2006 World Cup: Group G preview
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TEAMS: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo
This group is almost a carbon copy of Group F, with one top class team in with three vastly overmatched others that barely belong. The difference here is that the top team is the seemingly constantly underperforming French. This group is their chance to finally get it together. They are too good to keep pulling this nonsense in every tournament. Whichever minnow happens to swipe second in this group, is again of no importance.
By most accounts, France should have been the dominant team, at least in Europe, from the time they won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000, until now. On paper, they’re excellent. Still. On the pitch they’ve been one long disappointment. Zidane is past his prime now, but they still have the incredible Thierry Henry. David Trezeguet will be there beside him if he ever happens to miss. They have the perfect thug in midfield in Patrick Viera. Their only real weakness is keeping the clown Fabian Barthez in goal–but he’s always good for a gaff–or a laugh, if you’re a neutral–to keep things light. They have enough firepower to win in spite of him. Surely, even they cannot manage to blow it this time. It would be difficult to imagine an easier draw. They probably don’t quite have the talent to win the Cup anymore, but they should advance fairly deep in this tournament.
You can flip a coin to try to pick who will capture second here. Switzerland gets my slight nod. A one-time powerhouse, it’s been a long while since they’ve been able to compete on the world stage. They now have a young and unproven team, but what I like most about them is their un-Swissness. These crazy kids actually brawled with Turkey in qualifying. They might be good enough for second here, no one really knows much about them, but you have to admire their spunk.
Like Japan, South Korea loses the advantage of playing the World Cup on their home soil this go round. Again like Japan they are an up and coming team that shows much promise for the future. But the future is still a ways off for now. If they win a match here, they should be fairly happy.
Togo might be the longest shot in the World Cup. They rely almost totally on Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor, and he spends much of his time on the national team arguing with the coach or sulking. This doesn’t bode well for a team that would be bound to struggle mightily even if he was on his game.
This group was a gift to France whether they deserved one or not. Coming off a whole string of international disappointments, you have to think they’ll rouse themselves enough to walk through this first round as expected, for a change. Switzerland is an unknown entity, but seem to have enough to hold onto second. Even with Dick Advocaat at the helm of South Korea, they just aren’t ready for this kind of competition yet. Just a win anywhere by Togo would be a huge surprise. Give it to France in a walk. Second place, will win the honor to play one more game, then they‘re straight home as well.
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