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

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