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Team-by-team analysis

Team analysis of the draw

December 4, 2009

The World Cup draw took place on Friday night and, as always, had some interesting pairings. Here, we break down each of the teams and their chances of progressing from their groups.

• Soccernet reactions
• All the draw action

GROUP A

South Africa: The hosts will be relatively happy with their draw. Under experienced coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, the side are faced with high expectations from a demanding public but should be buoyed by a solid performance in the Confederations Cup. They have every chance of upsetting the likes of France and Uruguay with their combative style of play, but may struggle more against the Mexicans.
• Prediction: Could surprise a lot of people and make it out of the groups, but they need good results against France and Uruguay.

Mexico: They will have been very pleased to have avoided the real top seeds and drawn the hosts. Their qualification campaign saw them impress after ditching Sven Goran Eriksson and, under new leadership, they will also provide a test for their rivals. The clash against Uruguay should provide some fireworks, but if they can avoid defeat against France and beat South Africa (which they will be expected to do) then they can make it through as well.
• Prediction: It may all come down to how they fair against the hosts, but if they win they should be confident of taking a spot into the knockout rounds.

Uruguay: Having needed a play-off to get into the tournament (beating Costa Rica), the Uruguayans will not be seen as much of a threat. South Africa will fancy their chances of beating them, but they won't be a pushover. With players like Diego Forlan keen to impress, Uruguay will fight until the end, but may not make it out of the group stage.
• Prediction: It could be an early exit for the country that hosted the first ever World Cup in 1930.

France: Having got to the finals in controversial circumstances, France will be just happy they are there. Coach Raymond Domenech is under immense pressure and failure to get out of the groups will cost him his job. The French should have enough to see off the others, but are notorious slow starters and will not want a repeat of the 2002 game against Uruguay when they drew 0-0 and had Thierry Henry sent off.
• Prediction: Will need to start well, but have the players at their disposal to make it through. There will be some tough games, mentally and physically, though.

GROUP B

Argentina: Diego Maradona may not be the most popular coach, but his side will be massive favourites coming into this group. The top seeds got themselves a very decent draw and the likes of Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez will be rubbing their hands with glee. Maradona's tactical nous has come under fire of late, but there is no reason to suggest that they won't top the group.
• Prediction: It should be a walk in the park for Argentina. Even if they show some of the poor form that we saw in qualifying they should have enough to progress.

Nigeria: If you look past Argentina, the Nigerians will be confident that they have enough to get through this group. A solid set of players, the Africans will be boosted by the fact they are on their own continent and, despite struggling in their qualification group, they will want that second spot. Obafemi Martins will lead the line and should cause South Korea and Greece no end of problems; however, they are not the most stable of units and could come undone if they suffer under the pressure of a major final.
• Prediction: Second, behind Argentina, as they should have enough to break down their rivals. They may not go much further though.

South Korea: The Koreans may have provided a shock in 2002 on home soil, but there should be little chance of a repeat. A tough draw for them alongside former European champions, Nigeria and a side who have one of the best squads around. Greece could be a place to pick up points, but, without Guus Hiddink in charge, there is little to suggest that the Koreans will make a similar impact.
• Prediction: It won't be a repeat of 2002 for the Koreans, but they will have their eyes on an upset against Nigeria.

Greece: Accused of playing some of the dullest football around, the Greeks will want to grind down the opposition and won't be an easy test to overcome. They may not have aspirations of going to the final, but they are an organised, if defensive, side. They should overcome South Korea, but Nigeria will be a different prospect. It would not be a surprise to see them claim second place in the group, but they will have to work harder to break down opposition defences. Otto Rehhagel said:"Argentina is obviously the favourite in the group. All I can do is make sure that our players are 100% fit and ready by the time the World Cup starts. Nigeria, South Korea are also strong, but we have a very good chance of going through if we are at our best."
• Prediction: The nature of their football may suggest they won't make it out of the group, but Greece could still make it if they upset Nigeria.

GROUP C

England: The big one in the group sees David Beckham and Landon Donovan come face to face. Fabio Capello will be exceptionally happy with the draw as his side have shown themselves capable of beating the U.S. recently, a 2-0 win at Wembley, and won't be too worried by the task they face. Slovenia were battered the last time the two teams met and Algeria should prove few problems for Wayne Rooney and company either. Fabio Capello doesn't think so though: "I think it is one of the most balanced groups. Algeria have beaten Egypt so they are a dangerous side. I remember there have been groups that looked easy but then became really complicated," he told Sky Italia.
• Prediction: With the stars on show, England should feel comfortable of topping the group. The trouble may come in the knockout stages when penalties are involved.

USA: The target for David Beckham and the MLS was to raise the profile of American soccer, now that they have drawn England that task is achieved. The country will explode with excitement at the prospect of facing Beckham in their first match and won't be too worried about their other opponents. The 2002 World Cup was a great moment for the U.S. and the 2010 version could be the same if they manage to see off the lesser lights.
• Prediction: Second in the group should be seen as a success and there should be few problems for the U.S. as they survey their group.

Algeria: A huge game against Egypt saw the Algerians progress, but they may not get much further. It is a very big deal in Algeria that the side made it in the first place, so they may not be too bothered about missing out on the knockout rounds. That said, if they managed to beat Egypt, they could upset the U.S. too. They should have enough to beat Slovenia, but without any major stars to step up when needed, won't be viewed as dark horses just yet.
• Prediction: They won't finish bottom, but there's little chance of them making it past England and the U.S.

Slovenia: They are ranked 33rd in the world and England had very little trouble beating them in a recent friendly. The fact that they beat Russia in the play-offs shows that Matjaz Kek's side cannot be underestimated, but England and the U.S. will not view them with any particular concern. Most likely, they will fight hard, but could be forced to battle with Algeria to ensure they are not left with the wooden spoon.
• Prediction: Bottom of the group. There is little to suggest that they will cause an upset, but they will be pleased to have made it in the first place.

GROUP D

Germany: Traditionally, the Germans have always been solid at major tournaments and it would take a brave man to predict them to miss out on the group stages. Commanding in the qualifiers, they have the experience and the players to make a decent showing in the whole tournament, not just the groups. The group is one of the harder ones in the draw, but Germany should be confident enough of topping it. "We've got an interesting group. We've played Australia, not long ago at the Confederations Cup. It'll be an important match for us, the opening match. It'll be important to win that," Joachim Low told reporters.
• Prediction: Top of the group, as the experience and consistency at major tournaments continues.

Australia: Having faced tougher tests by coming through the Asian region this time, the Socceroos will be confident that they have the experience to push Germany and Ghana all the way. A solid spine in the side - although coach Pim Verbeek is keen to keep it free of A-League players - gives them a good platform for success. This time though, they may find that one of Europe's best has top spot sewn up and if they don't perform right away, they could be left with egg on their faces.
• Prediction: If Germany take top spot, then the other place is up for grabs. It will be very tight, but expect Australia to fall when they come up against the others.

Serbia: Their first World Cup as an independent nation, Serbia do have a host of skilled players (and one of the best youth setups around). However, without the experience they could suffer and should stutter against Germany for certain. Nemanja Vidic will be the rock at the back, but they will have to be at their very best if they are to make it through.
• Prediction: Serbia may struggle to compete against some more physical and experienced sides. A place in the knockout stages would be a real shock.

Ghana: A strong showing at 2006 has shown that Ghana have a powerful side who are always capable of providing an upset. It wouldn't be a stretch to see them drawing with Germany and picking up wins over the other two, so that could see them through into the knockout stages. Michael Essien will be a driving force in the middle of the park and the Black Stars have some top players to push for the second round.
• Prediction: Expect Ghana to do well and make it through. Perhaps not much further, but there's a good chance of them making waves.

GROUP E

Netherlands: Having cruised through qualifying, the Dutch will be more than happy with their draw. They beat Japan 3-0 in a friendly recently, but they won't take that as too much of a barometer as the scoreline was flattering. If they can perform as well as in Euro 2008, they'll easily top the group. "It is a dangerous group and we shouldn't underestimate any of our opponents," coach Bert van Marwijk told NOS TV. "Denmark won their (qualifying) group with Portugal, Hungary and Sweden, so are a strong opponent."
• Prediction: Top, as they have a solid collection of players. Holland may struggle later on, but are usually fine in the group stages.

Denmark: A surprisingly impressive side in qualifying, the Danes will fancy their chances of progression and even getting something against the Dutch. Not the toughest draw by any means, Morten Olsen's men are more than capable of making it through, but should also be wary of the threat posed by Cameroon in particular.
• Prediction: A solid side, they will prove tough to beat and should provide some competition for the top spot.
Japan: Having been beaten convincingly in recent friendlies, the Japanese are not in a good position here. All of the other sides in the group will view them as the weakest side and so the expectation level should be fairly low. Shunsuke Nakamura will provide the creativity that will be sorely needed if they are going to make any impression on the group, but there won't be many people expecting them to do well.
• Prediction: Bottom of the group, the Japanese won't be pleased with the draw and look like they'll go home early.

Cameroon: On their own continent, Cameroon should be one of the hardest sides to beat in this competition. With a deadly marksman like Samuel Eto'o up front, they will be a threat on the counter attack and should batter opponents into submission with their physical power. Perhaps a lack of cohesion could pull them apart, but they have 1990 to look back on if they need some inspiration.
• Prediction: They will push all the way and Cameroon should be confident that they can progress. It will depend on their ability to overcome Denmark.

GROUP F

Italy: Marcello Lippi will be more than happy with the draw he has here. New Zealand are the whipping boys and the strong defensive play that the Italians usually bring to the major tournaments should see them home. Lippi has all the experience necessary to lead his group of ageing stars past the group stages. Age shouldn't be a factor here, as the opposition are weak enough for Italy to secure a spot in the top two.
• Prediction: Paraguay may cause them some problems, but Italy should have more than enough to secure top spot.

Paraguay: One of the best sides in the South American qualifying campaign, Paraguay will be lead by Roque Santa Cruz and will almost certainly qualify ahead of New Zealand and Slovakia. They don't have the best experience, but they are head and shoulders above the two sides they need to beat in order to secure second spot. They could even run Italy close.
• Prediction: Second in the group, behind Italy, there is every chance they can qualify.

New Zealand: The group's whipping boys are expected to finish this group as they finished their last one in 1982, without a point. The team is made up of mediocre players with only Blackburn's Ryan Nelsen as a leading light. They cruised through qualifying in the Oceania region and then beat Bahrain in the play-off, but they won't make an impact in this group.
• Prediction: Bottom of the group. No points and maybe even no goals either. Sorry.

Slovakia: The Slovaks have a decent side, with the likes of Martin Skrtel and Marek Hamsik providing them with quality across the pitch. However, they won't have enough to make a historic march to the knockout stages. They lack the experience at this level and, while they may spring a surprise or two, they should miss out.
• Prediction: Third in the group, but they won't embarrass themselves at all.

GROUP G

Brazil: A really tough draw for Dunga, who has been under serious pressure over the past few months. Many would expect the world's highest ranked side to stroll through the groups, but this is no easy task. The Ivory Coast and Portugal will be eyeing up top spot, but the likes of Kaka and Luis Fabiano have been in fine form, so the money-men will still be rooting for the Samba stars. With their usual brand of attacking football, there will no shortage of entertainment, unless of course they come a cropper and miss out on the knockout stages altogether.
• Prediction: They should top the group, but one feels there will be a shock in this group somewhere. Knockout stages beckon though.

North Korea: The whipping boys of the Group of Death. With little known about the Asian side, few would bet on them to pick up any points whatsoever in this group. A really unfortunate draw, given that it was such a success for them to make it through, suggests that they will return home in disgrace.
• Prediction: Bottom of the group and no points either. If they snatch a draw from any of these sides, that would be fantastic.

Ivory Coast: The African side have the best chance of making it past the groups and far into the knockout stages and the Elephants will be confident that they can upset Portugal. If Brazil are the favourites, then the Africans are second, as Portugal have endured a horror show in qualifying. Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue are just a few of the top stars to strut their stuff for this side and they will surely make it hard for Cristiano Ronaldo and company.
• Prediction: Second in the group. The Africans could easily spring a surprise and beat Portugal, who have not been in the best form.

Portugal They may have beaten Bosnia convincingly to make it through the play-offs, but this is a side in real distress. With Cristiano Ronaldo's injury problems and Carlos Queiroz's tactical naivety, there remains a definite possibility that they will not make it through. They struggle without Ronaldo, but still have one of the better squads in the competition; although England won't be sad to see them go out early if that happens.
• Prediction: North Korea will be no barrier, but the key game will be the Ivory Coast clash and whoever triumphs should progress.

GROUP H

Spain: Not a difficult draw for the Spaniards and they will be very happy to have avoided the tough test of Portugal as they had a 50% chance of facing their Iberian neighbours by the end of the draw. Vicente Del Bosque, coach of the European champions , said: "We can't complain. We can't hide the fact we are one of the favourites to win (the World Cup)." With a favourable draw, they are even more likely to be seen as favourites and with the likes of Xavi, Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol and Fernando Torres, there's every reason for that.
• Prediction: They should easily win this group. Spain have been dominant in Europe recently and should have absolutely no trouble winning this one.

Switzerland: Having hosted the Euros, the Swiss will have experience of the big time, but it would be a surprise if they made it far in the competition. With a steady, if uninspired, side, they will be looking at second place below Spain and should come out on top if they can adjust their gameplan to suit the South American and Central American sides. Solid in the centre of the park, there are concerns over their physicality but they will be confident.
• Prediction: Second in the group. They'll be battered by Spain, but they may have enough to make it through.

Honduras: One of the minnows, at their second finals (1982 was their first), the Hondurans impressed in qualifying and cannot be underestimated. One would suggest that they won't have the firepower to dispatch of their opponents, but there are a number of their players - such as Wilson Palacios - who have proved themselves to be solid performers. Without experience or many stars though, it would be hard to see them off the bottom of the group.
• Prediction: Propping up the group, Spain should have a field day, but they may fancy a result against Chile. One good result would represent a success.

Chile: Another tough South American side, they will be hard to beat. Tricky wingers like Mark Gonzalez and Matias Fernandez will provide some creativity and you can never argue with a Chilean centre back! However, it will be their match against Switzerland that will ensure their success or failure. Honduras may also prove a tough test and they can't afford to drop points.
• Prediction: Missing out on the group stages, they will be hard to beat, but don't have enough to make it though.