World Cup 2010 Preview Group B: The Three Way Race for Second

02 June 2010

Looking at Group B of the FIFA World Cup, two things stand out to me: Argentina is dangerous if they can get past their manager's crazy ways, and second place is the ultimate crap shoot between three different teams that can all advance if they can get past their own shortcomings.

Argentina has the talent to win it all with most of that talent at the peak of their performance. Martin Demichelis and Gabriel Heinze will anchor a defense that also includes a vastly under rated Nicolas Burdisso. Javier Mascherano and Jonas Gutierrez will be the key pieces in the midfield to feed any combination of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and Sergio Aguero. While Messi could arguably be one of the three best club players in the world at present, he still needs to make a semi-final or final run at the World Cup to legitimately secure his legacy as one of the world's best players. I don't care what people say about a player's club form, but until they do it at the biggest of international stages, they still have something to prove. Despite Maradona's wackiness, Argentina should have no problem making the round of sixteen.

Greece was the world's biggest 'what the hell' moment back in 2004 when they won the European Championships. They then proceeded to not qualify for the World Cup in 2006, and despite winning 10 of 12 in Euro 2008 qualification, finished dead last in their group. They were pipped out by Switzerland at the last hurdle before beating the Ukraine over 180 minutes of dire football to make the World Cup. One thing Greece can do is stifle the life out of a game. The one thing Greece has one hell of a problem doing is scoring. Unless the name is Theofanis Gekas, Greece just can't find the back of the net. Greece does have a respectable international spine with Sotirios Krygiakos, Vangelis Moras at the back and Kostas Katsouranis alongside Giorgos Karagounis in the midfield. If Greece can find their scoring shoes, they should easily make the round of sixteen in second place. However, that's one thing I just don't see them doing.

Nigeria may have won the manager lottery with them picking up Lars Lagerback as their man in charge. This is a man who worked wonders with Sweden, leading them to World Cups in 2002 and 2006, as well as Euro 2004 and 2008. While this team is on the young side, one thing they do play with is plenty of heart. However, one of their biggest problems is insecurity. One thing I think will play to their advantage is playing on their own continent.
The biggest obstacle Nigeria will face is on both wings. Another problem that could manifest itself is Jon Obi Mikel, who with a different caliber of referee than in the Premier League, could easily find himself on the receiving end of a red card. Up front, they do have streaky goal scorers at the international level in Yakubu and Obafemi Martins. Their spine of Shittu, Yobo, and Etuhu (alongside Mikel) can hold up, but the question is how will their lines organize when they are on defense.

South Korea may have the most organized team at this World Cup, and Jung-Moo Huh may have a starting eleven that sets itself. The biggest concern I have with South Korea is their ability to deal with physical teams, and they have three teams that can get physical if need be in this group. One thing they do have on their side is the ability to grind out results with their mix of discipline and speed. Park Ji-Sung is the fulcrum in the midfield, with Park Chu-Young their main goal threat up front. Cha Du-Ri is the key piece to their defense with veteran Lee Woon-Jae in goal. The problem with discipline is it can only get you so far. While they did look good against Japan last week, they responded in short order with a bad performance against Belarus. They are just too unpredictable for their own good when the going gets too tough.

The way I see this group going is simple; I think South Korea and Argentina win their opening round games. Argentina then makes it 2 wins against South Korea while Nigeria responds with a victory against Greece. In the final match day, I think Nigeria overcomes South Korea while Argentina finishes the clean sweep against Greece. When it's all said and done, I have Argentina on 9 points, Nigeria on 6, South Korea on 3 and Greece with 0.

What are your thoughts on Group B? Let me know in the comments below.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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