World Cup’10 – Group G: The Group Of Death

With the biggest show on the planet around the corner,  TheHardTackle brings to you a special series that provides you with group-wise capsules of information on each nation. No more hiding away from discussions and debates, we promise to make you a World Cup scholar before the showcase event begins. The world is getting ready, are you?



Rank: 2
Best Performance: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002
Coach: Dunga

A World Cup without Brazil would be like a body without its soul, like a party without its music and like a candy without its flavor. There hasn’t been a World Cup till date which hasn’t been lit up by the Samba magic, and the Brazilian team is always the main attraction at any of the World’s most watched events. The most successful World Cup nation has, over the years, provided us with football legends such as Pele, Alberto, Romario and Ronaldo, and is ready to provide us with a buzzing display of its newest generation in South Africa.

USA: World Cup 1994 - Brazil v Italy

A long standing history of WC achievements..

Qualifying Campaign

Brazil finished at the top of the South American qualifying standings with nine wins, seven draws and only two defeats. They confirmed their participation after comprehensively defeating arch-rivals Argentina 3-1 in Rosario.


The Brazilian teams of yesteryear have been known for their fluent and devastating attacking style. Today’s team is no different; the side includes the likes of Kaka and Robinho, along with a potent strike-force capable of lightning-fast counter-attacks that make the world stand up and take notice. Apart from their strength in attack, a dependable goal-keeper in Julius Caesar and a strong defense is also characteristic of Dunga’s set up. What sets apart this Brazilian team from its predecessors is their stability and discipline, which can be credited to their coach. Dunga’s men have won every tournament they have entered till date, including the Confederations Cup in the Rainbow Nation, itself.


The only chink in the armour is the left-back position. With seven different left-backs being called up in the last two years, Dunga is no closer to finding out his first choice. The fact that they have sailed past teams in the last four years, leaves room for the pessimists to question their resolve if things don’t go according to plan. Another potential problem could be Dunga’s inability to field players based on their form, rather than their name.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Kaka (Midfielder)
Even though the Brazilian is yet to regain his Milan form at Madrid, he is still regarded as one of the best playmakers in the world. This team depends heavily on Kaka, and greater things can be expected of the former World Player of the Year.



Rank: 4
Best Performance: Third place in 1966
Coach: Carlos Queiroz

After finishing fourth in last year’s World Cup, Portugal will be looking to go at least one-step further in reaching their first final ever in a FIFA World Cup. From being the country of Eusebio – one of the greatest footballers ever – to being the country of Ronaldo – arguably the greatest footballer right now – Portugal have finally found their feet on the biggest stage of World Football. Now, they have yet another chance to shed the tag of a ‘talent-sans-result’ team and win their first ever World Cup.

Qualifying Campaign

For the Portuguese, qualifying was a struggle. Five matches into the qualifying campaign, they had played out three goalless draws, and from being favorites to top the group, were reduced to a team fighting for survival. But a late surge ensured that the Portuguese pipped Sweden by one point to second position in the standings, which meant they made it through to the play-offs. In the play-offs, they saw-off an inspired Bosnia-Herzegovina to secure their ticket to South Africa


The Portuguese strength lies at the back with Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho expected to line-up in the center of defense, and in their star-studded line-up of wingers – Ronaldo, Nani, Simao, Quaresma – capable of stretching even the best full-backs in the world.


Striking options upfront for Portugal are conspicuous by their absence, so a lot will depend on their most influential player Ronaldo to provide the goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Euro 2008

Portugal’s major threat – their only hope?

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Cristiano Ronaldo (Forward)
Very seldom does a case occur when a team having Ronaldo in its ranks depends on someone other than him for results; such has been his aura as a player. He did not contribute much towards getting his team to the World Cup, but make no mistake about it – Portugal’s progress in South Africa will be directly proportional to the contributions of their superstar captain.



Rank: 25
Best Performance: Qualified for the World Cup in 2006, for the very first time
Coach: Sven-Göran Eriksson

Their entertaining brand of football won a lot of hearts in their first ever appearance in Germany’06, but were unlucky to be placed in the toughest group of the tournament. Four years on, their luck may have deserted them again after being allotted an equally tough group. But with a World Cup in Africa and an experienced coach, it could be time for the Ivorians to bear the burden of Africa’s hopes in the upcoming World Cup.

New Ivory Coast national soccer team coach Sven-Goran Eriksson attends a news conference at the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) building in Abidjan

Sven makes another World Cup appearance..

Qualifying Campaign:

‘The Elephants’ sailed through their qualifying campaign without losing a match, which was befitting of their status as an African power-house. Things won’t be as plain-sailing in the World Cup, though.


The West Africans can boast of an attacking line-up, led by Premier League top-scorer Didier Drogba and comprising of players who have been rubbing shoulders with the best in Europe. In Kolo Toure and Sol Bamba, they have a disciplined central-defensive partnership.


In addition to the egos of the Ivorian superstars, what will give Eriksson sleepless nights will be his choice of goalkeeper – the inconsistent Barry does not breathe confidence. The Ivorians also lack creativity in the midfield, with a lot depending on Yaya Toure and his ability to dominated midfield battles.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for:
Didier Drogba (Forward)
Half the battle will be won if the newly-appointed coach is able to bring out the best in Drogba. In the last four years, the Ivorian has grown in stature in world football. On his day, he is capable of humbling any defender in the world and powering his team deep into the World Cup. Being the captain, he will have added responsibility on his shoulders and this can spur him on.



Rank: 105
Best Performance: Quarter-finals in 1966
Coach: Kim Jong-Hun

They are famous for their giant-killing in England’66, where they became the first Asian country to clear the first round in a World Cup, at the expense of none other than Italy. This little known country has a dogged determination this time around, and a surprise qualification for South Africa’10 is the reward for their hard-work.

Qualifying Campaign

The North Koreans have qualified for the World Cup after enduring a gruelling campaign, which saw them compete for twenty months and play sixteen games. They dispatched Mongolia in the first round and earned a bye to the third round because of their rank, when they defied all odds to finish second behind South Korea to book their place in South Africa’2010.

Inside North Korea
The North Korean army!


They have a very miserly five-man defence that has conceded just seven goals in sixteen qualifying matches. The stamina and endurance capacity of the Koreans should serve them well against their more illustrious opponents. Organisation is their most attractive feature.


They have very few attacking options and goals are hard to come by. The North Koreans are also inexperienced at the international level, as two-thirds of the squad is from the domestic league.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for:
Hong Yong-Jo (Forward)
The Russia-based star is Korea DPR’s captain and their most influential player. He is part of almost everything that Korea does offensively and will try to inspire his team to shock the world for the second time.



Match Date – Time Venue Team 1 Team 2
13 15/06 16:00 Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth Côte d’Ivoire v Portugal
14 15/06 20:30 Johannesburg – JEP Brazil v Korea DPR
29 20/06 20:30 Johannesburg – JSC Brazil v Côte d’Ivoire
30 21/06 13:30 Cape Town Portugal v Korea DPR
45 25/06 16:00 Durban Portugal v Brazil
46 25/06 16:00 Nelspruit Korea DPR v Côte d’Ivoire

Only one team in this Group of Death can claim to sail through to the second round, and that is Brazil. Such is the overall quality of the ‘Samba Boys’ that they are expected not just to top this group, but are also regarded as the joint favourites to lift the cup, along with Spain. But this group is an upset waiting to happen and even Brazil cannot afford to be complacent.

The match that is being dubbed as a do-or-die encounter is the opening clash between the Ivory Coast and Portugal. The winner of this match would most-likely accompany Brazil to the next round, unless Korea DPR – a relatively unknown commodity in modern-day football – plan to play party spoilers in Africa.

TheHardTackle’s VERDICT:

1. Brazil
2. Ivory Coast
3. Portugal
4. DPR Korea

With a disciplinarian like Dunga marshalling the proceedings from the touch-line, Brazil should progress to the next stage, along with the Côte d’Ivoire. As the World Cup is being held in Africa for the very first time, this is the best possible opportunity for the Elephants to reach the second round at the expense of Portugal. With the kind of support expected in their own backyard, one can’t help but tip one of the African nations to make the entire continent proud. Horses are passé; we at TheHardTackle put our money on the Elephants.


  • Fabiano

    No mention of how influential could Ronny’s absence be when Kaka is not in the best of his form???? And Ivory Coast preferred over Portugal??? WC Squads???

  • Somnath

    Brazilians often perform better for NT, than clubs. So Kaka’s form in Real maynot be such a big head-ache.

    Dunga wants disciplined players who stick to his plan. Ronnie doesn’t fit the bill in that. Dunga knows what he is doing. He took the team that had won him Confed Cup & has a pretty smooth Q campaign.

    Bastos will be the most likely starter in LB.

    Maicon – Luisao – Lucio – Bastos

    Melo – Gilberto

    Ramires – Kaka – Robinho


    Ptentially world cup winning team.

  • Howard Roark

    Al right but the exclusion of Chelsea centre-back Alex from the squad is preposterous.

    He has been solid for not just this season, but since his PSV days. He is the most influential factor in Chelsea’s defensive resurgence, ever since he regained fitness and Carvalho was injured. I cant believe that he is not good enough for Dunga.

    Ok, agreed on the Ronnie part but what about Pato? Does he not deserve to be even in the squad. I feel this is another blunder, Pato could have al least been used as a impact sub, if nothing more.

  • Howard Roark

    @ Fabiano

    In the ‘fixtures’ section, the team name has been linked to the Official Team Page. Please click on it, and you’ll have all the latest team-news 😀

  • redNblack_blood

    Brazil n Portugal no chance of ivory coast………….

  • Sounak

    Ivory Coast, I agree will pose a massive threat to the Big 2, but Christiano Ronaldo will be too much to handle. Even if he fires in one of the big two matches, Portugal go thru!

  • Howard Roark

    The most important game is the opening head-to-head clash between Portugal and Ivory Coast. Whosoever wins this, will have a great chance of meeting Spain in the next round! Good?

    Now I suppose nobody would like to face Spain so early in the tournament, so it’s not just about ‘surviving’ the group, but about topping it.

    A little slackness from Brazil, and there we’ll have the match between the favourites even before the tournament hits 2nd gear.

  • Somnath

    Brazil, surprisingly, has the best bench strenght defensively. Alex, Thiago Silva, Dani & Rafinha all are competent defenders.

  • MBFan

    I predict Portugal to go through…
    Will be happy if Brazil crashes out… Dunga’s decision to leave out Ronaldinho, Alex and Pato might hurt them badly…

  • @Somnath – I think Juan will start along with Lucio.

    @Howard – Alex though good cannot be compared with Juan this year. The guy was the platform on which Roma’s second half resurgence was built on.

    If you look at Central defense… Who could have thought that Brazil among all countries possessing the best depth in defense

  • Arvind, with all due respect to Juan, all I’m saying is that Alex deserved to be in the squad. At least, Dunga would’ve had a choice. Same is the case with Pato.

    Their exclusion is seriously beyond me.

  • Somnath

    I don’t think it will be Juan, Luisao has been one of the best players for Benfica, who have been unstoppable in the league this year. Plus he can push up better than Juan. Both Lucio & Luisao can alternatively go up as sweeper. Either way Brazil will have a strong defense.

  • Luis

    LOL… Who would have thought that people would discuss Brazil’s defense instead of their offense and creative midfield for which the country is known.
    Luisao or Juan, the defense is rock solid for Brazil this time around… what about the Midfield?
    I think the midfield is a concern for them this time around.

    Melo – I can never hate him enough! Personal hatred aside, although he’s been good for Brazil, his temper is something that brings him down and he’s had a disastrous season with Juve, question arises if Diego was ignored what special did he do?

    Gilberto Silva – With no disrespect for the INVISBLE WALL, he’s too old to play the role that he once used to.

    Josue – Haven’t really noticed his play so cant comment.

    Kleberson – I really dont know what he’s doing in the NT. The guy has been ordinary.

    When you think of players like Lucas(Liv), Ronnie, Pato, Diego(Juve) who have been ignored for these players I listed above, you just have to ask what is Dunga upto?

  • Soccerfan

    @Luis: It’s insane to even mention Lucas in the same bracket along with Ronny or Pato. This guy does nt deserve to be playing in BPL.

  • shady

    I have a gut feeling that this group will have a lot of draws than wins. Expecting Ivory coast to coast thru due to the fact that they play korea in their last match and they start with portugal who might need to get acclimatized to the conditions which the ivorians already know about but who knows portugal have CR9 who might break open the brazilian defense by a solitary goal and then it will be bye bye brasil, bye bye dunga.

  • Interesting article. I can’t know why North Korea is always acting so belligerently. Kim Jung Il must simply be a psycho. Because no good would ever arise from how he is acting.

  • Just thought i would comment and say cool website, who you think will win the World Cup 2010?

  • MBFan

    Vamos Argentina…