Group of Death sprang up during Mexico 86, describing the matches involving Uruguay, Scotland, Denmark and Germany. Since then every World Cup has had one and this time round it is Group C.
Argentina are one of the favourites for the tournament. Possessing an impressive squad, probably the best named coach in the competition is true to his roots, preferring 3 – 4 – 3 as a formation. Attacking certainly but leaving the defence susceptible to the counter – attack as England proved in their 3 – 2 friendly win last November. Like the French, this team have something to show the world following their first round exit in 2002. Pekerman is in the position of having relatively few injury worries, Gabriel Heinze is expected to be fit for the tournament although Barcelona’s wunderkid Lionel Messi is unlikely to feature in the early matches. Whilst it may be a loss, there are plenty of replacements available.
The midfield is based around Juan Roman Riquelme who was shackled effectively by the Gilberto Silva in the Champions League Semi-Final, a tactic that is likely to be repeated in Germany. This may stifle the creativity but in Messi and Pablo Aimar, the Argentines will be able to use alternative outlets. Defensively, Argentina have issues in that several players are either past their best or inconsistent. By picking Sorin, opponents will have an opportunity to get at the flanks – Sorin was outpaced by the Arsenal counter – attacks for his club side whilst Coloccini has been inconsistent for Deportivo. As England showed, the defence is prone to lapses in concentration and this could be their undoing. And remember, shortly before being hammered 4 – 1 by Brazil in the Confederations Cup, the Argentinians had beaten the World Champions 3 – 1 in the Qualifiers highlighting their attacking potency and defensive frailities.
Holland are entering the World Cup for the first time in many years without having major ructions in the squad. Indeed, for a nation that can start a fight in an empty room this is a great achievement. The team qualified for the Finals with ease, beating their bbogeymen from the Czech Republic both home and away. The squad is not purely focussed on PSV and Ajax, credit is due to Marco van Basten for choosing his players rather than those clamoured for by the media, intent on creating a team rather than eleven talented individuals. Edwin van der Sar is arguably the most consistent keeper going to the finals whilst the defence is solid. The midfield has talent in abundance with pace on the flanks from Robben and van der Vaart (if fit) whilst in attack van Nistelrooy is in the shop window pending a move from Old Trafford later this summer. Robin van Persie will no doubt feature, van Basten having been very impressed by the Arsenal man in training and this is also his opportunity to show Arsene Wenger that he deserves to fill the second striking spot in the new season.
Serbia and Montenegro are probably playing their last World Cup following Montenegro’s vote for Independence. In qualifying, they topped a tricky Group forcing Spain into the Play-Off’s, conceding just one goal along the way. It is however, hard to see how they will progress from this group with the Ivory Coast capable of beating them although in the case of these four nations, they are all eminently capable of beating each other or drawing a couple of games. Nikola Zigic was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal in the January window and is one of the few players on show who will be able to look Peter Crouch in the eye whilst Dejan Stankovic is likely to find it tough going with man-markers, although his experience with Internazionale may prove invaluable in this respect.
Ivory Coast are probably the strongest of Africa’s qualifiers this time around which is just as well in this Group. Mainly a French based squad, Drogba and Kolo toure are well known to English fans. Indeed, Toure is one of most in-form central defenders at the tournament whilst Drogba has done reasonably well at Chelsea despite his amateur dramatics. They seem to be well versed in the physical aspects of the game and in Emmanuel Eboue, they have a full back who is well capable of forging forward to support the midfield and attack.
|Ivory Coast||3||0||2||1||3||5||- 2||2|
Arsenal Players in the Group
Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)
Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast)
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
Players Arsenal should sign
Wesley Sneijder (Holland)
Dirk Kuyt (Holland)
Carlos Tevez (Argentina)
Gabriel Milito (Argentina)
Didier Zakora (Ivory Coast)