Friday, 5 February 2010

WC2010: Whos Going? (Part 4)

Time to advance this project a little more, so here goes with three more nations. Hope you will find this interesting!


Greece are no pushovers. Neither are they a particularly good side, but their success comes from their mentality and tactics, of which almost all comes from one man, boss Otto Rehhagel. Since their shock triumph at the Euros in 2004, Greek success has been quite hard to find. They failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006, and whilst defending their crown in the Euros in 2008, they went out without a sound in the group stage.

But Greece have stayed with Rehhagel in charge, and while he is there Greece always have the potential to be very tough to beat. Their signature tactic, a 4-5-1, sees them try to nick a goal to get in front, then stay behind the ball religiously until the final whistle. Of course this can provide some ugly football which (as we remember from Euro 2004) can be mind-numbing to watch.

Greece have been drawn into Group B, alongside Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea. It is a tricky group, but with all of their opponents known to be guilty of mis-firing at times, their 4-5-1 tactic could just sneak them through the group.

Star Man: Giorgos Karagounis

Most fans of European football should know some things about Karagounis. He's been a constant fixture in the Greece squad for the past 5 or 6 years and is absolutely integral to their success. He adopts one of the central midfielder roles in Greece's side, alongside captain Kostas Katsouranis. While Katsouranis plays a typical holding midfielder role, Karagounis provides the creative spark, with many of Greece's goals involving him in some way. With such a confined, defensive look about the team, Karagounis is vital for initiating attacks and we will see him play every game for Greece this year.

Player to Watch: Theofanis Gekas

Greece's top goalscorer in the qualifying campaign with 10 goals, Theofanis "Fanis" Gekas has been a really important addition to the Greek set-up. Currently on loan at Hertha Berlin in Germany, Gekas is starting to find his feet there and has started to score goals for his new club.

Fanis usually plays just off the target striker in the Greece team, regularly popping up with goals and assists. It is definitely fair to say that his goalscoring prowess has been one of the main reasons Greece managed to qualify.

Prediction: You would expect them to exit in the group, but as I said above they have a chance to sneak through if their ultra defensive tactics are successful.


Honduras are definitely one of the most surprising qualifiers to South Africa. Los Catrachos have been to one World Cup before, in 1982, where they finished dead last in their group although managing draws against hosts Spain and Northern Ireland. Since then they've always had a bit of potential, but they just haven't really made an impact on world football until now.

The way they sealed their qualification was one of the most exciting of the year, in the end needing a last minute USA equaliser against Costa Rica to book their place in South Africa. You would be excused for thinking Honduras are here to make up the numbers, and it may well turn out that way, but the Hondurans have a pretty talented squad to take to the finals.

Honduras find themselves in Group H, up against Chile, Spain and Switzerland. It's certainly a very tough group for them, with one of the favourites to win the tournament Spain, a seemingly "born-again" Swiss side, and a tricky Chile side who I have previously covered. I'm expecting some EXCELLENT games in this group, most people will have their eyes on Group G, with Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal and Korea DPR, but keep one of your eyes on this one.

Star Man: Wilson Palacios

Very useful player, probably the player most familiar to you in this Honduras side. He's impressed EPL fans at Birmingham City, Wigan, and now Tottenham. Palacios is a very talented player, he can fly in to tackles and his balance and strength are astonishing. Alongside this Palacios also has a wicked turn of pace, and his stamina makes him seem like he can run all day. Really fit player, and will be very useful for the Hondurans in what is a very tough group for them.

Player to Watch: Carlos Pavon

As you have seen before in this blog, "Player to Watch" doesn't necessarily mean it will be a young, promising player, I'm also awarding this tag to more experienced players you wouldn't otherwise be aware of. If this blog was written in Honduras, 36 year old Carlos Pavon would be the man in the "Star Man" section, as he is near enough a national hero over there.

Pavon is a centre forward, the top goalscorer in Los Catrachos' qualifying campaign. Pavon is a true journeyman, at 36 years old his CV boasts an impressive 14 clubs. Basically he is small, but possesses impressive pace, great aerial ability, and the ability to hit some great shots from any distance. Good player, hopefully keeps up his good form and grabs a goal or two in South Africa.

Prediction: No pushovers, but with a tough group I expect they will be eliminated.


The reigning champs, the Azzurri have fallen somewhat under the radar when people discuss tournament favourites. For me, they can never be written off. With Marcello Lippi in charge, and players like Buffon, Cannavaro, Gattuso in the squad, the four-time world champions still have an excellent chance of lifting the trophy again.

A typically efficient approach to qualifying saw Italy stroll through without really making much of a fuss. The argument with Italy has always been that their side is too old, but with their mentality and lasting quality they will still put together a good challenge in 2010. One worry with Lippi however, is he tends to select players exclusively from Juventus, Milan, Inter etc. and perhaps overlooking players from other Serie A sides.

Italy have been handed a fairly straighforward group by their standards, drawn against New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia.

Star Man: Gianluigi Buffon

Might sound a bit useless underlining Buffon's quality, as he has been around for so long and still putting out some excellent performances between the sticks. His reflexes are still extremely sharp, and his one-on-one skills are near unparalleled, many Juve fans have this season said if it wasn't for Buffon, they would be doing considerably worse

Player to Watch: Giuseppe Rossi

It's yet to be said how much football Beppe Rossi will actually get come World Cup 2010, with the chance Lippi may choose to go with players like Luca Toni, Iaquinta, Amauri, Quagliarella, Gilardino, Di Natale.... The list goes on. But Rossi showed in the Confederations Cup that he has a special edge over many of the other candidates for a starting position.

Rossi always plays like he has something to prove when he pulls on the jersey for the national team. He has good speed, great dribbling skills and he has a really good left foot, which he proved after scoring some great goals in the Confederations Cup. I hope Italy line up with Gilardino and Rossi come the World Cup, as Gilardino is a skilled goal-getter, whereas Rossi is a real live-wire and a constant headache for defenders.

Prediction: Will stroll through the group, and if they steer clear of injuries and play the way they always do, the Azzurri could well retain the trophy. I say Semi-Finals.


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