Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Another difficult group to call in this World Cup. The clear favorite is Argentina, though Diego Maradona’s side had a tumultuous qualifying campaign that only saw them clinch a spot to South Africa on the final day of matches. Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece are all harboring hopes of being the second placed team in the group.
Nigeria are a physical side who can boast some top attackers though they are a team that has been inconsistent in recent years. South Korea look primed to finally make a splash at a World Cup on foreign soil, while Greece hope to recapture the spirit of 2004, when the team came out of nowhere to win the European Championship.
Group B is certainly one of the groups that could go all the way to the end of the third matchday before we see who advances. It is one of the less talked about groups, however there is certainly plenty of intrigue here.
What Should Happen
Argentina should waltz through this group. The opener against Nigeria may be a bit tricky, however such is the talent inherent in the Argentine squad that anything less than three points in every match would be a big surprise. Though they struggled through qualification, Argentina are one of the sides in the tournament that have aspirations for winning it all and they have the quality to do so.
It really should be a three-way fight for second as the remaining sides are pretty evenly matched. Between Nigeria’s power, South Korea’s energy, and Greece’s defensive stability it is a real toss up on who will go through. The favorite appears to be Nigeria who if they start to click could make some noise in this first tournament on African soil.
What Might Happen Instead
Argentina showed in the qualifiers that they have the ability to self-destruct. Maradona is far from a calming influence on the team and it remains to be seen whether he has the character to lead Argentina through this tournament. An early defeat or even draw to Nigeria could see doubt start to enter the Argentina camp. If that happens this group could be blown wide open. If Argentina falter early then the rest of the teams in Group B might sense that Maradona’s men are ripe for the taking. Then it could be an epic battle for the top two spots. Likely? No. Possible? Yes.
The two opening fixtures on June 12th figure to set the tone for the action in Group B. Argentina-Nigeria and South Korea-Greece are hugely important for all four sides. In particular, the result of South Korea-Greece could greatly impact the outcome of this section. If Argentina defeat Nigeria as expected and there is a winner in the South Korea-Greece match then Nigeria, the odds-on favorite for second place could be playing catch up and start feeling the pressure.
Players To Watch
Perhaps the most anticipated player to watch in this tournament is reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi. Coming off a 40+ goals season for Barcelona, the World Cup couldn’t come at a better time for the Argentine genius who is looking to lead Argentina to their first World Cup triumph in 24 years.
For Nigeria, hopes of landing the goals that will send them into the knockout rounds will rest at the feet of Obafemi Martins. Though criticized at times for not producing at the international level, Martins has averaged better than a goal every two games for Nigeria (30 caps, 16 goals) and in South Africa fans of the Super Eagles will be hoping that his explosiveness will lead Nigeria to glory.
Ji-Sung Park is undisputedly the heart of the South Korean national team. The Manchester United midfielder embodies all the good that South Korea possess, including skill, non-stop energy and a never-say-die approach to each match. Park’s performances at the World Cup either in the midfield or in a wide position will dictate how South Korea will perform.
A team that struggles to score in bunches, Greece have a striker whose goal-poacher instincts served him well in qualifying. Fanis Gekas finished with 10 goals to lead all European scorers in the qualification campaign and is looking to redeem himself after a poor Euro 2008 showing. Gekas has the knack of being at the right place at the right time, but far from scoring just ‘garbage’ goals, the newly signed Eintracht Frankfurt player is a smart forward who is constantly troubling opposing backlines with his darting runs.
One Game, One World Prediction
Argentina will go through this group as they will overcome whatever demons remain from their CONMEBOL qualification and besides the magical Messi, the firepower they possess with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, and Diego Milito will be too much to handle for the other teams in this group. And though Nigeria are the bookies’ favorites for second place, at OGOW we don’t think that Lars Lagerback has had the time to turn inconsistent, if filled with potential, side into winners. So we are left with South Korea and Greece for second place. Our pick is for Otto Rehhagel’s side to shock observers again with their pragmatic approach. South Korea are improved and it looks like this could be a good tournament for them, but we see them coming up just short again.
- South Korea
What do you think? Will it really be Argentina and Greece like we say? Let us know with your comments!