Friday, 28 May 2010

8 Players to watch out for in South Africa 2010

Since there are just 13 days till this year’s World Cup, Real Talk Football have looked over the 32 teams and will highlight the player from each group to look out for, and discuss what they bring to the table for their countries campaign.

Group A

Name: Luis Suarez
Country: Uruguay
Age: 23
Position: Striker/Attacker
Int Caps: 29
Int Goals: 10

The Ajax front man was handed the captaincy of the Dutch side due to Thomas Vermaelen’s transfer to Arsenal. The striker is one of the most converted strikers in Europe and it is believed Chelsea have first option on the 23 year old. He has also been liked with AC Milan, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Suarez has excellent technical ability, skill and acceleration. He has dominated the Dutch league over the past few seasons, scoring 84 goals in 126 appearances. However players such as Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves failed to replicate their tremendous goal scoring record outside of Holland, so it will be interesting to see if Suarez gets his move abroad, and if it’s an eventual success. With his natural ability and talent, he is more than capable of slotting into a top European side.

Group B

Name: Angel Di Maria
Country: Argentina
Age: 21
Position: Left Midfield
Int Caps: 8
Int Goals: 1

I’m sure everyone has heard this individuals name in the last 6 months; he has been instrumental to his club side Benfica’s return to prominence in the Portuguese league. The left winger has been touted with a move to many of Europe’s big clubs including Liverpool and most likely suitors Real Madrid.

Renowned for his excellent dribbling ability, technique and long shot, the 21 year old is part of Diego Maradona’s 23 man squad and is expected to be competing for the left midfield spot as he takes part in his first World Cup. Look out him, he’ll be wearing the number 27 shirt.

Group C

Name: Maurice Edu
Country: USA
Age: 24
Position: Centre Midfield
Int Caps: 13
Int Goals: 1

The 24 year old plays for Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, and is a bullish tough tackling midfielder with excellent stamina, speed as well football ability. He can attack, pass effectively and is competent enough to play in different positions. He has 13 caps for USA and was instrumental in helping them qualify. Only injuries have hampered Edu’s career somewhat but should he stay fit, he could go onto greater things.

Edu was the 2007 MLS rookie of the year in America, before he joined Rangers. Now making his first appearance at the World Cup, expect him to compete for the central midfield role, while his versatility allows for him to slot in a centre back in need be.

Group D

Name: Mesut Ozil
Country: Germany
Age: 21
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Int Caps: 8
Int Goals: 1

Touted as one of the most exciting and promising young playmakers, the Werder Bremen German born player of Turkish descent is playing at his first World Cup. Creativity, flair, technique, agility; just some of the words used to describe the individual’s game, subsequently leading to him being linked to some of Europe’s big names, however it is more than likely that Ozil will stay in Germany for many years to come.

Ozil’s International name was established at under 21 level where he was the key to Germany’s European Under 21 Championship triumph in 2009. Now with Michael Ballack ruled out of the World Cup, Ozil will now have the opportunity to compete with players such as Tim Kroos, Piotr Trochowshi and Bastian Schweinsteiger for the central midfielder role, something in which the 21 year old will undoubtedly grasp with both hands.

Group E

Name: Nicklas Bendtner
Country: Denmark
Age: 22
Position: Striker
Int Caps: 32
Int Goals: 11

Who else is their but the Arsenal forward? Halfway through the 2009/10 season the young Dane had to step up to the plate on his return from injury to finish with 12 goals in 31 appearances, helping the Gunners third in the Premiership. The Danish international receives mixed reviews from both critics and fans alike, however he undoubtedly has the potential and ability to be one of Europe’s top strikers.

Bendtner has 32 caps for Denmark and has scored 11 goals. His is a tall rangy striker, with great aerial ability, balance, hold up play and technique, while his finishing ability leaves a little to be desired (similar to that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic). However with the full backing of both Arsene Wenger and International coach Morten Olsen, the 22 year old will be the focal point of Denmark’s attack in pursuit of the World Cup trophy.

Group F

Name: Stanislav Šesták
Country: Slovakia
Age: 27
Position: Striker/Right Midfielder
Int Caps: 29
Int Goals: 10

The 27 year old versatility and pace are amongst his strong points, as the VFL Bochum attacker can play either right midfield or up front. He was Slovakia’s top goal scorer in the qualifying campaign with 6 goals, helping his side finish top of their qualifying group above both Slovenia and Czech Republic.

The 27 year old has been around for a few years, mainly playing in the Slovak league, achieving a impressive goal scoring record, helping him gain a move to Germany. His pace, acceleration and technique are amongst the qualities possessed by Sestak, which will have to be implemented in South Africa if the Slovakians are able to cause an upset, provided they carry their qualifying form into the tournament.

Group G

Name: Gervinho
Country: Ivory Coast
Age: 23
Position: Striker/Right Winger
Int Caps: 13
Int Goals: 4

Gervinho, full name Gervais Yao Kouassi is one of my personal favourite players, currently playing in Europe with French side Lille. He has played 22 times for the French club, scoring 11 goals in the process.

The Ivorian possess excellent dribbling ability, combined with agility and drive, with his direct methods causing defenders all kinds of problems. He has played in the Europa League last season, and is playing in his first World Cup. When playing for the Elephants, he plays up top in a front three consisting of Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba.

Group H

Name: Alexis Sánchez
Country: Chile
Age: 21
Position: Striker/Left, Right Winger
Int Caps: 27
Int Goals: 10

He made his international at 17 year of age in 2006, and has been in and around the squad since then, before fully gaining a starting role within the squad He during the 2010 qualifying campaign, which coincided with his move to Udinese in Italy in 2008.

The Chile number 7 scored 3 times in the CONMEBOL qualifying campaign, with 10 from Humberto Suazo, helped Chile finish second in the table behind Brazil. Although not prolific in Italy, only hitting the net 8 times in 62 appearances, the 21 year old has been playing out on the Bianconeri wing showcasing his pace, exquisite skills and dribbling ability. He is a very exciting player and this year‘s World Cup is the perfect stage for him to showcase this talent.

The World Cup is just around the corner... Real Talk Football

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

World Cup Countdown - Group H

Group H


The European champions are the World Cup favourites as they aim to collect their first ever title. The Spanish, along with the Dutch, were the only side to go unbeaten throughout the qualifying campaign with 10 wins from 10 games; finishing 11 points clear of nearest rivals Bosnia-Herzegovina. With the likes of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, Real Madrid stars Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso, as well as Barcelona’s current stars; Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Pedro, Spain have some of the best players in the World, let alone Europe. Not only do they have great players, they play great football. Expect them to cause a real stir.

Manager: Vicente del Bosque

The 59 year old has been in charge ever since Luis Aragones left after winning the Euro 2008 Championship. He guided Spain to the semi final of the Confederations Cup, where they suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat to the USA. However del Bosque made up for the disappointment by subsequently achieving an unblemished qualifying campaign.

Key Player: David Villa

With languishing doubts over the fitness of Fernando Torres, Barcelona’s new £34 million signing is one of the most unappreciated yet deadliest strikers in the World. The Spanish number 7, has scored 20 or more goals for any club, in all competitions, he has played for in the last nine years. These include clubs such as Sporting Gijon, Real Zaragoza and Valencia. In the qualifying campaign, he was Spain’s top goal scorer with 7 goals.

Best Finish: Fourth Place 1950

Prediction: Winners

Yep, the Spanish are my picks. With a starting line up including Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Carles Puyol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Silva with Torres and Villa up front, can you name a better starting eleven in the world? More so the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Jaun Mata, Fernando Llorente are excellent back up options, while the likes of Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina as reserve Goalkeepers alone, Spain have the best squad and are in the best form heading into the tournament. An experienced manager such as del Bosque in charge, along with the experience of playing in South Africa already in the Confederations Cup, means Spain will undoubtedly be more than equipped to win the title for the first time.


The Swiss side are a team with a good array of players, however gave a poor account of themselves at the Euro 2008 championships, being labelled “boring”. This time round they finished top of their qualifying campaign ahead of fellow qualifiers Greece, with the evergreen Alexander Frei and Blaise Nkufo particularly impressing, with 5 goals each.

Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld

The well travelled 61 year old has won numerous titles all over Europe, but is most renowned for his spell at Bayern Munich, with the German side being one of the best in the World at that period. Hitzfeld now however, is all about the international stage and has been in charge of the Swiss since 2008. After an shocking 2-1 defeat to minnows Luxembourg, the German boss shook up the whole squad, and led them to going the remainder of the qualifying campaign undefeated subsequently sealing their qualification.

Key Player: Philippe Senderos

I could of picked the star player and all time top goal scorer; Alex Frei, but instead I selected a man who is only 25 years of age, has bags of experience, and most importantly; a point to prove. He is out of contract at Arsenal and is expected to leave the club, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to show his qualities and find a new club.

Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1934, 1938, 1954

Prediction: Group Stage

An ageing squad will see them compete for second spot, but just fall short. Could prove me wrong however, should the likes of Hakan Yakin, Gokhan Inler and Tranquillo Barnetta perform to the standard they’re capable of.


Somewhat of a surprise entrant to the World Cup finals considering the distractions and continuous political unrest back in their home nation. However they managed to qualify third, behind USA and Mexico. The select few members of the squad ply their trade in Europe including Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas of Wigan Athletic, Wilson Palacios of Tottenham and David Suazo of Genoa. Look out for 36 year old veteran and rejuvenated striker Carlos Pavon who has 98 caps and has scored 57 times.

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda

The 53 year old has been in charge of the Honduran national side since 2006, and is the former manager of the Columbia national team. According to FIFA’s official website, the Honduran side offers “sparkling attacking football and a solid backline.”

Key Player: Wilson Palacios

The 25 year old Tottenham player is a defensive midfield bulldog and is vital to the national side. He made his debut in 2003 and since played 68 times, scoring 5 goals.

Best Finish: N/A 1st appearance

Prediction: Group Stage

In a group were second spot is up for grabs; the Honduran team have shown in their qualifying campaign that they can score goals. This will be key to the Central Americans chances to make it through the group.


The South Americans have been absent from the World Cup tournament for the last 12 years, and finally make their return in 2010. Chile finished runners up in the CONMEBOL South American qualifying group, behind Brazil and ahead of Paraguay and Argentina. The Chilean’s attacking and technically gifted prowess are their undoubted strengths while their lack of physical strength and height could be their undoing. It seems the Chile side, who gave a great account of themselves in 1998 group stage, and somewhat have unfinished business. Look out for creative Mathias Fernandez, the skilful Jorge Valdivia, former Liverpool winger Mark Gonzalez and the young attacking star Alexis Sanchez of Udinese.

Manager: Marcelo Biesla

The Argentinean is somewhat of a strange and unique character, but is one of the best maangers on the South American continent. He has been in charge Chile for 3 years, and is known for his unorthodox training methods and his attention to detail. Can he formulate a plan to see the Chileans through? Only time will tell, but I believe he can.

Key Player: Humberto Suazo

I did a post on this individual a couple of months ago, which you can read here. I remember seeing this striker playing on TV a year ago and was impressed by his unbelievable attacking ability, so much so he finally made the trip to Europe and is playing for Real Zaragoza (where he scored 6 times in 17 appearances). The 29 year old was the top scorer in the CONMEBOL qualifiers with 10 goals. Expect him to cause all sorts of problems on the Worlds grandest stage.

Best Finish: Third Place 1962

Prediction: Second Round

I feel it’s between Chile, Switzerland and Honduras for second place, but under Marcelo Biesla the Chileans could definitely be the favourites to sneak through, thanks to their excellent qualifying campaign.

Now you have an in depth analysis of all the teams in this years World Cup, so remember to cast your vote for who you think will win.

Real Talk Football

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

World Cup Countdown - Group G

Group G


The Brazilian’s head to South Africa after finishing top of the South American qualifying campaign, one point ahead Chile and Paraguay. Many of the “big name” Brazilian stars were left out; with Dunga opting to pick more home based players and players rather than selecting “star names”. Dunga then continued this precedence but leaving players such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Pato, Adriano and Anderson at home. Therefore at this World Cup, Brazil will be looking to win an unprecedented 6th title relying on the likes of regulars Kaka, Robinho, Julio Cesar, Maicon, Dani Alves, Lucio and newer names such as Grafite of Wolfsburg, Nilmar of Villarreal Felipe Melo of Juventus.

Manager: Dunga

The former Brazil captain and midfield general won the 1994 World Cup title, and was a runner up in 1998. Now as a manager, he has been in charge since 2006, and guided Brazil to the confederations cup in 2009 and the 2007 Copa America. Blessed with an array a superstars and a depth of options, expect Brazil to be amongst the big boys this time round (as per usual!)

Key Player: Luis Fabiano

The Green and Yellow’s new number 9 has an excellent goal scoring record netting 25 times in 36 matches for Brazil. He was the top goal scorer for Brazil in the qualifying campaign scoring 9 goals, one behind Humberto Suazo overall. The Sevilla striker is in top form heading into the finals scoring 21 times this season.

Best Finish: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Prediction: Semi Finals

I believe the Brazilians will be there or there about’s, as they always are, but Dunga’s men will steamroll their way towards the semi’s but fall foul to their lack of match winners (not to discredit Robinho or Kaka) but after a tricky confederations campaign, the Brazilians could be undone by a strong defensive unit.

North Korea

The North Korea side, head to their second finals after a 44 year absence, and a history hindered by political problems means the North Koreans qualification is somewhat of a shock. However they finished runners up to their Southern rivals in their qualifying zone ahead of Saudi Arabia.

Manager: Kim Jong-Hun

Not too much is known on the North Korean, but its evidently clear his squad is made of domestically based players, while according to the official FIFA World Cup website “favours a pragmatic and defensive approach based around discipline and teamwork”.

Key Player: Hong Yong-Jo

The 28 year old plays for FC Rostov in the Russian Premier League and has 3 goals in 30 appearances for the team. He is his nations Captain, and has 11 goals in 39 international appearances. Expected a lot of stamina and hurrying from Jong-Hun, looking to capitalise on defensive lapses.

Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1966

Prediction: Group Stage

They only scored 7 goals in the 8 qualifying matches, and that was against an average array of teams. I expect the team ranked 106th in the World to finish bottom of the group, no points.

Ivory Coast

The West African side are blessed with an array on excellent strong and technically sound players, who are based all over the big leagues in Europe. Players such as Chelsea Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue, brothers Kolo and Yaya Toure, Aruna Dindane, Arouna Kone and many more. The Elephants finished top of their qualifying group, 4 points clear of Burkina Faso and a goal difference of +15. They reached the quarter final of the 2010 African Cup of Nations, leading to the dismissal of former coach Vahid Halihodzic. Now in change, a man well know to English fans, and the former Mexico coach; Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Manager: Sven-Goran Eriksson

The 62 year old is World renowned in the football world, and has previous World Cup and big competition pedigree with England. He has managed clubs such as Roma and Lazio in Italy, Benfica in Portugal as well as clubs in Sweden. He is vastly experienced, and its interesting to see how he will link up with the Ivorian players.

Key Player: Didier Drogba

The star striker has been in sizzling form domestically, leading Chelsea to a league and cup double. Drogba, 32, is a superstar in Africa and one of the best strikers in the world, and if anyone is a match winner, it’s him.

Best Finish: Group Stage 2006

Prediction: Quarter Finals

I think the Cote d’Ivoire side will be the strongest of all the African teams, and use the home advantage to progress the furthest. Drogba, Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou will need to take their chances in order for the Elephants to progress. There get through the group stage by topping Portugal on goal difference.


The Portuguese may have some of the most gifted and technically brilliant players, as well as one of the best players in the world, in Cristano Ronaldo, but the Selecção das Quinas continuously struggled to qualify and had to do so via the playoffs. They beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0 on aggregate.

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Former Real Madrid manager and Man United managing assistant, has been in charge since 2008, and is notorious for nurturing young talent. Despite struggling to top their qualifying, finishing behind Denmark, a team boasting players such as Simao, Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Nani, Liedson and Danny, should be able to beat any of the top teams in the world, but inconsistency and a lack of cohesion tends to hinder their progress.

Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

The Former World Player of the World and current Portugal captain; Ronaldo has had an excellent season at his new club Real Madrid, despite his settling in period being hampered by injury. He scored 26 goals in 29 appearances this season, and already has 70 caps for Portugal, at just 25 years of age. Expect Ronaldo to carry his team far, but the start will be most important factor for the Portuguese.

Best Finish: Third Place 1966

Prediction: Group Stage/Semi finals

I see it going one way of another. The Portuguese have enough attacking options to beat any side in the World, but aforementioned cohesive and teamwork issues may cause them to fall away unnoticed in a very very difficult group. A mouth watering match against Brazil awaits.

Up Next; Group H

Real Talk Football

Sunday, 23 May 2010

World Cup Countdown - Group F

Group F


The defending champions overcame a terrible 2005/06 season domestically, and grouped together to overcome all competitors and beat France 5-3 on penalties to collect the trophy. Italy now boasts a team with an array of experienced players. The likes of Gigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Mauro Camoranesi are aged 30 or above and each have over 50 international caps amongst themselves respectively, not to mention being members of the previous 2006 squad.

This time round, the Azzurri have the man who guided them to the last World Cup; Marcello Lippi back at the helm and in place since 2008. They qualified top of the UEFA Group 8, six points clear of their nearest rivals Republic of Ireland, while Alberto Gilardino was the top goal scorer with four goals.

Manager: Marcello Lippi

The 62 year old Italian has a CV that other managers only envy, managing the likes of Inter Milan, Juventus, Napoli and of course with the national side. He has won four Serie A titles, the Champions League and the World Cup.

Key Player: Giorgio Chiellini

Detested by Arsenal fans, loved by Juventus fans, the 25 year old defender has emerged as a no nonsense textbook Italian defender. The back bone of a struggling Juventus side, Chiellini has materialised as one of the most converted central defenders in Europe and is set to take part in his 1st World Cup.

Best Finish: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006

Prediction: Group Winners/Quarter Finals

The top seeds seem to be dominating my predictions, and there’s no difference here. With the Italians defence and creative midfield, I believe they will finish this group with maximum points. However I worry about their ability to score goals. Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta are unlikely to score against stronger defensive units once past the group stage; however the talented Pazzini of Sampdoria and Villareal’s excellent Guiseppe Rossi should definitely help Italy undo the trickier teams.


La Albirroja qualified 3rd in the South American campaign behind Brazil and Chile (who finished ahead of them on goal difference) and above fellow qualifiers Argentina and Uruguay. Goalkeeper Justo Villar of Valladolid, centre back and team Captain; Denis Caniza, along with creative midfielder Diego Barreto are players to look out for. Paraguay’s most impressive assets however, are their strike force, boasting the likes of Roque Santa Cruz of Manchester City, Oscar Cardozo of Benfica and Nelson Valdez of Borussia Dortmund, which give the South Americans considerable options upfront.

Manager: Gerardo Martino

The 47 year old made his name as a manager made his name managing teams in Paraguay before being given the top job in 2008. After a successful qualifying campaign, which saw his side beat Argentina amongst their 10 victories, he will look to cause an upset on the World stage.

Key Player: Oscar Cardozo

With strike partner Santa Cruz quite happy to sit on the bench at Man City, and receive his pay check, it’s now clear to me that 6ft 4in striker Cardozo is the man most likely to upset the defences in South Africa. A powerful, strong striker with an eye for goal; only has 4 international goals to his name, but his scoring record for Benfica is amazing, scoring at 56 goals in 82 games for the Portuguese side.

Best Finish: Second Round 1986, 1998, 2002

Prediction: Group runners up/Second Round

Déjà vu again for the Paraguayans as they will be too much for Slovenia and New Zealand collecting 4 points from the group and going home after the second round.

New Zealand

Their first World Cup for 28 years, they beat Bahrain in a 1-0 aggregate win, thanks to a goal from Plymouth Argyle striker Rory Fallon. Football is the countries third favourite sport behind Rugby and Cricket. A few players play in England include Tommy Smith of Ipswich Town, Rory Fallon of Plymouth, Chris Killen of Middlesbrough and most noticeably Ryan Nelson of Blackburn Rovers.

Manager: Ricki Herbert

The 49 year old New Zealand native may have the name of race car driver, but he did represent his nation (in football) during the 1982 World Cup campaign. He has been in charge of the All Whites since 2005.

Key Player: Ryan Nelson

The Blackburn Rovers player is the Captain of both his club and national side; making over 140 Premiership appearances, and subsequently 38 international caps to his name. He is the real quality player the New Zealand side have, and his experience and leadership will be required if his side are to pick up any points this time round.

Best Finish: Group Stage 1982

Prediction: Group Stage

The minnows will probably finish bottom of the group.


The tricky European team stunned the football World by finishing top of their qualification campaign ahead their rivals Slovenia and the Czech Republic, as well as the tough Northern Ireland and Poland teams. The Slovaks are a very collective and competitive unit, with players such as Marek Cech, Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel, Ankaragucu’s Robert Vittek, Napoli’s Marek Hamsik as well as the most capped international player Miroslav Karhan.

Manager: Vladimar Weiss

45 year old Weiss, has been in charge of the national side since 2008, and heightened his managerial credentials managing in Slovakia, and most impressively by guiding Slovakia to the top of their qualification group. His son; Vladimar Weiss plays in the Premiership for Man City, and is expected to join up with the squad.

Key Player: Marek Hamšík

The Napoli midfield dynamo has played 106 times in 3 years for the Italian side and is one of the most impressive and exciting young professionals in the World. The 22 year is Slovakia’s national Captain, and has been linked with both AC Milan and Manchester United in the past few weeks.

Best Finish: N/A this will be there 1st appearance

Prediction: Group runners up/Second Round

I believe that the creativeness of Hamisk is a very influential in midfield, and can guide his side to second spot in the group, considering they beat or draw with Paraguay, and depending on how much they can put past New Zealand.

Up Next Group G

Friday, 21 May 2010

World Cup Countdown - Group E

Group E


Perennial big tournament underachievers, blessed with some of the greatest players ever to grace the game, have never won the World Cup, but it seems that the Oranje are expected to come good sooner rather than later. The Dutch side captained by former Arsenal and Barcelona defender; Giovanni van Bronckhorst, swept through the qualifying campaign unbeaten, the only team, along with European Champions Spain, to do so. More impressively, Holland’s qualifying campaign record was played 8, won 8, lost 0 while scoring 17 goals and conceding just 2 goals in the process. If Holland carry this form into the World Cup they could go all the way.

Manager: Bert van Marwijk

The Dutchman made his name managing Feyenoord for 4 years, and a spell briefly managing in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, before heading back to Holland in 2007, again with Feyenoord. Then in 2008, he took charge of the national side, and has currently guided them to number four in the World rankings.

Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

The AC Milan striker has struggled to make an impact on the big stage since leaving the comforts of Ajax in 2009. However the World Cup can be the perfect stage for the 26 year old to put himself in the shop window and his tally of 15 international goals. Huntelaar helped himself to 3 goals in the qualifying campaign, and was Holland’s top scorer.

Best Finish: Runners Up 1974 and 1978

Prediction: Group winners/ Semi final

A team boasting the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sniejder, Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie and many more gifted players can indeed go all the way, but like many other nations with massive potential may somewhat place too much pressure on the Dutch side and hinder their chances.


The Danish side, captained by Jon Dahl Tomasson, won their qualifying campaign with 21 points, and 6 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat from 10 games. They finished ahead of the likes of neighbours Sweden, an impressive Hungary side and most impressively ahead of runners up; Portugal.

Manager: Morten Olsson

The 60 year old, is a former Danish international and has been in charge of Denmark for 10 years, and guided the Danes to the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and the World Cup four years ago. His ties with other teams in the group are that he is a former Ajax manager.

Key Player: Thomas Sorensen

The 33 year old Stoke player was sensation in the qualifying campaign and is clearly Denmark’s most important player, as he saved his side numerous times in the campaign. He suffered a dislocated elbow in his club sides 6-0 defeat to Chelsea, but didn’t require surgery and is expected to fly to South Africa. Known for his penalty saving ability, he has 86 caps for his country, and a good performance at the World Cup could see one of the big teams watching over him in Europe, finally make a move.

Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1998

Prediction: Quarter Finals

I believe the Danish side will complete well with the other teams in the group, and may even cause a stir by winning the group. The gifted but unpredictable Nicklas Bendtner will lead the line with captain Tomasson, with solid central midfielder partners Christian Poulsen and Thomas Khalenberg, speedy and experienced wingers Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer will provide the assists with consistent, technically gifted centre backs Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer will other some resistance to the opposition. I expect Denmark to be dark horses and have a commendable World Cup.


The Asian side were the first nation to qualify for the World Cup through qualification, with Australia also. They are currently ranked number 45 in the World Rankings and are captained by 32 year old Yuji Nakazawa, who plays for Yokohama F. Marinos, and has 102 international caps. Some of the players within this squad who are known in Europe include midfielders Junichi Inamoto (former Arsenal), Shunsuke Nakamura (former Celtic) and striking prodigy Takayuki Morimoto (now playing for Catania).

Manager: Takeshi Okada

He has been in charge of Japan since 2007, and managed them at the 1998 World Cup finals.

Key Player: Keisuke Honda

Japan’s new poster boy is one of the most exciting Asian players in Europe. He currently plays for CSKA Moscow in Russia after making a €6 million move from VVV-Venlo in 2009. He played and scored in his Champions League debut against Sevilla. He has 12 caps for Japan with 4 goals. Expect him to the highlight of the Japanese campaign.

Best Finish: Second round 2002

Prediction: Group Stage

I think the Japan side will finish bottom of the group, with their clash with Holland being the most intriguing clash of the group stage.


The Lions of Africa return to the World Cup after missing out on the 2006 campaign. Cameroon has an interesting history in the tournament, and was famed for the 42 year old Roger Milla and his infamous dance in the 1994 campaign. This time round, the African side are expecting to cause an upset and with the likes of Alex Song of Arsenal, Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham, Idriss Kameni of Espanyol and Eyong Enoh of Ajax are some of the players who will be driving on the Lions, while experienced defender Rigobert Song and Geremi will indeed need to use that experience, in order to show leadership both on and off the pitch in order to guide the team through the group stage.

Manager: Paul Le Guen

Frenchmen Paul Le Guen made his football career playing in France, most noticeably with Paris Saint-Germain. He is the former coach of Rennes, Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and most successfully at Lyon. The 46 year old is known for developing footballers and is a technically sound coach.

Key Player: Samuel Eto’o

The national team captain and still regarded as one of the top strikers in the World, has played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now playing for Inter Milan, is probably Cameroon’s greatest ever player. The 29 year old has played 92 times for his country and is their all time top goal scored with 43 goals. If anyone can penetrate the best defences in the World, it’s Eto’o.

Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1990

Prediction: Group Stage/Second round

Could they cause an upset? Stranger things have happened. I think they will definitely compete for second place, as they have an array of players with potential, who could star on the World stage.

Next Up: Group F

Real Talk Football

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Louis van Gaal: The Man Who Took Bayern to the Summit of World Football

Louis van Gaal
The Man Who Took Bayern to the Summit of World Football

Saturday 22nd May, will see German side Bayern Munich play Inter Milan, in their first Champions League final for nine years. In 2001, they faced and beat Spanish side Valencia 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 1-1 in normal time. It was heartbreak for the Spanish side, losing their second final in the world’s biggest club competition for the second successive year.

On that day in 2001, Bayern Munich’s team boasted the likes of Elber, Willy Sagnol, Bixente Lizarazu and German superstars Oliver Kahn, Stefan Effenberg and Mehmet Scholl. Great names, greater players, who epitomized the fundamentals of German dominance, a winning machine, comparable today with the likes of Chelsea and Inter Milan, but it was this side in particular making viewers look on in envy as they collected their fourth Champions League title subsequently banishing the painful memory and overcoming that infamous 2-1 defeat to Man United two years earlier. Nine years on, the German side go into this final as unexpected underdogs, as they were completely overlooked after the quarterfinal draw was made; a distinct lack of respect was shown from certain members of the football community who flocked to betting shops to put their money on a Manchester United v Barcelona rematch.

Now they will line up on the home ground of Real Madrid, the Santiago Bernabeu, against one of the most in demand managers in the world right now; Jose Mourinho, and his Inter Milan side. A game made even more intriguing considering how Inter have grinded their way to the final, which included playing in a freezing cold Moscow, beating world champions FC Barcelona over two legs (while keeping Lionel “4 goals” Messi anonymous for the most part!) and of course Mourinho comfortably beating his former “boys” Chelsea. Inter dominated and impressed on route to the final, where as Bayern made it in somewhat controversial circumstances. A winner against Fiorentina, that was clearly offside, a lucky win over 10 man Manchester United before finally impressing against Lyon in the Semi-final.

The man, who has taken FC Bayern to the final, is Louis van Gaal. The 59 year old is a Dutch master tactician, and has only ever manager 4 club sides (Ajax, FC Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar and now Bayern) and 1 international side (Netherlands) but has undeniable pedigree and is one of the best managers in history. The 59 year old's CV is as follows:

3 Eredivise Titles 92/93, 93/94, 95/96
3 Dutch Super Cups 92/93, 93/94, 94/95
1 Dutch League Cup 92/93
1 UEFA Cup 91/92
1 Champions League 94/95
1 UEFA Super Cup 95
1 Intercontinental Cup 95

FC Barcelona:
2 La Liga Titles 97/98, 98/99
1 Copa Del Rey 97/98
1 UEFA Super Cup 97

AZ Alkmaar
1 Eredivisie 08/09

FC Bayern Munich
1 Bundesliga 09/10
1 German Cup 09/10
1 Champions League??

More trophies then you can shake a stick at. He took Dutch side Ajax, to world domination in the early 90’s and turned the likes of; Kluivert, Kanu, Finidi George, Rijkaard, Overmars, Edgar Davids into familiar household names, while the likes of Rivaldo, Luis Enrique, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are just some of the names he has worked with. Now the great work continues as he could possibly lead Bayern to the infamous “Treble”.

Two intriguing managers, two excellent teams and an array of star players on show will undoubtedly provide the amount of entertainment that the final duly deserves. Some are already believing Inter Milan’s name to already be on the trophy, however a manager with the credentials of van Gaal cannot be taken lightly, and I fully expect an upset to be on the cards.

Viewers in the UK, can see the final live from 7pm on ITV1 or Sky Sports 1 on Saturday 22nd May.

Who Do You Think Will Come Out On Top??

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