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?
Best Performance: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002
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.
A long standing history of WC achievements..
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sven makes another World Cup appearance..
‘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.
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.
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.
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|
|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.
2. Ivory Coast
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.