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by Michael Cree
Guest blogger/soccer diehard Michael Cree gives his expert analysis on Group B of the World Cup tournament draw…will Argentina walk away with it all? – KW
Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece
In stark contrast to Group A, this is arguably the most treacherous group of all; the reason being that while there’s an obvious choice to finish top of the group, every team from it will feel that they can qualify for the next stage.
Argentina is Argentina. A soccer powerhouse, they have world-class players throughout their team. In defense, Walter Samuel is a rock, and up front, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain have been banging in the goals all season for Manchester City and Real Madrid respectively. And then of course, there’s the small matter of Barcelona’s devastating forward Lionel Messi – undeniably the best soccer player in the world. If Messi performs, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say that he has the ability to win the World Cup for Argentina all on his own, much like coach Diego Maradona, the current Argentine coach, did for his country in 1986.
However, Maradona, perhaps the greatest player of all time, is a long way off proving his worth on the touchline. Omitting experienced midfielder Esteban Cambiasso and defender Javier Zanetti from his final squad could hurt his team’s chances. But really, it doesn’t matter. The equation is simple – If Messi performs, Argentina will not only top their group, they could win the whole competition. If he doesn’t, they might still top their group, but they won’t win the World Cup. And for an excellent team with Messi in it, that has to be seen as a failure.
Perennial over-achievers South Korea will once again rely on their dogged play and collective team spirit in the hope of progressing far. Semi-finalists on home soil in 2002, they are not to be underestimated. Captained by Manchester United midfielder, Ji Sung Park, the Koreans possess quality in a number of areas, most notably on the wings. But their defense is weak and could be their downfall. Backed by fanatical supporters, South Korea breezed through Asian qualifying and is sure to provide a stern test for those in their group, Argentina included.
Ji Sung Park
Nigeria, while not being the team of old, is in form. Their team comprises players of varying degrees of talent, from quite poor to very talented. Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel anchors the midfield, while ex-Inter Milan and current Wolfsburg forward Obafemi Martins uses his blistering speed at every opportunity to get in behind opposition defenses. Qualification for the tournament was no trouble at all for the “Super Eagles,” who were unbeaten over 12 games, as Martins banged in the goals. On their home continent, support is sure to spur them on.
Greece shocked the soccer world in 2004 by winning the European Championships in Portugal. Previously dismissed as a second-rate soccer nation, the team has forced themselves onto center stage. And as qualification for World Cup 2010 proves, it was no fluke, although they did have to come through a play-off against Ukraine to book their ticket. Angelos Charisteas, the hero of 2004, is still the man to watch. Despite past glory, it might be a stretch too far this time around to get out of the group.
3. South Korea
For more in-depth coverage of the World Cup, go to BBC.com.
See more posts by Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.