No doubt Group G warrants the “Death” title but Group D isn’t far behind in
the lethal stakes and each one of the six matches should be a cracker.
Captain Michael Ballack has recently dismissed the three-time World Cup winners’
chances of success in South Africa but they must be taken seriously at every
finals and, once again, will be difficult to beat.
Difficult to beat maybe, but I’m not sure Joachim Low’s side should be as short
as 1/6 with Paddy Power to qualify for the last 16 and they’ll have to be at it
right from their opening clash with Australia if they are to prevail. They did,
however, emerge ahead of a talented Russian side in qualifying without tasting
defeat and Germany have an embarrassment of riches in attack.
With the prolific Miroslav Klose set to be joined by Lukas Podolski, voted the
best young player on home soil in 2006, or Mario Gomez Germany shouldn’t be
short of goals and Ballack and the evergreen Torsten Frings should team up in
almost perfect tandem in midfield.
Third in front of their own fans four years ago, Germany were runners-up to
Brazil in 2002 and will once again have their eyes on the latter stages. They
must be feared should they advance, England are possible second round opponents,
but it certainly won’t be easy and I’m happy to view them from afar in the early
stages without getting financially involved.
Youngster Mesut Ozil is one to be watched closely however. The Werder Bremen
playmaker is one of the hottest prospects in world football and could be a star
in South Africa.
UPDATE: Germany have sustained a massive blow to their World Cup chances with the loss of Michael Ballack. Germany's captain sustained an ankle injury when Chelsea defeated Portsmouth.
The Socceroos, under the guidance of Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, breezed through
Asian qualifying to become one of the first sides confirmed at the finals and
they must be respect by all three Group D opponents.
Having been dumped out of Germany 2006 in controversial circumstances by
eventual champions Italy, Australia will want to prove they are worthy of dining
at the top table of world football and, while they’d have hoped for an easier
passage, the second round remains very much the target again.
Similar to USA, the spine of the Australian side comes mainly from Premier
League based players and in Mark Schwarzer they will be able to call upon one of
the most reliable goalkeepers on display in South Africa.
The Fulham stopper should be shielded more than adequately by Lucas Neill, the
Everton defender, and providing that pair, among others, are on top of their
games then the talent further forward shall ensure Australia have a fighting
There are few better attacking midfielders in the English top flight than
Neill’s Everton teammate Tim Cahill and I’m also a big fan of his national chum
Mark Bresciano. The Palermo man must be watched at set-pieces while it is also
good to see Harry Kewell rediscovering his form this season for Turkish side
The one problem for Australia might be a lack of goals from their strikers, they
miss notable quality following the international retirement of Mark Viduka, but
Verbeek’s men can only have improved over the past four years and that means
they need to be taken very seriously. The 5/2 with SkyBet on Australia to
qualify is bound to prove popular.
UPDATE: Harry Kewell, the striker who is crucial to the chances of the Socceroos is expected to be fit for the World Cup after a groin injury scare.
Third on home soil in the 2008 African Cup of Nations, big things are expected
of Ghana and fellow African side Ivory Coast in 2010 and they look an extremely
The heartbeat of Milovan Rajevac’s team, their Serbian coach, is undoubtedly
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and he has all the ability to make a real
impact in South Africa. Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari is likely to partner him in
the middle and their battle with Ballack and Frings, in particular, should be
one to savour.
Four years ago Ghana were humbled 3-0 by Brazil having emerged successfully from
a tough group that included USA, Italy and Czech Republic and on the back of
that climbed as high as 14th in the world rankings.
Whether or not they have continued to improve remains to be seen but Ghana only
tasted defeat once in qualifying, getting the better of Benin, Mail and Sudan
along the way, and the bookmakers find it hard to split their and Serbia’s
chances of progressing.
The pair can both be backed at 5/4 to advance, Ghana with Paddy Power; Serbia
with VC Bet, and the difference could well prove to be their respective strike
Asamoah Gyan, a player with a big future, has starred for Ghana in relatively
limited appearances while Matthew Amoah top scored en route to South Africa.
They could lead the line but Ghana’s overreliance on goals from midfield could
be the telling factor and if the supply dries up then I’m not sure they have a
Huge things were expected of Serbia in Germany four years ago having breezed
through qualifying in spectacular style but they were found out in no uncertain
terms when beaten by Ivory Coast, Argentina and Holland and they’ll be keen to
make amends in South Africa.
Veteran coach Radomir Antic has put together another impressive group of players
this time around and it’s been plenty long enough since the last World Cup for
Serbia to have matured sufficiently to make a real impact. The likes of
Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic remain crucial at the back but I’m very
excited by the creative duo of CSKA Moscow youngster Milos Krasic and Standard
Liege’s Milan Jovanovic going forward.
That pair, if thriving on the big stage, could well earn themselves big money
post-World Cup moves away from their current respective clubs but they will be
guided by the talents of Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic in midfield while the
giant Nikola Zigic is one to keep an eye on if featuring in attack.
Serbia, seemingly unlike plenty of other finalists, seem to possess the ability
to win ugly and it shouldn’t be forgotten that they topped a very tough looking
qualifying group that included France.
Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Sevilla’s Ivica Dragutinovic provide invaluable
inexperience at the back alongside the fabulous Vidic and I see very few
weaknesses from front to back.
Keeping key men fit will, of course, be crucial but Serbia can make a real
impact in South Africa and I think they could surprise plenty with a prolonged
stay at the finals. They are a standout 80/1 with Bet 365 to lift the trophy.