Football fever is upon the world this weekend as the World Cup kicks off on June 11. City News picks its top five teams.
Contributed By Sim Yee Tat
As the football fever intensifies, 32 teams at the South Africa 2010 World Cup are engaged in arduous training regimes and friendly matches to sharpen their team competencies for the premier international football competition when it kickstarts on June 11.
That South Africa was named host for the 2010 World Cup was an unprecedented decision and marked the first time an African nation would be hosting the prestigious football tournament. It symbolized a momentous turnaround for the sporting fortunes of the country marred by apartheid and expulsion from the football federation in the early 1960s. Since the successful clinch of the tournament rights, the South African government has built several world-class stadiums such as the Soccer City at Johannesburg with a sitting capacity of 90,000 and the 70,000- seater Moses Mabhida Stadium at Durban—South Africa is ready for the world’s eyes this weekend!
Here are our top five teams to watch:
5. North Korea
Qualifying for the first time since 1966 and touted as the dark horse of the tournament, the relatively unknown strength and depth of the North Korean squad makes it a mysterious team. Two key players to look out for are Chong Dae Se and Ahn Young Hak who grew up in Japan but are ethnic Koreans. The influential player would be Chong who has an avid following in Kawasaki Frontale, a Japanese League team. Most have described him as the “Wayne Rooney” of North Korea.
Ever since Diego Maradona managed the two-time FIFA World Cup Champions, Argentina in November 2008, the team has suffered some humiliating defeats to South American opponents. But the squad possesses some of the top talents in the form of Lionel Messi from Barcelona, Carlos Tevez from Manchester City and Real Madrid top scorer Gonzalo Higuaín. Look out for 35-year-old veteran ex-Manchester United player Juan Sebastian Veron and the Liverpool duo of Maxi Rodriguez and Javier Mascherano. However, what works against them is their volatility in matches.
The current European champions have been plagued by key injuries in the likes of Liverpool forward Fernando Torres, Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona’s creative midfielder Andres Iniesta. However, the strength, completeness and depth of the squad has compensated for the injury deficit and makes them one of the most feared competitors in the tournament. The team is likely to easily advance to the next stage given that their opponents consist of Switzerland, Honduras and Chile. This can only be achieved through the rehabilitation of Fernando Torres and Xavi Hernandez to match fitness, so they can ward off opposition from Portugal or Brazil.
England’s coach Fabio Capello has started to ascertain himself as an effective taskmaster. England has progressed well in the qualifying stages but the rotation policy of Capello has casted doubts on the potential playing formation. The strength of the Three Lions would rely on key players such as John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to lend credibility and stability in bolstering overall team performance. One key player is Wayne Rooney, the top scorer for Manchester United this season. Supporters believe that this team could recapture the World Cup glory of 1966.
The five-time World Cup champion is consistently the hot favorite to win the tournament. To the surprise of many, Coach Dunga has reduced the squad number from 30 to 23. Notable omissions include Adriano, Alexandre Pato and two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho, which the coach described as “one of his toughest decisions.” The need to rely on the firepower of Robinho from Manchester City and the dynamic Gilberto Silva, Julio Baptista and Kaka to excel. Their winning chances have also been upped with minimal injuries and the excellent match fitness of each squad member. Samba-style football has an offensive-oriented approach and will certainly match up to the defence resilience of their arch-rivals such as Germany or Italy.
World Cup 2010 matches will be aired on Singtel and Starhub channels, with key matches shown on MediaCorp TV.