Daily Cup Check: Previewing Group F
OTF contributor Sam Fels is going group by group with his beer goggles to set you up for this summer of footy fun and love…
If you don’t want to take the hosts, your most likely champion may reside here. Let’s go inside.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
This time, it feels like most people feel about Argentina the way we all felt about Spain in 2007. Yeah, the talent is immense, perhaps best in the world. But they’ve fucked it up just one too many times for anyone to buy in. They haven’t made the semifinals of the World Cup since 1990. Perhaps the last straw for people was throwing up on themselves at the Copa America at home in 2011 on penalties to Uruguay. But you can’t shake that feeling that at some point, it doesn’t take a lot for a team this loaded to get it right.
In 2006, Argentina probably should have won the thing and were beating Germany in Berlin in the quarters with 11 minutes to go. Sadly for them, Jose Pekerman completely filled his pants, brought off Riquelme and Crespo for Ciambiasso and Julio Cruz to shore things up, which only allowed Germany to come onto them and eventually equalize. In 2010, Argentina was managed by a complete moron in Diego Maradona–who had nearly fucked up qualifying for them, which should have been as big of a red flag as there can be, but I guess he told me I can “suck it and keep sucking it.” Moreover, it wasn’t hard to see that as soon as they came up against a manager with a pulse and any kind of talent he would expose their complete lack of defensive structure. Hi, Joakim Loew!
Maybe this time? They couldn’t be much closer to home without having all the pressure of being at home. This attacking line of Messi, Aguero, Higuain, and Di Maria is like, Borg-terrifying. Ok, they still might have Demichelis in the backline, and that’s a huge worry, but there’s almost nothing in their way to the semis. They’re going to walk out of this group on their hands, probably get a Swiss side not ready for primetime yet, and then either a France squad always begging for an excuse or the dregs of the group they beat up. Once you get that far, it’s basically a roll of the dice. It could happen.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
They tell me I have to watch out for this team. Miralem Pjanic is certainly a wonderful player for Roma. And they did waltz through a qualifying group that didn’t contain much other than fellow World Cup travelers Greece. So that’s nice, I guess. But I wonder if some of this shine isn’t from Eden Dzeko and his Man City colors. Because I don’t care what his medals or his goal totals say, I will never be convinced Dzeko is anything other than complete pants. He’s basically the Eastern European Nuno Gomes, and Nuno had better hair. If you stand still long enough with Silva, Aguero, Navas, Toure and whatever other monster is on City, they’ll eventually ping it off of you into the net.
That said, Bosnia has drawn a reasonable group here, if they can recover from the tonking they’ll assuredly get from Argentina to open the tournament (outside of 2002, Argentina always looks really good in the group stages). And their backup keeper is named “Fejzic” which should lead to a wealth of A Princess Bride jokes.
Here come the hanging curveballs for Argentina. I guess we have to give Iran a little credit for escaping an Asian qualifying group that contained regional power South Korea. So we’ve done that now, which won’t stop them from getting crushed here. Their star player is one who did ok at Fulham in Ashkan Dejagah. But no one wants you mentioning he played for Fulham this season.
Remember that time about 15 years ago when we thought Nigeria would be the first African nation to really make a run at a World Cup after some breathtaking performances in France? Remember being really disappointed when they got horsed by Denmark because they didn’t really play with any system? Yeah, it hasn’t really gotten any better for them since. The thing with Nigeria is you’re never sure if their players are actually going to care when this thing starts, or if they’re going to fire the whole team 18 hours before their first match, or anything else. They’re just sort of goofy all the way around. And I know you don’t put much stock in warmup matches, but they didn’t look exactly like the most locked in team against the USA on Saturday evening (then again, I wouldn’t be locked in either if asked to spend time in Jacksonville).
There are some Premier League grinders here, but hardly any stars in Victor Moses (still waiting on those 20 goals you said you were going to score this year, Vic), Peter Odemwingie, and Shola Ameobi. People like to think John Obi Mikel makes a difference, but he sucks out loud. There are big hopes for Michael Babatunde, but he’s yet to play a competitive match for his country. They’ve gone young in a lot of spots here, and may be building for something down the line. But this time around? Not seeing it.
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