2006 World Cup: Group H preview
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TEAMS: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia
Group H should be the easiest group to predict in the tournament. The two top teams both have their issues, but the other two are so far behind they shouldn’t pose any threat. Spain, often considered the biggest underachievers, are still hanging around the fringes of greatness with a top notch team. Ukraine is solid up front, but have a few injury concerns and a suspect defense. Both Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, completely over their heads here, will be happy with just a win.
Spain has a nice combination of youth and experience. The Arsenal youngsters Cesc Febragas and Jose Antonio Reyes are among the most exciting kids in the game today. Raul, though, like Xavi, struggling with an injury right now, bring talented veteran experience. They also have seemingly half of Liverpool’s team which will benefit them since they play so many matches together. Spain has always been good, and the expectation is that they should have won something by now. But, they were never the best team in any tournament. They aren’t this time either. But, they shouldn’t be knocked as underachievers just because they never overachieve.
Even with Andriy Shevchenko nursing a knee injury, Ukraine is strong enough offensively to take second in this group. There are many questions in the back, but Tunisia and Saudi Arabia aren’t going to worry them. They’ll easily get through the group stage and might be able to spring a surprise or two if they get healthy and can tighten up the defense.
Like a handful of teams, Tunisia will be overjoyed with just a win somewhere in Germany. Other than Togo they are probably the weakest team in the field.
Saudi Arabia tend not to just lose matches in the World Cup, they lose by impressive scores. They are perennial shoe-ins to make the Cup due to a very easy qualifying group, but they have no chance here. Only something like two of their players have ever played outside of a Saudi club.
Once again, Spain, good but not great, should have a solid World Cup this time. They’re the class of the group and that should be the springboard to get them going. They won’t win it all, but they should go deep into the tournament. Ukraine is hobbling and concede too many goals, but they’re easily the second team in this group, and could even manage an upset or two further on. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are just rounding out the field and won’t be factors in this Cup.
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