WOODCOCK BACKS ENGLAND

Ex-England striker Tony Woodcock has said that there is every chance that England can be successful at this summer’s Euro 2012, which promises to be very exciting.

Even though England head into the competition without a permanent manager as of yet, Tony Woodcock believes that England can perform well at the Euro 2012 because they have some great players in the team. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will miss the initial two matches of the campaign, while Jack Wilshere is a major doubt for the Euro 2012, despite having ruled out by Arsene Wenger for the rest of the season.

The tournament will be taking place in a matter of just 52 days and the excitement has been building up. Fabio Capello recently handed his resignation in the wake of the captaincy being stripped off John Terry. The English football Association, however, are yet to name his replacement.

Stuart Pearce has been named as the caretaker manager of the England national team, but is unlikely to continue. Harry Redknapp is one of the big names being linked with the job, while the likes of Roy Hodgson have also been spoken about for leading England at the Euro 2012. Woodcock played for England back in the 1980’s. He has compared the current England team with the Danish side of 1992, which won the European Championships.

“Maybe this is the right time, with the pressure off a little bit, to just go out there and play. There is hope – there will be a lot of teams who will not relish playing against England. I have been encouraged with the way Chelsea have been playing in the last few weeks, where the so-called experienced players [John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard] look to be refreshed and are up for the challenge in the Champions League,” Woodcock said.

According to the latest Football Betting odds, England are third-favourites.

JOSE RULES OUT ENGLAND ROLE

Real Madrid manager José Mourinho has said that he is not interested in taking the England job after it has been rumoured that he is one of the contenders for the job amongst the English FA ranks.

José Mourinho was one of the favourites to take over from Steve McClaren the last time the opportunity opened up, but the then out of work Mourinho, did not take the job. Hence, the English FA are not considering him seriously this time around, as José Mourinho is currently managing one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Even though there have been reports that he is set to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, the former Chelsea manager dismissed speculation linking him with the England job.

One of the reasons for José Mourinho to be linked with the England job is the recent house hunting by the Portuguese manager in London. However, José Mourinho has many times said that he believes that the international teams should be coached by the managers from the respective regions. He also has said that managing the Portugal national team will make him a complete man, although he is not ready for such a job as of now.

“There is no way Jose will coach England. He loves the football in England but there is no chance of this at all. What he wants is a club,” a close friend told The National. José Mourinho is looking to capture the Spanish league title for the first time in three seasons. They are currently the leaders in the Spanish la Liga, and hold a significant 10 point advantage over Barcelona. Even though Real Madrid are yet to play Barcelona at the Camp Nou – where they have lost numerous times in recent seasons, Real Madrid are the favourites for the title.

HARRY UNSURE ON ENGLAND ROLE

Harry Redknapp has asserted that his taking charge of the England National Football Team now would be extremely unfair on the Tottenham Hotspur side that are doing so well at the moment, sitting pretty in third on the English Premier League table and looking good for direct qualification into next year’s UEFA Champions League.

Redknapp has long been linked with the managerial hot set of the England national team and ever since the resignation of Fabio Capello from the position; Redknapp has strongly been linked with the job.

Many of the tabloids in the United Kingdom have already begun circulating news that harry would take up the job and keep both the jobs at the same time but will leave White Hart Lane ahead of the European Championships at the end of the season. However, it has also been revealed that Harry will talk to his son Jamie, former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur player and current television expert before he takes any decision regarding the managerial position of the England National Football Team.

With Stuart Pearce currently handling the job as the interim manager, Redknapp is in no hurry to jump to any decisions but the FA wants a decision from him by the end of April so that the he and the players can get a chance to acclimatize with each other.

Continue reading HARRY UNSURE ON ENGLAND ROLE

BECKHAM TIPPED FOR ENGLAND ROLE

England midfielder David Beckham is one of the surprising candidates for the vacant England managerial position.

David Beckham is currently a LA Galaxy player after deciding to re-sign with the American team in favour of the French club PSG. He’s being reportedly paid around US$ 15 million in total for the next two years. It would be interesting to see if David Beckham would be interested in announcing his retirement just at the start of a new contract and coming to manage England – in what would be his first managerial job.

David Beckham has always been extremely passionate about his country, which can be easily seen from the fact that he wants to be part of the Olympic team from Great Britain.

Harry Redknapp is currently their favourite amongst the bookies, but it would be certainly difficult to disregard David Beckham with such a proposition. David Beckham was part of the England bid for the 2018 World Cup, which was ultimately handed to Qatar.

The candidates for the vacant England manager job include the likes of José Mourinho, Roy Hodgson, Hiddink, and current under 21 coach Stuart Pearce. The English football association failed to rule out the possibility of foreign coach this time around as well, despite the calls for a local coach.

“There is a preference for an English person or a British person, but in the end we want the best person. Clearly an English or a British person would have a good start of the matter” Football Association Chairman David Bernstein said on Thursday. It is very much expected that the Football Association will be making a decision after the Holland friendly. The English FA have said that Stuart Pearce will be the caretaker manager during the match against Holland. Capello resigned as the England manager recently.

ROONEY OFF TO CITY?

In news that shocked the entire English football fraternity, Manchester City are lining up a £ 60 million bid for Manchester United and England international striker Wayne Rooney if rumors of a rift between the player and his manager Sir Alex Ferguson turn out to be true.

The Manchester United manager dropped his star player from the squad for the match against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve, a match that The Red Devils went on to lose 3-2, before recalling the player for their 3-0 away defeat at the hands of Newcastle United a few days later.

According to reports, Rooney was dropped from the side when images of him partying after the Boxing Day fixture against Wigan Athletic were released and it is believed that the talismanic striker is extremely displeased with the manager for dropping him. Manchester City reportedly came close to signing the England international striker last October when Rooney handed in a transfer request to the United officials claiming that the club was not heading in the right direction but Fergie managed to hold on to him and got him to sign a new five year deal at Old Trafford.

But with the latest reports indicating another rift between two of the biggest personalities at the club, City might be making the right move as Sir Alex is known to offload players who he believes to have become bigger than the club, no matter how important he is to the side. Having wielded the axe on players like David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, The Red Devils manager will not think twice about selling the star player and release some cash for future buys and it seems that only Manchester City have the cash at hand to meet the valuation of the player at United.

All Eyes on England’s John Terry

All the eyes were on the pair of John Terry and Luis Suarez as the two trained before the Stamford Bridge crowd ahead of the titanic clash between Liverpool and Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League. The situation between the two has grown to such an extent that the game looks to be a non-existent factor. Luis Suarez has been brandished with claims of racial abuse by Manchester United left back Patrice Evra, while John Terry has been haunted by the claims of the same by QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Both the cases will be heard by the FA in the next few weeks, and it is truly an anxious moment for the duo.

They both support their cause for eliminating racism from football by wearing a shirt that indicated the same. They have also been giving out vocal support in terms of eliminating the same from football and in real life. However, it seems that the media spotlight will not be going away from the duo until a verdict is reached on the situation. Both Luis Suarez and John Terry were wearing the T-shirt that showed the slogan ‘One Game, One Community’ prior to the match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Stamford bridge. However, many have said that this unexpected situation between the two was none more than a coincidence and there was nothing planned in terms of the T-shirts.

Luis Suarez has only been charged by the FA, but John Terry has been subjected to police investigation, which is a far greater situation in the case of the England captain. Luis Suarez has vehemently denied any claims of making racial abuse over Patrice Evra. There are also does not seem to be any video evidence relating to the same. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has come out in support of his player.

Pallister Backs Rooney

Former Manchester United centre-back Gary Pallister has defended striker Wayne Rooney, and believes that even if there is a three match ban over his head, Rooney should be taken to the Euro 2012 Finals.

The controversy centres around the red card that Rooney received in the final Qualifier against Montenegro. The red card, recieved for needlessly shunting into a Monenegran defender, brings an automatic 3 match suspension, which means that Rooney will be unavailable for selection for all three of England’s Euro 2012 Group games. With a squad of only 23 players allowed, some commentators believe that taking Rooney might cost the team the chance to progress from the Group stages.

Gary Pallister is not one of them! He believes that Rooney has the ability and attitude to really help England behind the scenes whilst he’s banned, and then come out on to the pitch and lead the team to victory on the field.

“Rooney’s not going to be involved for the first few games so it is a difficult situation for Fabio Capello if he does end up with a lengthy suspension” said the lanky ex-defender. “But I would expect him to take Rooney. He’s a world class player. You need as many as those as you can get!”

“I know it’s a risk, but just imagine you get through those three games and you haven’t played well, Rooney can come back into the team and it will be like a shot in the arm to them.

“If the team’s plays well in the group games then you might have to start with him on the bench, but what a player to have on your bench!”

UEFA will be meeting in the next three weeks to decide on whether Rooney’s three-match ban will stand.

Has Capello hit the self-destruct button?

Up until the past week, it is difficult to remember a time when England’s preparations for a major tournament had gone so well. The nocturnal discretions of some players aside, all seemed well following a convincing qualification campaign and a relatively friendly draw for the group stage of the finals. However, Fabio Capello’s increasingly strange decision making may serve to dampen the nation’s World Cup expectations.

In the space of a week, Capello seems to have diluted his reputation as a master tactician of unquestionable methods, with a series of actions and comments which have left most fans and pundits scratching their head. Are we in for another anti-climatic performance from the Three Lions? Here are the Capello misjudgements which might be giving the nation cause for concern:

The Capello Index

The most bizarre of the lot. Just before he is about to announce his 30-man training squad for the World Cup, he launches a player-ranking system backed by an online gaming firm. The FA rightly waded in and forced its postponement but the damage may well have been done. Capello has constantly preached against off-field distractions to his players, yet is guilty of indulging in a remarkably crass one himself.

A squad featuring the walking wounded

Having previously strictly insisted on the form and fitness of his squad members, this may not have been the best time for the Italian to bend that rule. Confusion reigns as to Gareth Barry projected return from an injury which appeared to have initially ruled him out of contention, whilst Ledley King, a player who is unable to train between games owing to his chronic knee problem, has also made the cut.

An imbalanced squad

Capello had been expected to name a squad with four goalkeepers, and few could argue that Paul Robinson deserved his chance to impress following an excellent season at Blackburn Rovers. Surprise and, in Sam Allardyce’s case, anger therefore at his exclusion. ‘He has made the biggest mistake of his selection process has Fabio,’ the Blackburn Rovers manager told the Free Bet website.

Many have also been left wondering why Capello has failed to include adequated cover at right back in his squad. If Glen Johnson is injured, there is just Jamie Carragher to replace him. Somewhat worrying given Carragher’s protracted absence from the international scene, compounding the fact that it is not even his preferred position. Gary Neville must be wondering what he did wrong.

Talk of a 3-5-2 formation

Rather than recognising any potential shortcomings in his squad, Capello seems to have suggested he may employ a workaround and move to a 3-5-2 formation. This is one which he has never before utilised and which has not found success at the game’s top-level for a considerable period. England fans are unlikely to want to be reminded of Glenn Hoddle’s ineffective use of wingbacks this summer.

Contemplating taking Beckham as a coach

The injury which ended David Beckham’s World Cup hopes was undoubtedly a very sad moment, but inviting him into England’s coaching setup as some kind of consolation prize is ill-conceived. Putting aside the fact that Beckham has no coaching qualifications and his proposed role as a conduit is totally superfluous, the 23 players in the squad don’t need his presence overshadowing their preparations. The football betting markets haven’t changed any odds since Beckham’s new role was announced.

It is still very early stages for England’s World Cup preparations, and a fairer indication of how well the team is set for South Africa will come during pre-tournament friendlies against Mexico and Japan, as well as the subsequent reduction of the squad to 23 players. However, even these plans threaten to be disrupted by the volcanic ash cloud.

So England fans will be hoping that Capello can exercise the superb judgement he demonstrated in the qualifying campaign, rather than the somewhat perplexing decision-making he has demonstrated in the past week. Perhaps this is all part of a grand plan; but it would be reassuring to know exactly what that is we can sleep easy once again.

World Cup Preview Group B: Argentina’s to Lose?

By William Geldart

Here on The Football Blog, our World Cup 2010 preview continues and our attention switches to Group B. Argentina, Greece, Nigeria and South Korea will contest this portion of the group stage with the issue of qualification from the group proving difficult to predict.

Argentina might be considered favourites to win the group however under the guidance of the erratic footballing legend that is Diego Maradona, even their passage might not be plain sailing.

MARADONA’S ARGENTINA ARE UNPREDICTABLE FAVOURITES TO WIN GROUP B

Despite a stuttering qualifying campaign and only one quarter-final appearance in the last twenty years, Argentina will be expected to progress from Group B.

The 1978 and 1986 winners struggled to fourth place in the South American qualifying group and were hammered 6-1 by struggling Bolivia along the way. Coach Alfio Basile was sacked after four wins in ten games and was replaced by the national icon, Maradona.

Diego’s men only managed to limp over the finishing line and were outside of the qualifying places with two games remaining. Only a last minute Martin Palermo winner against Peru and a subsequent victory over Uruguay, again secured late on, ensured they were guaranteed to make an appearance at this year’s Finals.

AN ABUNDANCE OF ATTACKING OPTIONS BUT A CASE TO BE MADE FOR THE DEFENCE

With the talent of Barcelona’s World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Argentina’s group games will be keenly followed by a fervent global audience.  He’ll be ably assisted up front by two hit-men playing in Madrid, Atletico’s Sergio Aguero and Real’s top scorer this season, Gonzalo Higuain. Plus, Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez is also an attractive alternative.

Feeding this voracious attack and repelling the enemy will be a midfield likely to contain the blend of combative skill displayed by Inter Milan’s Esteban Cambiasso, Cambiasso has been usurped by Real Madrid’s young prodigy, Fernando Gago at international level however the latter’s lack of first team football combined with the Inter favourite’s resurgence could see that change.

One famous face who has returned to his homeland, namely Estudiantes’ Juan Sebastian Veron, of Manchester United and Lazio fame, may also feature. Maradona, known for his tactical tinkering, also thinks highly of Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano, once describing the side as being ‘Mascherano and ten more’.

The area that could trouble Argentina is their flaky defence. Having conceded six goals to a lowly Bolivia side in qualifying, they also fell to a 3-1 home defeat to bitter rivals Brazil, in which their back-line was cruelly exposed.

Only Javier Zanetti can perhaps be described as a world-class defender although even his status in the starting line-up is far from assured. Alongside him could be the once derided Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini and Bayern Munich’s mask wearing Martin Demichellis. The talented yet inexperienced Barcelona man, Gabriel Millito, capable Roma player; Nicolas Burdisso and Gabriel Heinze, now at Marseille are also all in line for starting berths.

CONFLICTING PERSONALITIES COULD DAMAGE ARGENTINE HOPES

Since taking over in 2008, Argentina manager Diego Maradona has called up over 100 players to represent the country, an incredible amount by any standards. Although he may have been revered as a player in his homeland and undoubtedly this has played an integral part in him keeping his job, Maradona has been a figure who has often polarised opinions elsewhere.

As a manager, this hasn’t changed. Maradona has furiously reacted to criticism levelled at him and the team, even earning himself a two-month international ban from FIFA following comments made after their final game against Uruguay.

One man who definitely won’t be appearing in Maradona’s World Cup squad is midfielder, Juan Roman Riquelme. The talented Boca playmaker was upset with Maradona’s public criticism of his game although he says this was not his sole reason for quitting the international scene.

Riquelme told reporters, “I feel good with what I did. There were reports that I had stepped aside over a comment by the coach and I say: ‘One has to be pretty stupid to stay out of a World Cup over a remark.”

“We can’t work together. It’s my way of being and there are things I can understand and others I can’t. Every day that passes, I feel calm because I did the right thing” he added in a candid interview published by The Daily Telegraph.

ARGENTINA WILL HAVE TO BE ON THEIR GUARD AGAINST TRICKY OPPONENTS

One thing is certain; this unpredictable Argentina side will have to take every game extremely seriously. Their tactical and positional vulnerability could work in their opponents favour against a set of teams who will be hungry to take a morale-boosting scalp. Greece and South Korea have enjoyed notable giant killings in international tournaments over the past ten years and a lively Nigerian team will look to impress playing on their home continent.

Following their friendly victory against Germany, Diego Maradona was characteristically buoyant about his side’s chances of winning the tournament. In another barb aimed at his journalistic detractors, he said, ‘”Maybe the press in Argentina won’t like it, but we are going to play a very good World Cup in South Africa.’”

Before their first group game against Nigeria on 12 June, Argentina will play Canada on May 24 having just thrashed Haiti 4-0 in a friendly match featuring home-based players. Another friendly against the United Arab Emirates is planned to take place five days after the match-up against Canada.

GREECE WILL BE HOPING TO PROVIDE RESPITE TO A TROUBLED COUNTRY

Greece take their place at the World Cup finals amidst the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil in their country. The Euro 2004 winners will be anxious to provide respite to a population facing years of austerity measures and financial misery.

Their defensive capabilities are not in doubt however they’ll also be looking to score goals and improve on their Euro 2008 showing where they lost all three group games, hitting the back of the net on only one occasion.

Experienced manager Otto Rehhagel has been in charge since 2001 and has transformed the Greeks into a well-organised defensive unit who may not be entertaining but they’re certainly effective.

PLAY-OFF VICTORY DELIVERS GREECE TO THE FINALS FOR ONLY THE SECOND TIME

Greece’s 1-0 aggregate play-off victory against Ukraine means they’ll play in only their second World Cup Finals, having previously only appearing at the group stage in 1994. Following their unlikely Euro 2004 success, the Greeks failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, held in Germany.

Their play-off win was indicative of the team’s style of play. Having held Ukraine to a 0-0 stalemate on home soil, they travelled to Donetsk needing a win and they achieved this through a solitary strike from Panathinaikos striker Dimitrios Salpigidis. They managed to repel the hosts in the second-half for the right to appear in South Africa.

GREEKS HOPING DEFENSIVE MASTERCLASSES WILL SEE THEM THROUGH

The Greeks are famed for their defensive qualities however their squad also contains the leading scorer in European qualification, Hertha Berlin’s on-loan frontman, Theofanis Gekas.

Another German based player, Nurnberg’s Angelos Charisteas will spear-head the Greek attack besides qualifying hero Salpigidis. Celtic’s Giorgios Samaras might consider himself lucky to make the final squad having been named in the provisional 30-man party.

Instead, his place might be taken by surprise inclusion, Steaua Bucharest attacker Pantelis Kapetanos who has had a fine season and has earned his reward for some impressive performances.

In midfield, inspirational playmaker Giorgios Karagounis is another of the Panathanaikos contingent and he’ll be looking to provide the creative spark to make his side tick. Omonia’s Christos Patsatzoglou is another midfield maestro who will look to dictate play.

The only English based player named in the squad is Liverpool defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos who has had endured a difficult season on Merseyside. Injury plagued Panathanaikos man Giorgos Seitaridis is another of the more high-profile names who could appear in defence.

Their first game against South Korea could prove decisive in determining who finishes runners-up of the group should Argentina follow the script and emerge as winners. Greece will be hoping to improve on their dismal showing in Euro 2008 and add an attacking dimension to their play against a quick and agile Korean side who could pick them off on the counter-attack.

To warm-up for the World Cup, Greece will play South Korea’s rivals from the north, Korea DPR and Paraguay.

UNBEATEN IN QUALIFYING, NIGERIA LOOK TO MAKE THE LAST 16

The Super Eagles of Nigeria boast an unbeaten qualifying record going into the World Cup in South Africa however qualification was still only confirmed in a tense finale to proceedings. Nigeria finished only a point above Tunisia to take the sole qualifying spot from the group, following a thrilling 3-2 comeback win against Kenya with Wolfsburg’s Obafemi Martins scoring the decisive goal late on.

Perhaps it is testament to the emerging strength of African football that Nigeria are considered one of the less-fancied of the teams representing the continent. The most consistently successful African World Cup nation of the last two decades appear to have fallen under the radar however it wouldn’t be a great surprise should they make it out of the group.

Unfortunately for them though, their preparations haven’t always been without complications. Ex-manager Shaibu Amodu guided the side to the Finals however following a third place finish in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, he was relieved of his duties in February. Swede Lars Lagerback is charged with overseeing their World Cup campaign.

WORLDWIDE CONTINGENT HOPE TO HARNESS THEIR EXPERIENCE

One of the biggest strengths of Nigeria’s squad is their experience of playing in a number of European and worldwide leagues. Over the past fifteen years, an increasing number of exports have been plying their trade outside of domestic competition.

One of the young stars of African football, Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel is one of them. Used primarily as a defensive shield at club level, he also possesses an impressive passing range that he’ll be ready to utilise on the international stage.

Apart from mixing it in the centre of the pitch, Mikel is also able to make forays forward and if he’s on form, Nigeria could be dangerous opponents.

Other familiar names to fans of English football will be Portsmouth’s mercurial Nwankwo Kanu, Everton striker Yakubu, former Newcastle forward Obafemi Martins, now enjoying life in the Bundesliga and another Everton player, central defender, Joseph Yobo.

Other players to look out for are Lokomotiv Moscow striker Peter Odemwingie, CSKA Moscow defender Chidi Odiah and Almeria midfielder Kalu Uche.

NOT EVERYONE CONVINCED OF NIGERIA’S WORLD CUP PEDIGREE

It’s certainly not uncommon in African football for certain figures to voice their forthright opinions on matters concerning their team, especially with a World Cup imminent. Former chairman of Nigerian club Gombe United FC, Alhaji Shuaibu Ahmed Gara Gombe, has been in vocal in his condemnation of preparations.

Fearing that the appointment of Lagerback was far too late in a World Cup year, the outspoken figure said, “Undoubtedly, we are nowhere in the World Cup. Look at our preparations; it is rather too unserious to compare with some of the participating teams that have been preparing for the past two years. Even the time they (NFA) brought Lagerback was too short for any coach to do anything.”

Speaking to Sierra Express Media, he also didn’t hold back on his criticism of Kanu’s inclusion in the squad. “The fact is that such a player is not fit for the Nations Cup how much more a serious competition like the World Cup. (Sic) His era is past and he should not be in the squad. If we continue like this, there is no doubt that disaster awaits us in South Africa,” he concluded.

Nigeria are an awkward and mobile team capable of pulling off a few surprises. Their match-up against South Korea could prove to be an exciting encounter if both sides harness their creative capabilities.

Being the final game in the group though, it could be a nervy contest if both sides have a chance of making the last 16. Only time will tell if poor preparation hampers their chances of progression.

Nigeria will meet Cyprus and Iceland before the end of May and also have a more testing fixture against Portugal lined up on an as yet unannounced date.

ASIA’S MOST FREQUENT REPRESENTATIVES LOOK TO 2002 FOR INSPIRATION

This will be South Korea’s eighth World Cup campaign and The Red Devils could prove to be the dark horses of Group B. Led by Manchester United’s Ji-Sung Park, they’ll be a tricky opponent with plenty of pace throughout the side.

Having co-hosted the tournament with Japan in 2002, South Korea, then led by Gus Huddink, reached the semi-finals of the competition in one of the greatest World Cup feats ever. Along the way they may have been blessed with good fortune however they’ll no doubt reminisce over those past glories as they look for inspiration.

They are a slightly different prospect now. Under the guidance of 2009 Asian Coach of the Year, Huh Jung-Moo, South Korea are a well organised team and difficult to break down. In the final stage of Asian qualifying, they topped their group ahead of northern rivals, Korea DPR, conceding just four goals.

COUNTER-ATTACKING PROWESS KEY TO MATCHING OPPONENTS

The differing styles of play that come to categorise certain World Cups have been subject to debate recently with counter-attacking football predicted to be the weapon of choice in South Africa. We’ll be pursuing that train of thought more in-depth later however it does appear to be South Korea’s modus operandi.

South Korea had fallen victim to China’s counter-attacking expertise, losing 3-0 in this year’s East Asian Championship game although they hit back with a 3-1 victory against Japan in Tokyo. Pohang Steelers midfield Kim Jae-Sung rounded off a fine counter-attacking move to curl his shot into the top corner to cap a memorable win.

Another of their impressive recent results came in March in London where they defeated the Ivory Coast 2-0 with Hyundai Motors striker Lee Dong-Gook and Kyoto Sanga defender Kwak Hee-Tae on the score sheet.

‘TOGETHERNESS’ THE KEY FACTOR, ACCORDING TO JUNG MOO

Manchester United’s Ji-Sung Park and Monaco’s Park Chu-young are amongst the 13 foreign-based players named in the provisional 30-man line-up. The hero from the 2002 Finals, Ahn Jung-hwan is also included, bidding to make his third consecutive World Cup appearance.

Coach Huh Jung-Moo has been keen to stress the importance of togetherness and communication between the domestic players and their foreign-based counterparts in the build-up to the Finals. Speaking in April, he said,

“Trust between the coaching staff and players is important, but trust between players themselves is also important. When players trust each other while playing, they can generate true teamwork. Our coaching staff’s top priority is to ensure players build their teamwork.”

South Korea’s success could depend largely on the outcome of their final group game against Nigeria. If they can take something from their first game against Greece, they may be prepared to write off a potential defeat against Argentina to focus their efforts on their encounter with the African side.

South Korea will meet Ecuador, Belarus and Spain on their way to the World Cup, eager to continue their impressive form.

GROUP B HOME TO THREE DARK HORSES AND ONE FAVOURITE

Argentina will be hoping to safely negotiate the group stage, leaving Greece, Nigeria and South Korea to fight over the runners-up spot.

These three teams could emerge as dark horses of the tournament and with conflicting styles; their encounters could be fascinating to watch. The defensive nature of Greece pitted against the organised yet deadly counter-attacking prowess of the Koreans and the flair component of Nigeria should see some intriguing tactical battles.

Ultimately, the ability of the players to adapt their game to counter-balance their opponents, combined with a need for pragmatism from their managers will prove decisive in determining their respective World Cup fates.