2006 World Cup: Group C preview
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TEAMS: Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast, Serbia Montenegro
Every World Cup has a so-called Group of Death, and this is generally considered to be the one this time around. The one group that is packed with all good teams and it’s unlucky for the two that don’t manage to advance. This is a strong group, no question about that, but I don’t know if it’s quite that strong to deserve the billing. But, every match in this group should be a good one. The Argentina/Holland match-up might be the highlight of the entire group stage.
Argentina is as fabulous as ever, 20 years down the road since Maradona played. There’s always been the ‘next Maradona’ in every one of their teams since, although no one has ever come close to living up to that. Lionel Messi may be the one that does. He’s 18 and seems destined to have a break-out World Cup. He’s already an amazing player. But we’ve heard all that before. Crespo, Ayala, and Aimer are all still around and still good, but are mostly working to make up for their previous lackluster displays. Riquelme is there as well, and has nothing to make up for. He’ll be as solid as ever. When they feel like playing, there aren’t many teams better, but they seem to get bored at times. Never boring, though.
It was a major shock last time that the Netherlands didn’t even qualify for the World Cup. They made sure of things this time by playing extremely well throughout the qualifiers. Their days of fighting amongst themselves and underperforming may be over. Coach Marco Van Basten has left off some of the big named stars and their egos, but still had plenty of talent to choose from. They should get loads of offense from Ruud van Nistleroy and Arjen Robben. But it might be the likes of Rafael Vander Vaart and Robin van Persie that get them over the edge. As long as they don’t implode yet again, they’re one of the strongest teams in the field.
The Ivory Coast is the strongest African team and will be right on the heels of the two previously mentioned favorites. Led by Robben’s over-valued teammate at Chelsea, Didier Drogba, they should be in every match. It’s their first World Cup and they’re looking to continue the tradition of first-time African participants exceeding expectations. Although they are talented enough to warrant some rather lofty expectations anyway.
Serbia Montenegro, in what will surely be their last World Cup since it looks like the countries will split by the next one, are not very pretty but they find ways to grind out a win. Yet another Chelsea player, Meteja Kezman, leads this gritty bunch who will give even the best teams some problems. In just about any other group, this is a team you might give an outside shot to slip through the group stage, but there’s probably just too much group for even them to slip through here.
The Group of Death? More like the Group of Chelsea–every team has a player or two with a tie to the London squad. It is certainly a great group though. Argentina can be dazzling, and a tough group may be just what they needed to keep them interested. Holland can be as good as anyone if they come together as a team, as they finally seem to have done. One slip-up by either and the Ivory Coast will be there to go through, and Serbia Montenegro will give everyone it plays a headache. Absolutely anything could happen in this group, and any of the teams could end up advancing. It may not be the Group of Death, but it will be the group to watch.
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