Soccer City, Johannesburg
17th June, 5:00 PM IST
The first signs of how the tournament was going to progress were seen on Day 2, when Korea started with a stunning win over a hapless Greece, and the most talked about forward lineup needed the assistance of their defense to win a game. This game is going to be a fight between unequals as far as the FIFA ranking goes, a match-up between the Argentine flair and the Korean stamina.
Asia has made the headlines in World football every time, and Korea Republic proved so in this World Cup. They made a bright start to their World Cup campaign with a easy win over the Greek team,which seemed an apt example of how not to play football. Now that they have tasted blood, they will want to go all the way in this tournament, with a squad inspired by Man Utd’s Park Ji Sung.
The Koreans will try to focus on their strong point – strong work ethics, team work and organized cohesion all through the game. The passing against Greece was good but not the best, and if they lose the ball in the middle against a strong Argentine midfield, the Koreans are going to have their hands full. The Koreans should not be awed by their opponents and concentrate on their fast paced game, which might give them an added advantage against the aging Argentine defense.
The Master and his student
Argentina, on the other hand, is a passionate team with the best strike force in the tournament, and run by a coach who knows what it feels to win the World Cup. The first game was in the bag the minute the first goal was scored, but Argentina never wrapped up the game. They kept living on the edge throughout the match, with the inspirational Messi and his fellow forwards culpable of missing a host of opportunities in front of goal.
The chance of Argentina dropping points always remains a possibility, as their old defense was exposed by a weakened Nigeria squad which had lost their key players to injury. The defense needs to be wary of the fast paced game deployed by the Koreans. Burdisso will be a better choice at the central defense than Demichelis, and Jonas Gutierrez, despite his attacking ability, lacked the qualities of a good defender. Veron made a number of mistimed passes which were all intercepted by the Nigerians. The good news for Maradona is that he still has time to get his first XI right, before the start of next round matches which will pit them against much stronger, faster opposition. Young Pastore might also be a good option to counter the fast movement of Korea Republic players in the heart of the midfield.
Messi and his supporting cast will be expected to perform better than the first game. If they get their act right, this match might turn into a goal scoring fest for Argentina, considering their performance in the first match.
Interestingly, the Korean Manager Huh defended against Maradona in the 1986 World Cup, which saw Argentina go on to win the trophy. Will Huh get the better of Maradona this time, or will Maradona prove lucky for Argentina again?
(1) Head to Head: Games Played: 1, Argentina 1 wins and Korea Republic: 0 wins Argentina have scored 2 goals to 0 from Korea.
(2) The Only time they met was during the 1986 World Cup, when Maradona went on to lift the Cup of Life.
Player To Watch Out For: Woon-Jae Lee (Korea Republic)
With Messi-Tevez-Higuain/Milito-Di Maria in attack, Woon needs to do an Enyeama to even earn a draw for his team. But football is a strange game and has always thrown unpredictable results at us.
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
17th June, 7:30 PM IST
Will Greece Bounce Back from this new Turmoil?
Both teams will be fighting for their World Cup survival. A loss for either will spell doom and make them the first team to be eliminated from this World Cup, while the victor will live to fight another day.
The country which gave us the Olympics announced their arrival on the football stage, when they claimed the Euro cup in 2004. Fast forward six years, and team appears to have gone backwards by ten years. Nigeria had a good outing against Argentina and on any other day could have guaranteed themselves at least one point, but unfortunately it was not their day. The Super Eagles shoulder the hopes of Africa on their shoulders, like the other African teams in the tournament, while the Greek players have the responsibility to provide a soothing touch to a nation reeling under financial crisis.
The Greeks have always been the underdogs of Europe, and proved that to win a big tournament one need a strong and organized defense, in 2004. Since then there has been no change in the way they play, and most of the teams have adapted to their style, exposing them completely. The only hope Otto Rehaggel’s side has regarding this match is the fact that Nigeria also had a bad outing against Argentina, and only the brilliance of their goalkeeper saved them from embarrassment. A few changes to the defense will surely be a good move for the Europeans.
Greece will be hoping for Argentina to crush Korea, which gives them a chance to put up a good defense against the Africa nation and attempt to score on counter attacks.
Nigeria, one of the top teams in Africa, will be hoping to bounce back quickly from their loss to Argentina. The game against Argentina demonstrated that they will be a tough nut to crack, especially their goal keeper Enyeama who was outstanding. Now that the big game is out of their way, they will also be hoping for Argentina to beat Korea, consequently helping their cause in trying to reach the next round. Their attacking options against Argentina showed some glimpses of the talent they possess, with Obinna, Yakubu, Haruna, Martins and Obasi in the ranks. If they can win this match, it will lead to an exciting Group B final between them and the Koreans.
The Super Eagles need be more effective in passing and ball possession, a necessity against a focused Greek defense. Also, there should not be any complacency, as Greece are capable of a turn-around in fortunes. History says that Greece is yet to win a match in the World Cup. Will history be rewritten or will the Greek Crisis continue?
(1) Head to Head: Games Played: 2, Nigeria 1 wins and Greece: 1 win, both the teams have 2 goals each. Nigeria winning in a World Cup game while Greece winning a friendly in 1999.
(2) Greece is yet to win a game or score a goal in their World Cup history
Player To Watch Out For: Obasi (Nigeria)
The game will be won or lost due to the goals scored, and it all depends on the long list of Nigerian forwards in the World Cup Squad. One player who really impressed was Obasi, who exposed the sluggish Argentina defense to the rest of the favorites.
Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
18th June, 12:00 AM IST
The most awaited day, June 11 2010, came and went, but the results of that day would much rather be forgotten than remembered for all Group A teams. Now that the shaky first day jitters are over for them, football fans will be hoping to see better fortunes for the two teams that arrived at South Africa with a kitty of controversies. One team has Henry and the other Giovanni Dos Santos, both of whom were in news for all the wrong reasons. The match pits the golden generation of Mexico against the aging generation of French football.
Controversy is not the only thing both these teams have in common. They have stubborn coaches who won’t change much irrespective of what the experts, pundits or the media says.
After the Initial Jitters! One will survive..
France has made it a habit of sorts to start a tournament on the wrong foot. In their encounter with Uruguay, it never looked like France would even come close to scoring a goal. The aging squad and lack of creativity was evident, but so was the prevailing dressing room atmosphere in the French camp, with Gallas and Malouda not satisfied with their coach’s decisions. Ribery still hasn’t got over the recent scandals, and Gourcuff was trying to play a one man game.
However, there is still a silver lining in it for this French squad, the previous World cup being a example of how they shrugged off the early rust in their game to reach the finals. A repeat performance is not impossible for this French squad, consisting of old but experienced strikers, a few inform midfielders and a strong defense. All France needs to do is play as a team, keeping all the drama off the field. Anelka needs Henry on his side, and Malouda needs to play on the wings, cue his successful season with Chelsea. The rest of the midfield does not need any tinkering.
Mexico had a more forgettable first game than France, the annoying buzzing of Vuvuzelas around adding to the distractions. Giovanni Dos Santos appeared to have got over his brother’s exclusion from the National Squad and was making probing runs throughout the match against the Bafana Bafana. This might be the defining World Cup for the young player, who hasn’t had a great time plying his trade in England, and would be hoping to put in some good performances to win the attention of big clubs. It will be a tough game for the young Vela, who will have experienced Rafael Marquez, Javier Hernandez and Guillerino Franco supporting him in the attacks. But whether the El Tri possesses the teeth to get a goal past the French defense remain to be seen.
With the quality of players in both the teams, both young and experienced, a mouthwatering clash is on the cards.
(1) Head to Head: Games Played: 6, France 5 wins and Mexico: 0 wins and 1 Match ending in a draw. France have scored 15 goals to 4 from Mexico. Last time they met France beat Mexico in a Friendly in 2006.
(2) The last time they played in the World Cup was in 1966 when they drew one goal apiece.
Player To Watch Out For: Giovani Dos Santos (Mexico)
If his team has to progress further in the tournament, they need him to provide the spark. He seems to have overcome the grief over his brother being dropped from the national squad, and had a good game against South Africa. He will also be looking to prove his mettle to his current club and a number of clubs who will be scouting him.