01 July 2006

FIFA WM 2006 - Group Stage

The 32 teams that qualify for the World Cup Finals are divided into 8 Groups of 4 teams each & so named Groups A H. In each group, the teams will play each other once & after the 3 matches, the top 2 teams with the highest points will qualify for the 2nd stage. 3 points are awarded for a win, 1 for a draw & nil if you lose a match.

My personal WM 2006 prediction/opinion is that I expect the World Cup to return to South America yet again via Brazil or Argentina, but they will face a strong challenge from the host team, Germany. I am also hoping for a good showing by an African or Asian nation (Ivory Coast & South Korea comes to mind) & Les Bleus to not pack their bags by the end of the Group Stage. What about St. Georges army, you ask? Well, I rate them to survive at most till the quarter finals. Despite the hype & media frenzy, me thinks they aint got what it takes to bring the footballs holy grail home this time around. Anyhow, on to the groups:

Group A: Germany, Ecuador, Poland, Costa Rica
My prediction: Germany & no 2nd choice any of the 3 equally likely
Qualified: Germany, Ecuador

As mentioned in an earlier posting I, while the Finals opened with GER-COS, I was oblivious to it & happily enjoyed watch the rise of Damian Thorn. The Germans made convincing wins in all their matches (watched/ listened to their following 2 matches), as I expected.

Group B: England, Sweden, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago
My prediction: England, Sweden
Qualified: England, Sweden

England never really performed as expected, have they? Nevertheless, 2 wins & a draw with the Swedish allowed them to finish off top of the group. I was wishing Sweden to win against England so that wed have the crunch GER-ENG 2nd Stage game. A special mention should go to T&T for their opening game brilliance in holding off the Swedish.

Group C: Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro
My prediction: Argentina, Ivory Coast
Qualified: Argentina, Holland

The group of death was I to follow. The Argentinians gave us what Id call some of the best football of the tournament in their performance against Ivory Coast & the 6-0 trashing of S&M. However, I was rather turned off by the ARG-HOL. Both teams qualified before their match & their match seemed like a technical exhibition game where Jose Pekerman practically fielded what can be said as a 2nd team. Ivory Coast I rated them to go through being 1 of the greatest African nation teams. Their last victory over S&M came too late after narrow losses over Argentina & Holland. Hopefully, well see them again in 2010 & they qualify beyond the group stage/

Group D: Portugal, Mexico, Angola, Iran
My prediction: Portugal & no 2nd choice any of the 3 equally likely
Qualified: Portugal, Mexico

Portugal did well to win all their 3 games. Didnt really pay too much attention to the other teams.

Group E: Italy, Ghana, Czech Republic, USA
My prediction: Italy, Czech Republic
Qualified: Italy, Ghana

I had no doubt the Azzurri will qualified, on that note, the Czechs too. Both the teams I rate made good winning starts. Then, it happened. The match with 3 red cards changed the focus to the referee instead of the Azzurri or the Americans. The Czech suddenly capitulated against an improved Ghana side who lost to Italy previously & they never recovered their game for their last match. Kudos to Ghana for qualifying.

Group F: Brazil, Australia, Croatia, Japan
My prediction: Brazil, Croatia
Qualified: Brazil, Australia

An indifferent Brazil still managed to conjure enough magic to qualify top of their group. Ronaldo & Ronaldinho never really provided any more than brief glimpses of spark. Australia, after a last minute come back to win against Japan, overcame a 2-0 lost to the Brazilian to provide a gritty performance against the Croatians to qualify from the group.

Group G: Swiss, France, South Korea, Togo
My prediction: France, South Korea
Qualified: Swiss, France

Those like me who follow Les Bleus will have been dreading another early exit from the World Cup Finals. A goalless draw against the Swiss & the conceding of a late equalizer against the Koreans left the French needing a win with a 2 goal difference against Togo, which they duly did. Premonitions were not good for the French who will meet the Spaniards in the 2nd stage. The young Swiss squad played basically defensively & performed well to win against Togo & South Korea.

Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia
My prediction: Spain, Ukraine
Qualified: Spain, Ukraine

The Spaniards are another team that performed well to win all their games. Ukraine, qualifying for the final stages for the 1st time, overcame a high scoring defeat to Spain to win against the other 2 teams. In the end, Tunisia & Saudi Arabia were nothing more than cannon fodder.

To be continued

Till later, live long & prosper.

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