The Group of Death? Brazil should finish first and be joined by Portugal, as the Ivorians, talented and athletic, should fall short again, while North Korea will hardly get passed the halfway line during most matches, hoping to cause a huge upset in some match, but hardly stand any chance.
Yes, this is Kaka’s team. The offense works well when Kaka plays well, and his less than 100% fitness going into the tournament is causing a tad of Insomnia for Dunga I’m sure. But as good as Kaka is, and he does have days (not for Real this season) when he’s the best midfielder in the world, he needs a top class finisher to feed. Luis Fabiano, 25 goals in 38 caps for the national side, is that man. He delivers, and despite still not joining any elite European club, he is one of the best finishers in the game.
Brazil, despite not having Ronladinho, Adriano and Pato are a fantastic team, maybe the best side going into the tournament, with a solid game plan that has proven very successful ever since Dunga has taken over the team – 2007 Copa America and 2009 Confederations Cup. Brazil are always favorites in the World Cup, but they’re lack of “beautiful play”, according to critics, shifted the favorite tag to Spain. The two will probably meet at a certain point in the tournament, if things go according to plan. Hard to believe Brazil won’t finish first in this group.
With all the talent Portugal has, including the man who on some days is the best in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo), they have a very unpopular and defensive minded coach in Carlos Quieroz, who nearly didn’t make the tournament, needing a playoff win against Bosnia after finishing second in their qualifying group. Unlike Dunga, Quieroz doesn’t have any trophies, at least as a head coach and not an assistant.
Portugal are basing their bid on a strong defense, with Bruno Alves and Carvalho in the middle but missing the wonderful Bosingwa (injury). Pepe, usually a central defender, plays as a DM for the national side, and Deco-Simao and of course Ronaldo will be the ones in charge of the firepower, with probably Liedson playing as striker. Portugal are in a tough group, but Drogba’s injury means the Ivorians won’t make it out of the “group of death”, leading Portugal to a probable meeting with Spain in the next round. If Ronaldo is his club-self and not his qualifiers self (no goals), the Portuguese might make a surprising push deep in the tournament.
With the money grabbing and fame lovin’ Sven Goran Eriksson on the sidelines (after almost ruining Mexico’s chances of making the tournament), there’s a belief in the Ivory Coast that they have the right figure on the sidelines to install the right tactics and game-plan with their talented players. Problem is, Drogba broke his arm against Japan, and if Drogba is less than 100%, it’s bye bye World Cup.
Still, the team which plays very physical and very quick football showcases some fantastic talent – Gervinho of Lille, Kalou from Chelsea and Yaya Toure from Barcelona who had a great season, stepping up as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Not enough depth and a shaky defense, healthy Drogba or not, will probably cost the Ivory Coast, again, a spot in the last 16.
Only question – How many players will defect once the World Cup is over for them, and will they break a record for goals conceded in the group stage.
June 15th – Ivory Coast – Portugal (Nelson Mandela Bay), Brazil – North Korea (Ellis Park)
June 20th – Brazil – Ivory Coast (Soccer City)
June 21st – Portugal – North Korea (Cape Town)
June 25th – North Korea – Ivory Coast (Mbombela), Portugal – Brazil (Durban)
3. Ivory Coast
4. North Korea