By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall June 9, 2010 at 1:04AM
People’s Republic Of Korea
How Can We All Have Died At The Same Time?
Yes! After a week of previewing Group draws with a contending team here and a contending team there, we arrive at the quadrennial coup de grâce, the most difficult Group of all of the Groups in the World Cup, the one Group to rule them all, THE GROUP OF DEATH!! As World Cup draw unfolded back in December, fans and pundits around the world looked at Group G as the epicenter of drama in the early rounds of the Cup; three of the four teams are contenders to win the Group, with only the lowly People’s Republic Of Korea to serve as a goal differential whipping boy for the three continental giants that await them. You can’t talk about THE GROUP OF DEATH!! without focusing on all of the deadly of participants, so let’s get cracking.
First up, the granddaddy of the World Cup, the team that owns more titles than any other team, mighty Brazil. Traditionally, Brazil is a team that plays with flair and creative, up-tempo abandon, always a threat to win the entire Tournament. But this is not your father’s Brazil; managed by the defensive-minded former player Dunga, this Brazil is disturbingly amazing while playing a straightforward, simple style that is both physical and fast, with deadly (!!) players at every position who can hurt you. Shut down Kaka in the middle of the park? Defensive Backs Dani Alves and Maicon will bomb it up the wings and whip in crosses. Clear a ball off of the feet of Luis Fabiano or Robinho? Lucio can crash the ensuing set-piece and score with a header. This team may not resemble the dancing, grinning style of a player like Ronaldinho (a player who, despite being past his prime, was unconscionably left out of the team), but they will grind you into mush with pace, power and precision while featuring one of the best back fours and goal keepers in the world. Brazil is always for real, they have history and pedigree and experience on their side and I have them as second favorites to win it all. This is Brazil. Not much needs to be said. They're really, really good.
Kaka Is The Shit
Next up is probably the most skilled African nation in the World Cup, Ivory Coast, led by
professional diver Didier Drogba. Drogba is a strong, electric player, but after suffering a broken elbow in a recent friendly against Japan, he may not heal in time for the World Cup, a fact that will only make Group G a little less Death-y.
For Once, Drogba Isn’t Faking It
Ivory Coast is still a quality team, with Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora and Soloman Kalou all excellent professionals who can make some noise in the Group stage; Drogba’s injury is a real shame for him and for this team, by far the deepest of the African nations, but in such a difficult Group they’ll be battling for second place without a game changing, world-class striker in on the field. But Drogba has hinted he could still play, and if he does, Ivory Coast could get it done against any and all comers.
Portugal barely qualified for the World Cup, despite the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the top two or three players in the world. It’s been a tough run up to the Cup for Portugal, who have been under-performing with manager Carlos Queiroz; the team was unable to score against Sweden (twice!) and Albania in Qualifying and most recently drew 0-0 against Cape Verde in a warm-up friendly (before dismantling Cameroon and Mozambique in their final tune-ups). Most shockingly, Ronaldo didn’t score a single goal for Portugal in Qualifying; like many of today's brightest stars, Ronaldo has been a chronic under-performer for the national side. Add to that the recent shoulder injury that has ruled Nani out of the Cup, and suddenly Portugal look beatable. Sure, this team is deep, but this is THE GROUP OF DEATH!! we’re talking about here. You better come correct!
Ronaldo Needs To Raise His Game
Finally, minnows North Korea have given their players a special memory-erasing herbal drink to consume prior to each match in the hopes that they can put the horror of playing in THE GROUP OF DEATH!! out of their minds each time they take the pitch. I hope the goals have sturdy nets, because North Korea is going to get whooped in this Group. Your crafty submarine torpedos will not save you here, lads...
This Is A North Korean Submarine. Google It.
Who To Watch: The Not Obvious Edition
For Brazil, I think this will be a breakout tournament for Ramires who, if he gets on the pitch for an extended period, is an attacking midfielder who can hit the shit out of the ball; with the new “Holy Shit! This Ball Is Crazy!™” ball from adidias, this might be the World Cup that sees more long range strikes than usual. For The Ivory Coast, I’m going with Barcelona ace Yaya Touré, a player who will be charged with containing the Brazilian and Portuguese midfielders and supporting the Ivorian back four against some serious attacking firepower. If Touré can hold down the fort and transition the ball from defense to attack with consistency, the Ivory Coast have a real chance here.
Get Yer Yaya Out: Touré Is Boss
For Portugal, I’m going with Raul Meireles, a dangerous attacking midfielder who plies his trade at Benfica and is probably Portugal’s best chance to score goals; someone has to pick up the slack for an under-achieving Ronaldo, don’t they? Meireles is on form right now, and he is a real threat to score and set up goals. For North Korea, you’ll be spending your time watching The Back Of Their Net, which should be a great place to catch a glimpse of the flighty new “Holy Shit! This Ball Is Crazy!™” ball from adidias.
North Korean Nemesis: The Jabulani Game Ball
In all seriousness, I think the player to watch is North Korea’s Kim Myong-Wan a striker who was listed as a goal keeper by the PKR and thus, has been told by FIFA that he has to play goal if he is to see the pitch. So, if Kim Myong-Wan sees the pitch and he scores, it would be an amazing accomplishment! Ok, all kidding aside, no really; North Korean striker Jong Tae-se is on form and scoring goals in the run up to the Tournament and he clearly provides North Korea’s greatest offensive threat; a brace against Greece and a goal against Nigeria is no joke, so look for the North Korean striker to provide his team’s best chance to make it out alive...
Talk About A Rivalry: Jong Tae-se Takes On South Korea
Must See Match
While all three matches between the three Group heavyweights should be great, the must-see has to be Portugal vs Ivory Coast on June 15th, a match that will set the tone for the Group; if this match is a draw, expect all hell to break loose in Group G as goal differential becomes that much more important in the subsequent matches.
Who Moves On
Well, I think it’s going to be Brazil and Ivory Coast. If Drogba makes it back in any kind of playable form, I think it is even more likely that Ivory Coast gets past Portugal and into the knockout stages. Without Drogba, it’s a 50/50 toss up for me between Portugal and Ivory Coast, but I just don’t know how much heart Portugal have and if Ronaldo stays in his shell for the national team the way he has in the past few months, I think Ivory Coast can get it done. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the other way, though, for that is the very nature of THE GROUP OF DEATH!!
Up Next: Group H