“There once was a man from Korea,
Who drowned all his sorrows in beer.
‘Cos his team had done poop,
Finished bottom of their group,
And now he’s got to wait four more year” – William Shakespeare (Korea Sonnet – 1612)*
*Disclaimer – May not have actually been written by Shakespeare himself
Poor poor Korea. What a kick in the teeth the draw was for them. Stuck in a group with the tournament dark horses, Europeans brimming with talent and the five time champions. Nice one. Their coach must have smashed a mirror whilst walking under a ladder on the morning of the draw. Taking into account how hard their group looks on paper, let us concentrate on the other teams, shall we?
In my eyes, this group could easily provide us with the tournament’s top-scorer. Drogba and Kalou will be confident of extending the excellent seasons that they have had in front of goal, Cristiano Ronaldo may shake off his unfortunate tag of not performing in big games and pile in the goals, while Brazil could choose from five, six or seven different players to be aiming for the Golden Boot.
And as difficult as it is to seperate the front men, it’s equally hard to try and predict/(blind stab in the dark) guess who is going to escape from this group and into the first knockout round.
The Ivory Coast have been mentioned by many as the outside tip to win the tournament, or at least make strides towards the final. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Pele has tipped an African team to take home the Jules Rimet trophy anytime soon, and the Elephants may well be his best bet. If that is a little too optimistic, they will at least hope to progress, and build on their third place group finish in 2006, when they were unfortunate enough to be paired with Argentina and Holland.
Their team sheet reads like a who’s who of Premiership talent, with the admittedly inconsistant Kolo Toure at the back alongside the ever-improving Emanuelle Eboue, and they are ably helped out by Kolo’s brother Yaya sitting in front of the back four, which also includes the much-sought-after Guy Demel. With ex-Spurs man Didier Zakora alongside Yaya, it seems safe to say that the Cote d’Ivoire won’t be short of a few tackles in the middle of the park, and with the afore-mentioned Kalou up top, along with Aroune Dindane and Kader Keita, don’t be surprised if the Ivory Coast are in the first knockout round, although that might depend on how quickly they can get Drogba back fit after his broken arm.
Of course the danger in saying that the men in orange will get through is that suggests that either Portugal or Brazil won’t, and you can’t easily look at their squads and see any way in which either will struggle.
Although Portugal struggled to qualify for the tournament, Ivory Coast boss Sven Goran Eriksson won’t be overjoyed at having to play the team that knocked him out in 2006, when he was in charge of our very own fair nation.
Thankfully Ricardo won’t be around to smash home penalties, but Portugal’s attacking flair makes them a danger that can’t be ignored.
We all know all about Cristiano Ronaldo. I don’t have to tell you how much of a winker he is, nor do I need to explain how he can destroy teams in a heartbeat. Up top alongside him are Danny, who has been tipped by many as one-to-watch, Liedson, Simao and Hugo Almeida. Unfortunately for Portugal, their Manchester United winger Nani will no longer have the chance to set games alight, but the frustrating nature of his game may mean that their fans don’t see that as a massive tragedy.
Their midfield boasts veterans Pedro Mendes and Tiago, alongside the technically-gifted Miguel Veloso and soon to no-longer be a Chelsea player Deco, Spain’s neighbours have enough in the tank to go a long way in the competition. Their first game is against the Ivory Coast, and a fairly good bet would say that the winner of that game will be the one of the two to make it through to the knockouts.
That then leaves us with five-time champions of the world (read it in boxing match announcer’s voice – it will cheer you up), Brazil.
In the same way that I didn’t give Korea much of a discussion, I’ll do the same with Brazil. But just think, what an attacking defence. Dani Alves, Maicon (who was rightly praised in another blog), Lucio. All are excellent with the ball at their feet and will cause players further up the pitch severe problems, as well as being more than capable at the back.
When you move further upfield and see players like Melo, Baptista, Luis Fabiano, Nilmar and Robinho, you have to fear for the rest of the group. That is of course, before we get onto Kaka. Although he has struggled in his new surroundings at Real Madrid, no-one that has seen a football match in the last five years would bet against ‘The Special One’ Jose Mourinho getting the best out of him again, and this competition could be the spark that he needs to get going.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Portugal will beat Ivory Coast, because it is unlikely that Drogba is going to make it. Leaving them and Brazil in the top two places, while poor old Korea will have to have strong shoulders to prop up the teams above them.
Ivory Coast 4
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