• hours
  • minutes
  • seconds
  • Share
Tactics Board

World Cup 2010, Group B

June 1, 2010
By Kevin Palmer and Nick Bidwell

Group B: Argentina | Greece | Nigeria | South Korea

Group A | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Coach: Diego Maradona
Preferred formation: 4-4-2/3-4-3
Key man: Lionel Messi
Wildcard: Carlos Tevez
Weak spot: Their legendary and crazy coach

Stand by for the Diego Maradona roadshow to hit top gear this summer, with his erupting ego the most unpredictable ingredient of this World Cup summer.

Lionel Messi
GettyImagesLionel Messi is the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year

It is safe to assume that not even the players who will be under his enduringly unpredictable command this summer will be able to predict what this football legend has in store for them if Maradona's volatile behaviour in the 2010 World Cup qualifying push is anything to go by. This single-minded coach will do things his own way in South Africa, ignoring the advice of the experienced coaches around him in favour of an approach based entirely on his less-than-reliable instincts.

Employing players out of position and often offering no excuse for doing so, Maradona has to hope that the talent-laden squad he has at his disposal cover up his blatant coaching naivety and there is every chance that they could do just that.

Any team with the great Leo Messi in its ranks has a chance to win football matches and Maradona will hope that the player who has vowed to follow in the footsteps of the Argentina boss and dominate a World Cup is true to his word. Messi is certainly capable of taking South Africa 2010 by storm, but he needs help to do it.

Maradona would be wise to build his side around Messi, even though the brilliant Barcelona attacker has not always shown his best form in national team colours. A 3-4-3 formation should serve Messi well, with Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Manchester City's Carlos Tevez offering great attacking support. In-form Inter Milan striker Diego Milito is another thrilling striking option for Maradona to keep up his sleeve.

The midfield looks equally powerful on paper, with the central duo of Javier Mascherano (Liverpool) and the veteran Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes) offering experience and class in abundance. Watch out for Angel Di Maria to make his mark on the flank after his fine season with Benfica.

Defensive solidity is provided by the experienced duo of Walter Samuel and Martin Demichelis, who emerged from successful seasons with Inter Milan and Bayern Munich that finished with appearances in the Champions League final.

It adds up to a potent mix of talent, yet the primary threat to their hopes of success may come with the presence of a maverick coach who has the potential to pull a few unwanted rabbits out of the hat this summer. Argentina will be a story to relish though, whatever happens.

Coach: Otto Rehhagel
Preferred formation: 4-3-3
Key man: Sotirios Kyrgiakos
Wildcard: Theofanis Gekas
Weak spot: Lack of goals

The cynics will claim Otto Rehhagel's formation would be more accurately portrayed as a flat back ten, but the coach who has worked wonders for Greece in the past decade deserves a little more respect than he is often afforded.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos
GettyImagesSotirios Kyrgiakos was a surprise addition to the Liverpool ranks

Even though Greece will not win too many prizes for their eye-catching football at this summer's World Cup finals, they will provide a formidable wall of defiance for the attack-minded opponents standing in their path and no side will relish facing Rehhagel's array of gutsy, hard working performers.

Picking out Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos as the key man is not designed to be a negative swipe at the Greeks as while striker Theofanis Gekas has a great claim to top billing after his heroics in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, no-nonsense defending is the trump card this team rely on.

With the towering Bologna defender Vangelis Moras standing resolutely beside him at the heart of the defence, Kyrgiakos is the key component of a Greek side led superbly by the evergreen Giorgos Karagounis, who is one of the surviving members of the famous Euro 2004 success story.

The challenge for Greece is making the most of the clean sheets they are built to secure and that is where the prolific Gekas comes into play, with his ten goals in the qualifying push to South Africa confirming his worth as the shining star of an attacking unit that is often forced to live off scraps.

Gekas proved his worth as a Bundesliga goalscorer in his time with Bochum and has gone on to shine with Hertha Berlin during a loan spell this season. His overall record at international level is impressive, but this 30-year-old cannot be expected to score all the goals Greece will need if they are to succeed in South Africa.

The trouble is, Georgios Samaras is heading to the World Cup on the back of a poor season at Celtic and the veteran Angelos Charisteas has struggled for goals at club level this season. One-goal victories need to be on the agenda for Greece and they are more than capable of grinding out those in abundance.

Coach: Lars Lagerback
Preferred formation: 4-4-2
Key man: Peter Odemwingie
Wildcard: Obafemi Martins
Weak spot: Lack of time for new coach Lagerback

Lars Lagerback had many a long year to hone his tactics and decide on his most effective line-up during his time in charge of the Swedish national team and yet he is faced with a very different challenge after accepting the Nigeria post in February of this year.

Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria
GettyImages / GalloImagesPeter Odemwingie of Nigeria

Nigeria's faltering performances at the 2010 African Nations Cup confirms they are in need of revitalisation and yet bringing in an 'outsider' with limited knowledge of the Super Eagles national team represents a major gamble so close to a World Cup that could yield so much for one of Africa's powerhouse soccer nations.

On paper, a squad featuring the likes of proven performers such as Joseph Yobo and Aiyegbeni Yakubu (both Everton), Jon Obi Mikel (Chelsea) and Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) would fancy their chances of succeeding and yet the sceptics are struggling to find too many reasons for Nigerian optimism.

However, Mikel's failure to recover from a knee injury, forcing him to withdraw from the squad just seven days before the start of the tournament, leaves a big hole. Mikel, who plays in an attacking role for Nigeria in contrast to his job at Chelsea, is likely to be replaced in the team by 19-year-old Haruna Lukman, who has the same job for Monaco. For the holding role, Sani Kaita will battle Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu.

It's likely that Lagerback will rely heavily on his front two of Martins and Yakubu, both of whom have proved themselves in the toughest of European leagues and boast a combination of speed and finishing power to trouble the best of defences when fit. However, Yakubu has not been at his best for some time, with injuries disrupting his progress, and Martins has not been in the best of touch for Wolfsburg.

Look for Lokomotiv Moscow star Peter Odemwingie to make his mark on the right flank and Marseille's Taye Taiwo is another important attacking option, as he loves to burst forward from his full-back berth and has the most fearsome of shots in his locker. Taiwo is also a threat from set-pieces with his power-packed scoring boots.

If all else fails, Lagerback can place his trust in the iconic veteran who remains the most famous name in the Nigeria squad some 16 years after making his international debut. Could Nwankwo Kanu really make his mark in the World Cup as his career moves into its final chapter?

Coach: Huh Jung-moo
Preferred formation: 4-4-2
Key man: Park Ji-sung
Wildcard: Lee Dong-mook
Weak spot: Some key men out of form

Huh Jung-moo certainly doesn't have the sort of tactical reputation former South Korea boss Guus Hiddink commands on the world stage, but he has the tools at his disposal to ensure this side make their mark at this summer's World Cup finals.

Park Ji-Sung
GettyImagesPark Ji-Sung has reached iconic status in South Korea

In charge of South Korea for the last three years, Huh has guided the team to a long run of unbeaten success, which culminated in what proved to be a comfortable qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals, yet the step up in class this summer will test the his troops to the full.

Their reliance on talisman Park Ji-sung is natural considering his high-profile position as a Manchester United star and a proven operator on the European club scene. Park's energy, drive and creation is pivotal to the South Korean cause and they would not have a back-up plan if their leader was absent for an extended period of time.

Ki Sung-yong will be another of whom plenty is expected this summer, with his tag of the 'Asian Steven Gerrard' attached to him time and again. His brand of high-energy midfield play saw him catch the eye of several British clubs before he moved to Scottish side Celtic in January, but this 21-year-old may not be ready to peak just yet.

One area where South Korea excel is in the full-back berths, with Cha Du-ri converted from a promising striker into a proven performer on the right side of the national team and Freiburg defence and using his explosive pace to the full in that role. On the left side of the back line, former Tottenham defender Lee Young-pyo is a highly experienced raider into the attacking third.

Up front, the striker known as the 'Lion King' has been in good form of late, with Lee Dong-gook looking back to his best since returning to his homeland following a disappointing stint in England with Middlesbrough.

The dilemma, however, is whether South Korea's decent form against the minnows they come up against in qualifying means anything as they prepare to take on the world powers under the spotlight of South Africa 2010 pressure. They have a host of players with dozens of international caps to their credit, but only a few have proved they have what it takes to mix it with the very best.