World Cup’10 – Day 5: PREVIEW

New Zealand
v
Slovakia
Group F
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
15 June, 5:00 PM IST

New Zealand and Slovakia will look to take full advantage of the draw between Italy and Paraguay. Both teams will be looking for full three points to end the group stage as table toppers.

New Zealand have qualified for this elite competition only for the second time and the fact that this has overlapped with Australia moving to the the Asian Football Federation from the Oceanic Football Federation, is no coincidence. The last time the All Whites qualified for the World Cup was in 1982, when all they could manage was a participation certificate, losing all three matches.

Despite their record, they will be eager to show that they are not in South Africa to make up the numbers, going by the results of their last few matches. New Zealand narrowly lost to Italy 4-3, while managed to defeat the talented Serbian team 1-0. However, a loss to Slovenia in their last match didn’t help their confidence.

Tim Brown has failed to recover from his shoulder injury and has been ruled out of the opening fixture, while the return of Blackburn Rovers’ captain Ryan Nelsen, after recovering from an ear infection, will inspire confidence in their ranks and add much needed ‘steel’ to their defence.

Their opponents – Slovakia – have qualified for a world tournament for the very first time, since their independence in 1993. They topped their qualifying group ahead of Poland and Czech Republic, which was a huge achievement for this young east European nation.

Jun. 09, 2010 - Pretoria, South Africa - epa02194098 Slovakia's soccer players, midfielder Marek Hamsik (L) runs with his teammates during a training session at the Caledonian stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, 09 June 2010. The Slovakia national soccer team prepares for the upcoming FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa due to kick off on June 11.

Slovakia's got talent!

The fact that they have reached the World Cup does not mean that they will be ready to rest on their past laurels. They have been put in a relatively easier group and should back themselves for progressing to the knockout stage. Slovakia has a young and dynamic team and boasts of names such as Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, the highly-rated 22 year old attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik and erstwhile Chelsea wonderkid Miroslav Stoch.

In the run-up to South Africa’10, the Slovakians lost two of their five matches defeating USA and Costa Rica on the way. If they are able to reproduce their qualifying form in their first ever World Cup, this team can surprise few of their more illustrious opponents.

Miroslav Karhan, who is their most capped player, will miss the match due to injury. However, Martin Skrtel is expected to shrug off his ankle injury and start alongside Locomotiv Moscow’s Jan Durica in the centre of defence.

Head-to-Head Record: Zero matches.

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
New Zealand: Played 3, 0 wins, 3 defeats.
Slovakia: Played 0, 0 wins, 0 defeats.

Other Key Facts:
(1) New Zealand Football Team, also called the All Whites, will sport an all-black away jersey in this World Cup, which resembles their more illustrious, all-conquering Rugby Union team. Here’s hoping that rub of the black goes their way!
(2) This is Slovakia’s first ever major tournament as an independent country.

Player To Watch Out For: Marek Hamsik (Slovakia)
Marek Hamsik, who plies his trade in Serie A with Napoli, is one of the most gifted players in the present scenario. He is equally adept at pulling the strings from midfield and tracking back when required. He is coming into this tournaments after three brilliant seasons with Napoli and most of the top clubs in Europe are vying for his signatures. No wonder the Slovakia captain is coach Vladimir Weiss’ main man in South Africa.

———————————

Ivory Coast
v
Portugal
Group G
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
15 June, 07:30 PM IST

Ever since Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and Korea DPR were grouped together and the world got its Group of Death, this match was seen by many as the potential decider. With Brazil expected to sail through the group stages, it is of paramount importance that  both the Ivory Coast and Portugal go for the kill at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. A draw would not be a bad result but a loss in this fascinating battle has the potential to draw curtains to a team’s fortunes in the war, even before the tournament reaches its business end.

Ivory Coast has for long been regarded as Africa’s top dog, due to its very own golden generation, but till date they have failed to live up to their status. They have faltered in the African Cup, and in their only World Cup appearance in Germany’06, they failed to progress beyond the group stage. South Africa’10 is the perfect occasion for the Elephants to finally do justice to their potential, with the Africans and their Vuvuzela’s firmly behind them.

In Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure, the team has a solid spine. In Salomon Kalou and Girvinho, they have the exuberance of youth. Finally in Sven Goran Eriksson they have a coach, who would be eager for his team to put in a good show to enhance his candidature for a prospective appointment at the helm of a top club in Europe. If all these components can together function like a well-oiled machine, the Africans can send one big team home, very early in the tournament.

The West Africans sailed though the qualifying campaign, but an injury to their talismanic captain Didier Drogba in the warm-up friendly against Japan, threatened to derail the Elephants‘ campaign, even before kicking a ball in the World Cup. Since then, Drogba was operated upon successfully and has been making steady progress. He is still not certain to start, but considering the occasion and the job at hand, it wouldn’t be earth-shattering news, if he indeed lines-up along-with his countrymen, to take on Portugal.

Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal is a team that has not been burdened by the ‘Title Contender’ tag this time round, even after they managed to reach the Semi-finals in Germany’06. The reason for this can be retirement of its stars or over-reliance on world’s most expensive player Cristiano Ronaldo or even its lackadaisical qualifying campaign, but this can allow the Portuguese to approach the tournament without any pressure to perform.

Portugal has a solid central-defensive partnership in Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves and lightning fast wingers, though the injury to in-from Manchester United winger Nani was a major blow. Absence of quality strikers can also be Portugal’s Achilles’ heel. This can limit their goal-scoring options and put tremendous pressure on Ronaldo, who has not scored for the national team in over an year.

Their recent form is decent, having defeated Cameroon and Mozambique 3-1 and 3-0 respectively, in the run-up to the World Cup.

Head-to-Head Record: Zero matches.

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Ivory Coast: Played 3, 1 wins, 2 defeats.
Portugal: Played 19, 11 wins, 7 defeats.

Other Key Facts:
(1) With two goals in the 2006 finals, Aruna Dindane is the Elephants’ top World Cup goalscorer. He also provided one assist in that tournament.
(2) Portugal have never drawn a group game at the World Cup, winning eight and losing four.
(3) During qualification for South Africa, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score or assist a single goal for Portugal in seven appearances.

Player To Watch Out For: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The Real Madrid superstar stands between an evenly-fought encounter and a ridiculously one-sided affair; such can be his influence on the game. All Portuguese hopes will rest on Ronaldo, who is also their captain and this can spur him on to tame the Ivory Coast.

Jun. 01, 2010 - Covilha, Castelo Branco, Portugal - epa02182994 Portugal National Soccer Team player Cristiano Ronaldo (R) fights for the ball with Cameroon s Georges Mandjeck during their friendly match as a preparation for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa at the Covilha Sports Complex, Portugal, 01 June 2010.

Can he do it? He thinks he can.

———————————

Brazil

v
Korea DPR

Group G
Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
15 June, 12:00 AM IST

Each match of Group G: The Group of Death is crucial, even for Brazil. Any let-up from A Seleção can see the other two contenders march on at their expense. While no tournament has truly begun until the South American giants showcase their talent, skills, passion and their zeal to perform.

Brazil take on the minnows of the group Korea DPR in their opening match and when they will take on Portugal in their final match, Ivory Coast will be facing Korea DPR. If the Elephants have to win to progress, they will have an easier opponent. This is one more reason why the Brazilians have to be clinical in their approach. That is exactly what Dunga has inculcated in this team, in addition to their traditional flair.

Dunga has transformed the Samba Boys into a highly efficient machine, which lost only twice in its qualifying campaign and registered easy wins in the build-up to the real thing. Dunga’s team has won all the tournaments it has entered in and will be looking to add a sixth World Cup crown to its already over-flowing trophy cabinet.

Keeper Julio Cesar is a concern, after missing the final warm-up game against Tanzania, but even if he is unable to recover, Dunga can call upon Heurelho Gomes, who himself was in good form for Tottenham.

Their opponents – North Korea – have qualified for the World Cup for the second time in their footballing history. The first occasion was in 1966 in England, when they famously defeated the Italians to cause an upset of monumental proportions. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to repeat a similar feat, but we can be sure of the fact that at least two nations will be cheering for the Koreans.

The North Koreans have qualified for the World Cup after enduring a grueling campaign, which saw them compete for twenty months and play sixteen games. Their strength lies in their superior stamina and endurance. In addition to it, they have a miserly defence, but the opponents they faced in the qualifiers were no match to the likes of Kaka, Fabiano, Robinho and Maicon.

Head-to-Head Record: Zero matches.

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Brazil: Played 92, 64 wins, 14 defeats.
Korea DPR: Played 4, 1 wins, 2 defeats.

Other Key Facts:
(1) Brazil have never been defeated at a World Cup finals by a side outside Europe or South America. Moreover, the South American giants have won all 15 World Cup meetings with sides not from these two continents, keeping 13 clean sheets.
(2) Kim Myong-Won normally plays as an attacker, but coach Kim Jong-Hun added him as one of the three goalkeepers, as all the squads must nominate three eligible keepers for the tournament, to boost his attacking options, but the move backfired spectacularly, as FIFA revealed that Kim will only be allowed to play as a goalkeeper, and not as an outfield player as had originally been intended.

Player To Watch Out For: Maicon (Brazil)
The Internazionale right-back was immense this season, helping his club to become the first-ever Italian club to win the treble. His solidarity in defence and dynamism in attack make him one of the most valuable players to feature in this edition of the World Cup. His talent is such that even a player of Dani Alves’ pedigree is unable to make it to the starting eleven.

Maicon of Brazil. Brazil defeated USA 3-2 in the FIFA Confederations Cup Final at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 28, 2009. Photo via Newscom

Is he Brazil's most valuable player?

Day 5 promises to be a thriller; be there to cheer for your favourite team.

45 Responses to “World Cup’10 – Day 5: PREVIEW”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Great! But I completely different views myself. But I definitely support your right to say what you want.

  2. Pankaj says:

    Portugal-Ivory Coast is the match of the day. 1st one is betn minnows and the last one will be too onesided. I predict:

    1. Slovakia 1-0 NZ
    2. Portugal 2-1 IC
    3. Brazil 4-0 Korea DPR

  3. Hoyt Aversa says:

    been following your blog for 3 days now and i should say i am starting to like your post. and now how do i subscribe to your blog?

  4. Howard Roark says:

    So “The Player To Watch Out For” was indeed the player who created something out of nothing to break the deadlock! What a goal from Maicon.

  5. Louie says:

    Someone please stop the horns! I tried to give the World Cup a chance, but I’d even turn off the Superbowl if there was the same annoying background noise.

  6. Nitzel says:

    The Vuvuzela, just when you though kazoos were the most annoying “musical instruments”

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