Team Analysis - E-H
June 11, 2014
By Marc Lawrence
With Brazil knee-deep in soccer fans worldwide, the 5th largest country in the world - which occupies nearly half of South America and an Amazon rainforest that constitutes almost half of the rainforests on Earth – will have the eyes of the international football world glued to its twelve World Cup venues for the next 31 days.
While soccer is growing in the United States at all levels, it’s interest in the sport is a splinter among a forest next to the global passion shared by futball aficionados worldwide.
As fans, though, Americans put their money where their mouth is, with only host Brazil buying more tickets for this event than the United States.
Here is a brief snapshot of what each team from the final four groups brings to the table in this year’s event, with each team’s FIFA rank in parenthesis.
Ecuador (28) – For all the fervor Ecuador brings to this tournament – its third in the last four events – they are heartbroken and hamstrung with the death of its leading scorer, 27-year old Christian “Chucho” Benitez to heart failure last summer, along with defender Jayro Campos and midfielder Segundo Castillo out with injuries… coach Reinaldo Ruea coached Honduras to its second World Cup berth in 2010… midfielder Christian Noboa, who joined the club in 2012, has played the last six years in Russia.
France (16) – Les Blues left the 2010 World Cup red-faced following a mutiny and a boycott of practice… The French have reached the final four five times, winning the event in 1998. On the other 11 occasions since WWII they have gone out in the group stage or failed to qualify… winger Franck Ribery, arguably the third-best player in the world, is out with a bad back… coach Didier Deschamps was France’s team captain in its 1998 World Cup championship campaign.
Honduras (30) – One of two teams that failed to score in the 2010 World Cup, Los Catrachos managed wins over Mexico and the United States during the qualifying game … Honduras has never won a World Cup game, but facing Switzerland in the Amazon jungle (Manaus) lends hope to that possibility… striker Jerry Bengston scored nine goals in qualifying games… head coach Luis Fernando Suarez took over in 2011 and has led Honduras to the semifinals of the 2011 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.
Switzerland (8) – The Swiss went 7-0-3 in qualifying against a very weak group (49th ranked Iceland was second)… watch this team in four years in Russia as starting 11 average age is 25… became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated without conceding a goal in 2006… defeated eventual champion Spain, 1-0, in 2010 World Cup.
Argentina (7) - Scored 35 goals in South America in qualifying, most of any team… a two-time winner in the event in 1978 and 1986), and a 2nd place finisher in 1990, Albiceleste’s best finish since was as a Round of 16 team in 1994… 4-time World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, will be playing in his third World Cup… the World Cup has been held in South America four times with South American teams winning every time... many locals considered it “divine intervention” on the part of Buenos Aires-born Pope Francis – a fervent soccer fan – when the country was drawn into arguably the weakest of the World Cup’s eight groups.
Bosnia-Herzegovina (25) – First World Cup appearance for the Dragons, the only team making it’s debut this summer… went 8-1-1 in UEFA, outscoring its opponents by 24 goals… with Manchester United’s Edin Dzeko (averaged a goal a game during qualifying) and former St. Louis University All-AmericanVedad Ibisevic up front, they can score in bunches… a vulnerable defense figures to put pressure on goalkeeper Amsir Begovic.
Iran (37) – Team Melli features a veteran coach in Carlos Quiroz who has managed Portugal’s national team and coach with Real Madrid and in the USA… team relies on foreign based imports who qualify for Iranian citizenship… due to economic and political sanctions, they went 119 days without a game after qualifying… the cash-strapped team’s short stay will be at an airport hotel while players are banned from participating in traditional postgame exchange of jerseys with their opponents.
Nigeria (44) – Fifth World Cup appearance for the Super Eagles who have twice reach the second round… won the 2013 African Nations Cup for the first time in 20 years and then won the Under-17 World Cup… after going winless in its last two World Cups, Nigeria’s president briefly banned the team from international competition… last World Cup win was in 1998… lost 1-0 to Argentina in the finals of the 2008 Olympics.
Germany (2) – A three-time winner in the World Cup, sparing no expense, the Germany soccer federation built a training center in Brazil complete with housing units, a soccer filed, a media center and treatment facilities… Die Nationalmannschaft scored 36 goals in qualifying - the most of any team in the European zone – and has registered 222 goals in World Cup games, the most of any country… midfielder Mesut Ozil scored eight goals in 12 games during qualifying.
Ghana (28) – The Black Stars were the only one of six African nations to survive group play… played in only two World Cup and knocked out the United States by a 2-1 score both times… led by the Asamoah’s – midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah and super-fast striker Asamoah Gyan. Kwadwo was named the country’s top player the last two years; Gyan’s goal beat the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup… coach James Kwesi Appiah is the first black African coach to take a team to the World Cup.
Portugal (3) – Classic underperformer in this tournament, despite the presence of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo , the world’s highest paid soccer player who has scored 49 goals in 110 international games… Ronaldo has over 25 million followers on Twitter… team has been characterized as “Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 other guys.”… tied Israel two times in qualifying games… coach Paulo Bento replaced Carlos Queiroz in 2010. Queiroz will coach Iran the this year’s World Cup.
United States (14) – 9,000 miles of travel in Brazil awaits the Americans… best chance to advance will be to beat Ghana in opener and draw with Portugal… much hyped dual-nationalist squad with four players on roster of German descent… 10 players on roster from MLS teams… solid in goal with Tim Howard and in the midfield with Michael Bradley. Inexperienced back line is a question… Team USA hasn’t gotten a World Cup goal from a striker since Brian McBride in 2002… DaMarcus Beasley becomes the first U.S. player to appear in four World Cup games.
Algeria (25) – The Desert Foxes have never made it past the group stage and needed a playoff win over Burkina Faso to quality this year… haven’t won a major trophy since capturing the African Cup of Nations in 1990… a young and inexperienced team, Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic often goes to his bench mixing and matching lineups to take advantage of opponent’s weaknesses… striker Islam Slimai of Sporting Lisbon has nine goals in 17 appearances with Algeria.
Belgium (12) – The Red Devils have soared more than 50 spots in the FIFA rankings since 2009 and are considered by many to be a dark-horse in this event… young roster is loaded with players from the top clubs around the world… midfielder Eden Hazard is commonly referred to as the “Belgian Messi.”… veteran captain Vincent Kompany (28) is considered of the best center backs in the world… will be the least-traveled team in the group stage, having to cover fewer than 1,400 miles for its three games.
Russia (18) – Team Sbornaya will host the 2018 World Cup… only two of the 42 players called up in the last year compete for teams outside the Russian Premier League. Neither made the World Cup roster… five core players are older than 30… this is Russia’s second World Cup since the breakup of the Soviet union… best result was a 4th place finish in 1966… prolific striker Alelsandr Kerzhakov has scored 50 goal in last 94 games for his RPL team… defensive-minded coach Fabio Capello, who managed England for four years after stints with Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, took over in 2012 and guided the tam past Portugal in World Cup qualifying games, conceding just five goals in 10 games.
South Korea (55) – When co-hosting the 2002 World Cup the Taeguk Warriors were the first and only Asian team to reach the semis… this is South Korea’s eighth consecutive, and ninth overall, World Cup appearance, having reached the knockout stage in two of the previous three World Cups… a young team with only one player older than 30… dangerous striker Son-Heung-Min from Bayer Leverkusen is a legitimate scoring threat.
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