Featured / World Cup - International

Group A – Players (and Coaches) to Watch

GROUP A

One of the most balanced groups in the field, there is no clear cut favorite, nor is there an expected whipping boy amongst these four sides. Form is everything with these teams, especially the French, who limp in following a string of poor performances, most recently a 1-0 loss at the hands of China. On the other hand, Mexico are flying high following a strong showing in a loss to England and a surprise upset of defending champions Italy. South Africa will require massive home support to boost the Bafana Bafana over their more skilled opponents, while Uruguay have the pieces to the puzzle, they need only to get them working together for the results to start rolling in.

Hugo Lloris

FRANCE

Coach – Raymond Domenech

One of the few coaches in the tournament who receives as many headlines as his players, Domenech should have been out of a job years ago as the fan base, media and even current players have expressed their dislike for his system, selections and personality. France has already lined up 1998 World Cup winner and Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc as his successor, so French fans can be forgiven for not being overwhelmingly confident in their side. Shock omissions like Arsenal’s Samir Nasri and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema have cast further doubt over Domenech’s World Cup squad and have left his team as one of the great enigmas of this tournament. With equal chances of being tremendous and terrible, France’s form is as wildly variant as their managers moods.

Striker – Nicolas Anelka

With Thierry Henry’s dip in form for Barcelona, more pressure lands on Anelka to be the centerpiece of the French attack. He has the luxury of Chelsea teammate Florent Malouda on one wing, with the fit again (for now) Franck Ribery occupying the other flank. Both are capable on their day of creating world class service for the powerful striker who, likely paired with some combination of Henry and Lyon’s Sidney Govou, will be required to grab handfuls of goals if France is to advance.

Goalkeeper – Hugo Lloris

Despite being the youngest member of Les Bleus, Lloris will likely be under the most pressure to succeed in this tournament. He will have help from a strong core of veteran defenders, including France captain William Gallas, Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and Barcelona’s Eric Abidal, but given their recent goal-scoring drought, one goal may be too many for the young shot-stopper to concede. Linked with a number of big clubs in England and Spain before his arrival at Lyon, a strong showing for the 23 year old keeper could again see clubs clambering for his signature later this summer.

Andres Guardado

MEXICO

Striker – Javier Hernandez

Already making summer headlines, Hernandez signed with Manchester United. Despite his lack of international appearances, four goals from his first four matches have shown the future to be bright for the small striker, known as “Chicharito” or Little Pea.

Midfielder – Giovani Dos Santos

Son of Brazilian legend Zizinho, Giovani Dos Santos is a player who has yet to make good on absurd amounts of potential. After struggling to break through at Tottenham Hotspur, the 21 year old went on loan in Turkey, with Galatasaray where again results were mixed. After seeing his brother, Barcelona starlet Jonathan, left off the Mexico squad, Giovani has all the motivation he needs to be at his electric, mercurial best at this World Cup. A strong showing will certainly earn him a lucrative deal somewhere in Europe.

Midfielder – Andres Guardado

While Mexico’s three young attackers Hernandez, Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, fight for headlines, Andres Guardado might be the best Mexican player plying his trade abroad. A tireless midfielder for Deportivo La Coruna, Guardado has the rare ability to be on attack for a full 90 minutes. While the tournament field is full of defensive midfielders with nonstop motors, Guardado’s workrate as an attacker is a rarity. His energy and footballing smarts do not allow opposing defenses a moments respite and if Mexico can close the gate on the defense, they will be a good bet to get out of Group A.

Aaron Mokoena

SOUTH AFRICA

Midfielder – Steven Pienaar

The Everton playmaker leads an under-strength host nation out on Friday. Both skillful and aggressive, Pienaar will be required to do it all for the Bafana Bafana. From tackling and tracking back, to making the right decisions and final passes to spring his attackers South Africa will come and go with Pienaar’s level of play. Recent contract disputes have provided an unneeded headache, but once the tournament begins, South Africa will turn to there number 10 and expect great things.

Striker – Katlego Mphela

After failed attempts with French sides Strasbourg and Reims, Mphela returned to South Africa this passed season where he reeled off 17 goals in 30 games, becoming the league’s leading scoring and helping himself to Player of the Season. Especially deadly on free kicks, Mphela will be called upon in the absence of Benni McCarthy to spearhead South Africa’s attack.

Defender – Aaron Mokoena

For a team lacking in international experience and big club players, composure and communication will be of the utmost importance for South Africa and Portsmouth’s Aaron Mokoena will be called upon to captain the team. Going along with the great honor of leading out the first African host nation in a World Cup, Mokoena will be under enormous pressure to be the anchor of a defense that must cope with a barrage of world-class attacking talent in each of its first round matches. Ultimately, there may not be enough quality around him, but that is all the more reason to applaud him throughout, especially if the Bafana Bafana get the results required to progress out of Group A.

Martin Caceres

URUGUAY

Strikers – Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez

The former Manchester United player Forlan has roared back to his best this season with Atletico Madrid, scoring 22 goals in all competitions and attracting interest from a number of big clubs in the process. He will look to link with Suarez, the young Ajax striker, to provide the firepower to propel Uruguay out of Group A. At only 23, Suarez bagged an impressive haul of 35 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie and a strong tournament will surely make him one of the summer’s biggest transfer targets.  Grabbing goals in Group A will be a tough task and if this tandem is on song, they can run riot on any opponent and lead Uruguay to victory.

Defenders – Martin Caceres and Diego Godin

The promising young center back duo brings plenty of quality to the center of the Uruguayan defense. Playing their club ball at Juventus and Villareal respectively, each player is capable of containing any player in Group A. Cacares moved to Barcelona in 2008 for an enormous transfer fee of 15 million pounds, but injuries limited his appearances at the Nou Camp before his loan spell in Turin this season.

They will be aided by the strength and tenacity of defensive midfielder Diego Perez, who could make this into an impenetrable backline and potentially into one of the group stage’s big surprises.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

%d bloggers like this: