Six to watch: the fringe players

June 11, 2010
Six to watch: the fringe players

Often players who weren’t considered part of the starting XI at the beginning of a tournament emerge to play a leading role by the knockout stages. Here’s six who hope to do that: Read more »

Six to watch: the key players

June 11, 2010
Six to watch: the key players

Everyone knows that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are the star men for their sides – here are six more relatively unsung heroes that could be crucial for their respective teams. Read more »

Italy’s problem with creativity must be overcome

June 10, 2010
Italy’s problem with creativity must be overcome

No-one is talking about Italy ahead of this tournament, despite them being the holders, despite them breezing through qualification, despite them having received the most favourable draw of any side. Read more »

Japan worse than the sum of their parts

June 10, 2010
Japan worse than the sum of their parts

Japan probably should be better than they are considering their attacking talents, but manager Takeshi Okada is intent on playing a certain way, even if it means leaving out star names. Read more »

Algeria set to ditch their three-man defence

June 10, 2010
Algeria set to ditch their three-man defence

Algeria were one of the more tactically-interesting sides at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, switching between three separate formations, including a three- and four-man defence throughout the competition. Read more »

South Korea lacking at both ends of the pitch

June 10, 2010
South Korea lacking at both ends of the pitch

Sometimes international teams simply produce too many of the same type of player. Portugal produce too many wingers and not enough strikers. Holland produce too many attackers and not enough defenders. Read more »

Slovenia – 4-4-2, hard-working, organised etc

June 9, 2010
Slovenia – 4-4-2, hard-working, organised etc

In previous competitions, we might have Slovenia’s system as rather boring, but in a competition set to be dominated by 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3s and three-man defences, it’s quite nice to see someone persevering with the good old 4-4-2. Read more »

Serbia: outsiders or real contenders?

June 9, 2010
Serbia: outsiders or real contenders?

How many times can a side be labelled dark horses before they cease to be dark horses? Serbia have been hyped up so much as potential overachievers that it’s difficult to know how they’ll live up the billing. Read more »

Brazil start the World Cup as the team to beat

June 9, 2010
Brazil start the World Cup as the team to beat

If the World Cup television pundits tell you to forget everything you know about Brazil, then forget everything they tell you. This is a wonderful side that plays superb football. Read more »

South Africa will need home support – and luck

June 9, 2010
South Africa will need home support – and luck

They’re the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, the lowest-ranked hosts in history, and they’ve been drawn in a very difficult group despite having been the seeds. Is there any chance South Africa won’t become the first-ever hosts to fail to get past the group stage? Read more »

Slovakia may quietly sneak into knockout stage

June 9, 2010
Slovakia may quietly sneak into knockout stage

This is Slovakia’s first-ever appearance at a major international tournament, so you can be forgiven for knowing little about them. Read more »

USA a good side, but need tactical tweaks

June 8, 2010
USA a good side, but need tactical tweaks

United States fans seem to go into every World Cup thinking that the rest of the world is underestimating them – which has traditionally been fair. Read more »

Bielsa’s Chile the most tactically-exciting side

June 8, 2010
Bielsa’s Chile the most tactically-exciting side

Judge Chile by looking at their squad list and you might be rather underwhelmed, but many of those who saw Marcelo Bielsa’s side in action throughout qualification see them as the most intriguing prospect on offer in South Africa. Read more »

Germany more aesthetically-pleasing than usual

June 8, 2010
Germany more aesthetically-pleasing than usual

“They haven’t got any great players, but you can never write them off” is the usual line about Germany. In 2010, that old cliche might not be appropriate. Read more »

Paraguay – functional rather than spectacular

June 8, 2010
Paraguay – functional rather than spectacular

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino has used his pre-tournament friendlies for experimentation, both in terms of formation and personnel, making his starting line-up for the opening game against Italy difficult to predict. Read more »

Nigeria may struggle for creativity in midfield

June 8, 2010
Nigeria may struggle for creativity in midfield

Nigeria have traditionally been the strongest African nation, at least in terms of the quality of players they’ve produced. The likes of Ghana, South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon and Egypt have shown quality at points throughout the past two decades, but Nigeria has produced a stream of genuinely top-class players. Read more »

A defensive-minded 4-2-3-1 for Australia

June 7, 2010
A defensive-minded 4-2-3-1 for Australia

Australia got to the first round in their first World Cup, the second round in their second World Cup, so is a quarter-final spot the natural outcome for their third World Cup? Read more »

Don’t expect much from Honduras

June 7, 2010
Don’t expect much from Honduras

On paper, Honduras look like providing the least excitement of any side at this World Cup – but then people probably said that about Greece in Euro 2004, didn’t they? Read more »

France unpredictable with new formation

June 7, 2010
France unpredictable with new formation

As you might recall, France qualified for this tournament in rather controversial circumstances, squeezing past Ireland in the playoff after finishing behind Serbia in the group phase. Read more »

Disorganised Cameroon hope Eto’o shines

June 7, 2010
Disorganised Cameroon hope Eto’o shines

You might think, without watching Cameroon play and only judging them by their team sheet, that this team is all about Samuel Eto’o. When you see them in action, you realise that this is exactly the case. Read more »

A good Danish side that deserve more attention

June 6, 2010
A good Danish side that deserve more attention

There hasn’t been much focus upon Denmark in the build-up to the World Cup, but many of those who watched this team in qualification suggest that this is the strongest Danish team since they won the European Championships in 1992. Read more »

Ghana: defensive, cohesive and underrated

June 5, 2010
Ghana: defensive, cohesive and underrated

“Tactically naive” is the common criticism for any African side which fails, generally regardless of the nature of their defeat or their manager’s tactical acumen. Ghana showed at the Africa Nations Cup earlier this year that they are anything but tactically naive. Read more »

Ivory Coast’s uphill task just got even steeper

June 4, 2010
Ivory Coast’s uphill task just got even steeper

Ivory Coast were been labelled the dark horses of this tournament by many, presumably all of whom were fortunate enough to miss their pathetic display at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, where they recorded a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso in the group stage, and were eventually knocked out by an average Algeria side. Read more »

4-4-2 and no surprises from Switzerland

June 2, 2010
4-4-2 and no surprises from Switzerland

This is the fourth consecutive major international tournament the Swiss have been at, and yet they still seem something of an unknown quantity. Now managed by double Champions League winner Ottmar Hitzfeld, they won their qualification group and appear to have a talented, settled team. Read more »

Holland consider playing the fab four together

June 2, 2010
Holland consider playing the fab four together

There would surely be no more popular World Cup winners than the Netherlands. The country that has produced so many great footballers and such a distinct, wonderful way of playing the game is still without a World Cup win. Read more »

Three strikers is a risky tactic for New Zealand

June 1, 2010
Three strikers is a risky tactic for New Zealand

New Zealand are the rank outsiders for this tournament – or 32nd favourites, if you like – available at up to 2000/1. They would see a single point as an achievement in South Africa, and their saving grace is that they are in a relatively weak group, alongside three fairly defensive sides. Read more »

Portugal’s players are good enough, is the coach?

May 31, 2010
Portugal’s players are good enough, is the coach?

In theory, Portugal playing Cape Verde just before the World Cup was a decent idea. They’ve struggled to score throughout the past two years, so how about a morale-boosting thrashing of a former colony to get the goals flowing? Read more »

Two friendlies lead Capello back to square one

May 30, 2010
Two friendlies lead Capello back to square one

It’s difficult to analyse England’s 2-1 win over Japan, simply because it’s not clear what Fabio Capello was trying to discover. Was this match purely an audition for individuals to stake their claim, or was he trying to find a cohesive shape? Read more »

Greece: lightning probably won’t strike twice

May 29, 2010
Greece: lightning probably won’t strike twice

It seems foolish to write off Greece after the miracle of 2004, but both on paper and on the pitch, this seems a fairly weak side – albeit on that is well-organised and has a good understanding between players. Read more »

Is Diego Maradona set to surprise people?

May 28, 2010
Is Diego Maradona set to surprise people?

“Maradona’s crazy! He doesn’t know what he’s doing!” is the general attitude towards Argentina’s manager since he took over 18 months ago. Read more »

An old-fashioned 3-5-2 for Uruguay

May 27, 2010
An old-fashioned 3-5-2 for Uruguay

The three-man defence may be fairly unpopular throughout Europe at the moment, but it is alive and well in Latin America. With Chile having used a 3-3-1-3 system throughout qualification and Mexico toying with a 3-4-3, Uruguay will join them, with a more traditional 3-5-2 formation. Read more »