A fascinating section that encapsulates the truly global nature of the World
Cup finals and, while all four countries will fancy their chances of
progressing, the outcome of Group B looks devilishly difficult to solve.
Diego Maradonaís side just about survived South American qualifying, mainly
thanks to a late win over rivals Uruguay in Montevideo, but the state of the
national side has rarely been more uncertain and Iím sure Argentine fans have no
idea what to expect in South Africa.
Maradona used an astonishing amount of players looking to find the right blend
but seemingly the only guarantee is that 2009 Ballon díOr winner Lionel Messi
will be involved and what Diego comes up with elsewhere for the opening match
against Nigeria is anyoneís guess.
The 1978 and 1986 winners have a wonderful array of attacking talent at their
disposal that includes Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and, of
course, the aforementioned Messi but getting the best out of any of them is
proving difficult, including the Barcelona playmaker, and Argentina lacked any
sustained cohesion during qualifying.
A 6-1 defeat in Bolivia in April was one of the darkest days in the football
history of this proud nation and six losses in total, five away from home,
highlighted their soft underbelly.
Argentina clearly have the talent to turn things round, they showed excellent
team spirit to rally late on against Peru, crucially, to help earn their place
in the finals, but an extended stay in the tournament looks unlikely given their
unpredictability and Iím happy to leave them alone for the most part.
Argentina should progress, they are as short as 1/10 with Paddy Power to do so,
but their position as short-priced Group B favourites means there is value to be
had elsewhere and it promises to be an entertaining section.
UPDATE: Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti are both left out of the world cup squad by Diego Maradona.
While the Super Eagles were Africaís dominant force in the early-mid nineties
they have since given way to the emerging talents of Ghana and Ivory Coast and
Iím not sure they deserve to be considered the most likely team to join
Argentina in the last 16.
In a group as competitive as this one the 6/5 with Paddy Power about Nigeria
progressing makes no appeal and for me itís a price based on reputation rather
than anything Shaibu Amoduís men have achieved on the pitch.
Emerging unbeaten from their African qualifying section told us nothing, it
didnít take much to get the better of Tunisia and the woeful duo Kenya and
Mozambique, and instead their recent African Cup of Nations exploits look the
best guide to their chances.
Having struggled past a sub-standard Mail side to make the last eight in Ghana
in 2008, Nigeria succumbed to the host nation and their four performances there
indicated they were a side on the decline.
Of course, the biennial tournament, which takes place in January in Angola, will
tell us more about their chances in South Africa but Nigeria rely heavily on a
number of Premier League-based players, none of which are setting the world
alight at present, and they look there for the taking.
With Obafemi Martins, now at Wolfsburg, and Everton striker Yakubu struggling to
break into their respective club sides the big name Nigerian stars could well
arrive in South Africa undercooked and it would be no surprise to see them
How much of an influence the legendary Nwankwo Kanu can still have when it
matters at this level also remains to be seen and they could be set for an early
UPDATE: Nugeria performed so poorly in the African Cup of Nations that they fired coach Shuaibu Amodu and instead appointed former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback as their new coach.
As expected, Huh Jung-Mooís side qualified for their seventh consecutive finals
with ease, unbeaten in 14 matches, and while South Korea will need to raise
their game from that level in South Africa reaching the knockout stages is
certainly not beyond them.
There is not doubt that conditions, and some fairly dubious refereeing
decisions, helped South Korea achieve their magnificent fourth place finish when
joint host of the 2002 finals but they proved their efforts there were no fluke
four years later in Germany and were unfortunate not to make the last 16 then
having beaten Togo and drawn with France.
A 1-0 defeat to Serbia in November 2009 brought to an end a 27 game unbeaten run
and, while it is easy to pick holes in the form of South Koreaís preliminary
matches, recent friendly wins over Paraguay and Australia, both of whom
qualified for the finals impressively, and a draw with Denmark gives us some
idea of where they are at.
Park Ji-Sungís status as a Manchester United player makes the South Korean
captain the star turn for the national side but they are far from over reliant
on the Old Trafford man and one to keep an eye on next summer could well be Park
The Monaco playmaker has the ability to make a real impression, as do several of
his teammates, and South Korea should not be underestimated. The 12/1 with Bet
365 on them topping Group B is tempting but they may just find one too good and
instead the 7/2 with Sky Bet about South Korea simply reaching round two is too
good to turn down.
Similar to South Koreaís fourth place at the 2002 World Cup, Greece have still
not received enough credit for their remarkable Euro 2004 triumph and they could
once again ruffle a few feathers in South Africa.
Greeceís success at Euro 2004 was built on being extremely difficult to break
down but the side that will head to the World Cup finals for just the second
time in the countryís history in 2010 is not cut from the same cloth.
Greece were involved in some terrific matches when finishing second behind an
impressive Switzerland side in qualifying and coach Otto Rehhagel was able to
call upon the leading scorer in the European zone.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Theofanis Gekas bagged 10 goals in as many matches for
his country and he is set to combine with fellow Bundesliga forward Angelos
Charisteas in attack. That pair have 43 internationals goals between them and
should receive plenty of support from the likes of captain Giorgos Karagounis in
Against three potent looking forward lines however Greece could struggle
defensively and much will rest upon the shoulders of recent Liverpool recruit
Sotirios Kyrgiakos. He canít do it all on his own however and Greek fans may
fear a repeat of their only other appearance on the biggest stage of all in
Ten goals conceded in three matches, interestingly including in defeats to both
Argentina and Greece, is unlikely to be witnessed again but they look short on
quality at the back and may have to rely on trying to outscore their opponents.
That wonít be easy, but they did keep two clean sheets when edging out Ukraine
in the European playoffs to reach the finals and it will be interesting to see
how they fare.
Greece are 6/5 with Paddy Power to progress but, as with Nigeria, that looks