Group G: Their Style May Be Different, But Brazil is Still Looking Good
When the World Cup groups were announced back in December, it was Group G that got everyone’s attention. Two teams are ranked in the top three teams in the world, and a third is arguably the most talented African team, so the group matches should provide some thrilling footy. It all starts with Brazil, my pick to win it all, although this isn’t your father’s Brazilian team. Coach Dunga has instituted a more cautious, defensive structure to the team, which has Brazilians crying for more attacking play. How can you argue with a team, however, that has lost only one game in two years? This style wins games. Just ask Jose Mourinho, the best club coach around, about his success with Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan. Portugal wishes that they had the strikers up front that Brazil has. It seems like a recurring theme during every significant international competition along with British goalkeeping and Dutch defending. Cristiano Ronaldo will need support from whoever will provide it (a now injured Nani wasn’t going to do that anyway) if we’re going to hear endless chants of “Ohhh, Portuga-la-le.”
The Ivory Coast was overhyped coming into this tournament, but they still remained a credible threat. That was before Didier Drogba‘s broken arm, which leaves the Chelsea man in doubt for some, if not all, of the tournament. Midfielders Didier Zakora and Yaya Toure are good enough to control the midfield against most opponents, but they’ll be tested against Brazil and Portugal. Salomon Kalou will have to play at a high level he’s only been able to show in flashes at Chelsea. North Korea isn’t worth discussing. If they manage to get one point out of the group, it’ll be a surprise. Hopefully the Dear Leader doesn’t then have them executed.
As mentioned above, Brazil is my favorite to win the tournament. They have the benefit of playing in the weaker top half of the single-elimination bracket if they win their group. Every team they’ll likely face has a glaring flaw, whether it be the defense of Chile and Holland or England’s ability to score. History is in their favor since a European team has never won in a tournament played outside of Europe, which would eliminate a majority of their competition. They have plenty of talent on their side if they need to break their new conservative shell with Kaka, Fabiano, and Robinho able to spark the attack at any second. In a World Cup that seems rather wide open, I’ll side with the well-balanced team whose form has been the best of any team in the last two years.
Realistically there’s no true “sleeper” in this group as North Korea doesn’t have a chance in hell to advance and the other three teams involved are well-known commodities. I was fading the Ivory Coast before Drogba got hurt and now those feelings continue to grow. For as much talent as they’ve had in the last seven years, they still haven’t won an African Nations Cup in that time. What shows that they’d be able to put things together now?
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo. While Kaka may have as much talent as Ronaldo, it’s the Portuguese lad who seems to attract more attention because of his lifestyle and his child-like attitude. I’ve always thought the guy was a sack of shit and he continued to prove me right when he cried about being on the cover of Vanity Fair with Drogba. He’s a fine football player, with the ability to make moves that few others can pull off. But is he upset that Messi is getting most of the attention before the World Cup? And how will he deal with adversity when it occurs, knowing the weight of his team’s fate is on his shoulders.
I’ve got a lot of strong opinions on the teams in this group. Here are my suggestions for what plays to make:
Brazil +450 to win the World Cup
Brazil +240 to make the Final
Brazil +115 to make the Semifinal
Brazil -133 to be the best South American Team
CONMEBOL team +200 to win the World Cup
Ivory Coast -105 to not advance past the group stage