Thursday, 10 June 2010

Will we see another shock like 2004?

Otto Rehhagel's Greece took Europe by storm in 2004 when they were crowned European Championships after an epic 1-0 victory in the final against hosts Portugal. Greece were frowned upon as playing "anti-football" and "not entertaining football", but the Greeks galloped ahead of the main contenders to win the prize. Striker Angelos Charisteas was the heroic figure of the Greek side after some crucial goals including the winner in the final and the winner against France in the Quarters.

Six years on at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, many smaller nations dream of a fairytale story similar to the Greece triumph in 2004. 'Cautious' football has been at the forefront of this season's Champions League with the stylish Barcelona side being knocked off their stride by the less than pretty Inter Milan. Having a strong defence will be the main feature of a few of the heavyweights like Brazil, Italy and Germany. But who could steal the golden prize in July?

The United States raised eyebrows during their stunning Confederations Cup campaign and will be up against Fabio Capello's England in their first match on Saturday. Bob Bradley's men have a mixture of physical power and good technical ability. A few of the regular starters in the USA side will be familar to us: Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu. In defence, Jay DeMerit and Onyewu provide a strong and experienced defensive duo which impressed against some of the world's best strikers at the Confederations Cup. Ricardo Clark or Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley are athletic and adept defensively, but also at ease going forward from central midfield. Stuart Holden or Landon Donovan will provide balance on the right of midfield with DaMarcus Beasley offering a real pacey option from the left. Strangely enough, the USA could be classed as underdogs because we do not really know what to expect from a nation who have not really achieved much in International football. But we know what to expect from a number of British-based players and their performance last year in South Africa was enough to make people aware that the USA could cause a problem or two for England.

Chile and Paraguay both had stunning qualification campaigns, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively on 33 points. The two sides also represent different types of football with Paraguay organised and effective and Chile being more pleasing on the eye. Paraguay supremo Gerardo Martino has a tight-knit side which boasted one of the better defensive records during qualifying. Sunderland's Paulo Da Silva is a key part of that defensive unit and is pretty much guranteed to start in the World Cup. Dario Veron is one of their main attacking players from right full-back which is becoming a growing trend in World football. Cristiano Riveros, also tied with Sunderland, is an influential player in the centre of midfield. The 27 year-old is a very solid midfielder and a good passer of the ball, but one of their major problems is that they do not have a goal threat from that midfield four. In attack, Paraguay boast two of their more 'well-known' players with the in-form Lucas Barrios of Borussia Dortmund and Roque Santa Cruz of Manchester City. On the other hand, the Chileans possess a very talented, young squad of players that has recieved plaudits for their open style of play. Coach Marcelo Bielsa has created one of the more complex formations of the competition with something close to an attacking 5-3-2 formation. The two wing-backs Vidal and Millar can easily be classed as wingers who will be mainly focused on their attacking duties with two of the three centre-backs able to cover the wide areas. That may leave spaces, but Carlos Carmona has the responsibility as the holding midfielder to fill in at the back. Chile have a talented trio in attack of Matias Fernandez, Alexis Sanchez and Mark Gonzalez who provide support to Suazo. Fernandez will start in the centre, but will move freely across the pitch with Sanchez and Gonzalez providing much-needed width and pace in that system. Most years we have teams like Paraguay and Chile from South America who have impressed during qualifiers but the jury is out whether they can cut it in the big boys playground of the World Cup.

A few other names have been touted along with the three I've looked at so far: Ivory Coast with Didier Drogba, Mexico and Radomir Antic's Serbia side but, for me, the USA, Paraguay and Chile are three names which I think you might see pop up on your World Cup wallchart towards the latter stages of the competition if they get the luck needed for a smaller nation to succeed in the competition.

No comments:

Post a Comment