Thursday, June 01, 2006

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

Germany
World Cup Titles: 3 (1954, 1974, 1990)
Last Time We Saw Them: Lost to Brazil in the World Cup Finals in Korea/Japan
Fixtures:
June 9 vs. Costa Rica
June 14 vs. Poland
June 20 vs. Ecuador
The Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann was one of Germany’s most popular players in his prime. However since becoming manager, it has been a different story. The German lives in California and commutes to Germany for matches and training. Fans would much rather have their manager in the country to keep an eye on players. A poor World Cup could be the end of his tenure as manager.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal, England), Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich), Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart)
Defenders: Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Robert Huth (Chelsea, England), Marcell Jansen (Borussia Monchengladbach), Per Mertesacker (Hannover), Christoph Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Jens Nowotny (Bayer Leverkusen)
Midfielders: Michael Ballack (Chelsea, England), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Tim Borowski (Werder Bremen), Torsten Frings (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Kehl (Borussia Dortmund), Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), Thomas Hitzlsperger (VfB Stuttgart), David Odonkor (Borussia Dortmund).
Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Mike Hanke (VfL Wolfsburg), Oliver Neuville (Borussia Monchengladbach), Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04).
Breakdown: Jens Lehmann will be starting in goal for the German team instead of longtime starter Oliver Kahn. The midfield is patrolled by Sebastian Deisler, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Michael Ballack. The trio were also teammates at Bayern Munich before Ballack left the Bundesliga champions for Chelsea in the beginning of the offseason. Up front, Miroslav Klose who scored five goals in 2002 is back and is joined by Lukas Podolski who has an outstanding goalscoring ratio (one in every two games). The German defense led by Chelsea youngster Robert Huth is young and is the team’s Achilles heel.
Star Man: Michael Ballack – midfielder – Chelsea
The German captain is one of the most complete midfielders in the world and it makes sense why every major club wanted to sign him. He was absolutely brilliant in 2002 and will be the key to success for Germany again.
Verdict: In this group, they should advance easily and seeing how they have home field advantage, anything short of the semis will be disappointing.

Costa Rica
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: Going home after the first round
Fixtures:
June 9 vs. Germany
June 15 vs. Ecuador
June 20 vs. Poland
The Manager: Alexandre Guimaraes is in his second tour duty as manager of Costa Rica.
Roster:
Goalkeeper: Jose Francisco Porras (Saprissa), Alvaro Mesen (Herediano), Wardy Alfaro (Alajuelense).
Defenders: Harold Wallace (Alajuelense), Jervis Drummond (Saprissa), Michael Umana (Brujas), Michael Rodriguez (Alajuelense), Luis Marin (Alajuelense), Gilberto Martinez (Brescia, Italy), Leonardo Gonzalez (Herediano) Gabriel Badilla (Saprissa).
Midfielders: Randall Azofeifa (Saprissa), Carlos Hernandez (Alajuelense), Mauricio Solis (Comunicaciones, Guatemala), Douglas Sequeira (Real Salt Lake, USA), Danny Fonseca (Cartagines), Cristian Bolanos (Saprissa), Walter Centeno (Saprissa).
Strikers: Victor Nunez (Cartagines), Ronald Gomez (Saprissa), Kurt Bernard (Puntarenas), Alvaro Saborio (Saprissa), Paulo Wanchope (no club).
Breakdown: In 2002, they missed out on the second round of the World Cup because of goal difference. Paulo Wanchope is back hoping to tack on a few more goals having already becoming the nation’s all time leading goalscorer. Also coming back are mainstays Ronald Gomez, Luis Marin, and Walter Centeno.
Star Man: Paulo Wanchope – striker
Currently with 43 goals, Wanchope has been the face of Costa Rican soccer for years. If they want to have a chance to advance to the next round, they will need him to continue scoring.
Verdict: Group A might be a weak group but Costa Rica will not advance. They do not match up well against their opponents.

Poland
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: Going home after the first round despite defeating the United States
Fixtures:
June 9 vs. Ecuador
June 14 vs. Germany
June 20 vs. Costa Rica
The Manager: Pawel Janas was in key performer in Poland’s third place performers in 1982. He will be looking to better success than he did in 2002. He is currently receiving a lot of criticism for leaving Tomasz Frankowski off the squad after he led the team in scoring during qualifying.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Artur Boruc (Celtic, Scotland), Tomasz Kuszczak (West Bromwich Albion, England), Lukasz Fabianski (Legia Warsaw)
Defenders: Jacek Bak (Al Rayan, Qatar), Mariusz Jop (FK Moscow, Russia), Michal Zewlakow (Anderlecht, Belgium), Marcin Baszczynski (Wisla Krakow), Seweryn Gancarczyk (Metallist Charkow, Ukraine), Mariusz Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), Dariusz Dudka (Wisla Krakow), Bartosz Bosacki (Lech Poznan)
Midfielders: Jacek Krzynowek (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Miroslaw Szymkowiak (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Radoslaw Sobolewski (Wisla Krakow), Euzebiusz Smolarek (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Kamil Kosowski (Southampton, England), Arkadiusz Radomski (Austria Vienna, Austria), Sebastian Mila (Austria Vienna, Austria), Piotr Giza (Cracovia)
Forwards: Maciej Zurawski (Celtic, Scotland), Grzegorz Rasiak (Southampton, England), Pawel Brozek (Wisla Krakow), Ireneusz Jelen (Wisla Plock)
Breakdown: They showed in qualifying that they are one of the better teams in Europe pushing England to the end in qualifying. They are particularly deep at the forward position having scored 27 goals in qualifying. With Maciej Zurawski and Euzebiusz Smolarek, they will score plenty of goals. Poland’s problems are more mental. They are practically convinced that they cannot beat Germany and any potential second round matchup against England or Sweden.
Star Man: Miroslaw Szymkowiak – midfielder - Trabzonspor
Much of Poland’s forward play stems from him. He has excellent dribbling skills, an excellent passer, and a free kick specialist.
Verdict: Their mental approach might not be very good but their goalscoring record is too good. They will advance to the second round.

Ecuador
World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: Going home after the first round
Fixtures:
June 9 vs. Poland
June 14 vs. Costa Rica
June 20 vs. Germany
The Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez took over after the team’s disastrous performance in 2004’s Copa America. With a younger squad, he is confident that his side can qualify.
Roster:
Goalkeepers: Edwin Villafuerte (Deportivo Quito), Cristian Mora (LDU), Damian Lanza (Aucas)
Defenders: Ivan Hurtado (Al Arabi, Qatar), Geovanny Espinoza (LDU), Ulises De la Cruz (Aston Villa, England), Paul Ambrossi (LDU), Neicer Reasco (LDU), Jorge Guagua (El Nacional), Jose Luis Perlaza (Olmedo)
Midfielders: Marlon Ayovi (Deportivo Quito), Edwin Tenorio (Barcelona), Edison Mendez (LDU), Patricio Urrutia (LDU), Cristian Lara (El Nacional), Segundo Castillo (El Nacional), Luis Antonio Valencia (Recreativo Huelva, Spain), Luis Fernando Saritama (Deportivo Quito)
Forwards: Cristian Benitez (El Nacional), Felix Borja (El Nacional), Carlos Tenorio (Al Sadd, Qatar), Agustin Delgado (LDU), Ivan Kaviedes (Argentinos Juniors, Argentina)
Breakdown: They were unbeaten in eight home qualifying matches including wins over Brazil and Argentina because they have an advantage playing in high altitude. Quito is 9350 feet above sea level. However, they only won one match on the road. Agustin Delgado and Edison Mendez each scored five goals in qualifying and make a solid tandem. Giovanny Espinoza and Ivan Hurtado will anchor the team’s defense.
Star Man: Agustin Delgado – striker – LDU
He had a nightmare playing in England for Southampton but has turned it around since returning to Ecuador. He is his country’s all time leading goalscorer with 29.
Verdict: Maybe Ecuador should consider making a run to host a World Cup. It might be the only way that they will advance to the next round.

Group A Predicted Order of Finish
Germany
Poland
Costa Rica
Ecuador

German Football Term of the Day
Tor! – Goal!

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