Thursday, December 08, 2005

Let's look at World Cup Pot B

So I've looked over Pot A, why not take a look at Pot B. This is the African, South American and Oceania pot. The teams are Australia, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Tunisia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Just like with Pot A, I'm going to break these into three tiers. These tiers are only related to the teams in this group. Their ranking has nothing to do with the teams’ tier ranking in Pot A. Enough of the explaining, let’s get to the tiers.

First Tier
Ecuador, Paraguay

Ecuador made their way to only their second finals thanks to a nice blend of new and experienced players. However, one of the biggest things to happen during this run was the unity shown by the soccer fans, press as well as past and present soccer officials. With everyone working together, Ecuador might just step out of the long South American shadow cast by Brazil and Argentina.

Paraguay needs striker Roque Santa Cruz to recover from his knee operation. He should be able to play again in April, but that will only give him two months to recoup. If Cruz cannot make it to the Cup, either Salvador Cabanas or veteran Jose Cardozo will probably replace him. Both are good options, but Cruz would still be better. They also have to worry about their defense, which gave up 4 or more goals in 5 of their 18 qualifying matches. However, when they hold their own in front of goal, teams a hard pressed to get more then one. A good backline will equal a good time in Germany for Paraguay.

Second Tier
Australia, Ivory Coast, Tunisia

Australia in the second tier? The last time they were in the cup, John Lennon had just become a father for the second time. The inexperience will hurt them, however a lot of their players see action in Europe plus they have a great coach in Guus Hiddink. In addition, the country has gone soccer crazy since they clinched a spot. All that excitement is going to help a team. However, they still have a lot of work to do as was shown in the Confederations Cup. If they can tighten up their defense and get some high quality friendlies before the Cup, they should do all right.

Ivory Coast has a great chance of stepping into the shoes of 2002 Senegal. They have a strong strike force with Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Aruna Dindane. They also have solid defense thanks to Aruna Dindane and Cyrille Domoraud. However, they did lose both their group matches against Cameroon, the strongest ranked team in Africa (but they did beat Egypt in both outings). If the can figure out how to get past the bigger fish, the Elephants will have some fun times in Germany

Tunisia has seen three finals, but only have one win to their name (against Mexico in their first match in 1978). This is their third straight finals, so they have some experience and they have a good striker with Francileudo Santos. Still, Tunisia just never seems to click in tournaments, be they World Cup or African. If they have a good showing in their first match, they have a chance of moving on.

Third Tier
Angola, Ghana, Togo

Angola got to their first finals thanks in large part to captain Akwa. It was one of his strikes that saw Angola beat Nigeria, which lead to Angola advancing even through they tied on points in the group. They also have a good coach in 'Professor' Luis Oliveira Goncalves. Still, they have a tendency to only score one goal a game. This is great as long as your defense is constant, but if it does fail, they will as well. They have a chance, but only having one big star, Akwa, on the team, is always dangerous. Shut him down and the team might be shut down.

Ghana is a young team, but they are very disciplined thanks to coach Ratomir Dujkovic. They have been excellent in keeping goals out of their net. In 12 matches, they only surrendered 4 goals while averaging 2 goals of their own per match. Those are great stats till you look at their group. Three of the other five teams were extremely week sides. Still they won the ones they needed to against South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. To advance, they need their defense to hold strong and for their youngsters to keep it together. These are two hard things to do at a World Cup.

Togo need a fantastic run by Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor if they want to remember this finals as anything other then their first appearance. He scored 11 of his sides 20 goals. This is wonderful, but also worrisome. If teams shut Adebayor down, Togo really doesn't have anywhere else to go. Still, this is a side took care of all teams in their group including favorites Senegal. If they can keep Adebayor free, they might be a surprise.

So there is the second pot. Again, the tiers in this pot are in no way related to the tiers in the first pot. I am only looking at the eight teams that make up pot two. Sadly, I think only two off these teams will make it out of the group phase. However, if there is to be a Cinderella team in 2006, this will probably be the pot from which it comes.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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