The Beautiful Game
Friday, June 11, 2004
The Czechs will be looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on Korea/Japan 2002. They have the quality players that can make a difference in this competition. At the time of the draw this was deemed to be the “group of death”, but the warm up results have downgraded this to the “group of the severely ill”. The team that can benefit the most from this is the Czech Republic. They have an excellent young keeper in Petr Cech (Stade Renne). Midfielder maestro Pavel Nedved will be conducting the midfield. Milan Baros (Liverpool), and Jan Koller (B. Dortmund) will want to add to their internationally goal tally. The strong point for the Czechs is that the rest of their squad is capable of bringing their A- game, and perhaps all the way to the final.
Germany look like they will have a very, but I mean very tough trip to Portugal. They lost 5 nil against to Romania, and 2 -0 against Hungary in the run up to the tournament. Gone are the big names that usually dotted this squad, and this squad seems to be in the need of a major facelift. I believe that Ruddi Voeller needs to leave some big names aside and inject the team with youth. One such case is that of goalkeeper Olivier Kahn (B. Munich). Kahn had a season to remember, and I question that he should be the number one this time around. Timo Hildebrand (Stuttgart) had a much better season, and should be the starting goal minder. I believe that Michael Ballack will step up his game and he should be one of the few bright spot for Germany in this tourney. The other will be Kevin Kuranyi (Stuttgart). In the end I see the Germans retreating home early, to plan for their own World Cup in 2006.
Success for this team is just being part of this tournament. Not much is known about most of their players aside from a handful of players that play in England, Israel, and Russia. The fact that they are unknown will result in any surprises and the rest of the teams in group should overcome the Latvians with out much of a problem. Players to watch for this squad are Southampton’s Marian Pahars, and Maris Verpakovskis (D. Kyev). Look for this team to be bounced out in the first round, but they still hold bragging rights over all the former Soviet Republics, for being the first to qualify to a major tournament.
The Mechanical Orange has been in the need for some tinkering. All the parts are there, but the machine is still not firing on all cylinders. This team is capable of great things. Their strength is in attack.. Dick Advocaat will have some tough choices to make as to who will play upfront, with the like of Ruud van Nistelroij, Roy Makaay, and Patrick Kluivert to choose from. Edgar Davids will be the player to watch for Holland. The “Pitbull” is a midfield tough guy that will gather the ball so that the Dutch strikers can have the ball at their feet to create goal scoring opportunities. The safe bet is that the Dutch will join the Czechs in the knockout stage.
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