TOUCHLINEUI:THE MISSING 23!

The 2014 World Cup has been noted as the one with most stars missing. The 23 man list of each World Cup bound team has already been submitted. At touchlineui, we bring you our own 23 man list of players that will not be at the world cup even though their teams will be at the mundial. And out of this list, we shall also bring out a possible starting 11. Read, enjoy and share your views…

Diego Lopez (Spain)

diego lopez

 

 

 

 

 

Real Madrid’s first choice goalkeeper for the La Liga was overlooked by Del Bosque. We believe this is not down to his quality though, as it is obvious he is a top goalkeeper, but his absence could be a result of too much talent in the Spanish national team. His teammate, Iker Casillas, will likely captain the side while Reina and De Gea will serve as backup. De Gea must have been selected in order to gain experience for future competitions.

Gael Clichy (France)

gael

 

 

 

 

 

Capped 20 times by France, the City left back looks to have missed the showpiece at Evra’s expense. Nevertheless, his exclusion is surprising as he has been an important player for the Man.City side that did the double. Expressed his disappointment by saying: “It’s life and if it’s my only bad luck then ii am happy because my family are healthy. Of course I am sad, it is a big tournament you don’t want to miss, but I will be fresh for next year, so that is good.”- Daily Mirror

Ashley Cole (England)

cole

 

 

 

 

It has been a difficult year for Ash. First he lost to Azpilicueta and now he lost to Baines. However, his exclusion was not a matter of if but when.

Fabricio Coloccini (Argentina)

fabio

 

 

 

 

 

 

He featured for his country at the 2006 World Cup and has won silverware with the nation at the 2004 Olympic Games. He even featured in their game over Paraguay last year in which they sealed qualification for the Big tournament.

Leiva Lucas (Brazil)

lucas leiva

 

 

 

 

A quality midfielder who can read the game and break down opposition attacks. Was solid for the Liverpool team that almost did the unthinkable. Scolari must have considered him surplus to requirements as Brazil can boast of a depth of talent that other nations would just envy.

Montolivo (Italy),

montolivo

 

 

 

 

 

Van Der Vaart (Netherlands)

Strootman (Netherlands)

They were not dropped but they dropped nonetheless.

van der vaart

 

 

 

 

Their’s something I call – the act of the gods. Their various teams will sorely miss them. Quality midfielders and versatile as well, even the World Cup would miss them.

strootman

 

 

 

 

We at touchline will miss them as well.

Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)

coutinho

 

 

 

 

Greatly instrumental to the Red’s season, scoring 5 and assisting 7 times in 33 games, the Liverpool playmaker obviously failed to impress Scolari. He has Willian, Oscar and their likes to blame though. Coutinho is a promising talent and still has a lot of years to break into the Brazil squad.

Samir Nasri (France)

samir nasri

 

 

 

 

 

Another surprise exclusion by Deschamps. His girlfriend was so disappointed that she lashed out at Deschamps on twitter. A really big miss considering what he would have added to the national side but it is believed that Deschamps must have been considering what Nasri would subtract not add to this national team. A very good player no doubt but his discipline and temper have cost him. Deschamps had this to say: “Samir is an important player for Manchester City but he has not performed that well with France. He is a starter at City, which is not the case with France and he has made clear that he is not happy when he is not (a starter), and I can tell you it can be felt in the squad. I built the best squad, I did not pick the 23 best French players.”

Kaka (Brazil)

kaka

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect playmaker for Brazil for so many years, Kaka could not even make the preliminary squad. It was about time though as he has appeared in all of the World Cup tournament since 2002.

Ronaldinho (Brazil)

ronaldinho

 

 

 

 

 

Well, what is there to say? Time up Ronnie! But Brazil will miss your experience no doubt!

Jesus Navas (Spain)

navas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more popular Jesus had already said that a prophet is not appreciated in his town. One can say this about Navas as well. He was not found worthy to represent the defending champions. And that is a pity considering his splendid season with Man.City in which he scored 4 times and had 7 assists in 30 premier league games. There is doubt if his absence would be felt though.

Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez aka Isco (Spain)

isco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With just 23 starts for Real Madrid last season and most of them in unfamiliar positions, Isco’s fortune may not come as a surprise to many. But considering his technical prowess and playmaking abilities plus lack of form of players like Fabregas, Pedro, Cazorla and Mata, we are amazed that he did not even make the 30 man preliminary squad. Isco’s exclusion is a surprise and, quite possibly, the biggest mistake. Time will tell.

Franck Ribery (France)

ribery

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best wingers in the world, Ribery is out with a back injury. He has been capped 81 times for France, and scored 14 goals for Bayern Munich in all competitions this past season. He is arguably the biggest miss at the World Cup.

Marco Reus(Germany)

reus

 

 

 

 

Team Germany took a big hit Saturday with Reus suffering a partially torn ligament in his left ankle. Reus, after scoring 16 goals and 13 assists during the Bundesliga campaign for Borussia Dortmund, would have been a huge asset for Germany in Brazil. Germany has plenty of depth in the attacking band, but his versatility and playmaking ability cannot be overlooked. Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze will have to pick up. Marco Reus, went down with an ankle injury that will sideline him and end his hopes of playing in Brazil.

reus against armenia

 

 

 

 

 

Reus was injured in a friendly against Armenia in which the Germans won 6-1. Reus had 5 goals and 3 assists for Germany in the UEFA World Cup qualifiers.

Alvaro Negredo (Spain)

negredo

 

 

 

 

An international record of 10 goals in 21 caps should not have been easy to overlook, although overlooking it would have been made easy with Costa’s identity change and Negredo’s uninspiring form towards the end of the season.

Mario Gomez (Germany)

mario gomez

 

 

 

 

 

At 33, Gomez was a long shot especially after playing only nine league games for Fiorentina in the regular season and scoring only three goals.

Giuseppe Rossi (Italy)

rossi

 

 

 

 

After 4 months of injury, Rossi was always in a race to get fit and convince Prandelli. Obviously, he couldn’t. A pity.

Landon Donovan (U.S.A)

landon donovan

 

 

 

 

 

“I was one of the better players in camp” – Donovan. There was no controversy regarding his appearance at the World Cup. In fact there was no debate about his inclusion in the starting 11. But lo and behold, the vastly experienced American will not be in Brazil. There is nothing Klinsmann can say to justify Donovan’s exclusion. It is not just about his ability on the pitch, which is superb no doubt, but Donovan’s experience and presence will always serve as a morale booster in any football team’s dressing room. As Nigerian students will say, Klinsmann was just ‘beefing’. A 3-time World Cup veteran, the 32-year-old is the U.S. national team’s all time leader with 57 goals and 58 assists. We believe that this is a consequence of his nearly four-month sabbatical from soccer, missing 3 World Cup qualifiers.

Fernando Llorente (Spain)

Llorente

 

 

 

 

 

Another missing star is Llorente, who scored over a dozen goals in all competitions for Juventus. He must be regretting he came from Spain.

 Carlos Tevez (Argentina)

tevez

 

 

 

 

He must have been dropped due to his volatile nature. Tevez’ disciplinary problems are well known and though his talents are undisputed, Argentina can still do without Him.

Radamel Falcao (Colombia)

falcao

 

 

 

 

The star striker was included in the 30-man preliminary squad, but the torn Achilles injury he suffered in January will keep him home for the World Cup. He’s one of the most prolific attackers in the world, scoring 70 goals in two years for Atletico Madrid before moving to Monaco and scoring 11 more.

Falcao

 

 

 

 

 

There was hope that Falcao could be fit in time for the World Cup, but that won’t be the case. Colombia has lost a top goal scorer and will need someone to step up and fill the big shoes left by Falcao, as they face Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Brazil.

Starting 11: 3-4-3

The formation has been adapted to the available personnel. We did not choose the best 11 players but we chose the best eleven-man team. Now we sound like Deschamps!

Diego Lopez (goalkeeper)

Quite obvious, the only stopper in our 23-man squad

Ashley Cole (left centreback)

Beats Clichy to it. Although not a really familiar position, we believe he will perform better than Clichy. In this formation, while the team is with the ball, he can go wide left.

Coloccini (centre back)

The rock of the defence. Surely he is comfortable with this.

Lucas Leiva (right centre back)

Not his conventional position but his only chance of getting into this team. He can also move to right back while the team attacks.

Ricardo Montolivo (defensive midfielder)

montolivo

 

 

 

 

 

Plays as the anchor man in this team. Drops to support Coloccini while the team attacks but remains in central midfield while it defends.

Van Der Vaart (central midfielder)

rafael

 

 

 

 

Plays as an advanced central midfielder here. He still has defensive responsibilities though, as he is expected to track wide when the team is without the ball but moves forward while the team attacks.

Kevin Strootman (central midfielder)

Pairs with Van Der Vaart in the middle of the park. He is the less advanced of the 2, drifting wide right while defending but remaining in central midfield with Montolivo while attacking.

Landon Donovan (attacking midfielder)

Antigua and Barbuda v United States

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drops back to midfield while the team defends but is expected to support Falcao while the team attacks. He has a free role to play as he can drift into wide positions or even the no.9 position as the match dictates. He is also the playmaker and is expected to link the defence and attack.

Marco Reus (left wing forward)

marco reus

 

 

 

 

Beats Isco to the starting 11 due to his prolific form. He serves as an outlet on the left and is allowed to cut in to the right while with the ball. He is expected to track back as well and be an outlet for counter attacks.

Franck Ribery (right wing forward)

France v Finland - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

 

 

 

 

 

He has the same duties as Reus.

Falcao (striker)

radamel_falcao

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is expected to be Falcao i.e. score goals. His ability in the air should also come to the fore as crosses come in from the flanks. He is expected to play as the target man, holding up play with his strength and playing in his teammates.

Penalty Kick Taker: Falcao

Free Kick Taker: Van Der Vaart

Corner Kick Taker: Ribery

Captain: Van Der Vaart

Throw-in taker: Nearest man.

 Who do you think will be most missed?

Will these missing players take the shine off the World Cup?

TOUCHLINEUI: 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP GROUP F PREVIEW: FOCUS ON ARGENTINA AND BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

South American Giants and two-time World Champions, Argentina and World Cup Debutants, Bosnia and Herzegovina make up the rest of the Group F.

FIFA World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the two sides, the primary target would be to advance from the Group that has African Champions, Nigeria and Asia’s Number One Side, Iran completing the pool.

 

 

 

 

 

For Argentina, that won’t represent a success as the aim would be World Cup Glory and what better place to do it than the home of their Eternal Rivals, Brazil.

 

 

 

 

 

Should they triumph, it would be their first since 1986 when Maradona led them to success in Mexico and would also cement Messi’s place as the best in the game.

Bosnia-Herzegovina_national_football_team

 

 

 

 

 

Qualification to the Next Round for Bosnia would however represent a success for a Country still recovering from war and with an unemployment rate of 25%. It’s their début and Susic men would want to make a long-lasting impression in Brazil.

3 BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Bosnia-Herzegovina_national_football_team

 

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: Zmajevi( Dragons)

CAPTAIN: Emar Spahic

FIFA RANKING: 21st

MOST CAPS: Zvjezdan Misimovic (82)

misimovic

 

 

 

 

 

MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Zvjezdan Misimovic (82)

MOST GOALS: Edin Dzeko (35)

dzeko

 

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Edin Dzeko – 35 goals in 62 appearances for his Country

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This is their first appearance at the World Cup Finals

BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE FINALS: None

HEAD COACH: Safet Susic

susic

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-2-3-1/ 4-1-3-2

KEY PLAYER: Edin Dzeko

edin dzeko

 

 

 

 

Dzeko is the man who leads this team. He finished second in the European qualifiers with 10 goals. The 28 year old is not the fastest of Forwards but he’s one of the best Finishers around.

Dzeko

 

 

 

 

He’s also coming off the back of a good end to the season with Manchester City and found the back of the net in their 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.

He has won 62 caps and plundered 35 goals while for the Citizens, He scored 26 goals and assisted a further 16 in 48 matches.

Bosnia, a country of less than four million individuals would hope the Manchester City Forward brings such fearsome form to Brazil and fire the Dragons to the next Round.

Pjanic

 

 

 

 

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Asmir Begovic, Miralem Pjanic, Senad Lulic and Vedad Ibisevic

Ibisevic

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: Topped Group G in the UEFA Qualifying Section with 25 Points. The Dragons finished ahead of Greece on Goal Difference.

STRENGTHS:

ATTACK:

Bosnia-and-Herzegovina-National-Football-Team

 

 

 

 

Susic has got Bosnia playing with attacking intent and with the natural goal-scorers in Dzeko and Ibisevic; they look a threat every time they head towards the opposition goal.

 

 

 

 

In the Qualifiers, the Dragons scored 30 goals in 10 games with Dzeko amassing ten (second highest in Europe) and Strike Partner, Ibisevic hitting eight.

With this attacking threats and Pjanic also deadly from the set pieces, goal-scoring is one thing Susic would not have to deal with at the World Cup.

pjanic

 

 

 

 

 

They also a highly technical side and could be lethal in possession.

Against teams like Nigeria and Iran, expect the Dragons to go for the juggernaut.

MIDFIELD

They have talent in the midfield; Pjanic is a very good passer but it’s from the dead ball situation that he’s a deadly weapon, Lulic of Lazio is hardworking  and is equally creative.

lulic

 

 

 

 

 

Misimovic, the Bosnian Captain and chief playmaker is also adept at his position.

Against defensive teams like Iran, having this talent in midfield could just be the key.

GOALKEEPEER

In Stoke’s Begovic, they’ve got an outstanding and experienced shot-stopper

Asmir-Begovic

 

 

 

 

 

WEAKNESSES:

DEFENCE

For all the talent up front, the defence still remains very much of a worry. The team does not have World Class players in that department and could struggle against Argentina and to a lesser extent, Nigeria.

México vs Bosnia y Herzegovina

 

 

 

 

In the Qualifiers, despite being in the same Group as goal-shy Greece and the likes of Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein offering little or no threat, they still conceded six goals.

INEXPERIENCE

This is Bosnia’s first World Cup appearance and for all the Players, this is a new territory which most of them could be overwhelmed by the occasion.

Bosnia

 

 

 

 

 

The likes of Dzeko, Pjanic and Lulic should be able to deal with the pressure. Unfortunately, that’s just the few that play top-tier Football which means the World Cup could be a rude exposure to the inexperienced and untested players in their ranks.

IMBALANCE IN THE MIDFIELD

For all the talent in the midfield, Bosnia unfortunately has no one who can offer protection to a vulnerable defence.

Defeats against Argentina and Egypt exposed the flaws of a lack of defensive midfielder.

 

 

 

 

Teams like Argentina with a fearsome attack would have a free-ride to the defence

 

SUSIC REACTION:

susic

 

 

 

 

“Having seen the other groups, we can be satisfied. We don’t need to be unhappy, even though we share the group with Argentina, who are one of the favorites to win the world championship. Of the other teams, one is clearly weaker than us: Iran. The other, Nigeria, has in the worst-case scenario the same qualities we have, although they have more experience in World Cups. I believe we will fight for the second place with them”

GROUP CHANCES:

They’ll be happy with the draw and would be optimistic of their chances of qualifying. Victories over Ivory Coast and Mexico in their warm-up matches would suggest that they are ready for Brazil and they shouldn’t be taken lightly by their Group Opponents.

 

 

 

 

Against Argentina, expect the Susic to ditch his 4-1-3-2 in favor of a 4-2-3-1 Formation to counter the attacking threat of Sabella’s men. A defeat would not harm their chances at that stage but a point or even a victory won’t be bad either.

Against the Super Eagles, expect a more attacking Bosnia side. The game should be the most important for the two sides because any side that wins would have a greater chance of progressing,

 

 

 

 

Against Iran, they’ll go for the broke in order to boost their Goal Difference Margin. Interestingly, they’ve never beaten Iran in any competitive match.

Overall, I expect them to fight for a second place finish with Nigeria which means their game against the Super Eagles would most likely determine their fate.

Dzeko

 

 

 

 

They should not have problems finding the back of the net but stopping the goals at his end is a riddle Susic has to solve.

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS ( W-D-L) – 0-0-2 against Argentina, 0-1-4 against Iran, yet to play the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA SQUAD FOR THE WORLD CUP:

  • GOALKEEPERS: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City), Asmir Avdukic (Borac Banja Luka) and Jasmin Fejzic (VFR Aalen)
  • DEFENDERS: Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Sunjic ( Zorya Lugansk), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke 04), Ognjen Vranjes (Elazigspor), Ermin Bicakcic (Eintracht Braunschweig), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros) and Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg)
  • MIDFIELDERS: Miralem Pjanic (Roma), Izet Harjovic (Galatasaray), Haris Medunjanin (Gaziantepspor), Senad Lulic (Lazio), Anel Hadzic (Sturm), Tino Susic (Hajduk), Senad Salihovic (Hoffenheim) ,Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhour Renhe), Senijad Ibricic (Erciyesspor) and Avdija Vrsaljevic (Hajduk).
  • FORWARDS: Vedad Ibisevic (VFB Stuttgart), Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) and Edin Visca (Instanbul BB)

WORLD CUP ODDS: 150/1

 

 

4 ARGENTINA

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: La Albiceleste

CAPTAIN: Lionel Messi

messi

 

 

 

 

FIFA RANKING: 5th

MOST CAPS: Javier Zanetti (145)

zanetti

 

 

 

 

 

MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Javier Mascherano (97)

mascherano

 

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS: Gabriel Batistuta (56)

batistuta

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Lionel Messi (37 goals in 85 caps till date)

leo Messi

 

 

 

 

 

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This would Argentina’s 15th appearance at the Mundial with their first in 1930.

BEST PERFOMANCE AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Winners in 1978 and 1986

HEAD COACH: Alejandro Sabella

sabella

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-3-3

KEY PLAYER: Lionel Messi

 

 

 

 

He’ll be hoping to the lead his beloved country to glory next year having underwhelmed in his first two attempts.

He’s not had the best of the seasons but for Argentina and especially under Sabella, since he’s become the Captain, he’s looked more like the Player we see at Barcelona.

If He rediscovers his best form, then Argentina chances of a third World Cup would be strengthened.

lionel messi

 

 

 

 

 

World Cup Success for the Whites and Sky Blues would reinforce the argument of Messi being the greatest of all time.

Over to you Leo!

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero,Javier Masherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

higuain

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: First in CONMEBOL Qualifying Section with 32 Points

STRENGTHS:

ATTACK:

Higuain-Aguero

 

 

 

 

 

The trio of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi are on paper the best attacking trio of any team going to the World Cup. They’ll be the envy of most sides in Brazil and for the opposition defence, the worst nightmare.

 

lavezzi

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also have PSG’s  Lavezzi and Inter’s Palacio; the former, a tricky player who can score but most importantly deadly from the set pieces and the latter, Inter’s top Forward.

 

la albiceleste

 

 

 

 

 

They are all coming on the back of fantastic seasons;Higuain scored 24 goals and assisted 12 in 46 games, Kun found the back of the net 28 times and assisted a further 14 in 34 games,Palacio finished with 19 goals and 8 assists in 39 appearances, Lavezzi, 12 goals and 7 assists in 48 appearances while the chief attacking threat, Lionel Messi, despite having an average season thanks to the high standards he’s set, finished with 41 goals and 15 assists in just 46 appearances for Barcelona.

aguero

 

 

 

 

The front three is supported by Real Madrid winger- cum midfielder, Angel Di Maria. He also plays as the Advanced Playmaker in the 3 man midfield of Argentina.

DI MARIA

 

 

 

 

 

He ended what was an excellent season for him with 12 goals and 26 assists in 52 matches.

They form the “Los Cuatro Fantasticos”-the Fantastic Four.

 

Favourable weather conditions and easier travel schedule could be an advantage in terms of fitness and support.

WEAKNESSES:

DEFENCE:

This department is still the suspect of the highly talented team despite efforts by Sabella to make it more stable.

demichelis

 

 

 

 

It should not be troubled by the sides in the Group but if La Albiceleste wants to go far, then attention must be paid to the back line or the bigger sides would expose the frailties.

The full back positions are also far from secure with only Zabaleta looking the assured one

zabaleta

 

 

 

 

 

GOALKEEPER:

Despite Wily Caballero being a first choice Goalkeeper for Malaga, Sabella still decided to call-up Sergio Romero who made only 9 appearances with 3 in League for Principality Side, Monaco.

 

romero

 

 

 

 

 

He could potentially be a weak link as he’ll go to Brazil short of match fitness and confidence.

Orion, his backup does not inspire much confidence behind a vulnerable back line.

IMBALANCED TEAM:

Against the smaller sides, Argentina’s attacking force would ensure that the imbalance in the attack and the midfield is not exposed but against the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany, they could easily be overrun in the midfield and that would be down to the fact that they’ve only one natural ball winner, Javier Mascherano

argentina

 

 

 

 

The team’s default is to attack but when they are prevented from doing that, the back line and the weak midfield won’t hold the bigger sides at bay.

SABELLA’S REACTION:

 

sabella

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ratings and predictions are difficult and I don’t like them, but if the ‘groups of death’ are a 10, I would say we were lucky because we avoided them… It’s a good group in terms of geography because we have two short trips and we also play a game in Belo Horizonte, which is where we will be based. To kick off at the Maracana makes us proud for what it signifies in both South American and world football. I’d be a hypocrite if I said Argentina weren’t the strongest team of the four, but football is the most illogical of sports. In general terms, I’m moderately optimistic”

GROUP CHANCES: An easy draw and football fans would be shocked if they don’t qualify as Group Winners.

messi

 

 

 

 

 

The attack should cover for whatever deficiencies they have at the defence line at this stage of the tournament.

The last group match against Nigeria should be the pick of the group matches

kun

 

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS: (W-D-L): 4-1-1 against Nigeria, 2-0-0 against Bosnia, yet to play against Iran.

di maria2 di maria against Nigeria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARGENTINA’S SQUAD FOR THE WORLD CUP:

  • GOALKEEPERS: Sergio Romero(Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania) and Agustin Orion(Boca Juniors)
  • DEFENDERS: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez( Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagrano (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City)and Jose Basanta (Monterrey)
  • MIDFIELDERS: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan),Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys) and Enzo Perez (Benfica)
  • FORWARDS: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan) and Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint Germain).

 

garay

 

 

 

 

 

WORLD CUP ODDS: 9/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOUCHLINEUI: 2014 WORLD CUP GROUP F PREVIEW: FOCUS ON NIGERIA AND IRAN

Argentina and Nigeria would once again rekindle their rivalry at the Group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For the Super Eagles, it would be the fourth time in their five appearances that they would be paired up against the South American giants having being in the same group in 1994, 2002 and 2010.

FIFA World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are joined by debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina and Asian side Iran.

 

 

 

 

Argentina are seen as clear favorites to not only qualify but also top the Group with most pundits tipping the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Zmajevi of Bosnia to battle for second place which leaves Iran as bookmakers bet to finish bottom.

Would there be a twist in the tale?

Would Iran defy the odds and book their place in the Next Round?

Would the weight of expectation overwhelm the Bosnians?

Would the Super Eagles win a World Cup Game for the first time in sixteen years (1998)?

 

 

 

 

So many questions that would be answered in a couple of weeks time but for now, let’s take a peep into the teams and see what could strengthen or mar their chances of World Cup Glory.

We’ll kick off with the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Team Melli of Iran with the Preview on Argentina and Bosnia coming up afterwards.

Enjoy the Ride!

 

1 IRAN

Iran National Football Team

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: Team Melli Iran

CAPTAIN: Javad Nekounam

Nekounam

 

 

 

 

FIFA RANKING: 37th

MOST CAPS: Ali Daei (149)

Ali Daei

 

 

 

 

MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Javad Nekounam (137)

MOST GOALS: Ali Daei (109)

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Javad Nekounam (37)

Nekounam

 

 

 

 

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This will be their fourth appearance at the World Cup. Their first was at the 1978 World Cup.

BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: First Round, the 1978 World Cup, the 1998 World Cup and the 2006 World Cup.

 HEAD COACH: Carlos Queiroz

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-2-3-1

KEY PLAYER: Reza Ghoochanneljhad:

With 9 goals in 11 caps, the Charlton would be key to whatever chances Iran would have in Brazil.

Ghoochanneljhad

 

 

 

 

He’s got pace and would be the key creative outlet for his team.

Big Job ahead for Him!

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Karim Ansari, Javad Nekounam and Ashkan Dejagah

Ashkan Dejagah

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS:  First in Group A of the Asian Qualifying Section. Finished ahead of South Korea

STRENGTHS:

 STRONG TEAM ETHIC:

 

 

 

 

As typical of every Queiroz side, this Iran team is well organized, defend in numbers and look to catch their opponents on the break using the pace of talisman, Ghoochanneljhad.

Ghoochanneljhad

 

 

 

 

They conceded only two goals in eight matches during the final round of qualifying and that should say a lot about their defensive strength.

With Jala Hosseini the main-man in defence,it’s easy to see why they’ve been strong defensively.

Hosseini

 

 

 

 

This approach has worked in Asia. Would it work at the World Stage in Brazil?

UNDERDOGS:

Team Melli, on paper, are clear underdogs in the Group which means the other teams would see them as the whipping boys and would go all out against them to boost their Goal difference margin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This aggressive approach to be adopted by their Group Opponents would play into the hands of Queiroz side who would exploit spaces left behind and with a certain Reza, you never know, we could be having a 2014 version of Greece 04 in Group F.

 

 

 

 

Also, having the tag of an underdog will mean they play with less pressure as the Argentines, the Super Eagles and Bosnia simply have to win.

COACH

Querioz

 

 

 

 

 

They might not have finest of players around but in Queiroz, they have someone who has worked with the very best and at the very best.

 

 

 

 

The 61 year old was on two different occasion, Assistant Coach to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Switched between those periods, he had a spell as the Manager of Real Madrid

At the International Stage, Queiroz managed South Africa between 2000 and 2002 and was the Head Coach of Portugal at the 2010 World Cup.

With the Team Melli, he’s lost only five of his thirty-seven games till date with a win-loss percentage of 51.35%.

He’ll definitely have no business kicking the ball, but with his instructions from the dugout, you can expect some magic.

WEAKNESSES:

LACK OF QUALITY PREPARATION

Iran V Angola

 

 

 

 

 

Failure to get top-class opposition has forced Queiroz men to play the likes of Angola, Belarus and Montenegro with Jovetic side looking the only above average side.

Iran V Montenegro

 

 

 

 

 

With due respect to the teams, it’s not the ideal of preparation as these teams won’t expose their flaws  which could then be ruthlessly dealt with at the World Cup by the likes of Argentina, Bosnia and Nigeria.

GOAL-SCORING PROBLEMS

They’ve struggled to score goals. They found the back of the net eight times during qualifiers and in their friendly matches this year, they lost 2-1 to Guinea, drew 0-0 with Belarus, played out another stalemate with Montenegro and then a 1-1 draw with Angola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also lack of depth in this team and lastly creativity in the midfield is an issue. They could struggle to create opportunities against the bigger sides.

OUEIROZ’S REACTION:

“I cannot give a number. The key will be in our preparation. If we work hard, we will have a good opportunity. If not, we won’t be in a position to take our chance. For us, qualification was hell, so being in this group now is like heaven.

Querioz

 

 

 

 

 

For my players, it should be an honour to play against these rivals and it is important they go out and enjoy every minute of every match, eager to make it to the second round. Facing Argentina at the Maracana?

Let’s hope we can give Argentina a headache… Dreaming doesn’t pay the bills!”

GROUP CHANCES:

On paper, they should be the group’s whipping boys. Football has however thrown and would still throw upsets. Who says they can’t cause an upset here?

 

 

 

 

The first game against Nigeria is in all fairness not the most difficult of starts but if there is any team they should feel confident against, it should be Bosnia who they’ve never lost to.

That said and done, it would be a shock if they don’t finish fourth.

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS: (W-D-L): 0-0-1 against Nigeria, 4-1-0 against Bosnia, yet to play against Argentina.

IRAN’S SQUAD FOR THE FIFA WORLD CUP:

GOALKEEPERS: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan) and Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan).

DEFENDERS: Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir- Hossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal) and Mehrdad Pouladi (Persepolis)

MIDFIELDERS: Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian(Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahman (Foolad)and Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan)

Dejagah

 

 

 

 

FORWARDS: Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham), Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Reza Ghoochanneljhad (Charlton),Karim Ansarifard (Tractor Saz, on loan from Persepolis) and Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal).

WORLD CUP ODDS: 750/1

2 NIGERIA

Nigeria National Football Team

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: Super Eagles

CAPTAIN: Vincent Enyeama

Enyeama

 

 

 

 

FIFA RANKING: 44th

MOST CAPS: Joseph Yobo (96)

Yobo

 

 

 

 

MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Joseph Yobo (96)

MOST GOALS: Rashidi Yekini (37)

Yekini

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Emmanuel Emenike and Peter Odemwingie (10)

 

 

 

 

 

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This is the Super Eagles fifth appearance at the Mundial. Their début was at the 1994 World Cup in the United States of America.

BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Round of Sixteen (1994 and 1998). At the1994 World Cup, the Super Eagles lost to Roberto Baggio’s winner for Italy in extra-time while in the 1998 World, they were pummeled 4-1 by Denmark.

HEAD COACH: Stephen Keshi

Keshi

 

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-3-3/4-2-3-1

KEY PLAYER:

Emenike might bang in goals, Enyeama might prevent them at the other end but there’s no denying who the main man is, it’s Chelsea Man, John Obi Mikel.

Mikel

 

 

 

 

 

This last year has seen put his best performances in the Green and White Jersey and most Nigerians would hope he can come up with a similar level of performance after a lean season with the Blues.

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike at Chelsea where he shields the defence to prevent goals, for the Super Eagles, he has the responsibility of piercing through the opposition defence to create goals.

He is the main hope of Nigeria in terms of creativity as he is surrounded by ball-winners and others who are yet to justify their worth in the Eagles Jersey.

Mikel

 

 

 

 

 

Should he come up with a brilliant outing and possibly add a few goals, then a country of over 150 million inhabitants would have a reason to smile.

He made 36 appearances for Chelsea this last season, scored twice and also had an assist while for Nigeria; he has four goals in fifty one caps till date.

It is worthy of mention that this would be his first appearance at the mundial at the ripe age of 27.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Emmanuel Emenike, Vincent Enyeama, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi and Victor Moses.

Victor Moses

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS:

Topped Group F of the CAF Qualifying Section with 12 points, 5 clear of Malawi to advance to the play-off where Keshi’s Men saw off the challenge of East African side, Ethiopia, 4-1 on aggregate to book their ticket to Brazil.

STRENGTHS:

COLLECTIVE UNIT:

Unlike other African Countries who rely on individuals to bail them out, the Super Eagles under Keshi has become a collective unit with the emphasis on team rather than individuals.

Nigeria National Team

 

 

 

 

Playing as a unit, among other reasons, makes it difficult for the opposition to target individuals and when individuals go missing, others can step up the plate and not suffer a meltdown.

The only other African Country at the World Cup that has a better team play than the Eagles is the Black Stars of Ghana but unfortunately, they are in a Group of Death.

Arsene Wenger’s assertion that a greater team play could see the Super Eagles qualify for the next Round is spot on.

ATTACK:

Emenike

 

 

 

 

In Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria boasts a wonderful attacking triumvirate that can trouble any defence.

Moses

 

 

 

 

 

Others like Ameobi and Uchebo offer something different to Keshi in terms of aerial threat and direct play which would no doubt be an asset.

Ameobi

 

 

 

 

Not only do the Eagles have them in quantity but also in quality; Musa and Moses bring pace and direct running which would run fear into opposition fullbacks while the likes of Uchebo and Shola have impressed and scored in recent friendly matches against Scotland and Italy respectively.

GOALKEEPER

Enyeama would be going to the World Cup not only as Africa’s Best Goalie but also as one of the best in Europe after a remarkable season with Lille that saw equal an 11 successive clean sheet French Record at some point.

Enyeama

 

 

 

 

 

This is the 31 year old 3rd appearance at the Finals and with the experience garnered through the years, Nigerians have no worries about that department.

He’ll once be expected to thwart Messi and Co as he did in South Africa

 

 

 

 

For the record, he made 38 appearances for Lille, conceded 26 and kept a whooping 21 clean sheets.

WEAKNESSES:

IMBALANCE IN THE TEAM:

The 23 man list released by Keshi on Monday raised eye-brows and made some eyes roll .That’s, among other reasons, down to the fact that there’s an imbalance in the side.

Starting from the defence, the writer wonders why the Big Boss decided to go with Five Central Defenders out of the eight Outfield defenders going to the World Cup.

Odunlami

 

 

 

 

 

Someone might raise the issue of Odunlami being a right back backup to Efe Ambrose but anyone who watched the Friendly against Gordon Starchen’s Scotland would agree with me that the Sunshine Stars Defender is better as Central Back and ill-suited for the Right Back Position where he was consistently skinned by the Scot Winger, Ikechi Anya.

Moving to the midfield, Keshi picked only 5 midfielders with only one, Mikel, the closest to creativity. The likes of Onazi and Azeez are better winning the ball and for Michael Babatunde and Reuben Gabriel; I simply don’t know where they fit in as I’m literally racking my brain as to how their names got in the list (with all due respect).

Onazi

 

 

 

 

 

That leaves the entire creative burden on Chelsea’s defensive Midfielder, Mikel Obi. Against defensive teams like Iran, it might be a little difficult to break them down if the Super Eagles decide to go through the middle and against sterner opposition like Argentina and Bosnia, the Eagles would not see enough of the ball to expose the weakest links of these teams, the defence.

The Big Boss probably realized his gaffe and decided to play Odemwingie in the ‘hole’ or better still as an Advanced Playmaker in the 4-2-3-1 Formation in yesterdays bore draw against Greece.

Ozaze against Greece (0-0)

 

 

 

 

 

The experiment failed spectacularly as the 32 year old is not a playmaker but it will interesting to see if he persists with it, and should he, whether it will draw a reaction from the Stoke Forward should things go wrong.

DEFENCE:

It still looks a suspect to me; Ambrose and Echiejile play more like wing-backs and could be punished on the break and backups, Kunle Odunlami and Juwon Oshaniwa don’t inspire any sort of confidence.

 

Ambrose

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle, Omeruo and Oboabona look settled but should they get injured or suspended, then the doors would be flung open for Azubuike and Yobo to take centre stage.

 

Omeruo

 

 

 

 

 

The former looks decent with decent performances but could be turned inside out rather too easily in a way that the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson would be proud of while the latter has the experience and brain but unfortunately no legs.

NO QUALITY BACK-UPS

Apart from the starting eleven which looks strong, there are no quality backups.

Austin-Ejide

 

 

 

 

 

 

The goal-keeping department looked secure until last week when Ejide reminded Nigerians and the rest of the World that he was equally adept as a Comedian with  an howler against Scotland at the Craven Cottage.

In the defence, Odunlami and Oshaniwa would send Nigerian hearts racing should they come in as substitutes against Argentina with the likes of Messi, Kun and Di Maria.

juwon-oshaniwa

 

 

 

 

 

 

The midfield also lacks creativity.

While other teams would call upon a super sub, for Nigeria, it could be a case of the starters playing well.

LACK OF COHESION OR POOR CONCENTRATION

The lack of cohesion and concentration in this side means they play well against the bigger sides but still ultimately lose. This has not been solved and could rear its ugly head at the showpiece.

Torres against Nigeria(FIFA Confederations Cup)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defeats against Spain, Uruguay and the draw against Italy all met the regular chorus “they played well”

Gambo

 

 

 

 

 

KESHI’S REACTION:

Keshi

 

 

 

 

“I would rate it as a six because we play against three teams with totally different playing styles. We don’t know Iran or Bosnia in great detail yet, but it seems as if we play against Argentina in every World Cup – and it has always been difficult. Obviously I respect all three, though we have no reason to fear any of them. The most important thing is to prepare for the first game because that will show us what we are made of”

GROUP CHANCES:

This is a fair draw for the Eagles which would no doubt leave most fans optimistic about their chances of progressing. History has however shown that while they play better against the stronger sides, they struggle against the less fancied ones.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagles picked up only one point in the 2010 Group B that contained the likes of Greece and South Korea and it took them until the third game of the 2013 AFCON to seal their qualification after being drawn against Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia. None of their group opponents; especially Iran and Bosnia should be underestimated.

The key game should be against Bosnia with one of the two most likely to qualify with Argentina.

 

 

 

 

Games against Argentina, “Nigeria’s fierce lovers” have always ended in slender margins so the fans should probably not expect a bashing.

As for the Semi-Final target, that looks highly unlikely but a decent draw against one of the weaker sides in Group E, should they progress out of the Group, could see the Super Eagles set a National Best of the Quarter-Final which would be an achievement.

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:

The Super Eagles and Argentina have met six times on the International Stage with the South Americans winning four, held once and losing the other one.

Iran and Nigeria have previously met once and it was a Friendly Match which the West African Side won 1-0

Bosnia and Nigeria have however not met in any competitive fixture. The World Cup would be the first.

NIGERIA’S 23 MAN SQUAD FOR THE 2014 WORLD CUP

  • GOALKEEPERS: Vincent Enyeama(Lille), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva) and Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United)
  • DEFENDERS: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwueke (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod),Joseph Yobo (Norwich, on loan from Fenerbache)and Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars).
  • MIDFIELDERS: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ramon                Azeez (Almeria), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Reuben Gabriel (Waasland-Beveren) and Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk).

 

 

 

 

 

FORWARDS: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbache), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Peter Odemwingie ( Stoke City), Victor Moses (Liverpool, on loan from Chelsea) and Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen).

WORLD CUP ODDS: 200/1

 

 

 

 

 

TOUCHLINEUI: 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP GROUP C PREVIEW :FOCUS ON GREECE AND COLOMBIA

The Preview on Group C continues and we’ll be looking at two teams with contrasting styles of play.

FIFA World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colombia, like most typical South American sides, is an attacking that can score goals and have lots of flair while at the same time not losing their physicality and ability to keep the ball. They’ll be making their first appearance at the Finals since 1998 and with the talent in Pekerman’s side; they are tipped as one of the dark horses going into this Competition.

Colombia National Football Team

 

 

 

 

 

Greece on the other hand, is a side not known for scoring lots of goals but known for scoring the important ones, which, most times are heartbreaking.

Greece National Football Team

 

 

 

 

Fernando Santos Army will be making their third appearance at the showpiece and will be hoping to advance out of the Group for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Out of all the teams in this Group, Greece is the only one which bases it style on its defence and solidity.

Would the safety approach method count?

OR

Would the attacking sides overwhelm them?

The coming Weeks would give a better picture but for now, let’s Preview the Teams!

 

3 GREECE

NICKNAME: EthnikI

CAPTAIN: Giorgos Karagounis

Karagounis

 

 

 

 

 

FIFA RANKING: 10th

MOST CAPS: Giorgos Karagounis (132)

MOST CAPS (Current Squad): Giorgos Karagounis (132)

MOST GOALS: Nikos Anastopoulos (29)

MOST GOALS (Current Squad): Theofanis Gekas (24)

gekas

 

 

 

 

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This is their 3rd appearance at the showpiece and their first was in 1994.

BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE FINALS: Group Stage both in US 1994 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Finished bottom in 1994 with no points, no goals conceded 10 while in South Africa, they scored their first goals and picked up their first points against Nigeria. They finished on 3 points with 2 goals scored and 5 conceded.

HEAD COACH: Fernando Santos

 

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-3-3

KEY PLAYER: Konstantinos Mitroglou:

mitroglou

 

 

 

 

For a Team with little goal-scoring pedigree, it’s good to know they can count on the availability of a certain 26 year old, Mitroglou.

The 26 year old, with Olympiakos, set the Greek League ablaze before sealing a January deadline move to now relegated, Fulham. He was on 17 goals in 17 games before the big money move in January

 

 

 

 

He’ll shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities as Greece would attempt to advance to the next Round for the first time.

On the downside, injuries have marred his stay in England as he’s managed only 153 minutes of Football with the Cottagers before injury struck with no goals scored.

The Greeks would hope He puts that aside and fire Santos men to the Next Round.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Giorgios Samaras, Vasilis Torosidis, Theofanis Gekas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos

samaras

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished 2nd in the UFEA Qualifying Group G on 25 points. Finished 2nd to Bosnia and Herzegovina by virtue of Goal Difference (+8 to +24). Beat Romania in the play-off 4-2 on aggregate.

STRENGTHS:

TEAM SPIRIT

 

 

 

 

The team Spirit is incredible and they always refuse to go down without giving a fight. No one in this team typifies that Spirit better than Captain, Giorgos Karagounis who was a member of Euro 2004 winning side.

Euro 2004

 

 

 

 

 

Since the 2004 Euros, they’ve consistently always been in the Top 20 without altering their style or being an expansive side. It’s been solely down to the desire to win regardless of how it’s done; be it long range shot, a set piece, or even a goalmouth scrambled goal, the will is always there.

 

 

 

 

 

It would be best none of their Group Opponents underestimate them as that could be at their own peril.

SOLIDITY

Despite the fact Fernando Santos has more attacking options, unlike Rehhagel’s side of 2004, they still very much retain that defensive and compact structure the 04 side is famed for.

In their Ten Qualifying Matches played, the Greeks kept a total of 8 clean sheets and conceded just four goals.

 

 

 

 

The biggest challenge for their opponents would be trying to stage a comeback after going behind.

WEAKNESSES:

For all their industry and tremendous work rate, they lack creativity in the midfield which no doubt is a big reason why they struggle to score goals. Karagounis, their main man in the middle is 37 and has lost most of his creative lustre. It’s a little unfortunate that they rely on him because they’ll most likely struggle.

 

 

 

 

Their safe bet? Set Pieces!

GOAL-SCORING PROBLEMS

Fernando Santos men might have conceded only four goals in their Qualifiers but they found the back of the net just twelve times. That is at an average of 1.2 goals per game.

It might not look much of a problem because they are built on solidity but against sides that score goals for fun like their Group Opponents, it could be one.

 

 

 

 

With their Star Striker coming off a disappointing début season with now relegated Fulham, the likes of Samaras would have to set up to the plate and deliver the goods.

COUNTER-ATTACK

I am a fan of it especially when you’ve got fast paced attackers like Chelsea’s who can mince through the best of defences. Remember City V Chelsea?

On the downside, when Counter-attacking sides have to take the initiative when they go a goal down or against Teams you expect to over raw, then it suddenly becomes a problem.

Why? They are built on exploiting space rather than looking for space.

 

 

 

 

 

The best bet for Greece, a typical counter-attacking side, would be score first and sit back. Should they concede first.phew! That would be a big problem.

Food for thought: Amongst other reasons, what do you think cost Chelsea the EPL Title?

FERNANDO’S REACTION:

 

 

 

 

“It is a very evenly matched group. None of the teams can be considered favorites, but they are all tough opposition. All four countries are happy with the draw. It is going to be very open, and anyone can beat anyone else. A lot of people will say that it is one of the easier groups, but for me it is one of the most difficult. Colombia has some very well-known players, such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and others that have done well in Europe, particularly in Portugal. Côte d’Ivoire also has some top class, experienced players. And Japan is a very well balanced, explosive team.”

GROUP CHANCES: They have won only one game at the World Cup (Nigeria) and improving on that to possibly reach the knockout Round would represent an achievement for the Greeks.

 

 

 

 

I don’t expect a fanciful side but rather a ruthless one built on the rearguard.

However with 3 attacking teams set to face them, it is hard to imagine they’ll keep clean slates or even score first in all their matches.

They have to find a way to score goals or else they’ll watch the knockout matches at home.

HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:

  • Japan and Greece have met just once and that was at the 2005 Confederations Cup. It ended 1-0 in favor of Japan.
  • The Showpiece in Brazil would be the Ivory Coast and the Greeks first meeting.
  • The Greeks and Colombia have previously met once and that was in 1994. It ended 2-0 in favor of the South Americans

GREECE SQUAD FOR THE WORLD CUP (23)

  • GOALKEEPERS: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Giykos(PAOK) and Stefanos Kapino (Panathinakos).
  • DEFENDERS: Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis ,Jose Holebas(all Olympiakos),Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund),Giorgios Tzavellas (PAOK),Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (AS Roma) and Vangelis Moras (Chievo Verona)
  • MIDFIELDERS: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayesrispor), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos),Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK),Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham),Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino, Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa),Lazaros Chrisodoulopoulos (Bologna) and Panagiotis Kone (Bologna).
  • FORWARDS: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK),Giorgios Samaras (Celtic),Konstantinos Mitroglou (Fulham)and Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORLD CUP ODDS: 200/1

 

4 COLOMBIA

colombia

 

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: Los Cafeteros

CAPTAIN: Mario Yepes

Yepes

 

 

 

 

FIFA RANKING: 5th

MOST CAPS: Carlos Valderrama (111)

MOST CAPS (Current Squad): Mario Yepes (95)

MOST GOALS: Arnoldo Iguaran (25)

MOST GOALS (Current Squad): Radamel Falcao, 20 goals in 51 Appearances for his Country.

Falcao

 

 

 

 

 

FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This would be their fifth appearance. Their first was in Chile 1962.

BEST PERFORMANCES AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Round of 16, Italy 1990.The Tricolor lost 2-1 to Cameroon after extra time.

HEAD COACH: Jose Pekerman

pekerman

 

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-2-2-2

KEY PLAYER: James Rodriguez:

 

James Rodriguez

 

 

 

 

 

Radamel Falcao might be the star man but he’s not a striker who’s best known for creating his own opportunities. Without supply, it’s difficult for the Monaco Forward to score and that’s where his team-mate, James Rodriguez comes into play.

 

 

 

 

The Monaco Man is one of the best wingers with superb footwork and a good eye for the final ball.

He’ll shoulder the responsibilities of creating opportunities for his team-mates and for those who’ve not seen him play, this could be the chance to see the 22 year old in action.

He finished the just concluded season with 10 goals and 14 assists in 38 appearances for the Club from the Principality.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Jackson Martinez, Adrian Ramos, Fredy Guarin and Radamel Falcao (should he make it).

Martinez

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: Second in the CONMEBOL Qualifying Section with 30 Points

STRENGTHS:

PERFECT MIX

 

 

 

 

Unlike most sides at the tourney, this Colombia side has the perfect combination of athleticism and technical ability. The likes of Zuniga, Armero, Guarin and Martinez offer the physical and athletic presence while the likes of James Rodriguez bring flair to the side.

 

zuniga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They can adapt their game to match whatever the opposition throws at them.

WIDTH

Pekerman employs the 4-2-2-2 Formation which is a very narrow one. Much has been said of how easy it is to defend against a narrow formation but for Colombia, that’s no worry as Pablo Armero and Carlos Zuniga offer the width which makes Los Cafeteros unpredictable to play against.

Armero

 

 

 

 

 

 

They can go narrow and they can go wide.

If you are preparing for the former, be wary of the latter!

PERFECT UNDERSTANDING

 

 

 

 

 

James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao are club mates and also country mates.

The 22 year old is one of the most skilful footballers and the 28 year old, one of the deadly finishers in the World.

 

 

 

 

These two have developed a near-perfect understanding at Monaco and should Falcao make it to the World Cup, they would form a perfect duo at the Mundial.

falcao

 

 

 

 

That should send shivers down the likes of Ivory Coast and Japan with suspect defences.

ATTACK

Regardless of whether Falcao makes the Tournament or not, Pekerman still has quality Strikers at his disposal.

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson Martinez, one of the World’s most sought Forwards finished the just concluded with 29 goals and is very good physically, with his legs and aerially.

Adrian Ramos

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also Adrian Ramos who finished with 16 League for Hertha Berlin and has secured a move to Bundesliga Runners-up, Dortmund. Another Direct Forward who plays best running at Goal. He also had 8 assists for the Capital Side.

They’ve also got Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca who ended the season with 21 goals for the Andalusian Club.

bacca

 

 

 

 

 

WEAKNESSES:

THE DEFENCE

This department of the team, for most South American sides is the Achilles Heel and Colombia is no exception. That Pekerman still has to rely on a 38 year old, Yepes, who is past his prime, says a lot about the dearth of quality defenders in the team.

 

 

 

 

Zapata, another defender, is not bad but he’s coming off a disappointing season with AC Milan and would be exposed against the bigger sides in the Competition.

They’ve also, in recent friendly matches been susceptible from the set-pieces. Teams like Greece won’t need a second invitation before they punish Pekerman and his men.

PEKERMAN’S REACTION:

I want to start by saying how exciting it is to be here with Colombia – to be back at a World Cup Final Draw after such a long absence. We knew that whatever group we ended up in was going to be difficult. World champions have been knocked out at this stage before. There are some big names in the group, but the teams with lesser reputations will also be difficult opponents. It will be an interesting group from a tactical point of view.

 

 

 

 

 

The four teams have very different styles. Japan is in great form at the moment, while Côte d’Ivoire will be playing in their third World Cup. Greece is not flashy, but we know how strong they are.

GROUP CHANCES: In a Group of Equals, they should just about be the marginal favorites to advance. The strength in attack should at this stage compensate for whatever lapses they’ve got in the defence.

 

 

 

 

 

They should advance and top the Group which would equal their best appearance at the Finals.

Whether they are good enough for a long run in the tournament would depend on the defence.

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:

  • The Greeks and Colombia have previously met once and that was in 1994. It ended 2-0 in favor of the South Americans
  • The Elephants and Colombia are yet to face at the International Stage. The World Cup would be the first.
  • The Samurai Blues and Colombia have previously met twice with the two playing out a nil-nil draw in the 2007 Kirin Cup and the other one ending 0-1 to Colombia in the 2003 Confederations Cup.

COLOMBIA’S 30 MAN PROVISIONAL SQUAD FOR THE 2014 WORLD CUP:

 

 

 

 

 

GOALKEEPERS: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali) and Camilo Vargas (Independiente Sanita).

DEFENDERS: Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Paolo Armero (West Ham,on loan from Napoli), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Aquivaldo Mosquera (Club America), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven),Luis Amaranto Perea (Cruz Azul), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate) and Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo)

MIDFIELDERS: Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Victor Ibarabo (Cagliari), James Rodriguez(Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Juan Fernando Quintero(Porto), Carlos Sanchez (Elche),Macnelly Torres (Al Shabab), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia),Edwin Valencia(Fluminense), Alexander Mejia (Atletico Nacional) and Ekin Soto(Mainz).

FORWARDS: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Luis Fernando Muriel (Udinese), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Hertha Berlin) and Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate).

WORLD CUP ODDS: 20/1