics in Beijing and really showed his quality as an attacking midfielder/winger. The successful Olympics led to a £2.2m transfer to Bolton Wanderers in the EPL. This guy plays very similar to Park, but offers a little more creativity on the ball. He is often deployed on the wings, allowing him to beat defenders one on one and serve in a good cross.
Kim Nam II – Who said all Korean players were technical and fast? This guy is the exception, and is an absolute destroying midfielder in the center of the park. Kim Nam II is not afraid to get “stuck in” as the British say, and will often put his body on the line to stop a play. Kim Nam is played as a destroying midfielder, where he sits just in front of the 2 center defenders.