CHARLIE’S CHALK TALK- 2010 World Cup Preview- Group D

AUSTRALIA

The Australians have hit a recent bad spell of form, but their recent results aren’t a very good indicator of the type of team they really are.  They’re a very industrial type of team, in that they’re very physical and work hard, do not shy away from contact, and go into tackles strong, weather it’s a 50/50 ball or an 80/20 ball.  They’re quality up front with their Strikers is an area of weakness for this team, and even more so if veteran striker Harry Kewell is not able to make it back from injury.  There is a quality on the ball that is sorely lacking in this Australian side.  Outside of Tim Cahill, I don’t see any creative players, or any players that can really keep possession for long periods or time.  There is only so far a team can go relying on physical and aggressive challenges, and I don’t think Australia will advance out of this group.

 3 Key Players

  1.  Tim Cahill – Cahill could very well be the best header of the ball in this entire competition.  He’s got a great sense of the game, and always seems to find himself in the right position at the right time.  As such, many will dismiss his goals as “garbage,” but it really doesn’t matter how the ball goes in.  Weather he’s deployed at striker or midfielder, Cahill will find space in the box and score a header in the competition.  He is an efficient player, and plays with a great motor.
  2. Lucas Neil – Neil is made up of absolute steal.  He’s been playing with Australia since 1996, and is their Captain and leader in the truest sense of the word.  He is a fiery competitor in the center of defense, and often relies on his sheer determination to win balls and tackles when his technique escapes him.
  3. Vince Grella – Every successful team has a player like Vince Grella in the starting 11.  Grella’s enjoyed a long and successful career in Italy, with a brief spell in England with Blackburn.  A tough as nails midfielder, who often sets the tone early with a clumsy challenge to let the other team know his team’s ready to play.  Grella sweeps up and does the dirty work, allowing the more glamours players of the team to get the glory.

 GERMANY

The German’s potential to make a deep run in 2010 was halted when they lost captain and star Michael Ballack from Chelsea for the duration of the tournament.  Even without Ballack, the German’s simply find ways to win games in tournaments like this.  They always seem to hang around, and I don’t see this year being any different.  Aging veteran Miroslav Klose is not the same player he was in 2006 or even in the Euro’s of 2008, and this team may struggle to find goals.  The German’s rely on a very strict and disciplined approach to soccer, which allows them to keep games close no matter who they are playing against.  This style of play has helped their national team compete with any team in the world, and I don’t see this year being any different.  As usual, the German’s will make it out of the group, and may even win a game or two outside of the group, but aren’t a real threat to do any damage past the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

 3 Key Players

  1. Phillip Lahm – Lahm takes the captain’s arm band for an injured Ballack, and is a speed demon from his right back position.  Standing at only 5’7, Lahm somehow finds a way to win balls in the air against much taller attackers, and is no slouch going forward combining with his midfielders and wingers.
  2.  Bastian Schweinsteiger – Germany’s most talented player from an offensive perspective, Bastian has enjoyed an incredible season with Bayern Munich.  Bastian is very capable taking defenders on and shooting from a distance.  He is also Germany’s dead ball specialist, and offers great creativity and individual skill on the ball to an otherwise at times bland German national team.
  3.  Per Mertesacker – An absolute mountain of a man in the direct center of the German’s defense.  Mertesacker will not loss a ball in the air, ever.  At 6’5 Mertesacker’s mere presence in the middle of the defense often changes the plans of opposing team’s attackers.  Mertesacker is not all height, as he has a surprisingly good touch for a man of his size, and does not struggle in possession as many center backs of his stature often do.  He is a key ingredient to the success the German’s success they’ve had defensively over the past few years, and is a rock in the back for the German’s.

GHANA 

Another star from Chelsea will not be making his appearence in this years competition, the leader and backbone of Ghana’s national team Michael Essien.  Essien is one the best defensive midfielder’s in the world and both defends and attacks in his position as a true out and out box to box midfielder.  His loss can not be stressed enough, as he is far and away Ghana’s most important player.  I wanted to like Ghana, I really did.  This team just seems to be lacking something.  Maybe it was the 2-1 defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina?  Or the 4-1 embarrassment against the Dutch?  Whatever the case, the Ghanaians strike me as a team ready to disappoint in 2010.  This is a team that looks lost when defending, particularly in the center.  Their defenders seem to be confused as to when to step as a group to pull the offside trap, and when to drop to leave the attackers onside.  I think they will play well offensively and score goals, but will ultimately make too many mistakes on the defensive side.

 3 Key Stars

  1.  Sulley Muntari – In the absense of Essien, Muntari will be called upon to control the midfield.  Muntari is more than capable of taking over the central midfield as he displayed this ability countless times in Inter Milan’s successful Champions League victory.  As a practicing Muslim, Muntari fasts for the entire month of Ramadan while still participating in training and games, which is an incredible feat.  On the futbol side of it, Muntari is a very strong player for his size.  He is always around the ball, and tracks the ball exceptionally well.  His tackles are often pinpoint and it’s phenomenal to watch a player go into a tackle so strong and not make any contact with the player.  He is a great talent, and an all around good player in every aspect of the game.
  2. Asamoah Gyan – A player that is really starting to come into his own with Rennes in France.  Gyan is a smooth and skillful player that is a lot of fun to watch.  He’s very fast and is always a threat to take defenders on.  Before his injury during the middle of the season, he was leading France’s Ligue 1 in scoring.  Oh yeah, his goal celebrations are phenomenal.
  3. Kevin-Prince Boateng – Boateng is an interesting player, in that he played for 6 different German youth national teams, before switching his allegiance to his native Ghana’s national team in 2009.  He’s a very shifty midfielder that has technique that you just can’t teach.  He doesn’t get pushed off the ball easily due to his large 6’1 frame, and consistently shows his skill with volley’s and back-hills.  It will be interesting to see if he can integrate into the Ghana national team in time.  He’s only got 1 previous cap with them, which may not be enough time to make an impact just yet.

SERBIA 

Serbia is many people’s 2010 world cup dark horse, and it’s easy to see why with their relatively easy time qualifying.  2010 will be the country of Serbia’s first World Cup since their independence from Yugoslavia, which will undoubtedly make for an incredibly emotional experience.  The serbs are incredibly stout in defense, and boast a back 4 that rivals any defense in the world.  This is their greatest quality, and they often count on staying in games due to their suffering and technically sound defense.  The White Eagles are a team that relies offensively on their wingers and wing backs to make plays along the sidelines.  The team is a fantastic mix of the old Serbia and Montenegro players and the new generation of Serbian players.  The blend creates an interesting dynamic of new and old players, and physical and quick players.  Where the Serbians could eventually unravel is in the goal scoring department.  They lack a true #9 goal-scorer, which could end up leading to their demise and an early exit.

 3 Key Stars

  1. Nemanja Vidic – The Manchester United Center Back is one of the grittiest players in the world.  Sticking his foot into challenges and putting his head into danger are among many of the things that make this player one of the best at his position.  He’s consistently performed for Manchester United, and is exceptional in the air with his head.  The defense leans on Vidic for his skill and his determination.
  2. Branislav Ivanovic – Ivanovic is an incredible athlete, who uses his pace and his technique from his Right Back position to help both the Serbian national team and Chelsea.  He is very strong in the air and very comfortable with the ball on his feet and dribbling in space.
  3.  Dejan Stankovic – Stankovic, who recently won the Champions League with Inter Milan, plays as the #10 play-maker for the serbs.  He’s got great vision and a good sense of where his teammates will be making runs.  For this, his pension to slip in through balls to attackers is his biggest strength.  He also possess a great left foot that is more than capable of giving the Serbians a goal or two.
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