Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Cup 2010: Group D Preview

Group D shapes up as another pool with a clear-cut favorite and three teams that will vie for the second spot. Germany are by all accounts the class of the group, but second place could fall to Australia, Ghana or Serbia, three sides returning for a second-straight World Cup. Here's a breakdown of the group.

Goalkeeping has been the trademark of recent World Cup success for Germany, with Oliver Kahn in 2002 and Jens Lehman four years ago. This year youthful Manuel Neuer (that's right Seinfeld fans, it's Ma Neuer!) mans the net, fresh off a second-place finish in the Bundesliga with Schalke. Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski will be asked to resurrect the form they showed in Germany's third-place finish in 2006. While the Germans will miss injured captain Michael Ballack, they should still win the group.

Another team missing a key player are Ghana, who will have to cope without midfielder Michael Essien. Kevin Prince-Boateng will be an interesting storyline. The German-born midfielder earned the ire of fans there when his challenge on Ballack in the FA Cup caused the injury that will keep Ballack out of the World Cup. Serbian born coach Milovan Rajevac should provide insights on one of the teams the Black Stars will battle for the group's second spot.

Four years ago, the Socceroos escaped the group stages and only a dubious late penalty against Italy ended their tournament run. Can Australia find the second round again? Their unbeaten efforts in their first trip through the Asian qualification process provides hope. Everton's Tim Cahill has a knack for scoring off of set pieces, while veteran keeper Mark Schwarzer arrives on the heels of a trip to the Europa League final. Australia won't have the managerial magic of Guus Hiddink this time around, but they are lead by his protege, Pim Verbeek.

Serbia will be looking to improve on their 2006 World Cup trip when, as Serbia & Montenegro, they lost three matches, including a 6-0 drubbing by Argentina. No Serb arrives with more confidence than captain Dejan Stankovic, a member of Inter Milan's Champions League and treble winners. A pair of rugged Premier League defenders anchor the defense with Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Predication: Top to bottom, this could be the tournament's strongest group. Germany are by no means a lock, but should finish ahead of Ghana, who will ride the home-continent support into the round of 16.

No comments: