Friday, June 02, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Preview - Group B
By Imtiaz Mussa

England
World Cup Titles: 1 (1966)
Last Time We Saw Them: Ronaldinho had a fluky free kick go in to eliminate England in the quarterfinals
Fixtures:
June 10 vs. Paraguay
June 15 vs. Trinidad and Tobago
June 20 vs. Sweden
The Manager: Sven Goran Eriksson will be leaving the team as he will hand over the reigns to assistant Steve McClaren. He has taken England to quarterfinals in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. Expect a big name club to make a run at him.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur), David James (Manchester City), Scott Carson (Liverpool)
Defenders Gary Neville (Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Sol Campbell (Arsenal), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Wayne Bridge (Chelsea)
Midfielders: David Beckham (Real Madrid), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Carrick (Tottenham Hotspur), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham Hotspur), Stuart Downing (Middlesbrough), Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich)
Striker: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Michael Owen (Newcastle United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Peter Crouch (Liverpool)
Breakdown: A few months ago, it looked as if England would be in pretty good shape heading into this World Cup. Michael Owen was rehabbing well from a foot injury and the Boy Wonder Wayne Rooney was in form. However, Rooney broke his metatarsal and all of a sudden, Eriksson had a major problem. Owen should be ready to go for their first match and Rooney is trying to heal up as fast as he can hoping to make it for the Sweden match. The team is good enough to get out of this group. Paul Robinson is very solid in goal, the defense is very solid with the likes of John Terry, Gary Neville, and Ashley Cole. Captain David Beckham leads a solid midfield that features Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. One has to wonder what Eriksson will do up front without Rooney.
Star Man: Steven Gerrard – midfielder – Liverpool
In a team with the likes of Beckham, Rooney, and Owen, it can be hard to remember the Liverpool captain. Gerrard has had a knack for scoring some big goals for Liverpool. He will be a driving force in the center of midfield and with a striker shortage, could figure to play a little bit up front.
Verdict: England will make it to the next round but after that, it largely depends on the foot of Wayne Rooney.

Sweden
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: Lost to Senegal in the second round in Korea/Japan
Fixtures:
June 10 vs. Trinidad and Tobago
June 15 vs. Paraguay
June 20 vs. England
The Manager: Lars Lagerback took complete charge of the team after Euro 2004 when Tommy Soderberg moved to the Under-21 side. He well known as a meticulous tactician.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: John Alvbage (Viborg, Denmark), Andreas Isaksson (Rennes, France), Rami Shaaban (Fredrikstad, Norway)
Defenders: Erik Edman (Rennes, France), Petter Hansson (Heerenveen, Holland), Teddy Lucic (Hacken), Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa, England), Mikael Nilsson (Panathinaikos, Greece), Fredrik Stenman (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Karl Svensson (IFK Goteborg)
Midfielders: Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Goteborg), Daniel Andersson (Malmo), Johan Elmander (Brondby, Denmark), Mattias Jonson (Djurgarden), Kim Kallstrom (Rennes, France), Tobias Linderoth (Copenhagen, Denmark), Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal, England), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Christian Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht, Belgium)
Strikers: Marcus Allback (Copenhagen, Denmark), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Juventus, Italy), Henrik Larsson (Barcelona, Spain), Markus Rosenberg (Ajax, Holland)
Breakdown: They are solid as a rock in the back and have two genuine strikers. The only thing that limits Sweden is creativity in the midfield. Aside from Freddie Ljungberg, the team has no one who will dazzle people in the middle. However, they will not let up too many goals. Andreas Isaksson is a very solid goalkeeper and Olof Mellberg and Teddy Lucic are simply solid. Up front, veteran Henrik Larsson came out of retirement to play in Euro 2004 and has been sensational ever since. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been brilliant since joining Juventus and has the best goal in Euro 2004.
Star Man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – striker – Juventus
The torch is ready to be passed from Larsson to Ibrahimovic as Sweden’s main striker. He has the size and pace to be a dynamic goalgetter in this tournament. If he can keep his temper in check, Sweden should be in good shape.
Verdict: Since they are so fundamentally sound, they will make it to the second round but a lack of creativity in midfield might do them in. The Swedes have another mission in this tournament; England has not defeated them since May 1968. They must keep that going and will be happy with a draw.

Paraguay
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: Lost to finalists Germany in the second round in Korea/Japan
Fixtures:
June 10 vs. England
June 15 vs. Sweden
June 20 vs. Trinidad and Tobago
The Manager: Anibal Ruiz was supposed to be a stopgap after Cesare Maldini stepped down in 2002. However, the Uruguayan has kept his job because he has built a hard working team. He has placed plenty of emphasis on defense and organization.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Justo Villar (Newell's Old Boys), Aldo Bobadilla (Libertad), Derlis Gomez (Sportivo Luqueno)
Defenders: Denis Caniza (unattached), Carlos Gamarra (Palmeiras), Julio Cesar Caceres (River Plate), Delio Toledo (Real Zaragoza), Paulo Da Silva (Toluca), Julio Cesar Mansur (Guarani), Jorge Nunez (Estudiantes)
Midfielders: Edgar Barreto (NEC Nijmegen), Roberto Acuna (Deportivo La Coruna), Carlos Humberto Paredes (Reggina), Julio Dos Santos (Bayern Munich), Cristian Riveros, Carlos Bonet (both Libertad), Jose Montiel (Olimpia), Diego Gavilan (Newell's Old Boys)
Forwards: Roque Santa Cruz (Bayern Munich), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Werder Bremen), Jose Saturnino Cardozo (unattached), Salvador Cabanas (Jaguares), Nelson Cuevas (Pachuca)
Breakdown: This is a largely experienced squad mixed in with some youth such as Nelson Haedo Valdez. The team had to scrap their way to fourth place in South American qualifying and had some uneven play in friendlies. It is hard to get a real gauge on what team to expect. Veteran Jose Cardozo and Roque Santa Cruz will play up front while David Gavilan and Carlos Paredes will control the midfield. Thirty five year old Carlo Gamarra will anchor the backline.
Star Man: Roque Santa Cruz – striker – Bayern Munich
He has been a Paraguay regular since he was 17 (currently 24) The Bayern Munich striker should have no problem with his surrounding in this tournament. However, he has had a problem staying healthy.
Verdict: It is hard to figure out which team is going to show up. But it does not appear very likely that they are going to get by England and Sweden.

Trinidad and Tobago
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: We never have. This is their first ever appearance.
Fixtures:
June 10 vs. Sweden
June 15 vs. England
June 20 vs. Paraguay
The Manager: Leo Beenhakker was manager of the Dutch team in the 1990 World Cup and was not very successful as the Dutch did not get a win. His organizational skills have proven to be key for this team.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Kelvin Jack (Dundee), Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Clayton Ince (Coventry City)
Defenders: Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham) Cyd Gray (San Juan Jabloteh), Marvin Andrews (Rangers), Brent Sancho (Gillingham), Ian Cox (Gillingham), Atiba Charles (W Connection), Avery John (New England Revolution), Evans Wise (Waldhof Mannheim - Germany)
Midfielders: Chris Birchall (Port Vale), Aurtis Whitley (San Juan Jabloteh), Anthony Wolfe (San Juan Jabloteh), Densill Theobald (Falkirk), Carlos Edwards (Luton), Dwight Yorke (Sydney FC), Russell Latapy (Falkirk)
Forwards: Stern John (Coventry), Kenwyne Jones (Southampton), Collin Samuel (Dundee United), Jason Scotland (St Johnstone), Cornell Glen (LA Galaxy)
Breakdown: They were so happy in Trinidad that the government declared a national holiday the day after the Soca Warriors qualified. Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke is the only well known star on the team. Players such as Chris Birchall, Dennis Lawrence, and Stern John are found in England’s lower divisions. They do pass well and have nothing to lose.
Star Man: Stern John – striker – Coventry City
He has scored an amazing 64 goals in just 103 games but must now step it up as the level of competition rises. Panama, Guatemala, and Jamaica are nowhere to be found.
Verdict: They will be going home after the first round with their head held high. They are winners for getting here. They might get a point.

Group B Predicted Order of Finish
England
Sweden
Paraguay
Trinidad and Tobago

German Football Term of the Day
Eftmeter – Penalty

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