Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Tomorrow: Saturday, June 12th

Three games tomorrow, as the world takes Saturday off to sit on the couch. Previews of South Korea-Greece, Argentina-Nigeria, and England-USA to follow.

South Korea v. Greece (7:30 AM, Group B)

One-sentence preview: A scintillating matchup between a team that can’t score and one that doesn’t want to.
As always, we’re being slightly unfair here. South Korea actually have a number of talented players through the midfield, where three of their starters (Park Ji-Sung of Man U, Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton, and Ki Sung-Yeung of Celtic) start for competitive British teams. South Korea are known for playing at a high tempo, and for showing good cohesion in open play. What they don’t have is much in the way of size up front or at the back. This leaves them unable to get cheap goals from free kicks, and vulnerable to giving up cheap goals against the run of play.

Greece are almost the mirror image of South Korea. They are massively unexciting through the middle, but are stalwart at the back and well-drilled on set plays (just ask Portugal, who had the ball for what felt like 89 of the 90 minutes against Greece in the Euro ’04 final, but lost 1-0 on set piece.) The tactical wizardry of the team’s appropriately dour German coach, Otto Rehhagel, has been described in lavish detail by, so we won’t even try to explain it here. But expect Greece to happily let South Korea buzz around at will in MF, while clamping down in the penalty area.

Prediction: South Korea 1-0 Greece. We’re high on South Korea this year.

Argentina v. Nigeria (10:00 AM, Group B)

One-sentence preview: The world’s craziest coach takes on the world’s craziest team.

We can’t remember a time when the prevailing opinion on a team was shaped so heavily by the public perception of its coach. Yes, Diego Maradona is nuts, and yes, the last team he was involved in a World Cup game against Nigeria he scored a goal but then failed a post-match drug test. But the real stories for this team are on the field, where there are two big questions: (1) Can Lionel Messi find the form that made him the best club player in the world for Barcelona; and (2) is central midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, who failed out of several top European clubs, good enough to get the ball to Argentina’s attacking talent in good positions?

In theory, Veron’s task should be made easier by the traditionally helter-skelter play of Nigeria. That said, Nigeria’s reputation as the team most likely to score 3 goals while conceding 4 is a little overblown at this point. They were in the middle of the pack in GS and GA at the 2010 African Cup of Nations, and their best player is probably Jon Obi Mikel of Chelsea, who is a midfield destroyer. The problem is that Mikel is hurt, which will leave Nigeria vulnerable at the back. They have the size and speed to match up with Argentina, but the expectation is that Argentina will essentially pass them into submission

Prediction: Argentina 3-1 Nigeria. We believe.

England v. USA (2:30 PM, Group C)


Not much to say here, as this game has been analyzed to death by all and sundry. You don’t need us to tell you more about the US’s injury problems up front and at the back, or that this will probably be the most-watched US soccer match in history.

Our take continues to be that this is a particularly bad matchup for the US, because England plays a similar style with better players. In the absence of a contrast in styles, games usually come down to talent, and England just has more of that. We will say that we think that Oguchi Onyewu’s injury concerns will combine with England’s own injury issues at the back (with D Rio Ferdinand and defensive MF Gareth Barry both out), to ensure that the ball will end up in the back of the net a fair amount. It just won’t be the net we’re hoping for.

Prediction: England 4-2 USA. Match of the round lives up to the hype.

Also, on the off chance that the US is leading coming down the stretch , we’d like to suggest a couple of songs/chants for the US fans to get going. Our top choice would probably be “Are you Scotland in disguise?” though we’d also accept “You’ve still got snooker” as an alternative.

1 comment:

El Angelo said...

Watching this game now, I'm a little disappointed there aren't more SKoreans with pink hair.