Group B Preview: Who Will Join Argentina in the Round of 16?
Previous World Cup Group Preview: Group A.
Group B is highlighted by the enigmatic squad from Argentina, who, despite a roster filled with international superstars, sputtered throughout South American qualifying, and barely even qualified. Diego Maradona‘s coaching tactics have been questioned throughout qualification, but their roster, with Lionel Messi wearing #10, speaks for itself. The prohibitive favorite to advance from the group with Argentina is Nigeria, which boasts some of the fastest players in the tournament, including striker Obafemi Martins. The Nigerians have placed alongside Brazil and Holland at the top of most youth tournaments for some time now, so it will be interesting to see if this is the year that their young talent has developed.
Greece makes up for its lack of top-flight talent by playing some of the most solid team defense in the tournament, and making the most out of every attacking opportunity they get. They shocked the world by winning the 2004 European Championship, and with a proven scorer like Theofanis Gekas, they have a legitimate shot to make another surprising run past group play. Also in Group B is South Korea (famously dubbed “The Good Korea” by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), who made it all the way to the semifinals in the 2002 Cup. They look the worst on paper, but they are very experienced thanks to that run, and have a legitimate weapon in Manchester United striker Park Ji-Sung. The battle for second place in this group should be fun to watch.
Unless they revert to the inconsistent play that hindered them in South American qualifying, Argentina should have no problem advancing from Group B, where a potential match with Mexico or Uruguay would await them. They shouldn’t have much of problem advancing past either of those perennially flawed sides, and actually have one of the easiest roads to the Quarterfinals in the entire field. In the Quarters, however, they would face a potential matchup with the United States or Germany, where their inconsistent play would not be tolerated. On paper they have the roster to compete with anybody in the field, with superstars like Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo HIguain, and Sergio Aguero. They should find goals easier to come by than most teams in the Cup, but their spotty defense and inconsistency might eventually do them in. Expect their run to end in the Quarters or Semis.
Greece isn’t pretty to watch, but they’ve made a habit out of winning ugly in big tournaments. It’s hard to beat a team that you can’t score on, and they boast one of the scrappiest, toughest defenses in the entire field. Gekas provides a legitimate scoring threat on the other end of the field, and the team is littered with experienced international players. Their shocking victory in the 2004 European Cup speaks for itself, and their pivotal game against Nigeria should be an interesting contrast of styles (the up-tempo Nigerians vs. the methodical Greeks). Inconsistent France would likely await them in the Round of 16, so seeing them make it all the way to the Quarters wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world.
Player to Watch
Lionel Messi. We’re not taking our eyes off of him for a single second. He’s the best player in the tournament, and he’s got the weight of the world on his tiny little shoulders. He could drag his team (and his coach) deep into the tournament all by himself if he’s on his game, and we fully expect him to put on a show in South Africa.
Because the battle for the second spot in this Group is expected to be so tight, I suggest staying away from betting a lot in this group. That being said, here are some suggestions if you feel like risking it:
Argentina -250 to win Group B
Greece +750 to be eliminated in the Quarterfinals
Obafemi Martins +275 to lead Nigeria in scoring
Argentina-Greece-Nigeria-South Korea +425 to be the order of finish in Group B