The South American side struggled to make the qualification cut. With eccentric manager Diego Maradona in charge, he selected between 40 to 50 players for this campaign! This subsequently saw them lose 6-1 to Bolivia, 1-0 to Chile, 2-1 to Colombia, 2-0 to Ecuador and 1-0 to Paraguay. Inconsistent and pretty much poor form under Maradona. However I believe the Argentinean’s will get past these qualification problems and be amongst the favourites for the title. The likes of Estaban Cambiasso, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Zanetti, Diego Milito, Angel Di Maria, Walter Samuel and many more will be on show, and can lead them to their 3rd title.
Manager: Diego Maradona
The greatest player of all time? It’s still up for debate. But his selection issues somewhat deterred the team from competing with Brazil for the number one side in South America, hence causing them to struggle for Qualification (a 92nd minute goal from 36 year old Martin Palermo in the penultimate game against Chile finalised there trip to South Africa). Should above all else the inspirational figure of Maradona should be motivation for the players.
Key Player: Lionel Messi
I was tempted to say the excellent Gonzalo Higuain, but instead have gone for his club rivals star man. So don’t be surprised at the selection. We all know Messi is the best player in the world, but he will need to perform on the world stage in order to cement his place in history.
Best Finish: Winners 1978 and 1986
Another winner on home soil, in 1978 the Argentines won the final against the Netherlands, led all the way by legendary striker Mario Kempes. In 1986, Argentina won in Mexico by beating West Germany in the final. The tournament was remembered for the great Maradona and that handball.
I can somewhat see a shock in that the side could win it all. But with the quality of players available, they should be able to beat any team in the world, but Maradona will have to get his act together and instil some consistency and discipline in order to win it.
Ranked at number 20 in the World Rankings, the side finished third in this year’s African Cup of Nations and seem to have exacerbated all ghosts of the failure to reach Germany 2006, and are more than ready for the 2010 World Cup. Nigeria will be relying on Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, Taye Taiwo, Mikel John Obi to be solid defensively, while going forward, Nigeria’s strongpoint, the likes of Obafemi Martins, Chinedu Obasi, Peter Odemwinge and Yakubu are likely to cause quite a stir.
Manager: Lars Lagerback
With former manager Shaibu Amodu leaving after a 2 year spell in charge, Swedish national manager of 9 years, Lars Largeback took over on a five month contract. He guided Sweden to both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup.
Key Player: Mikel John Obi
The Chelsea midfielder is in a race to be fit, but should make the plane. The 23 year old is likely be the central figure in the Nigerian team and will need to link up well with Obasi, Martins and Odemwinge to power Nigeria through the group.
Best Finish: 2nd Round 1994 and 1998
Prediction: 2nd round
Should the Nigerian’s finish second in the group they could meet up with France in the second round. They could cause an upset, and make it through to the Quarter finals.
Most remembered for their 2002 campaign on home soil (joint with Japan) where they beat both Italy and Spain on route to the Semi Final, becoming the first and only Asian team to do so.
Manager: Huh Hung-Moo
A man who has plied his trade as a player and manager throughout Asia, has been in charge since 2007. The South Koreans won their group ahead of rivals North Korea to make it to South Africa.
Key Player: Park Ji-Sung
Well known throughout Europe with spells at PSV and Manchester United, but the Midfielder is a superstar in Asia. Expect the national team captain to guide his side well throughout the Group Stage.
Best Finish: Semi-Final 2002
Guus Hiddink performed a miracle. Dodgy refereeing decisions and cries of “conspiracy” tainted South Korea’s success. Again highlighting the importance of playing on home soil.
Prediction: Group Stage
Can’t see a miracle this time round, with Nigeria and Argentina being too strong for the Red Devils.
Shocked the World by winning the 2004 European Championships, showing it can be done. Dont quote me on this, but I believe they were 150-1 outsiders to win that tournament.
Manager: Otto Rehhagel
The German manager has been in charge since 2001, and is of course remembered for that 2005 European Championships win. Expect a controlled and standard approach to play, a very sort of German way to go about things.
Key Player: Angelo Charisteas
The big striker, who has mostly played his club football in Germany, has international pedigree scoring 23 goals in 82 games for the Greeks. He has excellent hold up skills and aerial ability, and is expected to play as the lone striker. Expected to link up well with former Man City striker Geogios Samaras and Theo Gekas.
Best Finish: Round 1 – 1994
Played 3, won none, lost 3. That is Greece’s record. Expect them to crash out here, again not picking up any points.
Prediction: Group Stage
Stay tuned for Group C coming real soon