Wednesday, June 07, 2006

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

France
World Cup Titles: 1 (1998)
Last Time We Saw Them: They were one of the big disappointments in Korea/Japan getting eliminated in the group stage.
Fixtures:
June 13 vs. Switzerland
June 18 vs. South Korea
June 23 vs. Togo
The Manager: Raymond Domenech was promoted after Euro 2004 to replace Jacques Santini. Previously coaching the Under-21 team for nine years, he quickly came under fire from his players for banning cell phones during meals and insisting on shin guards during practice. He came under further fire after France initially struggled during World Cup qualification. Fans think he doesn’t have a clue about tactics or man management.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Olympique Marseille), Gregory Coupet (Olympique Lyon), Mickael Landreau (Nantes)
Defenders: Eric Abidal (Olympique Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle United, England), Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan Athletic, England), William Gallas (Chelsea, England), Gael Givet (Monaco) Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich, Germany), Mikael Silvestre (Manchester United, England), Lilian Thuram (Juventus, Italy)
Midfielders: Vikash Dhorasoo (Paris St Germain), Alou Diarra (Racing Lens), Claude Makelele (Chelsea, England), Florent Malouda (Olympique Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Juventus, Italy), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid, Spain)
Strikers: Djibril Cisse (Liverpool, England), Thierry Henry (Arsenal, England), Franck Ribery (Olympique Marseille), Louis Saha (Manchester United, England), David Trezeguet (Juventus, Italy), Sylvain Wiltord (Olympique Lyon)
Breakdown: The only reason why France managed to win their qualification group was because a trio of players who had initially retired from international football after Euro 2004 decided to come back. These players are defensive midfielder Claude Makelele, defender Lilian Thuram, and the greatest player in French history Zinedine Zidane. With Zidane back, Domenech changed the formation to allow the playmaking midfielder to plenty of room behind strikers Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet. On paper, this is a solid team. The defense will Gallas and Thuram is very good in front of either Barthez or Coupet. Midfielders Florent Malouda, Claude Makelele, and Patrick Vieira will do a solid job holding and provide support for Zidane. Up front, Thierry Henry is the most complete striker in world; when he is playing for Arsenal. He has come under criticism for never being able to replicate that same form for this nation. His relationship with Zidane is not very good. He feels he should get the ball a lot more quickly like he does in the Premiership. He has the speed to make defenders pay for giving him any space. The Zidane-Henry relationship is an example of the problem with this team. There is no unity in the side. Part of that is Domenech’s fault for not making it a point to build continuity. If this team is clicking and plays as a team, they are a very dangerous side. They should watch the film from Euro 2000 when they won the tournament.
Star Man: Zinedine Zidane – midfielder – Real Madrid
Make sure to take a good look at Zizou because this will be last time that you will be able to see the French wizard. The soon to be 34 year old has played his last game for Real Madrid. He has tremendous ball handling skills and will be given plenty of space to work in Domenech’s formation. No one is more beloved by the French fans than Zidane.
Verdict: If they pull together and play as a team, France can go far. We will also have to see how age plays a factor.

Switzerland
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: They were eliminated in the second round in 1994.
Fixtures:
June 13 vs. France
June 19 vs. Togo
June 23 vs. South Korea
The Manager: Jakob Kobi Kuhn took over in 2001 after stints with the Under-17’s and the Under-21’s. He was in charge of the team during Euro 2004. Leading the unfashionable Swiss side to two consecutive tournaments is an accomplishment in itself.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (CD Nacional, Portugal), Fabio Coltorti (Grasshoppers Zurich), Pascal Zuberbuehler (FC Basle)
Defenders: Valon Behrami (Lazio, Italy), Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Johan Djourou (Arsenal, England), Stephane Grichting (Auxerre, France), Ludovic Magnin (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Patrick Mueller (Olympique Lyon, France), Philippe Senderos (Arsenal, England), Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany)
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Ricardo Cabanas (Cologne, Germany), David Degen (FC Basle), Blerim Dzemaili (FC Zurich), Daniel Gygax (Lille, France), Xavier Margairaz (FC Zurich), Johann Vogel (AC Milan, Italy), Raphael Wicky (Hamburg SV, Germany)
Forwards: Alex Frei (Rennes, France), Mauro Lustrinelli (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic), Marco Streller (Cologne, Germany), Hakan Yakin (Young Boys)
Breakdown: There is a tendency to consider the Swiss a neutral, non-aggressive type. The team does not represent that tendency because several of the players could have represented other teams. Valon Behrami is Serbian, Ricardo Cabanas qualifies for Italy and Spain, Johan Djourou was born in the Ivory Coast, and Philippe Senderos has a Spanish father and Serbian mother. The Swiss were not given much of a chance of qualifying but did so after a heated playoff against Turkey. Alexander Frei scored seven goals during qualification and will be counted on to produce. The Swiss have a solid combination in the middle of the midfield with Johann Vogel and Rafael Wicky. The defense is led by Philippe Senderos might be only 21 years old but he has played in plenty of big games for Arsenal especially during their Champions League campaign. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry. He has already had experience playing Henry as France and Switzerland were in the same qualifying group. France may won the group but they drew in their two matches against the Swiss.
Star Man: Johann Vogel – midfielder – AC Milan
The Swiss captain is the only player to know what it’s like to play in the World Cup having been a part of the team in 1994. He has made nearly 100 appearances for the team and Kuhn has singled him out as his ‘leader on the pitch.’ Before becoming a role player in Milan, he won four championships with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.
Verdict: They are not the most glamorous team in the World Cup but they do not allow too many goals and that means that they have a chance to win. They have a good chance to make it to the second round but expect their general lack of talent in comparison to their opponents to come out.

South Korea
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: As co-hosts in 2002, they made it all the way to the semi-finals.
Fixtures:
June 13 vs. Togo
June 18 vs. France
June 23 vs. Switzerland
The Manager: Dick Advocaat managed Holland in Euro 2004 and then had a disastrous spell with Borussia Monchengladbach where he had the opportunity to work with American goalkeeper Kasey Keller. He was also Holland’s manager during the 1994 World Cup taking them to the quarterfinals. Advocaat knows how tournament play works but will be hard pressed to repeat the success South Korea had in 2002 under fellow Dutchman and current Aussie boss Guus Hiddink.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Lee Woon-Jae (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Yong-Dae (Seongnam Ilwha), Kim Young-Kwang (Chunnam Dragons)
Defenders: Lee Young-Pyo (Tottenham Hotspur, England), Kim Dong-Jin (FC Seoul), Cho Won-Hee (Suwon Bluewings), Song Chong-Gug (Suwon Bluewings), Choi Jin-Cheul (Chonbuk Motors), Kim Jin-Kyu (Jubilo Iwata, Japan), Kim Young-Chul (Seongnam Ilwha)
Midfielders: Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United, England), Kim Do-Heon (Seongnam Ilwha), Kim Sang-Shik (Seongnam Ilwha), Kim Nam-Il (Suwon Bluewings), Lee Eul-Yong (Trabzonspor), Lee Ho (Ulsan Tigers), Baek Ji-Hoon (FC Seoul)
Strikers: Ahn Jung-Hwan (MSV Duisburg, Germany), Cho Jae-Jin (Shimizu S-Pulse, Japan), Park Chu-Young (FC Seoul), Seol Ki-Hyeon (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Lee Chun-Soo (Ulsan Tigers), Chung Kyung-Ho (Gwangju Sangmu)
Breakdown: Since Hiddink led South Korea to the semis in 2002, the nation has been through managers Humberto Coelho and Jo Bonfrere. Advocaat came in and got right to work scheduling 14 games in 5 months. With old faces from 2002 on the staff, the aggressive pressing style from four years ago has returned. But the inability to convert chances into goals remains a concern. Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Tottenham’s Lee Young-Pyo are the two most notable players on the side and their European experience will come in handy. Both of them were at PSV Eindhoven under former boss Guus Hiddink before making the move to the Premiership. While the nation isn’t expecting another repeat of 2002, they do expect the side to make it out of the group stages. It could all come down to their matchup against Switzerland for advancement.
Star Man: Park Ji-Sung – midfielder – Manchester United
He had a solid debut year for United playing on the wing. He plays a different role for South Korea playing the center of midfield and will be providing service to the strikers. He is not afraid to take penalties having done so in the 2002 World Cup.
Verdict: The Taeguk Warriors are without home field advantage and Hiddink. They have some talent but not enough to advance to the next round. They will be heading back east.

Togo
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: This is their first trip to the World Cup.
Fixtures:
June 13 vs. South Korea
June 19 vs. Switzerland
June 23 vs. France
The Manager: Otto Pfister has had a wealth of experience in Africa coaching Rwanda, Burkina Faso, DR Congo, and Ghana. He had led Saudi Arabia to the 1998 World Cup but was replaced by Carlos Alberto Parreira just before the tournament.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Kossi Agassa (Metz, France), Nimini Tchagnirou (Djoliba, Mali), Kodjovi Dodji Obilale (Etoile Filante)
Defenders: Yaovi Dosseh Abalo (Apoel, Cyprus), Dare Nibombe (Mons, Belgium), Ludovic Assemoassa (Clermont, France), Karim Guede (Hamburg, Germany), Toure Assimiou (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Richmond Forson (J.A. Poire, France), Massamesso Tchangai (Benevento, Italy), Kuami Agboh (Beveren, Belgium), Eric Akoto (Admira Walker, Austria), Afo Erassa (Clermont, France)
Midfielders: Kaka Aziawonou (Youngs Boys, Switzerland), Cherif Toure Mamam (Metz, France), Thomas Dossevi (Valencien, France), Alexis Romao (CS Louhans Cuiseaux, France), Adekambi Olufade (Al Siliyah, Qatar), Yao Junior Senaya (YF Juventus, Switzerland)
Forwards: Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal, England), Robert Malm (Brest, France), Abdel-Kader Cougbadja (Guingamp, France), Moustapha Salifou (Brest, France)
Breakdown: Their qualification to Germany may be the biggest surprise in the World Cup as they topped a group that included Senegal. Togo lost their first game against Zambia but then remained unbeaten. They are built around Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor who scored ten goals in qualifying. They play an attack minded style but they will be burned in the World Cup. This is a team in complete disarray right now. The team had an abysmal African Cup of Nations after Adebayor had a major fight with manager Stephen Keshi. The rest of the team backed Keshi but after two terrible performances, Keshi was fired. Because Adebayor is so important to the side, he is still a part of the team but the chemistry in the locker room is bad.
Star Man: Emmanuel Adebayor – striker – Arsenal
He is by far the most notable player in the country. In 30 appearances, he has scored 12 goals for his nation including ten during qualification. But because of his dispute with former boss Stephen Keshi, he is not on good terms with his teammates right now.
Verdict: Even in a weak group, they wouldn’t stand a chance. They are just not good enough. At least Togo won the Miss World Cup contest.

Group G Predicted Order of Finish
France
Switzerland
South Korea
Togo

German Football Term of the Day
Verlierer – Loser

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