World Cup Preview: Groups G and H

June 7, 2010

Who is Bryce Harper? Try “the most hyped prospect in pro sports” since Lebron James. Think Stephen Strasburg has been hyped? It’s not even close to the kind of hype that Harper has been receiving. He played high school baseball for two years, then as a seventeen year old enrolled in junior college in hopes of facing better competition. It apparently doesn’t matter that he was the youngest guy on the field, because he tore up his junior college league as well. Harper is Ken Griffey Jr., Jorge Posada, and Joba Chamberlain rolled into one. He has a powerful bat, is very talented behind the plate, and has a cannon for an arm. I think they may already be clearing a space for Harper in Cooperstown. The bottom line is, if Harper and Strasburg end up being as good as everyone predicts they will be, then we may be talking about the Nationals as the team to beat in a few years.

Now, for my final World Cup preview, Groups G and H.

Group G
Teams: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

Match to Watch
Ivory Coast vs. Portugal (Tuesday, June 15th)

After Didier Drogba broke his arm last Friday in an international friendly, this game got a whole lot more interesting. Portugal is essentially the “Cristiano Ronaldo Show”, which he probably doesn’t mind, but if Drogba’s play is at all compromised because of his arm, then the Ivory Coast may have a hard time scoring. The outcome of this game could determine who moves on in Group G; and if that isn’t enough to make you watch, remember that this game features arguably the second and third best forwards in the world.

Player to Watch
Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast

If any girls from my school read this blog (granted, I don’t think any of them do), they will likely disagree with my pick (considering that Cristiano Ronaldo is in this group as well). However, Drogba is my favorite player in this World Cup that does not play for the United States. He plays hard, and can score against any defense on the field, especially against the ones in Group G, who (other than Brazil), are rather weak. Drogba could be a leading candidate for the Golden Boot award if his arm doesn’t affect his play too much.

Final Standings

1. Brazil– They don’t always get it done beautifully, but there is no denying that they still get it done. They are the favorites to win this tournament, and to Brazil, group play games are like tune-ups for the real tournament.
2. Ivory Coast– They’re in the Group of Death this time around, but the Ivory Coast has about as good a shot of advancing to the knockout stage as they did in 2006. Drogba is extremely talented, but it doesn’t end there. Salomon Kalou and Kolo Toure help make this team as dangerous as any in this World Cup.
3. Portugal– We will find out if Cristiano Ronaldo is capable of carrying his team on his back. It’s the equivalent of Alexander Ovechkin taking his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, which as we saw, did not happen. Like Ovechkin, Ronaldo will have a tough time finding enough support to beat the likes of Brazil and the Ivory Coast.
4. North Korea– In most conversations, North Korea is not known as the “other” Korea. However, in soccer circles, they are. Unlike South Korea, the “other” Korea should just be happy to be playing.

Group H
Teams: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

Match to Watch
Honduras vs. Chile (Wednesday, June 16th)

No one is giving Honduras much of a chance, so they will likely go out and play hard, knowing they have nothing to lose. Chile, on the other hand, are many peoples’ pick to move on in this group. Both teams are able to score goals, so it will be interesting to see if Chile will attack and try to score, or if they will be playing not to lose.

Player to Watch
Xavi Hernandez, Spain

This man is the backbone of a team that is looking to win their first ever World Cup. If they do, then expect this man to be the first to raise the Cup. He is possibly the best midfielder in the world, and is deadly in free kick situations. Unlike many teams, Spain won’t live and die with their best player, but they will need him to play well if they expect to win the entire tournament.

Final Standings

1. Spain– This team is very solid at pretty much every position. They might as well book their hotels in South Africa past June 25th (when they play their final group play game), because they will be staying longer than that.
2. Chile– Chile is the only other team in this group besides Spain with both a solid offense and defense. They are good enough defensively to stop Honduras’ offensive attack, and good enough offensively to slip a goal past Switzerland. A tie against Spain would all but end Switzerland’s and Honduras’ chances of advancing.
3. Switzerland– They won’t excite you with their style of play, but the Swiss are very tough defensively and will make it tough on any team to get good scoring opportunities. If they can manage to put together some offensive firepower, they will find themselves with a few wins and could possibly swap positions with Chile in the final standings.
4. Honduras– As I said earlier, no one is giving this team much of a chance. However, if they somehow prevent teams from scoring at will against their porous defense, then they have the offensive weapons to pick up some points.

Tomorrow I will conclude my World Cup preview with a look at the knockout rounds, where I will eventually give my thoughts on who will be holding the Cup on July 11th.

– K. Becks

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