By Aritra Mukherjee:
Group D (The Group Of Death)
One of the big shots is bound to lose out in this epic group. The loyal fans of these International teams would have prayed days and nights to get an easier group than this but tough luck. However, the fans are in for a treat and may get to watch Liverpool’s Talismans: Gerrard and Suarez go against each other. It would be Italy’s solid defense against the attacking flair of Uruguay and English. Costa Rica’s chances are slim but may secure one or two historic wins should they play out of their comfort zone.
Penalties seem to haunt the Three Lions and most of the times their best player fails to turn up to the occasion. This has been a common story post 1966 and has reached the semi-final last in 1990. Fans ponder on ‘why?’ while Pundits ponder on ‘how?’ both are valid questions and it seems like lack of team work haunts them as usual. I am an avid follower of English Premier League and the team seems strong, filled with experience and young. Hopefully, this time they reach the semi-finals at least.
The Azurri has won the world cup 4 times and recently reached the 2012 EURO’s Final. They continue to be solid in defence and have a good attacking base with the likes of Balotelli (Remember his shirtless celebration?) and Rossi. The Azurri know how to turn up during major tournaments and surely will look to go the finals.
The Semi-Finalist of the previous World Cup and two times winner of the same, the South American underdogs surely look stronger this time. Godin, Gimeniz, Cavani and co. is in great form and how can anyone forget the experience of Forlan (winner of the Golden Boot last time) and backed up by the genius of Luis Suarez who is currently enjoying the peak of his career. The South Americans, given their continental dominance will upset a few along the way. To the newbies, don’t be surprised if this team ends up winning a group containing the two heavy-weights of the European football.
I would be cursing my luck if I was the coach or a fan of Costa Rica, what a dreadful group to be in. The big question remains ‘how will they score a point?’ let alone winning a game in this group. Los Ticos have been formidable defence and would be looking towards Bryan Ruiz for inspiration. Their best record has been to the round of 16 in these games and frankly, I don’t fancy its chances in the Group of Death where goal difference may matter, Costa Rica may be relegated to the role of a ‘punching bag’.
GROUP E (3 Way Battle To The Finish)
This looks like a good group and when one glances over the teams then one would say “France should win this group easily”, but, that’s quite a harsh dismissal of the other two teams at play namely, Ecuador and Switzerland (Honduras drew recently against England). Switzerland was the only team to slay the mighty Spaniards and boasts of an unbeaten record in one of these games. According to me, France Vs Ecuador would be the match to watch out for in this group as both are attacking whilst Ecuador is reliant on its wingsmen, France would seek its break through the middle.
The winners of 1998 who stunned the world by defeating the favourites Brazil, lost out in the first round during the last edition. A series of team politics and discontent seems to haunt them till now. Deschamps recently had a major fallout with Samir Nasri (Had a nice season with Manchester City). Ribery’s injury is rubbing salt on the wound and would do Deschamp no favour whilst he looks for his X-Factor. France will look towards Cabaye and Benzema to provide a good platform for the others.
Ecuador look a lot stronger than their previous two outings in the Finals, recently they drew 2-2 against England and dare I say it, they looked pretty decent especially when it came to exploiting the wings. Captain Valencia will look to capitalize on their strengths and catch a solid Swiss side by surprise and look good to beat France if they continue to play with the same zeal. Their home form has been good (I will consider South America as home for them) and a second place finish is on the cards.
They are currently ranked 6th in the FIFA Rankings and known to upset bigger teams. Swiss look quite strong and many of its players are from top European sides which will help them in Brazil. They surely work as a team and have players like Senderos, Shaqiri (plays for Bayern Munich) and Benaglio.
Well this team is surely the minnow among these other teams in this group. Probably shy of break-through stars and short of experience but with a lot of heart and guts. Their best performance has been to secure a draw against Spain in the group stages and with the above mentioned team slightly weaker than Spain many may wonder if Honduras has any chance. They held England for a draw in a friendly recently and continue to surprise the fans. Expect a lot of support for the underdog which may pull them through. Plus, they have the 2010-2011 Scottish player of the season, Emilio Izaguirre to boast about.