Friday, June 09, 2006

Preparing for the biggest party on earth

After four years of waiting the party is about to begin, but for the 32 teams taking part; it is a test for which they must be prepared.

Germany qualified as hosts and have had to rely on friendly matches for the past year. This year started badly for them when they suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat in Italy. Three weeks later they reversed the score line at home against the USA. Goals came easy in their 7-0 win against Luxembourg, but they only managed a 2-2 draw with Japan. They beat Colombia in their final warm up match.

Poland have been winning and losing every other match this year. Their1-0 defeat in the USA was followed by a 2-1 win in Saudi Arabia. A disappointing 1-0 home loss against Lithuania may have been partly forgiven when they put 4 past the Faroe Islands, but the disappointment continued when Poland lost 2-1 to Colombia, in a match that saw the Colombian goalkeeper score from a goal clearance. Poland ended their preparation matches with a 1-0 win over Croatia in Germany.

Ecuador have not won since beating Honduras 1-0 early this year. They have lost 1-0 away to the Netherlands and Japan, and after a 1-1 draw with Colombia in the USA, they lost 2-1 to Macedonia in Spain.

Costa Rica have lost all their matches this year, but mostly by the odd goal. A 4-0 trashing by Ukraine was their only heavy defeat, having also lost 1-0 to South Korea, 3-2 to Iran and only 1-0 away to the Czechs.

England ended 2005 with a pulsating 3-2 victory over Argentina in Switzerland and have won all their friendly matches this year beating Uruguay 2-1, Hungary 3-1 and Jamaica 6-0.

Sweden have not won this year. After their Middle East draws against Saudi Arabia and Jordan, they were soundly beaten 3-0 in Ireland and finished off with home draws against Finland and Chile.

Paraguay have had 5 close matches this year, with 3 draws against Wales, Norway and Denmark. They returned from the USA with a 2-1 defeat against Mexico and in their last warm up match beat Georgia 1-0 in Austria.

Trinidad& Tobago started the year well with a 2-0 win against Iceland in England, and drew their last home game with Peru. Since then they have lost 2-1 to Wales, 3-1 to Slovenia and 3-0 to the Czech Republic.

Argentina have only played 2 matched this year, losing 3-2 to Croatia in Switzerland and beating Angola 2-0 in Italy.

Netherlands have been less than convincing this year with 4 home matches, beating Ecuador and Cameroon 1-0, Mexico 2-1 and being held 1-1 by Australia in the last match.

Serbia & Montenegro returned from Tunisia with a 1-0 victory and drew 1-1 with Uruguay at home.

Ivory Coast finished second in the African Cup of Nations losing to hosts Egypt on penalties. In friendly matches their 3-2 defeat in Spain was followed by 1-1 draws against Switzerland and Chile, and a 3-0 victory over Slovenia in France.

Portugal have had 3 straight wins this year, beating Saudi Arabia 3-0 in Germany, Cape Verde 4-1 at home and Luxembourg 3-0 in France.

Mexico have beaten Norway, Ghana, Paraguay, Venezuela and DR Congo by the odd goal and have lost to South Korea, France and the Netherlands by the same margin this year.

Iran who have not lost this year started with a 4-0 win over Taiwan in an Asian Nations Cup qualifier. They beat Costa Rica 3-2 at home and drew 2-2 away to Croatia having given away an unnecessary penalty which they conceded with the last kick of the match. They ran out 5-2 winners against Bosnia in their last home match.

Angola finished the African Cup of Nations with a defeat, draw and victory. Their friendly matches started with a 1-0 loss to South Korea. They beat Mauritius 5-1 and Lesotho 3-1 in the Cosafa Cup and ended their preparations losing 2-0 to Argentina , 3-2 to Turkey and 1-0 to the USA on neutral grounds.

Italy thumped Germany 4-1 in a memorable home match, but since then have only managed 2 draws in Swizerland against the Swiss and Ukraine.

Czech Republic have won 3 matches after their initial 2-2 draw in Turkey. Their victims have been Saudi Arabia 2-0, Costa Rica 1-0 and Trinidad & Tobago 3-0.

USA have played 11 matches this year. Following their disappointing 0-0 draw with Canada they enjoyed home victories against Norway 5-0, Japan 3-2 and Guatemala 4-0. After a 1-0 win against Poland in Germany, they were beaten 4-1 by the hosts. Further matches saw them draw 1-1 against Jamaica, lose 1-0 to Morocco and beat Venezuela 2-0, Latvia 1-0 and Angola 1-0.

Ghana have played 4 matches since the African Cup of Nations. After losing 1-0 to Mexico they have drawn 1-1 with Turkey and beaten Jamaica 4-1 and South Korea 3-1. All matches were played on neutral grounds.

Brazil who are the favourite to win the World Cup have been warming up mainly against club sides. In friendly internationals this year they have beaten Russia 1-0 and New Zealand 4-0

Croatia started the year losing 2-0 to South Korea and beating Carlsberg Cup hosts Hong Kong 4-0. A 3-2 win against Argentina in Switzerland was followed by a 4-1 away victory over Austria. A last gasp goal gave them a 2-2 home draw against Iran, but they went on to lose 1-0 to Poland and 2-1 to Spain on neutral grounds.

Australia played their first match as a member of the Asian Federation, winning 3-1 in an Asian qualifier away to Bahrain. They then beat European champions Greece 1-0 in their last home match, and drew 1-1 away to the Netherlands, finishing off their preparations with a 3-1 win over Liechtenstein.

Japan have been inconsistent in their results. After losing 3-2 in the USA, two home wins followed against Finland 2-0 and India 6-0. They returned home from Germany with a 2-2 draw against Bosnia, to beat Ecuador 1-0 before losing 2-1 to Bulgaria and drawing 0-0 with Scotland in the Kirin Cup. They have played 2 friendly matches in Germany, holding the hosts 2-2 and beating Malta 1-0.

France have played all their matches at home this year. Since losing 2-1 to Slovakia, they have beaten Mexico 1-0, Denmark 2-0 and China 3-1.

Switzerland have not lost this year. A 3-1 win in Scotland was followed by two 1-1 draws against the Ivory Coast and Italy, and a 4-1 win over China.

South Korea have been inconsistent in their 13 matches this year. Their 1-0 defeat to the UAE was followed by a 1-1 draw against Greece and a 1-0 victory over Finland. In the Carlsberg Cup they beat Croatia 2-0, but lost 3-1 to Denmark. After losing 1-0 to Costa Rica in the USA they beat Mexico 2-1 and achieved the same result against Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier. They beat their African visitors Angola 1-0 and drew 1-1 with Senegal before beating Bosnia 2-0. A goalless draw away to Norway and a 3-1 shock defeat to Ghana in Scotland followed.

Togo have only played 2 matches since the African Cup of Nations, losing 1-0 to Saudi Arabia in the Netherlands and defeating Liechtenstein 1-0.

Spain have not lost this year. They have only failed to score in their 0-0 draw with Russia, and have been victorious against the Ivory Coast 3-2, African champions Egypt 2-0 and Croatia 2-1 in Switzerland.

Ukraine who are one of the teams to make their first appearance in the World Cup, have not conceded a goal this year. A 0-0 draw in Azerbaijan must have been disappointing, but the same result against Italy in Switzerland and Victories over Costa Rica 4-0, Libya 3-0, and Luxembourg 3-0 should give them some hope.

Tunisia lost their African crown this year and had mixed fortunes in a friendly tournament on home soil, losing to Serbia & Montenegro 1-0 and beating Belarus 3-0, before losing to Uruguay on penalties.

Saudi Arabia played 13 matches this year, drawing 5 matches against Sweden, Finland, Greece, Syria and Iraq. Their wins came against Yemen 4-0 and Togo 1-0, while they lost to Lebanon 2-1, Portugal 3-0, Poland 2-1, Belgium 2-1, Czech Rep 2-0 and Turkey 1-0.

You can see how these teams are ranked at: