Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Predicting the 2010 World Cup

It is almost time for the party to begin as South Africa looks forward to hosting the World Cup and the 32 participating nations await their first matches. Predicting the outcome of a World Cup is futile but fun, as there are bound to be unexpected result adding to the excitement of the tournament, but looking at how the teams are ranked in and their recent forms can help with predictions.
The 32 teams are divided into 8 groups of 4 with the top 2 of each group going through to the next round. The number after each team shows its Ziaian ranking position at the start of the World Cup. The Ziaian rankings will be updated at the end of every World Cup day.
Group A – a well balanced group with the weakest team on paper enjoying home advantage.
South Africa (52) who would not have qualified through the usual channels have grabbed automatic qualification as hosts with both hands and among the participating teams have been the most improved this year, hoping that they will pass the big test and the sound of the vuvuzelas will continue to be heard in force after their group matches.
Mexico (8) have put their shaky start to the qualifying campaign behind them and shown in recent friendly matches against tough European opposition that they have plenty to offer and can be optimistic about progressing to the next round.
Uruguay (12) who needed the play-offs to qualify have only played 2 friendly matches since the turn of the year and despite confident boosting victories will need to be on their toes so as not to be intimidated by the South African crowd, out-played by the brave Mexican or out-shun by the French stars.
France (18) who got the better of the Irish in a controversial play-off match in Paris are in many minds the top team in this group, but the fading French stars have been finding it difficult to gel and based on recent form could find it difficult to get out of this group.
Group B – a group from the past.
Argentina (6) struggled to qualify under the management of Diego Maradona but will be hoping that their world class players will carry them into the next round and beyond.
Nigeria (50) who qualified thanks to Tunisia losing in Mozambique, will need more luck if they are to reach the next round.
South Korea (21), the top Asian team at the moment, have enjoyed good results inconsistently this year and could do well in the World Cup if they can remain focused.
Greece (30) who qualified from a relatively easy group and a single goal in 2 play-off matches against Ukraine could face an early exit if they fail to show the spirit that won them the European title six years ago.
Group C – an easy group.
England (4) have been difficult to beat and are expected to move into the next stage with a realistic possibility of a medal.
USA (25) will be encouraged by their adventures in the Confederations Cup a year ago, but could find the real deal a tougher test.
Slovenia (22) who qualified thanks to the away goals rule in the play-offs against Russia have been on the rise for 3 years and could cause a few raised eyebrows if they continue their good form.
Algeria (81) who scraped through to the finals at the expense of African champions Egypt, have not been convincing this year and could find the experience too overwhelming.
Group D – a group of hopefuls.
Germany (5) are always a force to be reckoned with, but in the absence of their influential captain Ballack could run out of steam early in the tournament. They will need to rely on experience and efficiency.
Australia (39) travel in hope but could find themselves returning home in disappointment if they underestimate their opponents.
Serbia (11) who qualified ahead of France have the quality to reach the next round and cause concern among the top teams.
Ghana (45) once again on the up in Africa have been disappointing in their friendly matches in Europe but will be hoping to show their true pedigree on African soil to avoid an unexpected early elimination.
Group E – the attractive group.
Netherlands (3) with their attractive football will be expected to go far and possibly lift the cup.
Denmark (27) may just have enough to get out of the group which would leave them only one match away from success.
Japan (42) have had disappointing results this year and will need to show much more discipline to get out of the group.
Cameroon (60), a shadow of their former selves, who failed to win any of their 5 friendly matches in Europe this year, could enjoy African support but not the results.
Group F – the weakest group.
Italy (10) have been less than convincing in their friendly matches this year and are unlikely to improve sufficiently on the big stage to retain the cup.
Paraguay (17) may feel they have enough to pass through into the next round, but their joy could be short lived
Slovakia (32) are capable of causing an upset in this group if they can catch their opponents off-guard, but will not be expected to reach the next stage.
New Zealand (106) are the weakest team in the tournament but recent results indicate that with good organisation they can give the bigger boys a run for their money.
Group G – dubbed the group of death.
Brazil (2) are always one of the favourites and should negotiate this group with relative ease but could fail to reach the last four.
Ivory Coast (37) are overrated by many and will find it difficult to reach the knockout stage.
Portugal (9) have enough talent to go far if they find their feet on the night, but are unlikely to progress far beyond the group stage.
North Korea (68) are ranked lower than several Asian teams that did not qualify, but will be hoping to prove that they are worthy of their place in the finals though an early flight back home is the most likely outcome.
Group H – the strongest group.
Spain (1) are many people’s favourites to lift the cup and could reach the final if their jinx of not doing well in major tournaments is well and truly behind them.
Chile (7) qualified with distinction only second to Brazil and should be able to reach the next round.
Switzerland (28) are able to carve out good results but they will need to be at their very best to progress from this group.
Honduras (38) who qualified thanks to an American equaliser against Costa Rica 4 minutes into stoppage time will be happy to show what they can do, but it will probably not be enough to prevent them finishing bottom of their group.