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

CAMEROON  

 A team that has individual talent, but just can’t seem to put it all together of recent.  The team’s unquestionable star is Inter Milan’s Samuel Eto’o who just won the Champions League final in Madrid this past season.  They’ve struggled in recent friendly’s and in the African Cup of Nations.  I don’t think this team gets out of the group stages, despite the individaul talent that they possess.  This team seems to have a number of top level players, but also have a number of very fringe players, with no in between. There is a lot of pressure for an African team to make it out of the group and put on a show on their soil, but I just don’t think this is coming from Cameroon.  It’s a shame too, because of the amount of world class players the team possesses.  They are a fun team to watch, but quite simply haven’t been playing well to warrant them having a successful Cup.    

3 Key Players   

  1.  Samuel Eto’o – One of the pound for pound best strikers in the world.  Samuel can do it all, weather it’s taking defenders on, finishing a header for a goal, or holding the ball up and distributing to teammates.  Eto’o is starting to feel a lot of pressure for the fact that this national team has yet to win anything of importance in recent years, and has been the subject of much criticism from ex players and fans in his native Cameroon.
  2.  Stephane Mbia – The man from Marseille is capable of playing either as a Center Back or as Defensive Midfielder.  He is excellent in possession, and reads the game very well.  He’s very strong in the air, and very forceful in the tackle.  He’s recently been moved to Center Back permanentely by his club in France, which I think has made him an even better player.  He’s one of the most underrated players in the tournament, and with a good tournament could transfer to a bigger club in Europe.
  3.  Alexandre Song – Technique, technique, and more technique is what you get out of this guy from Arsenal.  He’s very fluid with the ball at his feet, and always seems to findthe right pass.  His first touch is picture perfect, and tracks back well to help out defensively.  He is an important part of Cameroon’s midfield. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-wOMVYcyGM)

DENMARK  

    

The Dane’s come off a stellar World Cup qualifying campaign, but have looked rather bad of late in their tune up friendlies.  I know that pre world cup friendlies aren’t their full teams, and that teams often experiment with different formations and combinations of players, but the Dane’s had some dreadful results leading up to the World Cup.  They lost 1-0 to Australia, and 1-0 to South Africa, which are not results you want to see coming from a team as highly touted as this one.  Highly talked about Nicklas Bendtner will need to prove he’s the player that Arsenal hopes he’ll eventually be for Denmark to get goals and win games.  The Dane’s have a problem at their right and left back positions, which is the absolute last position you want to have a problem with going into a clash with the Dutch.  The Dutch pride themselves on having Wingers that will exploit even the best backs in the world, and if I were Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, or Robin Van Persie, I would be licking my chops at the chance to play against some of the back’s Denmark has been trotting out recently.  Outside of the Dutch, I don’t see much quality in this group.  Cameroon and the Dane’s will fight it out for that second spot, and I think due to Cameroon’s lack of consistency, Denmark gets out of this group with the Dutch.   

3 Key Players   

  1. Christian Poulsen – Poulsen is an important part of what the Dane’s do on defense and on offense.  He is a versatile player that is comfortable helping his team defend, and being a crucial part of his teams build up in attack.  Poulsen has been often noted for his ability to play a full 90 minutes at full strength, and for his clean distribution of the ball to his teammates.
  2.  Daniel Agger – Agger is a versatile defender who prefers to play in the center of defense, but can get kicked out wide to play either right or left back.  From 2004 to 2006, Agger was voted every year as Denmark’s most promising up and coming player, which led to a transfer to English giants Liverpool at the end of 2006.  Agger has unfortunately suffered some bad injuries over the past few years, and has really struggled to find his fitness and position for club and country.  Many claim that Agger is the best central defender Denmark has produced in the past two decades, but he needs to realize this potential and stay healthy for longer periods of time.  Using his 6’4 body, Agger is strong in the air and also possess great ball control passing the ball out of the back or dribbling himself out of danger.
  3.  Nicklas Bendtner – Bendtner is a striker who is either loved by Arsenal supporters or absolutely hated.  At times, the youngster shows his potential by unleashing a fantastic goal, and at other times he misses a wide open sitter that makes you scratch your head.  He’s still an enigma at this point of his career, and I don’t think he’s ready to carry his team’s goal scoring load in this tournament. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDcDaIvHsdE)

  

 JAPAN  

  

The Japanese National team seems to qualify for every world cup, but hardly ever makes any noise once they actually get to the big show.  They benefit from a fairly week qualifying group and are not really challenged.  They have lost many international tunes up recently, and probably won’t do much in this years competition as usual.  The Japanese are characterized by technical intelligent player’s who are also hindered by their lack of speed and creativity.  They are an incredibly disciplined team and play a great brand of team football, but unfortunately just do not possess the overall quality to overpass teams like the Danes, the Dutch, or even the Cameroonians.  I think they’ll be lucky to finish 2010’s world cup with more than 3 points, thus not allowing them to get out of group play in South Africa.   

3 Key Players   

  1. Shunsuke Nakamura – The Japanese’s most experienced player in the squad in terms of European experience.  Nakumura has a deadly left peg, which he uses to great success on free kicks just outside the box.  Nakamura’s a very fun player to watch, although he can be a bit fragile at times.  He’s got great skill on the ball, and often tries passes and shots that are pulled out of literally nowhere. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-BV70scmyw&feature=related)
  2.  Makoto Hasebe – Hasebe is a player that is capable of scoring from long shots from outside of the box.  He is always looking to create space and pull the trigger.  He’s also a hard-worker that often tracks back to help his team retrieve the ball.
  3.  Yuji Nakazawa – An extremely exterienced defender in the center of the Japanese’s defense, who’s strength is winning balls in the air both on the defensive and offensive side from set pieces.  Yuki is Japan’s captain and has been with the team for over a decade.

  

NETHERLANDS  

  

The Netherlands are going to absolutely demolish this group.  This is a team that has not lost a match since September of 2008.  Yes, they didn’t lose a match in their entire 2 years of qualifying for this competition. The team is hurt by the loss of world class winger Arjen Robben, but the team has plenty of backup to replace him.  Robben is still listed on the squads 23 man roster, and might even be able to make a return when the Dutch make a long run into the tournament.  More than likely the Dutch collection will face Brazil in the quarter-finals, which will make for an incredibly challenging game for both teams.  I see the Dutch getting past Brazil here, and ultimately facing Spain in the final and winning it.  The team is clicking on all cylinders leading up to the tournament and are an absolute pleasure to watch.  The knock that always surfaces against the Dutch is their inability to defend, and their overrelyance on trying to outscore every team they play.  I think John Heitinga and Khalid Boulahrouz provide enough bite in defense to sufficiently hold it down, while the true attacking stars of the team like Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder, and Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt will put on an absolute show.  They are without a doubt my favorites to finally get the chip off their shoulder and win a major tournament.   

3 Key Players   

  1.  Wesley Sneijder – Sneijder is an absolute genius on the ball.  Every pass is perfectly weighed and carefully constructed.  He is one of the best attacking midfielder in the world, and is equally deadly with both his left and right peg.  He is also a dead ball specialist, capable of whipping in pin point corner kicks, and free kick shots.  He is by far the Dutch’s best player. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibpFzhc7dU4&annotation_id=annotation_468316&feature=iv)
  2.  Dirk Kuyt – Kuyt has the fortune or perhaps misfortune of being labelled the “work horse” of the Dutch squad.  He is anything but flashy, but gets the job done game in and game out.  Perhaps the most consistent player in the squad, Dirk Kuyt brings it every game and will not stop running.  He is an incredible asset to his team, and does many of the little things off the ball like chasing defenders down and making them panic which will not show up in the box score.
  3.  Khalid Boulahrouz – Any defender that has been given the name “Cannibal” is OK in my book.  Khalid is a fierce competitor and shows great technique in one on one situations in defense.  He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and is a very aggressive defender.

   

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