CHARLIE’S CHALK TALK 2010 World Cup Preview- Group H
Chile are a very dangerous team that qualified ahead of Argentina and just 1 point behind Brazil in South American qualifying for the World Cup. They are a very underrated team that I believe should get out of this group fairly easily, and could even steal a point or 3 from the heavily favored Spaniards. Chile is loaded with experienced talent and could make a surprising run at this year’s World Cup. Chile are a squad that have the players to attack successfully and score some wonderful goals in style. Where the Chileans could potential be exposed is in the backline, specifically within their central defenders. Size could present a challenging situation for them on set pieces and corner kicks. They are susceptible to relying too much on their attacking star power, and ignoring their defensive responsibilities. The counter attack might be the best way to play against this side, but in the end I think they get out of the group easily, and give whoever they play in the 2nd round a hell of a fight.
3 Key Players
- Alexis Sanchez – A young and flashy midfielder, Sanchez is currently impressing Italian fans for his club Udinese. Sanchez helps to bring a flair and attacking creativity to a team that has numerous options in attack. Sanchez is another player to keep an eye on to have a big world cup that could lead to a lucrative transfer to a bigger club in the summer. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LplmHNsftSY&feature=fvst)
- Humberto Suazo – Chile’s shifty #9 striker has a real nose for goal, and has proven it in La Liga with Zaragoza. “El Chupete” has a great first touch and is a very clever player. He has had difficulties in the past with discipline and training, but seems to have matured into the striker that many in Chile thought he would become from a young age.
- Claudio Bravo – Bravo is Chile’s #1 Keeper and their Captain. He’ll play an important role in trying to keep Chile in matches if their defense fails them during the tournament. He’ll be a crucial part of Chile’s failure or success at the cup. Bravo’s got experience playing in La Liga with Real Sociedad and will be accustomed to the tendencies of Spain’s attacking players.
The Hondurans will struggle in this tournament. They qualified for the World Cup thanks to a surprising goal from American Jonathan Bornstein to knock the Costa Ricans out. This team does not have much quality, and will consider themselves lucky to muster a tie out of the whole thing. Their style of play is not much of a style, but more of a hope and prey counter attack approach. I predict the possession numbers when they play Spain to be something like 80 % to Spain and a score-line of about 4-0 to Spain. I will watch this match only to find entertainment in 10 Hondurans trying to chase the ball around a field for 90 minutes, kind of like a cat trying to catch a lazer pointer. FIFA should honestly re think about granting 3 automatic places to teams from CONCACAF.
3 Key Players
- Wilson Palacios – Palacio is a pretty smooth player, who has a clean first touch and passes the ball extremely well. He’s been shuffled in and out of Tottenham’s lineup this season, but does have a great presence to him in the midfield. He is Honduras’ only hope for generating anything resembling an attack. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz_ne9BWECk )
- David Suazo – The Honduran’s only attacking threat, Suazo has much experience in Europe and has played for the national team since ’99. He is a capable player, but I just don’t think he’ll receive the service he is used to at Genoa to accomplish anything of worth.
- Victor Bernardez – Victor is an imposing center back that showed promise early in his career, but has struggled to find minutes for Anderlecht in Belgium. He is Honduras’ leader in defense, and does an OK job at pulling his defense up for offside traps.
The Spaniards are an incredibly confident team, and rightfully so. They are 4/1 odds to win the tournament, and play with an air of confidence that borders on egotism. Their team from top to bottom, from the 23rd player on their squad, to the 1st player on the squad is world class. Led in defense by the Barcelona duo of Gerrard Pique and Carles Puyol, the Spanish defense is incredibly organized and hardly ever makes a mistake in marking their opponents. La Roja’s midfield of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, and Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta is an absolute beauty to watch. The way these players keep possession and finding the open player is remarkable. Most games, the Spaniards retain possession for 70 % of the game, forcing the opposing players to chase the ball for the duration of the match. These players rarely give the ball away, and play some of the most intelligent passes in the world. The forwards are led by Liverpools Francisco Torres and Barcelona’s David Villa, who form one of, if not the best strike partnerships in the world. They have by far the deepest team in the competition and will easily escape the group stages. The real question is just how far this Spanish team can get. I have them losing to Holland in the Finals.
3 Key Players
Andres Iniesta – The best midfielder in the world. At a mere 5’7, Iniesta plays the most remarkable passes in the world. His creativity is unrivaled, and I honestly can’t recall ever seeing Andres Iniesta give the ball away. His technique passing the ball is one that has been developed as a young child in the Barcelona Youth Academy. Iniesta’s ability on the ball is genius, and his class shines through every time he touches the ball. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7UltLaevqQ)
Carlos Puyol – From a technique perspective, Puyol is the best Defender in the world. Puyol simply knows when to dive into a challenge, and when to back off and let the offender make a mistake. He often cleverly baits the attacking player into dribbling too much, and then all of a sudden dives in and steals the ball from the unsuspecting attacker. He is not the most gifted athlete, but he simply gets the job done like no other defender in the world. He’s incredibly wise as a player, and has been contributing to his national team since 2002. Puyol is a fierce competitor and the captain of the team on the field. He anchors the Spanish defense and calls out offside traps and man marking assignments. His importance to the success of the Spanish National Team is unparalleled.
Fernando Torres – Torres is capable of doing it all as a forward. Raised in the academy of Atletico de Madrid, the current Liverpool man has the pace to out run any defender in the competition. He’s currently suffering a bit of a knock, but should be back for Spain’s opening match against Switzerland.
The Swiss enter the tournament as the 18th best team in the world, according to the FIFA world rankings. Switzerland is lead by legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who is one of only 3 men to have won the Champions League with two different teams. This team will lean off of his experience and expertise to try to beat out Chile for the second spot. The Swiss rely on their hard working defenders to get them through difficult matches. During the 2006 World Cup, they were the only team to not allow a single goal in the competition, ultimately losing on penalties to Ukraine. Many of those same defenders return more experienced from the 2006 World Cup like Philippe Senderos and Ludovic Magnin, and I expect this 2010 Swiss team to lean on their defense once again to help them try to get out of the group.
3 Key Players
Alexander Frei – Frei is the team’s biggest threat to score and create chances. He’s recently topped the Switzerland national team’s all time goal scoring list by reaching 40 goals. Frei usually plays as the lone striker in a 4-4-2 with the other supporting forward playing off of him. Frei’s biggest attributes are his ability to bring his other teammates involved into the attack, usually his supporting striker and wingers, and his ability to accurately shoot with both feet. He may just be their only threat to score if young midfielders like Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami aren’t ready or able to help out. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8d033YCQ3o)
- Philippe Senderos – The former Arsenal man used be the first choice Center Back for Arsenal’s Arsen Wenger, but was relegeated to the bench when Arsenal brought in Thomas Vermaelen. Senderos still has the quality necessary to compete at this level, but his confidence may be a bit shaken since getting forced out of Arsenal. He’s a player that has played in many big matches for Arsenal, and will still be an important part of Switzerland’s team.
- Ludovic Magnin – Another one of the Swiss’ mainstays in defense. Ludovic is a complete player that is usually deployed as a left back. He also contributes to the team with powerful free kicks and a little something extra going forward.