2014 Football World Cup Preview – Part 1 – Dancing with Minnows

Getting ready for sleep deprivation mode?

Leading up to the World Cup (which competes with the Olympics for best sporting event in the Universe), I will be previewing each team participating in the Brazilian extravaganza (in my own 4 part extravaganza). This week I will be looking at teams ranked 25 – 32 (AKA the minnows). Rankings are according to the current market odds. I will leave my predictions for part 4. Unfortunately, (for their respective fans) Australia, the Korea Republic, Greece and Cameroon are named among them despite better form in past years. Firstly, a few words on another issue.

FIFA’s seeding policy comes under increasing scrutiny as we move closer to kick-off. Part judgement (teams are sorted into four pots based on seedings (pot 1) and the balance (pots 2-4) to ensure that teams from the same region do not as far as possible overpopulate a group)) and part luck (groups are then selected one team from each pot), it does seem to always throw up a group of death (or two). There were a few wrinkles which are explained here this time.

Most countries seem to believe that their team is currently residing in the group of death. It seems the case every World Cup but a cursory look at the popular news outlets at the time of the release of the groups will tell you this as well. On some occasions, teams fall into one of the ‘easier’ groups and get a saloon passage to the second round while other deserving teams struggle and scrap against equally highly ranked teams where it seems unfair that only two can emerge. What other way could FIFA do it? American College Football has utilised a system which relies on a variety of weighted rankings from computers, the media and the coaches to arrive at the eventual participants (also controversial). Using the FIFA rankings to rank the teams could produce pools with all European countries and would still be controversial.

It is probably part of a broader question in Football, which is, how do teams qualify for the World Cup and should certain federations be granted more or less qualification spots than they already have?

Just utilising average current FIFA rankings (themselves subject to opinion and conjecture) it would seem that the groups rank in descending order as follows:

Group G (Germany (2), Portugal (3), USA (14) and Ghana (38)) – 14.25

Group D (Uruguay (6), Italy (9), England (11) and Costa Rica (34)) – 15

Group E (Switzerland (8), France (16), Ecuador (28) and Honduras (30)) – 20.5

Group C (Colombia (5), Greece (10), Ivory Coast (21) and Japan (47)) – 20.75

Group B (Spain (1), Chile (13), Netherlands (15) and Australia (59)) – 22

Group A (Brazil (4), Mexico (19), Croatia (20) and Cameroon (50) – 23.25

Group H (Belguim (12), Russia (18), Algeria (25) and Korea Republic (55)) – 27.5

Group F (Argentina (7), Bosnia and Herzegovina (25), Iran (37) and Nigeria (44)) – 28.25

That is a fairly large range of average rankings, although ranking the pools this way seems to artificially skew the rankings, especially if the fourth team is very lowly ranked.

Spare a thought for Ghana (vs Germany, Portugal and the USA with an average ranking of 6.3), Costa Rica (vs Uruguay, Italy and England with an average ranking of 8.6) and Australia (vs Spain, Chile and the Netherlands with an average ranking of 9.6). I think these countries can claim they are in the ‘group of death’ with some sort of legitimacy.

On to the rankings:

32 Honduras

Odds

2001 (that’s some long odds, for instance, Sportsbet is currently quoting 1001 for the End of the World occurring due to Zombie Apocalypse (if you won that one you would be one rich zombie, if Zombie Sportsbet would pay out that is) – you know you’re going to do badly when Zombies are getting better odds)

Squad

Goalkeepers: Noel Valladares (Olimpia), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana)

Defenders: Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Arnold Peralta (Rangers), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Juan Carlos Garcia (Wigan), Maynor Figueroa (Hull), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Osman Chavez (Qingdao Jonoon), Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua)

Midfielders: Luis Garrido (Olimpia), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Jorge Claros (Motagua), Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Marvin Chavez (Colorado Rapids)

Forwards: Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense), Carlo Costly (Real Espana), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad)

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

The Big Kahuna

Maynor Figueroa – This experienced campaigner who plies his trade in the EPL for Hull will need to stand up to give Honduras a chance of progressing to the next round.

Interesting Fact

American writer O. Henry first applied the term ‘Banana Republic’ to Honduras because of the influence that American banana companies had on the country at the time.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

He – Helium – Helium is a light, odorless, colorless, inert, monatomic gas.

Like Helium, Honduras will be a relative lightweight in this competition. Their World Cup campaign is likely to end at the Group Stage. Unheralded and at long odds to even win their first game at the World Cup Finals (third visit), they may (with their sprinkling of talented players) embarrass any of the teams that take their eye of the ball, especially if France forgets to turn up.

31 Costa Rica

Odds

1608.14

Squad

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense) Daniel Cambronero (Herediano), Esteban Alvarado (AZ Alkmaar)

Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Bruges), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (Mainz 05), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Roy Miller (Red Bulls), Kendall Waston (Saprissa)

Midfielders: Celso Borges (AIK), Christian Bolanos (Copenhagen), Esteban Granados (Herediano), Michael Barrantes (AAlesund), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Diego Calvo (Valerenga), Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano) Carlos Hernandez (Wellington Phoenix), Ariel Rodriguez (Alajuelense), Hansell Arauz (Saprissa)

Forwards: Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven), Joel Campbell (Olympiacos), Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Marco Urena (FC Kuban Krasnodar), Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew)

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto

The Big Kahuna

Bryan Ruiz – The creative striker/midfielder will need to ensure that he heavily influences all of the group stage fixtures for Costa Rica to have any chance of progressing.

Interesting Fact

Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Ar – Argon – Argon is a noble gas. It is colorless, odorless and extremely unreactive.

Buried behind Uruguay, Italy and England, Costa Rica is unlikely to emerge from one of the Groups of Death. Playing a predominantly defensive game to qualify for the Finals they will need to produce some attack and hope that the closeness of this group might jag them a second place finish. That is an extremely unlikely scenario.

BTW how cool is the Columbus Crew as a team name. I think after I’ve finished driving Plymouth Argyle to the top of the Premier League in FIFA 2012 (yes I know I’m a few years behind) I’ll have to manage the Crew.

30 Algeria

Odds

1358

Squad

Goalkeepers: Rais M’bolhi (CSKA Sofia), Mohamed Zemmamouche (USM Alger), Ezzdine Doukha (USM El Harrach), Mohamed Cedric (CS Constantine)

Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (no club), Madjid Bougherra (no club), Lyassine Cadamuro (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica Coimbra), Nacereddine Khoualed (USM Alger), Aissa Mandi (Reims), Mehdi Mostefa (Ajaccio), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno)

Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Ryad Boudebouz (Bastia), Yacine Brahimi (Granada), Adlene Guedioura (Crystal Palace), Amir Karaoui (ES Setif), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassen Yebda (Udinese)

Forwards: Rafik Djebour (Nottingham Forest), Abdelmoumen Djabou (Club Africain), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Ryad Mahrez (Leicester), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb), Foued Kadir (Rennes), Nabil Ghilas (FC Porto)

Coach: Vahid Halilhodžić

The Big Kahuna

Sofiane Feghouli – This Valencia sharp shooter came from the French system and is crucial to any hope Algeria has of progressing. One of the young guns who populate the attacking ranks of this team (which historically relies on resolute defence to keep with teams) Feghouli will need to fire.

Interesting Fact

Over 90% of Algeria is covered by the Sahara desert.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Xe – Xenon – Xenon is a rare, colorless, odorless heavy gas. Xenon is inert towards most chemicals.

With an exciting blend of young (predominantly French born) talent Algeria figures to improve on their most recent foray in the World Cup Finals in 2010 where they played gamely but failed to score a goal. In the group with Belgium, Russia and the Korea Republic, they could have done worse and will be earmarking at least one of those games for a win. This is still unlikely but they should be closer than in previous years.

29 Iran

Odds

1282

Squad

Goalkeepers: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan), Sousha Makani (Foolad Khuzestan)

Defenders: Khosro Heidari (Esteghlal), Hossein Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Zob Ahan), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan), Mehrdad Pooladi (Persepolis)

Midfielders: Javad Nekounam (Al Kuwait), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Hadadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiyar Rahmani (Foolad), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham)

Forwards: Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Mohammad Reza Khalatbari (Persepolis), Mehdi Sharifi (Sepahan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton), Karim Ansarifard (Persepolis, on loan at Tractor Sazi), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan)

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

The Big Kahuna

Javed Nekounam – The influential midfielder central to the defensive starch which typifies this Iranian team will need to facilitate their attack if Iran are to make a noise in this World Cup.

Interesting Fact

Iran is the pistachio capital of the world.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Rf – Rutherfordium – A radioactive element whose physical properties are not known since only atomic quantities have been produced so far which quickly disappear when first prepared.

Embroiled in a club vs country dispute which resulted in only a small portion of the squad being available for their pre-tournament camp, Iran shouldn’t be around long in this tournament. In a group with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria they are the favourites to go out the door first, however their less than perfect preparation will only make this more likely.

I’m giving Tractor Sazi the nod for my favourite club name in this team. Honourable mention goes to Foolad Khuzestan.

28 Cameroon

Odds

693.43

Squad

Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Ndy Assembe (Guingamp), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)

Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marsiglia), Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes), Henri Bedimo (Lione), Benoît Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur), Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos)

Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Joel Matip (Schalke), Stephane Mbia (QPR), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux), Alex Song (Barcelona), Cedric Loe (Osasuna), Edgar Sally (Lens)

Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Achille Webo (Fenerbahce), Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem)

Coach: Volker Finke

The Big Kahuna

Samual Eto’o – The Chelsea forward is a talismanic figure for this African giant and they will be counting on his potent (though waning) finishing abilities to get them out of the group stage.

Interesting Fact

Cameroon is one of the wettest lands on the earth with annual rainfall of about 1028 cm.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Ne – Neon – Neon is a light, very inert gas. Colorless under normal conditions, it glows a reddish-orange in a vacuum discharge tube.

The Lions of Cameroon are fast and physical (and like Neon) will be a team to watch in Brazil. Unfortunately, their past reputation will not necessarily translate into success in these Finals. The game against Brazil will be a guaranteed loss, however, Croatia and Mexico have recent histories of underperformance at this level. Only time will tell whether the Lions will evaporate after the first round.

27 Australia

Mark Bresciano - Photo by Amy O'Brien - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Mark Bresciano – Photo by Amy O’BrienCC-BY-SA-2.0

Odds

622

Squad

Goalkeepers: Mark Birighitti, (Newcastle Jets), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Matthew Spiranovic, (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)

Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Joshua Brilliante (Newcastle Jets), James Holland (Austria Wien), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), Tommy Rogic (Melbourne Victory), Adam Sarota (Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion)

Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)

Coach: Ange Postecoglou

The Big Kahuna

Tim Cahill – Coming to the tail end of his career (this is probably his last World Cup) Australia will need him to fire in front if they are to have any hope of progressing.

Interesting Fact

Melbourne has the second largest Greek population in the world behind only Athens.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Cl – Chlorine – Chlorine is a greenish-yellow, diatomic, dense gas with a sharp smell (the smell of bleach). It is not found free in nature as it combines readily with nearly all other elements.

After receiving 6-0 drubbings from both France and Brazil, no-one (least of all the Australian fans) are expecting much from the Socceroos. Ange Postecoglou has picked a mixture of youth and experience this time around, clearly with an eye on the future. Famously competitive they will rely on their physicality and grit, however, a quick exit is likely against the quality of Spain, the Netherlands and Chile (all chances of holding the World Cup in their hands come the end of the tournament).

I’m a bit partial to Nagoya Grampus this time. What is a Grampus? Google tells me it is a type of whale. Brisbane Roar gets a mention just because the good people of Brisbane went for a verb instead of a noun. Disturbing trend. I guess the Grampus was taken already.

26 Korea Republic

Odds

364.86

Squad

Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-ryong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Bum-young (Busan IPark)

Defenders: Kim Jin-su (Albirex Niigata), Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Yoon Suk-young (QPR), Hwang Seok-ho (Hiroshima Sanfrecce), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal), Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Chang-su (Kashiwa Reysol)

Midfielders: Ki Sung-yueng (Sunderland), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan), Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Jong-woo (Guangzhou R&F), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers), Ji Dong-won (Augsburg), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen)

Forwards: Koo Ja-cheol (FSV Mainz 05), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Watford), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Hyundai)

Coach: Hong Myung-Bo

The Big Kahuna

Son Heung Min – The creative midfielder is the most famous member of the team plying his trade in the Bundesliga. The Korea Republic will rely heavily on his ability to put the ball in the right places for his forward line and how they go will largely rest on his shoulders.

Interesting Fact

The Korea Republic has the highest average IQ in the world according to the OECD.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Rd – Radon – Radon is one of the noble gases; hence it is a chemically inert, monatomic gas. It is also radioactive, colorless and odourless.

No-one will underestimate this team after 2002 but the stadiums of Brazil will be very different from the home confines of the 2002 tournament. This team is built on industry and energy without much in the way of star power. Having said that, apart from Belgium their other games are winnable. They should account for Algeria and Russia is famously inconsistent at the World Cup Finals. They are still long shots at emerging from Group H.

I’m giving the nod to the Suwon Bluewings this time. Go the Bluewings!

25 Greece

Greece National Football Team - Photos by Benutzer Steindy

Greece National Football Team – Photo by Benutzer SteindyCC-BY-SA-3.0

Odds

274.86

Squad

Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos)

Defenders: Kostas Manolas, Jose Holebas (both Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Vangelis Moras (Verona), Giorgos Tzavellas (PAOK), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (Roma)

Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Andreas Samaris, Giannis Maniatis (both Olympiakos), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Panagiotis Kone (both Bologna)

Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Giorgos Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Fanis Gekas (Konyaspor)

Coach: Fernando Santos

The Big Kahuna

Kostas Mitroglou – The quality striker will be responsible for finding the back of the net for Greece and how they go will largely depend on his marksmanship.

Interesting Fact

Athens has the second largest Australian population in the world behind only Melbourne. Jokes. Greece has one of the lowest divorce rates in the EU.

Prognosis (with a little help from the Periodic Table)

Pb – Lead – Lead is a bluish-gray, soft, dense metal that has a bright luster when freshly cut. It tarnishes slowly in moist air to form a dull gray coating.

The defensive anchors of Group C, Greece could finish anywhere from second to last. They will probably lose to likely group toppers Colombia but if they can score some goals they may finish ahead of the Ivory Coast and Japan. That is a big ‘if’ though.

I’ll cover teams 17 to 24 next week.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • The Parramatta Eels. The Hayne plane is cruising at 10,000 feet, Chris Sandow 2.0 is full of confidence, Nathan Peats and Corey Norman are looking like astute purchases. Is this a 2009 reboot or the start of a better era for the Eels?
  • JT and the Cows. Unstoppable when in the mood. Just in time to be derailed during the rep season. The injury to Gavin Cooper won’t help either.
  • Queensland SOO stars peaking at the right time…again.
  • NSW SOO stars for making the game interesting, even though QLD have won the last 8 series.

What wasn’t?

  • Ticket prices for Suncorp Stadium. Given in previous seasons tickets were sold out within the hour, it is highly likely the QRL may have underestimated the continually rising cost of living while deciding on price points for this season’s tickets.

Other random thoughts 

  • GSW tapped Steve Kerr on the shoulder. I’m hoping this one works out but it troubles me that someone can be hired as a coach in the NBA without having coached once in his career. 

Bill James Award 

Johnathon Thurston – Run Metres – 54m, Tries – 1, Try Assists –  2, Tackle Breaks – 3, Tackles – 13, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 2, Errors – 1, Goals – 7/9 and Queensland players who are peaking in time for Origin – 17. 

Tips for Round 11 

Home teams first

Bulldogs v Roosters – Roosters (It looked like the Bulldogs were going to be relatively untouched during rep season and then Mitchell Pearce had too much to drink and the rest is history – funny how the Roosters end up being the beneficiaries)

Titans v Warriors – Warriors (Extremely nervous about tipping the Warriors away from home but they are untouched by the State of Origin and Greg Bird is a big loss for the Titans, plus the Warriors are playing better under Andrew McFadden)

Tigers v Broncos – Tigers (The Broncos will be heavily depleted and the Tigers have learned to play without Robbie Farah. The Tigers are at home too. This will be close though)

Raiders v Cowboys – Raiders (Cowboys are a shadow of their usual selves and will miss Mat Scott and James Tamou almost as much as the real JT)

Sharks v Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs (If the Rabbitohs can’t get up for this one on the back of underperformance and a continuation of recent representative snubbings for some of their key players, I think this might not be their year)

Last week – 6/8 

Season so far – 43/80 

Question for you

Do you think the betting agencies have got the bottom 8 right for the World Cup?

Other Links

Anther interesting link:

In honour of the impending World Cup this is the blog of professional footballer Brad McDonald (formerly of the Central Coast Mariners)

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 29 May 2014 titled ‘World Cup Preview – Part 2 – Dreaming of 2018’

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15 thoughts on “2014 Football World Cup Preview – Part 1 – Dancing with Minnows

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  4. Pingback: 2015 Cricket World Cup Preview Part 1 | The Game of Sport

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  6. Pingback: 2014 Football World Cup Preview – Part 3 – Penalty Shootout Agony | The Game of Sport

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