Every World Cup has one. A group that gets cluster fucked with three powerhouses. An unfortunate result for 1 team that could very well win any other group in the tournament. In 2006 it was Argentina, Netherlands, and the Ivory Cost. This year, an even more mouth wattering group awaits us with Brazil, Portugal, and (GOD I feel bad for them) the Ivory Coast once again.
Brazil. Just the name exudes a sense of fear and footballing history. They are the all-time leaders with 5 World Cup championships, having fielded some of the greatest players this planet has ever laid eyes upon. 2010 may be a bit different. Manager Dunga, with a uncanny resemblance to Guile from Street Fighter, has brought a different style of football and the natives have not always been too accommodating. Brazil’s game is no longer the joga bonito we’ve all come to enjoy. Ronaldinho has been left of the squad (perhaps because he did this at the age of 18 to Dunga – Brazil’s incumbent World Cup champion captain at the time). Beauty has mixed with grit and power. A physical aspect pervades this Brazilian team which has made them more dangerous than ever. Lucio and Juan won’t let a soul through the middle of defence. Maicon is built like a linebacker – which suits the best right back in the world quite well. Julio Baptista and Gilberto Silva, although aging, bring that brute force to the midfield. But don’t worry, the pace and elegance of the squad still remain. Robinho and Kaka will terrorize inside and out. If you overcompensate for one aspect of this squad, they will beat you with another.
Outclass them with tactical skill, quick passing, and speed. Enter Portugal. A team FULL of question marks for me. Having barely qualified for the World Cup, none of their friendlies leading up to the tournament have been anything close to assuring. Especially last week’s 0-0 draw at home to the lowly Cape Verde Islands. This disgusting excuse of a player has not played since December but will feature at the back with the seasoned veteran Bruno Alves. Their speed comes from everywhere. Simao, Miguel, Nani, Raul Meireles, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. Not to mention Deco conducting the orchestra from the middle, who always plays better for his country. Egos have always been the bane of Portugal’s existence recently. Young players who want more, veterans who still think they’ve got it, and the cockiest and most dangerous player on the planet all thrown on the field at the same time. Working together, Portugal are a joy to watch. Individualism, however, threatens to ruin any hope of bright success in the tournament. Brazil’s response that Portugal can’t match? Brute force.
Bring the physical game to Brazil. Knock them around. Don’t give players time on the ball. Enter Ivory Coast. Les Elephants are only making their 2nd World Cup appearance but have been heralded as Africa’s brightest stars leading up to the past two tournaments. Playing a physical game is something the Ivorians must use to their advantage. A bruising midfield of Romaric, Didier Zokora, and Yaya Toure should have no problem controlling their third of the field. Not the best defensive minded players at the back led by Eboue and Kolo “the wrong” Toure but they do bring intellectual awareness to their respective positions (whether they are quick enough to get to the right spot is a different issue altogether). Up front, the Chelsea duo of Kalou and Didier Drogba will surely terrorize opposing defenses. 2009’s African Footballer of the Year is coming off a Golden Boot season of 29 goals in England. He has scored 49 times in 67 appearances for his country. The hope of the entire Ivorian nation will rest on the broad shoulders of Mr. Drogba to deliver and score goals. Brazil’s response that the Ivory Coast can’t match? Pace, quickness, and superior tactical ability.
North Korea is the 4th team in the group. Who cares. Enjoy this Kim Jong clip from Team America-World Police.
HOW IT WILL PAN OUT: Brazil are just too good for any of these teams. I expect them to cruise to the finals. Last time around, Cote d’Ivoire were 6 feet under from the minute the group of death kicked off as they lost to both the Netherlands and Argentina. They will lose to Brazil…as will Portugal. I really want them to move on, but Portugal are just too quick . On this big stage, I expect the Portuguese to come together and get out of the group second (That would mean they face Spain in the next round…).
GAMES OF THE GROUP: 6/15 Ivory Coast vs Portugal. 6/20 Ivory Coast vs Brazil. 6/25 Portugal vs Brazil. Enjoy every minute of every match listed here. It will be epic.