Sunday, June 04, 2006

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

Portugal
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: They were stunned by the United States in the opening group match and failed to make it out of the first round.
Fixtures:
June 11 vs. Angola
June 17 vs. Iran
June 21 vs. Mexico
The Manager: Luis Felipe Scolari managed the Brazilian team to the 2002 World Cup title and hopes to become the first manager to lead two different countries to World Cup glory. Big Phil has a huge and fearsome reputation that demands respect and excellence from his players. He took Portugal to the Euro 2004 Finals.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Ricardo Pereira (Sporting), Quim Silva (Benfica), Paulo Santos (SC Braga)
Defenders: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea, England), Miguel Monteiro (Valencia, Spain), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea, England), Fernando Meira (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Marco Caneira (Sporting), Ricardo Costa (Porto), Nuno Valente (Everton, England)
Midfielders: Armando Petit (Benfica), Costinha (Dynamo Moscow, Russia), Tiago Mendes (Olympique Lyon, France), Nuno Maniche (Chelsea, England), Hugo Viana (Valencia, Spain), Luis Figo (Inter Milan, Italy), Deco (Barcelona, Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, England), Simao Sabrosa (Benfica)
Forwards: Luis Boa Morte (Fulham, England), Pauleta (Paris Saint-Germain, France) Nuno Gomes (Benfica), Helder Postiga (Saint Etienne, France)
Breakdown: A team loaded with attacking options such as Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, and Pauleta should have no problems putting the ball in the back of the net. Their defense is a bit shaky as central defender Jorge Andrade will be missing the tournament due to an injury. Ricardo had a good Euro 2004 and will need to have a similar performance. The team has talent can be complacent at times. If they play with the proper motivation, they can be unstoppable.
Star Man: Luis Figo – midfielder – Inter Milan
Figo retired from international football after Euro 2004 but after moving from Real Madrid to Inter Milan, he got a new lease on life and has returned to national team. He and Cristiano Ronaldo will be on the flanks as they will stretch the field for Pauleta and Simao in the middle. Luis Figo is still the face of Portuguese football.
Verdict: Never bet against Scolari in the World Cup. This team will easily make it out of this group and should be considered a darkhorse to win the entire thing.

Mexico
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: The United States defeated their archrival in the second round in 2002.
Fixtures:
June 11 vs. Iran
June 17 vs. Angola
June 21 vs. Portugal
The Manager: Argentine Ricardo Lavolpe has been in Mexico since 1979. He took over as manager three years ago and has made controversial moves bringing Brazil born Antonio Naelson and Argentina born Guillermo Franco into the squad.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sanchez (Guadalajara), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jesus Corona (Tecos)
Defenders: Jose Antonio Castro (America), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona), Mario Mendez (Monterrey), Ricardo Osorio (Cruz Azul), Francisco Rodriguez (Guadalajara), Carlos Salcido (Guadalajara), Claudio Suarez (Chivas USA, USA), Andres Guardado (Atlas), Gonzalo Pineda (Guadalajara)
Midfielders: Luis Perez (Monterrey), Pavel Pardo (America), Antonio Naelson (Toluca), Rafael Garcia (Atlas), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Ramon Morales (Guadalajara)
Forwards: Jared Borgetti (Bolton Wanderers, England), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal, Spain), Francisco Fonseca (Cruz Azul), Omar Bravo (Guadalajara), Jesus Arellano (Monterrey)
Breakdown: Not many of the players make the jump to Europe but the Mexicans still have a very solid team. With Oswaldo Sanchez in goal and Rafael Marquez leading the backline, it will be difficult to score goals on the Mexicans. Up front, strikers Francisco Fonseca and Bolton Wanderers’ Jared Borgetti have great goalscoring statistics in international play. Borgetti did not have a very good debut season in England and will be motivated. The team does not have a very good European record and it appears that they get homesick.
Star Man: Rafael Marquez – defender – FC Barcelona
He helps anchor a defense that has helped the Catalan giants win consecutive La Liga titles and the Champions League. Not bad for the first man since Hugo Sanchez to establish himself with a major European side. The Mexican captain can be highly strung at times but his teammates will look to him to settle their nerves in case homesickness should strike.
Verdict: Their reception of one of the eight seeds over the likes of the Czech Republic and even the United States was controversial. If they don’t make it out of the group stages, it will be a huge failure. In most of the other groups, they would be considered the favorite to be heading home early but this is a weak group. This will probably be their fourth time in a row going home after the second round.

Iran
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: They did not qualify in 2002. In 1998, they got a king’s welcome home after being eliminated in the first round. They beat the United States 2-1.
Fixtures:
June 11 vs. Mexico
June 17 vs. Portugal
June 21 vs. Angola
The Manager: Branko Ivankovic took over in 2002 and led the team to a victory in the Asian Games that year and third place in 2004. His job security is shaky at best after some sub-par performances in the qualifying rounds.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Ebrahim Mirzapour (Foolad Khuzestan), Vahid Talebloo (Esteghlal Tehran), Hassan Roudbarian (Pas)
Defenders: Yahya Golmohammadi (Saba Battery), Mohammad Nosrati (Pas), Rahman Rezaei (Messina, Italy), Sattar Zare (Bargh Shiraz), Hossein Kaabi (Foolad Khuzestan), Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh (Saba Battery), Amir Hossein Sadeqi (Esteghlal Tehran)
Midfielders: Javad Nekounam (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates), Anderanik Teymourian (Abomoslem Khorasan), Mehdi Mahdavikia (Hamburg, Germany), Fereydoon Zandi (Kaiserslautern, Germany), Ali Karimi (Bayern Munich, Germany), Mehrzad Madanchi (Persepolis), Javad Kazemian (Persepolis)
Forwards: Ali Daei (Saba Battery), Vahid Hashemian (Hanover, Germany), Reza Enayati (Esteghlal Tehran), Arash Borhani (Pas), Masoud Shojai (Saipa), Rasoul Khatibi (Sepahan Isfahan)
Breakdown: With players such as Ali Karimi, Ferydoon Zandi, Vahid Hashemian, and Mehdi Mahdavikia all playing in the Bundesliga, the Iranian team should be comfortable with their surroundings. They have the highest goalscorer in the history of international football in Ali Daei. The 37 year old has scored over 100 goals in less than 150 appearances for Iran. This team can be erratic at times as they have lost to the likes of Queen’s Park Rangers and Macedonia’s B Team.
Star Man: Ali Karimi – midfielder – Bayern Munich
The creative force in Iran’s midfield is an exceptional passer and has a fiery temperament to match. In 1998, he was suspended for a year after being found guilty of kicking a match official. He has somewhat calmed down since making the move to Germany and will have plenty of expectations on his shoulders as Michael Ballack has moved on to Chelsea.
Verdict: This team has the potential to give Portugal and Mexico a hard time. They should aim for a 1-1-1 record.

Angola
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: This is their first trip to the World Cup.
Fixtures:
June 11 vs. Portugal
June 17 vs. Mexico
June 21 vs. Iran
The Manager: Luis Oliveira Goncalves has been working miracles since he took the job after their shock defeat to Chad in their first qualifying game. He has been extremely successful coaching Angola’s youth sides leading them to an African Under-20 title and the second round of the World Youth Championship in 2001.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: João Ricardo (unattached), Lama (Petro Atletico), Mário (InterClube)
Defenders: Delgado (Petro Atletico), Jamba (AS Aviacao), Kali (FC Barreirense, Portugal), Lebo Lebo (Petro Atletico), Loco (Primeiro Agosto), Marco Abreu (Portimonense, Portugal), Marco Airosa (FC Barreirense, Portugal), Rui Marques (Hull City, England)
Midfielders: André (Kuwait SC, Kuwait), Edson (Pacos Ferreira, Portugal), Figueiredo, Mendonca (Varzim, Portugal), Miloy (InterClube), Zé Kalanga (Petro Atletico)
Strikers: Fabrice Akwá (Al Wakra, Qatar), Andre Titi Buengo (Clermont Foot, France), Flávio (Al Ahli, Egypt), Love (AS Aviacao), Mantorras (Benfica, Portugal), Mateus (Gil Vicente, Portugal)
Breakdown: With an amazing team spirit and strong work ethic, the Super Eagles were able to defeat Nigeria and squeak into the finals. In 10 qualifying games, Angola conceded only six goals but the problem is that they only scored 12. The lack of creativity could prove to be a real problem in Germany. They were eliminated in the group stages of the African Cup of Nations. Their players know they have nothing to lose and will play very loose.
Star Man: Fabrice Akwa – striker – Al Wakra (Qatar)
Besides being the team’s big name striker, he is also their captain. He holds the country’s goalscoring record with 31 in 72 games. His late game winner against Rwanda sent Angola to the World Cup. He will act as a mentor to the talented Pedro Mantorras.
Verdict: Just getting here was an accomplishment for the nation that has endured 27 years of civil war which ended in 2002.

Group D Predicted Order of Finish
Portugal
Mexico
Iran
Angola

German Football Term of the Day
Toll gehalten! – What a save!

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