Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Let's look at World Cup Pot A

The pots for Friday's draw have been decided and now I want to look at how the teams in each pot stack up against one another. Pot A is all about the seeded teams. These teams are Germany, Brazil, Argentina, England, France, Italy, Mexico and Spain. All of these teams are somewhere between good and great, but even among the "best" of the finalists, some are better then other. So let's break these eight teams down to three tiers.

First Tier
Brazil, England

Brazil is an easy choice for first tier. They have great depth in both their forwards and midfielders (proof of this is the fact the Ronaldo is not guaranteed a spot). However, they are still a little lacking in their defense. If a team can shut down their rhythm up front, Brazil will have a hard time responding. Short of massive injuries to their stars, Brazil is the team to beat in 2006.

England has their best team in 40 years. With Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen clicking, plus a solid defense in line, they have a chance. However, David Beckham's role in everything still seems a little lost. If they can figure that out, they should have a good run.

Second Tier
Germany, Italy, Argentina

If Germany were not the hosts, I would have placed them in the third tier. They are a good team, but they a young. Also, Oliver Kahn's status as number 1 keeper is still up in the air. This is causing a great deal of confusion in front of goal. This pain is only added to with all their recent failures against top European clubs. The 2002 Euro experience weights heavy on this side (they crashed out without winning a single match). Still, they have some good talent and they are playing on home soil. It is good to note that no host team has ever failed to get out of the group stage. Germany is beatable, but it will still be a struggle.

Italy is one of those teams in World Cups that always has high hopes going in but usually ends up leaving thanks to penalty kicks (they lost in '90, '94 & '98 thanks to pks). They have some great talent in Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta and Francesco Totti, but the question is will they be able to get past the demons of years gone by to make it happen this year. I have a feeling they will click, but even when clicking, this side can fail. If a team can tie up their midfield the way Scotland did back in September, Italy will be in trouble.

Argentina is a side with tons of quality players but that might be causing the problem. José Pekerman has not really indicated any of the players that will make the final squad. This caused them to lose their last three qualifiers as well as last month's match against England. If Pekerman can actually put together a final lineup soon, they will have enough time to prepare for next summer. However, if these questions are not solved, they might face a repeat of 2002.

Third Tier
France, Mexico, Spain

France was looking very poor before they brought back Zinedine Zidane. With him in the lineup, they recovered and sailed to victory in their group. However, it is always dangerous to count on older players to save your team. With injuries coming more and more to him, his abilities will shrink. That said, they do have Thierry Henry to pick up some of the slack. If both of these two are in stride, their team will have a good run. However, if one goes down, it might just take the team with them.

Mexico is a team that has some real talent, but has a constant problem with chocking in the big games. As was shown during their qualifying run, they have trouble away from home. This said, they do have the ability to frustrate teams with their passing skill. They should make it out of their group, but they will have a hard time making it much further.

Spain is in the third tier for three reasons. First, they had lots of trouble during qualifying. Had they draw Switzerland in the playoffs, I don't know if they would be in the cup. Second, they recently lost midfielder Xavi Hernandez. His absence leaves questions in the middle. Finally, much like Mexico, they always seem to choke in the big matches. All that said, they do have it in them to make a solid run and should make it out of the group.

There are the three tiers of Pot A. I want to stress that all eight of them teams have it in them to do very well, just some are better then others. I would be surprised if any of these teams did not make it out of their groups, but some will have a little harder time doing it.


Blogger scaryice said...

I would put France in the second tier myself.

6:22 AM  
Blogger D said...

Agree with Ice...

BTW: This Blog is seriously a rockin'. As in, getting into must-read status for me. Between you and DuNord, I feel like the info is coming right to me.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

D, thanks for the compliment.

Scaryice, I went back and forth with France. They are a good team, but when I looked back at reports prior to Zidane's return, I was reminded of just how much they need him. I think Henry brings something great to the side, but he has little help.

I think France is the strongest of my tier threes, but if Zidane or Henry get hurt, there will be problems.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

10:31 AM  

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