By Kevin Koczwara
Today I will be discussing groups C & D of The World Cup. These are the groups with top-seeded England and Germany. These could also be the most unusual groups with some foreseeable upsets.
Lets start with the United States and England group that also features the underrated Slovenia squad.
England– England is the clear favorite to win this group, and they should be. They have a good manager in Fabio Capello with experience in dealing with underachieving squads and bringing them to life. He also has a lot of experience with keeping top-tier players and their egos in check, and getting the best out of average players. England posses a strong starting 10 (they do not have a confident and steady goalie) , but their bench could be weak and hasn’t yet been established despite the rotating and trial of so many players during qualifying. One position they lack is a back-up right and left-back with consistent quality. Who will replace Ashley Cole if he goes down with an injury or if he loses his cool and becomes a temperamental baby–which he does often? Their other questions have to do with their attacking players: who will play alongside Wayne Rooney upfront? and who will be their sub off the bench that can get them a goal when they need one? I vote Darren Bent and Carlton Cole on the bench, but that won’t happen. And I would pick Jermaine Defoe or Peter Crouch to play alongside Rooney, because they need some strength and height or some extra pace to compliment Rooney’s power and work rate. Defoe makes more sense because he is more like a traditional striker who is a ball hog at times and with Rooney’s unselfishness England may need that on the field if they want to put in a crucial goal. But they definitely should make it through.
The United States– The Yanks got a favorable draw this year. The U.S. has a chance here to move through the group stage if they play tot heir potential and if some underachieving or unknown players come through. This could be a chance for Bob Bradley to finally use a player like Freddy Adu who has been left off or out of the team as of late. Adu has been struggling to get on to the field since moving out of the MLS to Portuguese giants Benefica. With Charlie Davies out due to the horrible car crash he was in earlier this year, Bradley will need to find some pace and energy going forward, and I hope to high heaven he doesn’t bring back Brian Ching because he is old, slow and he stalls the U.S. attack each time he is on the field. Maybe starting Jozy Altidore (who is getting some good time at English Premier League side Hull City) with Clint Dempsey playing alongside him and maybe moving Adu or Benny Feilhaber into Dempsey’s wide position. I would like to see Kyle Beckerman (the maestro for MLS champs Real Salt Lake, he was impressive in the finals game) on the squad to back-up Michael Bradley (who has been unimpressive in my eyes throughout qualifying) and Ricardo Clark. They will need a good back-up because both players have a tendency to pick-up card. As for the defensive issues, I like Johnathan Spector on one side whipping in crosses and Jose Francisco Torres on the other, not Bornstien he makes my heart skip a beat while defending. And I would like to see Jay DeMerit fill in for the injured Oguchi Onyewu, who will most surely be out of service for the World Cup. But no matter who is playing in the back line, Tim Howard will have to be sturdy in net and put on a show if the U.S. wants to move on from the Group Stage and further into the knockout stages. But, I think they can make it out of this group.
Slovenia– Matjaz Kek, Slovenia’s manager, has said he isn’t scared of anyone in the group, and his team shouldn’t be, they just beat Russia in a play-off for one of the final spots in the UEFA qualifying. Not many people expected them to beat Russia and they did it with confidence. This team has a good mix of young talent with a lot of experience, which a lot of teams can’t boast about. The squad also doesn’t have many questions to as who will or won’t be at South Africa so training and chemistry is on their side. And they only conceded 2 goals in 6 games, which is very respectable. So don’t be surprised if Slovenia beats the U.S. or England because they definitely can with some of the youngsters they have like Nejk Pecnik and Valter Birsa who can create havoc. I won’t pick them on the hopes and dreams that the U.S. will make it through and so will England (just in the hopes that they can play Australia or Argentina).
Algeria– Algeria made it through the final stage of African qualifying after beating Egypt . they are definitely out matched in this group at the World Cup Finals. I don’t expect them to grind out a result against Slovenia or the U.S. and don’t see them stopping England’s attack and, now thanks to Capello, breaking England’s defense. They made it through tense qualifying to be at the Finals and should be grateful, but a player like Abdelkader Ghezzal won’t be happy with just qualifying, he and the other players will seek a chance at moving on but it just doesn’t look to be in their cards this year.
Germany–This was a tough draw for the Germans, this group could have any number of outcomes. And some people are even thinking they won’t advance even though they are the number 1 seed here. Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack will have to lead this group of youngsters to World Cup glory. Ballack helped lead this squad to an unforeseen result at Euro 2008, but can they lead this group to another great run? I think they can. With the help of Lukas Podolski (who seems to find great form playing for the national team), Stefan Kiessling and Mario Gomez up front, the Germans should be okay on the attack, in fact they have a number of options up front because all their players are big and skilled. The key for Germany will be how players like Jerome Boateng, Metsut Ozil and Andreas Beck fit in with the more experienced German defenders like Philip Lahm and Heiko Westermann. The other question will be who will fill in around Michael Ballack in the midfield. I just can’t pick against Germany in any tournament, so i have to pick them to go through.
Serbia– They won their group in qualifying, thrashing Romania and finishing ahead of powerhouse France in their group. After impressing in qualifying, Serbia isn’t a team I would want to play in the group stages because they can score goals, and they play pretty stingy defense – any team with Nemanja Vidic in the center of their defense is going to be stingy. Vidic was suspended and injured for the last World Cup, but he should be healthy and in good form when 2010 rolls around and a lot of Serbia’s success will be determined by his presence in the middle of their back line . He is imposing and looks as tough as he plays. If Vidic can stay healthy and Dejan Stankovic can create and score from the midfield then Serbia will be a dangerous team to play in the knockout round, and whoever finishes first or second in group C should be weary of playing this side.
Australia– The Socceroos are hoping they can knock off three very difficult teams so they can meet up with England in the Knockout stages of the World Cup. But are they up to the task of beating three experienced and talented team? I don’t think they are. I watched a few of Australia’s qualifying matches and I wasn’t convinced they can meet up with the big boys and play to the World Cup style. And they got stuck in a tough draw for their make up, Germany and Serbia both pose a size advantage, and Ghana is one athletic team with maybe the best in-form defensive midfielder in the World Cup. Yes the Aussie’s held Netherlands to a scoreless draw in a friendly, but it was a friendly that the Netherlands used to try out some new players alongside a few main stayers. I’m not convinced. I don’t see Harry Kewell as the same player he was just 4 years ago when he played his part in helping Australia move on into the knockout round of the 2006 World Cup, the other question here is whether he can stay healthy. Tim Cahill will have to be big in all three games if Australia hopes to move on, his work-rate is impeccable, but does he still have the legs after all the matches he has logged with Everton and the national side? I just don’t know. It will take an impressive tournament from Scott McDonald -a player who seems to disappear in international matches– if Australia hopes to move on. But the added bonus of potentially playing England in the knockout rounds should inspire them.
Ghana– Ghana has the best midfielder in this group, no doubts in my mind about that. Michael Essien can do most anything on the field and because he works harder than just about anyone, he does it better and more consistently than anyone. He plays the central and defensive midfielder roles with passion and skill and he is a beast on the ball, and when he takes it from an opponent he makes good passes. It will take another inspired tournament from Eissen and the rest of Ghana if they hope to move on tot he knockout stages again this yea (they did it by beating out the U.S. in 2006). If Stephen Appiah can get back into form in Ghana’s midfield watch out for him to show the talent that was seen ten years ago when he signed as a teenager and moved around Europe. With Appiah and Essien in Ghana’s middle they should win a lot of the midfield battles, but they got put in a tough group and match fitness may be an issue for many of their players. I don’t see them moving on, even though I would like to see them continue unto the knockout stages because I am a fan of Essien’s game.
Don’t miss the other 5 parts to this Group by Group breakdown of the World Cup : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Kevin Koczwara can be reached att firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter (@TheSoccerGuys) for all your updates.