Archive | June 2010

World Cup 2010: Who would really want the England job, now?!

It just wasn’t to be. Those dreams of Steven Gerrard holding aloft the World Cup on July 11th were only just a pipe-dream as England literally had no defence against the Germans. It wasn’t dewy-eyed fondness that England fans show whenever they think of ’66 and Bobby Moore, quite the opposite. Again.

Four years later, we’ll have another Baddiel-Skinner song. Four years later, we’ll have another shocking Cup spin-off with an ageing James Corden trying to entice us with some ‘Back the Beard’ nonsense (things won’t change much). Four years later, we’ll have another England manager, everything will end with disappointment and the coach will be to blame. Not the 11 players on the pitch who are the ones kicking the ball (although I do realise Rooney’s received a lot of stick) but the man who can only watch from the sidelines barking the same kind of things we at home are shouting.

Think of it like this: when a team wins the players get the praise. Teams lose, manager earns blame. It’s one of those unfair things that happen in football, a head-scratcher but it’s always going to happen. A master tactician like Capello was England’s hope. Breezed through qualification in flying colours and suddenly the nation warmed to him, ‘the Italian that who would bring the cup home.’ Now an early exit and calls for his sack.

And sure, if that Lampard’s ‘goal’ had counted, it would have, almost certainly, changed the complexion of the match. If it was 2-2 instead of 2-1, would England commit three of their back four and only have one defender back like they did when Germany knocked in their third? Probably not. Although just the one defender back wasn’t clever, especially as there was plenty of time left. Especially as that defender was Glen Johnson, of all people.

Is it not the ineffective, ageing England players that are to blame? Of course, many will point out that Wayne Rooney is, too, the scapegoat, and that’s another problem. Of course, he’s England’s best player but the reason for his no-shows is simply because Rooney gets service at Manchester United. He didn’t get any for England. He can’t do it himself, believe it or not, and football’s a team game. How about the defensive incapabilities of Glen Johnson or the failures of Frank Lampard, a player, like Rooney, delivers week in week out at club level. Had Robert Green not made that clanger, would England have played Germany or could it have been Ghana? So sure, Rooney’s had a miserable World Cup as he did in 2006, but football’s a collective effort, a team game. Let’s not blame any one player or man as in Capello’s case. It isn’t a cricket game, where a batsman or bowler could single-handedly win matches by scoring a hundred or taking five wickets. Of course, cricket is also a team game but you have to see my point.

The way managers are treated in the media is a touch unfair. Sven, McLaren and Capello. They’ve all been in charge of the same players. Who is to blame for these failures? The players of course, the so-called ‘Golden Generation’. If England want a new man in charge, who wants to take it? Hodgson? Redknapp? Judging by the way past managers have been treated, it begs the question of who would really want the England job?


World Cup 2010: A case for Carrick/War against Rooney?

Michael Carrick

A case for Carrick after England’s passing horror show?

One thing was increasingly obvious during the England-Algeria game – those bleach blonde hairstyles donned by some of the Algerian players were horrible. Oh, and if you didn’t notice England’s passing in that game was dreadful. Certainly, there were problems in that game, such as worryingly, England’s inability to press the opposition.

With all the quality England’s team possesses, it’s a mystery why they failed to pass the ball with any conviction. Step up, Michael Carrick. His range of passing is exactly what England need, although Capello looks set to only make a change or two to his team with Carrick rooted to the bench for the game against Slovenia. Spain’s Xabio Alonso believes England missed a trick in not playing Carrick, and presents a strong, convincing case to Capello on why he should be in the starting XI.

“If Carrick plays for the national team the way that he does for Manchester United, then it would be very good news for England. I think that he could easily fit in the Spanish system because I really like the way he plays.

“He reads the game so well, he is always ahead of what is going to happen and he is always in the right position. When he gets the ball, he plays it easy and he is available to his team-mates all the time. For me, he has the profile to play for Barcelona or any of the Spanish teams. He would also be very complimentary to Stevie (Gerrard).”

I don’t know about Barcelona, seeing as he too has the ‘profile’ to play for Manchester United. But, Alonso has a point. He can set the tempo in the team, and is, undoubtedly, the best passer in the England side. If Capello decides against playing Carrick for Wednesday’s crunch game, then you’d imagine a 4-2-3-1 is a must, playing Rooney by himself up front with either Gerrard or Joe Cole behind.

Sunday Papers v Wayne Rooney

The talk of the town is Wayne Rooney and his so-called ‘attitude’. After two years of nothing of sort, its been back brought into question and now Sunday papers are littered with ‘journalists’ all attempting to have a go at someone who, just a few weeks prior to the tournament, was labelled as a ‘national treasure’. It’s a shame, do study this link here. This a ‘piece’ from a hack named Neil Ashton in the News of the World, who claims to have a senior source (apparently), not just saying negative things about Rooney, but about Capello and the whole team.

If Capello says about Rooney: “The problem is in his mind” it doesn’t mean he has ‘psychological problems’, like the writer tried to suggest.

Yet, the same newspaper doesn’t stop there. Andy Dunn, ‘Britain’s No.1 Sports Columnist’ says Capello should axe Rooney after his poor performance against the Algerians. Click here to see the horrifying (a Sunday paper’s favourite hyperbole, yet this isn’t an exaggeration) piece.

You’ll notice that both hacks named are highlighted with links to their Twitter page. Feel free to voice your opinion to both…

The Mail on Sunday is also threatening to derail England hopes with this headline: ‘Rooney apologises for foul-mouthed rant..’ Foul mouthed?! Surely, not. For saying ‘Nice to see your home fans booing you’.

This is the definition of foul-mouthed: ‘using foul or obscene language’. So sarcastic comments is seen as ‘foul’ or/and ‘obscene’, these days. Seriously, best of luck to England in this World Cup. After two below-par performances, I still believe we (I say ‘we’ loosely now) can still win the tournament. And best of luck to Rooney, who if and when he scores the crucial goal in the finals, will certainly see the Sunday papers suddenly label him as a ‘hero’ and a ‘national treasure’.

World Cup 2010: Heskey has proven he is the ideal foil for Wayne Rooney

The thing that shocked many about England’s 1-1 draw with the USA is that the opposition were a team that apparently play little football in their homeland. It may be the sixth most watched sport in the States, but funnily enough it is the most played. Let’s not forget, the USA did progress to the final of last year’s Confederations Cup. They were severely underrated.

Yet, the United States were largely on the backfoot and indeed, the only real problem for England was their defence. That said, it is quite a major one and for all the quality England possess in the final third, their work could be cut out by a back four who lack pace and awareness. However, that’s for another day. On a positive note, it was an impressive performance from not just captain Steven Gerrard, but Emile Heskey. Much has been made of the fact that he plays very little for Aston Villa, although Villa simply do not have a Wayne Rooney.

His first touch of the game was sublime. A lovely lay-off in the path off Gerrard, who did little wrong himself, finishing neatly past Tim Howard. He won everything in the air and his link up play, at times, with Rooney and co was a joy to watch. It was so good that even Clive Tyldesley continuously purred every time he leaped above a US defender.

He is the ideal foil for Rooney. Heskey has been made to look something of a joke, at times in ITV’s coverage Adrian Chiles and even that oat Gareth Southgate poked fun at him, but yesterday was proof, if any were needed, that he is the best target man. Sure he missed a great chance to put England ahead, and finishing is definitely something to work on. He is almost certain to play against the Algerians, and expect Rooney to benefit most from Heskey’s hard work come Friday evening.

EDIT: Turns out I was wrong, and Heskey did little to impress on that Friday evening against Algeria. People point to his goalscoring record, and although that is a concern, Heskey’s game is so much more than trying to score goals. That includes link up play and falling down a lot.

United bloggers unite to predict the outcome of the World Cup

Ah, The World Cup. It is undoubtedly the biggest, most-anticipated sports competition in the world. So, as clever as I am, I decided that I’d invite the best United bloggers on the net to come together and make some predictions. I have to, unfortunately, settle for this lot. Yolkie from Stretty Rant, Pos from When the Seagulls and Hakan from Between the Lines. So, without further ado, here’s our predictions…

· World Cup Winners?

ManUtd24: I’d go for one of the ‘Perennial Underachievers’ (gosh, how I hate when people say that). That’s either Spain or the Netherlands, though the former is a rather safe bet and a boring choice. Brazil’s another obvious one and much, in my eyes anyway, will rest on Fabiano, whose uncanny knack of goals and style of football is comparable to that of World Cup legend Ronaldo (the fat one). However their football is rather dull, no longer sexy, and I believe that Dunga had missed a trick by not including Milan’s Ronaldinho in his squad. If England don’t win this tournament due to some metatarsal-related reason, I hope the winner is a team that plays an entertaining brand of football. Not Italy or Brazil, then. France will crash out of the group stages and Argentina will most probably succumb in the last eight. I’ll plump for Spain. Beating England in a penalty shoot-out, of course, along the way.

Yolkie: I’m half tempted to go with France.. awful build up, cheated to get in, they seem charmed, but under Domenech I hope that the comedy show continues. It’s wonderful that Evra is captain and there are some great talented individuals but I can’t predict a team that loses to China days before the tournament as winners. England without Ferdinand and sticking with shoehorning an out of form Gerrard and a glory hog Lampard into the team won’t win it – I think the Maradona factor will derail the Argentinian push, too. So, regrettably, it’ll be a run of the mill prediction, and I’ll plump for Spain just ahead of Brazil because their squad is stronger, full of players in top form and in Casillas, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa, have arguably the top 5 players in their positions in the world. I can’t believe I haven’t even considered the holders; but I thought Italy’s win in 2006 was the last hurrah of that generation.

Pos: In terms of raw, outstanding talent and therefore who should win it based on that, I’d like to see Argentina winning it (yes, Argentina!!). But as we all know from many a World Cup (Cruyff’s Holland missing out in ’74 and ’78, as well as Spain’s consistent underachievement in the tournament) it really doesn’t work like that. Spain are obviously looking good and are the bookies favourites, with Brazil not far behind; so I think realistically, it’ll be either one of those.

Hakan: Spain. The best and most well balanced team in the world over the last few years. Truly outstanding midfield, and Villa/Torres is the world’s best twin spearhead. I hope their kind of football will triumph.

· Surprise Package?

ManUtd24: I genuinely feel that Uruguay could spring a major surprise and make it as far as the quarter finals – or further. Diego Forlan, you could argue, single-handedly won the Europa League for Atletico Madrid and the two-time winners will rely on him to take them to the last eight. The other two Diego’s in defence, Lugano and Godin are solid and reliable but could have their work cut out as Uruguay’s three goalkeepers only have about 20 caps between them. Serbia is a name often sprayed around but let me be the first person to say they won’t even get past the group stages. Ivory Coast, another candidate, will make it as far as the second round at most, certainly can’t expect Aruna Dindane to come up with goals in the absence of Didier Drogba. So Uruguay. Maybe because they have a funny name.

Yolkie: This would have been Ivory Coast before Drogba’s injury. I don’t think I can squeeze Germany or Portugal into this category fairly so I’ll go with Serbia – a great, well drilled defence used to playing together, some wonderful creativity in midfield and firepower that can be described as “not bad at all”. I’ll stop short of predicting how far they will go; should they advance from the group stages though I imagine they’ll be difficult to break down. They could meet England in the second round and if they do, don’t put it past the Serbians to knock us out.

Pos: I’d like to say Ivory Coast would finally be the surprise package they’ve been promising us they would be (Drogba, Toure x2, Kalou etc). But after a poor World Cup in ’06, where they were supposed to give group members Argentina and Holland a good run for their money (instead finishing 3rd, losing to both teams along the way), they will probably struggle just as badly this time round with Portugal and Brazil getting in the way of their progression. I’d go for Uruguay therefore. I’m definitely not saying they could win it, but with an alright group that could potentially see them finishing top (assuming they overcome the unpredictable France, and Suarez and Forlan play as well as they can), they could have a surprisingly easy route to the quarters and beyond.

Hakan: Holland. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking, but ever since the 70’s I always want Holland to do well. Very encouraging performances by Sneijder and Robben in the later stages of the Champions League.

· Top Goalscorer?

ManUtd24: Jamie Carragher. That’s if we’re counting own goals. Pundits alike will back David Villa for the Golden Boot, probably as many of his goals could come in the group stages where Spain face relatively poor opposition. If I were a betting man, I’d plump for Luis Fabiano. Kim Myong-gil (North Korea’s ‘no.1’) will surely regret the day he ever came across him when they do face each other in the group match. I’ll go Fabiano.

Yolkie: Probably best to study the groups for this one and see where strikers could “fill their boots” if they were selected. England have Algeria and Slovenia so there is a case for Rooney (if he plays, if qualification is already assured by the Slovenia game) while Luis Fabiano could, with the greatest of respect to North Korea, rattle a few past them. The heart says Rooney but the head says David Villa, with relatively soft defences in the group stage and their chances of progression, he looks more likely. I wish I would name “A N OTHER” because the golden boot always seems to go to someone nobody previously predicted.

Pos: Always a tough one. Villa and Messi would be the obvious choices, yet who knows what the likes of Higuain and Klose can do. Realistically however, I can’t see past Villa continuing his fine goalscoring form for Spain and finishing with the golden boot as he did 2 years ago in the Euro’s.

Hakan: Van Persie. He hasn’t played much this season, and I feel this will be an advantage. Any top scorer depends on good service, and van Persie will receive this from Sneijder and Robben (if fit).

· Best Player?

ManUtd24: It has to be one of the two midfield marvels in the Spanish team. Never has a nation possessed so much talent in one position, so it seems a fairly obvious choice to go for either of Messrs Xavi and Iniesta. Both are capable of doing something spectacular and Spain will almost certainly progress to the latter stages (talking semi-finals or finals) of this tournament if either these two can stay fit. That’s not exactly assured – both having spent time on the sidelines in the previous year.

Yolkie: This is the first World Cup played in the generation that is truly appreciating the art of the previously understated central midfielder. This might just be the time that Andres Iniesta, still regarded as something of a second fiddle to the wondrous Xavi, underlines his position as the best in the world at what he does.

Pos: Unquestionably it’s the team(s) that reaches the final who produce the player of the tournament. Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney…which ever one of those teams holds their nerve to reach the final (assuming at least one of Argentina, Portugal, Brazil or England do), their star man will undoubtedly be one of those.

Hakan: Xavi. If you want to know why, watch this:

· And how will England fare…?

ManUtd24: I wouldn’t expect them to under-perform like they did in Germany 2006, but that could just be me (once again) believing that they could go all the way and lift the Jules Rimet trophy. And guess what? They will go to the semi finals. England have probably got the easiest route to the last four, potentially taking on Ghana or Serbia in the last 16, then France or the Argies in the last eight before taking on Brazil on the semis. All of this could be achieved if, of course, they avoid penalties. It also depends on Wayne Rooney’s fitness and, arguably more importantly, that Jamie Carragher is no way near the starting line up. Optimism is the name of the game…

Yolkie: They will advance from the group stage, even if the USA game will be far more difficult than people anticipate. I do think Fabio got the team working far better in qualification and showed he is no nonsense in selection when he – rightly – omitted Theo Walcott from the 23, even if he did pick Jamie Carragher. Thankfully even with Rio’s injury Carragher shouldn’t get anywhere near starting when it matters; even so, I just see the norm. Maybe the clever management will squeeze a semi final out of them but Capello is about to learn that no matter how much you do well in qualification, when tournament time comes around, Lampard and Gerrard are only interested in being heroes, to the detraction of Rooney’s contribution to the team. I’ll go for an optimistic semi final defeat based on the combination of opponents they could face to get to that stage.

Pos: Hmm. They will top their group and hopefully see off the second placed team in group D to reach the Quarters. So on that note I can see England reaching the Semi’s. As long as Rooney, Lampard et al perform as well together as they do for their clubs, they could easily go further.

Hakan: Round of 16. My main concern is that England are more dependent on one player (Rooney) than any other team, except Ivory Coast (Drogba). Opponents will know this and Rooney will receive some rough treatment. Furthermore, the defence looks vulnerable with Ferdinand out, Barry injured and Terry not back to his best. James, Green and Hart are good keepers, but none of them is world class. The opening game against USA could prove a lot more difficult than most people think. I expect England to progress from the group, but they will struggle when they come up against stronger opponents.

World Cup Group Stages: Predictions by Sarky (Part 2)

Guest written by regular reader Sarky – Part 2

Here I am with Part II of the Group Stage predictions. In this part, we cover all the remaining groups- from Group D to Group H. There has been news coming in the past couple of days- Rio is injured, and will not be a part of the World Cup, contrasting news on Drogba’s injury, looks like Pirlo may be out too and of course the friendly results, specifically, France losing 1-0 to China.

I will still stick to my prediction of England qualifying from the Group. But for sure, they will miss Rio’s experience at the back.

Group D-

Teams- Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

Germany will surely miss the services of their influential captain- Michael Ballack. But I still do not see them bowing out in the first round. Quality players, along with sound tactical approach and typical German industry & organization should be able to see Germany through the next round in this very competitive Group. Serbia, with Vidic, Jovanovic and Stankovic among the recognized names, surely fancy their chances of qualifying from this group. The ‘Black Stars’ from Ghana are in with a good chance too. Their midfield engine, boasting the likes of Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah will be their driving force, but they will surely miss the services of Michael Essien. The fourth team in this group- Australia, will not be taken lightly by the others. A team including players like Mark Schwarzer in goal, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neil and of course, Harry Kewell, certainly has the ability to spring a surprise.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Germany, Serbia

Sarky’s Heart says- Germany, Ghana

Group E

Teams- Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon, Japan

With the quality of players they have in their team, the Netherlands should go through to the Round of 16 from this group. Their players have been impressive for their clubs this season, and if they are able to replicate that form on the international stage, qualification would not be a problem. Among the other teams, Denmark had an impressive run in their road to the World Cup by qualifying top of a group which included Portugal & Sweden. If they continue with their impressive run, it would be difficult to deny them a place in the second round. Cameroon had a slow start to the qualifiers, but their fortunes were turned around by the arrival of Frenchman Paul Le Guen as their coach and Samuel Eto being made Captain of the team. The Indomitable Lions are the top ranked African Nation going into the World Cup and have an experienced squad. Japan have a squad low on confidence after 4 consecutive defeats in the last four friendlies. But with quality players like Nakamura in the squad, maybe a freekick goal from his left foot is all it will take to spark up Japan’s tournament. And yes, they need to stop scoring those own goals.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Netherlands, Denmark

Sarky’s Heart says- Netherlands, Cameroon

Group F

Teams- Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

The World Champions look favorites to qualify as Group toppers from Group F. Though the Italian teams are known to be poor starters, the opposition in this group should not worry them too much. They have an experienced squad who will be no strangers in handling the pressure one associates with a World Cup. Paraguay have qualified for the World Cup by posting their highest ever points tally in the qualification matches, and finishing ahead of Argentina & Uruguay. The Paraguayans are certainly hoping that Roque Santa Cruz will be able to perform to his full potential after the frustrating season he has endured. Slovakia, first time qualifiers to the World Cup are a well organized team and qualified as top of their Group. They have wins over Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and the USA over the last year, but I feel their performance in this World Cup will depend on their match with Paraguay. As for New Zealand, no one gives them too much hope of progressing from this Group. Maybe the best they could do would be to upset a bigger team and then hope the permutations & combinations work in their favor. Did you say- Unlikely? That’s what I think too.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Italy, Paraguay

Sarky’s Heart says- Italy, Paraguay

Group G

Teams- Brazil, Korea DPR, Côte d’IvoirePortugal

Will the Brazillians lift another World Cup? They way they are going about their task, they certainly seem favourites to be World Champions once again. Dunga has his team going in the direction he wants. I felt that the inclusion of Ronaldinho would have given an extra dimension to the team. But Dunga clearly knows what he wants and how he wants to go about it and the results over the last year seem to justify his game plan. The second favorites from the Group are Portugal. With players of the caliber of Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Nani, Ricardo Carvallho and Pepe in their ranks, fans expect Portugal to go through this difficult group. They sure have a talented team, but how those talents combine to push the team forward remains to be seen. Ivory Coast, the other main contenders in this Group always seem to be drawn into the toughest Groups. In the last World Cup, they had Argentina, Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro in their Group. One of the most talented African teams, Sven -Goran Eriksson’s boys consisting of familiar faces like Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Didier Zakora, Eboue, Yaya Toure & Kolo Toure, will have their work cut out to achieve qualification from this Group. Uncertainty over Drogba’s injury does not help their chances either. Korea DPR were the surprise package in the Asian qualifying phase. The team consists of mostly domestic based talent and their strengths are teamwork & discipline. But a fairy tale run like that in 1966 (where they reached the last 8, before being stopped by Eusebio’s magic) seems highly improbable, seeing the quality of other teams in this group.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Brazil, Portugal

Sarky’s Heart says- Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire

Group H

Teams- Spain, Switzerland, Hoduras, Chile

Spain are one of the favourites to become the next World Champions and their flawless qualifying run certainly did nothing to diminish the credentials of the Euro 2008 Champions. This team has depth and talent in abundance and if they stay true to form, there is no reason why they cannot go all the way. In fact, the only game that Spain has lost in the last 2 years is the semifinal reverse against the USA in the Confederations Cup last year. Switzerland, coached by Ottmar Hitzfeld, are the only non- Hispanic team in this Group. They qualified top from a group comprising Greece & Israel (after an earlier home loss against Luxembourg), but their performance in the friendlies against Norway, Uruguay & Costa Rica have not done much to inspire confidence amongst neutrals. Honduras have qualified for this World Cup after a gap of 28 years. Despite a victory over the USA in January, recent friendlies have resulted in defeats for the Honduras against Turkey & Venezuela and draws against Belarus & Azerbaijan. Chile qualified second to Brazil in the South American Qualifiers and under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa, have been impressive in their friendlies. Their record of 4 wins and one loss in May 2010 shows the meticulous planning & preparations by their coach. Admittedly, they were not against top class opposition, but then, they have faced top class teams in their qualifying phase and come out with flying colours.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Spain, Chile

Sarky’s Heart says- Spain, Chile

So those were my predictions for the World Cup 2010. Hope you guys enjoyed reading through the 2 part series. I know many of you would disagree with my predictions, and I’d love to hear your predictions and the feedback to these articles.

World Cup Group Stages: Predictions by Sarky (Part 1)

Guest written by regular reader Sarky – Part 1

I was sitting at home with a toothache resulting from a root canal procedure. And yes, it pains so much that I can’t even sleep. So thought of making bold predictions for the FIFA World Cup 2010. Well, usually my brain says something, and my heart says something else (Though I have been accused at various points in my life of not having either a brain or a heart). But in this case, both my brain and heart have agreed for the most part. I still went ahead and picked up both the choices- Teams I would like to see in the second round (yes, I can hear the phrase- ‘misplaced optimism’ being repeated) and teams I think are likely to be in the next round.

In this first series, I would like to only predict the outcome of the Group phase. We’ll discuss about the next rounds onwards after all the qualifiers for the Round of 16 are identified.


  1. Please do not place your bets based on my predictions. However, if you place your bets based on my predictions and win some decent amount of money or a holiday somewhere (except the local prison), you are free to contribute to my well being. But I will not be responsible for any losses due to my crazy predictions.
  2. No disrespect meant to any of the countries playing in the World Cup. I appreciate that each team has earned the right to play at this Event, and all of them are surely better than my home country. (:tears: )
  3. Feel free to disagree. I know that there have been fans watching their favorite teams since qualifiers started and am sure, no one will agree with me 100%.

To Start off- My heart wants Argentina to win, has always wanted Argentina to win, ever since I first saw a World Cup match in 1986. And I dragged my parents to my neighbor’s home at an unearthly hour to watch the final. (I was 5 then). Despite me having my doubts about El Diego’s sanity, I sincerely hope he makes me look like a fool by leading the Albicelestes to be World Champions. But my brain says- Spain (though I feel England have the easiest route to the Semifinals). See how confused I am? Well, let’s get it underway.

Group A-

Teams- France, Mexico, Uruguay, South Africa

Though this Group does not have the best teams at this year’s World Cup, it does not make the group any easier for the teams in it. Mexico, under their new coach, Javier Aguirre, have turned around their fortunes and we have seen in the friendlies over the last few days that this team has the players to ensure they qualify for the Round of 16. But whether they will play as well as they can, will depend on the team staying together despite the unnecessary press surrounding the exclusion of Jonathan Dos Santos.  France just scraped through their qualifying against the Republic of Ireland (I needn’t say more about Henry’s hand, I guess) and I expect them to just scrape through this round too. Uruguay have some talented players (Suarez, Forlan, Lugano), but qualified as one of the last teams for the World Cup through the play offs. As for South Africa, getting a point off one of their group rivals would in itself be an achievement.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Mexico, France

Sarky’s Heart says- Mexico, Uruguay

Group B

Teams- Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece

Everyone expects Argentina to qualify from this group. With the rich range of talent they have coming to the World Cup, they surely deserve to go through. I agree with the people who are apprehensive of how Diego Maradona will organize his team tactically, but then, if he is able to get the team to respond to his requirements, we may have to sit back and watch while El Diego enriches his already rich legacy. Regarding the other teams in the Group, Nigeria have a strong team, but Korea Republic (led by Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung) and Otto Rehhagel’s Greece will be no pushovers. Just the fact that Nigeria are playing in their own Continent and that Korea are poor travelers would suggest that Nigeria will go through. However, this is Football, and anything can happen on their given day.  The Nigeria- Korea Republic clash would be one of contrasting styles and skills. Greece and their coach (who is the oldest coach in WC 2010) would be hoping for a repeat of their 2004 Euro run, and maybe one victory would be all it takes to qualify from this group.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- Argentina, Nigeria

Sarky’s Heart says- Argentina, Korea Republic

Group C

Teams- England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

There are no Penalty Shootouts in the Group Stages. So England should go through to the next round. Not that Capello will be looking at his Group matches being draws. Seriously, with the talent that the England squad possesses, and under the guidance of a master tactician, England should progress through the Group stages without too many problems. Team USA had an impressive run in the Confederations Cup last year and the Semifinals against Spain and the Finals against Brazil show that this team cannot be taken lightly. Algeria made it past Egypt to qualify for this year’s edition of the World Cup, but despite their poor away record in the qualifying stages, will be hoping to cause an upset. Slovenia surprised a lot of people by eliminating Euro 2008 semifinalists Russia in their play offs. If they show the same fighting spirit again in their match against the USA and Algeria, they may well be on their way to the Round of 16.

Sarky’s Qualifiers- England, USA

Sarky’s Heart says- England, USA

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