32 Key Questions For This World Cup - Part 4 From Nigeria To The USA


by Bobby McMahon on Jun.12.2014
  1. Today sees the the first game of the 19th World Cup. Over the next 31 days the field will narrow from 32 countries until one is crowned champion of the world.


    Along the way the other 31 countries will see their hopes evaporate - some times through bad luck and sometimes from flaws that will be so easily recognizable in retrospect.


    Here are 32 questions that the competing countries will answer one way or another between now and July 13. 

  2. Nigeria


    Group F along with Iran, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Argentina

    Round of 16: Winner plays runners up group E/runner up plays winner group E (Switzerland, France, Honduras and Ecuador)

    World Cup pedigree: Last 16 1994, 1998

    Coach: Stephen Keshi

    Goals were hard to come by in African qualifying with Nigeria scoring only 11 times in eight matches.

    Nonetheless, Nigeria arrives in Brazil as the champion country of Africa and with the added advantage of appearing at last summer’s Confederations Cup. When confronted by well organized and deep sitting defences last summer Nigeria lacked ideas and creativity. They looked far more dangerous when playing on the counter attack.


    Will Nigeria have the discipline and defensive organization to allow them to absorb pressure and to hit opponents on the counter? 

  3. Portugal


    Group G along with Germany, USA and Ghana

    Round of 16; Winner plays runner up group H/runner up plays winner group H (Belgium, Russia, South Korea and Algeria)

    World Cup pedigree: Third 1966

    Coach: Paulo Bento

    Portugal arrives at their eighth successive appearance at a major tournament following in the floundering footsteps of so many others who have gone before. But Portuguese supporters will also hope that the past is a predictor for the future because so many times poor qualifying form has begat a good showing at the finals. As at Euro 2012 Portugal opens against Germany and if this match throws-up a winner it will offer a massive advantage to the fortunate country.


    Will Portugal finally find a reliable central striker to score goals and to ease the pressure on the midfield ? 

  4. Russia


    Group H along with South Korea, Belgium and Algeria

    Round of 16; Winner plays runner up group G/runner up plays winner group G (Germany, Portugal, USA and Ghana)

    World Cup pedigree: Fourth 1966 as the Soviet Union

    Coach: Fabio Capello

    Coach Fabio Capello is new but much of the Russia squad is not. Any thought of blooding promising youngsters as a lead in to hosting in 2018 seems to have been shelved. Experience is a watch-word for Russia but so is slow. Starting in the heat and humidity of Cuiaba against South Korea is a massive test of fitness and stamina.

    Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski have been partners at the heart of the Russia defence for years. Neither has ever been quick and mobile and at 34 and 31 they are not getting any quicker.


    Will this prove to be a tournament too many for centre-backs Ignashevich and Berezutski? 

  5. South Korea


    Group H along with Russia, Algeria and Belgium

    Round of 16; Winner plays runner up group G/runner up plays winner group G (Germany, Portugal, USA and Ghana)

    World Cup pedigree: Fourth 2002

    Coach: Hong Myung-bo

    Unusually South Korea struggled through Asia qualifying and arrives at this World Cup with question marks in almost ever area. Nonetheless, it would be a major surprise if South Korea is not one of the fittest and quickest sides at the tournament. There may also be a slight advantage after being drawn in a group without a South American country.


    Will South Korea’s conditioning and speed be a defining factor in reaching the knock out round of the competition for the third time in their last four attempts?  

  6. Spain


    Group B along with Netherlands, Chile and

    Round of 16: Winner plays runner up group A/runner up plays winner group A (Brazil, Croatia, Cameroon and Mexico)

    World Cup pedigree: Winners 2010

    Coach: Vicente del Bosque

    Attempting what might seem the near impossible, Spain is looking to extend a run that has seen them lift the European Championship twice and the World Cup over the last six seasons. The squad is laden with talent and the players left at home could easily make up a “B” squad that would be very competitive in any of the eight groups.

    But it also has to considered that some of the key players who made the final 23 have been playing almost constantly for the last six seasons. There were obvious signs of jadedness and fatigue at last summer’s Confederations Cup.


    Will Vicente del Bosque be able to stir Spain one more time and have them rediscover the sharpness that is so key to their approach? 

  7. Switzerland


    Group E along with Ecuador, France and Honduras

    Round of 16: Winner plays runners up group F/runner up plays winner group F (Argentina, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria)

    World Cup pedigree: Quarter-finals 1934, 1938, 1954

    Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld

    If you asked any fan to pick the top eight soccer countries in the world how many would pick Switzerland? Not many is my bet but still Switzerland was one of the top eight seeds when the draw was made and it was a very decent draw for the Swiss.

    The squad has depth with a majority of players earning a living in the top leagues of Europe. They also have in Ottmar Hitzfeld (who will retire after this tournament) one of the most successful club coaches in the world.

    Switzerland has been a surprise success at a number of age-group championships over the last decade and a number graduates from these squads will be in Brazil this summer.

    At South Africa 2010 Hitzfeld and his Swiss team engineered a shock 1-0 win over eventual winners Spain but ultimately Switzerland failed to qualify from group H. 


    Will Switzerland take a less spectacular but successful road to qualifying for the last sixteen this time around? 

  8. Uruguay


    Group D along with Costa Rica, England and Italy

    Round of 16: Winner plays runner up group C/runner up plays winner group C (Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece)

    World Cup pedigree: Winners 1930, 1950

    Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez

    World Cups have a habit of producing surprise sides that turn expectations upside down and despite pre-tournament form or pedigree they make deep in-roads into the later stages of the competition. Uruguay was one such team in 2010 and the squad and the overall approach is not likely to change for 2014.

    The recipe of Uruguay Coach Oscar Tabarez is simple but effective. Defend deep and when the ball is won get it forward to the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and allow them the chance to terrorize defenders. Oh yes and one more thing – battle and fight like your family’s life depends on it. Uruguay set out to cause the opposition the maximum amount of discomfort. No faint hearted effort will be enough to beat Uruguay.


    Will Uruguay’s approach from 2010 be as effective four years on?  

  9. USA


    Group G along with Ghana, Portugal and USA

    Round of 16; Winner plays runner up group H/runner up plays winner group H (Belgium, Russia, South Korea and Algeria)

    World Cup pedigree: Third 1930

    Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

    The USA and Coach Jurgen Klinsmann could not have been drawn into a tougher group; two of the top teams in the world and a team from African that has beaten them twice in the last two World Cups.

    The lead up has been dominated by the exclusion of Landon Donovan from the 23-man squad. It would have been Donovan’s fourth World Cup and although Klinsmann surely has what he believes to be a solid rationale for the move, it still confounds many.

    Something in favor of the US in group G is that the Klinsmann years have been marked with unexpectedly good performances against more highly regarded sides. More often than not the best results have come with the US playing on the counter attack.

    Working against the US is a taxing travel schedule and tough climatic conditions. Fitness will be absolutely key to any chance that the USA may have.


    Will the USA be able to sustain the massive effort it will require over three games in order to create an upset and qualify from group G the group of death? 

  10. Check back tomorrow and every day dring the World Cup for a daily take and what happened and what might be in store. 


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