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Warming up for the World Cup

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Paul Fletcher | 22:29 UK time, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

At Loftus Road

Question - what do Dunga, Carlo Ancelotti, Roy Hodgson, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Brian Kidd and Mick McCarthy all have in common?

Answer - they all spent Wednesday afternoon surrounded by incredibly excitable South Korea supporters with a tendency to scream at the merest hint of an opening for their team.

The event was a pre-World Cup friendly between the Taeguk Warriors and Ivory Coast at Loftus Road, the home of Queens Park Rangers located, appropriately enough, on South Africa Road in west London.

The logic behind the match, which kicked off at 1430 GMT for the convenience of Korean television, was that it gave both teams the opportunity to size up the sort of opponent they are likely to face this summer.

Ivory Coast have been drawn against Brazil, Portugal and North Korea, while South Korea take on Argentina, Greece and Nigeria.

The theme was repeated across Europe on Wednesday, with a whole series of games between teams looking to familiarise themselves with playing styles they will encounter in South Africa.

donggook595.jpg South Korea deserved their win against Ivory Coast after a high-tempo performance

I spoke to a few journalists from South Korea before the game, all of whom expressed concern at the capability of their team to cope with the physical threat posed by their African opponents.

Ivory Coast, like Nigeria, clearly have a physicality the Koreans cannot match but coach Huh Jung-moo must be pleased with the way his team coped with the Elephants, even if their opponents are currently without a coach (although they have been linked with Guus Hiddink) and at something of a low ebb.

Manchester United midfielder Ji-Sung Park followed up his Carling Cup victory on Sunday by skippering South Korea on Wednesday.

And afterwards he said: "It is a good experience to play against African teams and because we have had a great result it is superb for our confidence.

"African players are individually very technical, strong and quick so we have to learn how to manage that - to do that we need to play as a unit and we did that against Ivory Coast."

Dong-Gook Lee opened the scoring with a technically superb volley that was rarely if ever glimpsed during his spell at Middlesbrough, while Kwak Tae-hwi sealed victory with a superb glancing header on the stroke of full-time to complete a 2-0 win.

Park went on to talk about the importance of Koreans coming to play in Europe to gain valuable experience of playing week in, week out in high quality leagues.

The majority of the Koreans still play in Asia but four of their starting line-up at Loftus Road ply their trade in Europe.

Park added that if one of South Korea, North Korea or Japan qualified from the group stage at the World Cup it would represent a successful World Cup for Asian football.

As I reflected on South Korea's performance at Loftus Road the thought occurred to me that with an inconsistent if talented Argentina, an ageing Nigeria and an uninspired Greece in their group they have a decent chance of progressing to the second round.

I am not exactly sure what the Ivorians can take from the fixture. On paper playing against South Korea with a view to their World Cup meeting against North Korea makes total sense.

Except that I am told that North Korea and South Korea are both extremely fit teams but have a totally different style of play.

As Park explained: "North Korea play defensively and it is not easy to beat them. They like to stay in their half and then counter-attack."

South Korea, in contrast, play at a high tempo and against the Ivorians looked to hit telling final balls to get in behind their opponents' defence.

Ivory Coast had the disinterested look of a team short of confidence. It was one of those afternoons when Didier Drogba, normally a talismanic figure in orange, was largely anonymous. It must have pleased club manager Ancelotti as he watched from the stands but it might just be that the Elephants are in need of the considerable skills of the Italian's predecessor at Chelsea.

Drogba is apparently keen for Hiddink to take over on a short-term basis and Ivorian football association chief Jacques Anouma told me on Wednesday (via the help of a translator) that talks have taken place with the Dutch coach.

The 63-year-old has signed a contract to coach Turkey from August but having taken the Netherlands, South Korea and Australia to previous World Cups I would not rule against him leading the Elephants in South Africa.

If he does he will certainly have his work cut out. Their quarter-final exit at the Africa Cup of Nations was regarded as a failure and cost Vahid Halilhodzic his job, while Anouma grew visibly irritated when he explained how a succession of coaches have failed to harness the full potential of such a talented group of players.

Certainly the Ivory Coast have real quality in the likes of Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Dindane Aruna and Bakary Kone but they were error-strewn against Korea and rarely showed any attacking fluency.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Didier Drogba It was a frustrating afternoon for Drogba and his team

They are in a very tough group at the World Cup and will require the organisation and confidence that a coach like Hiddink can give them if they are to qualify.

I certainly don't think that Brazil coach Dunga will have seen too much to cause him sleepless nights between now and his team's meeting with the Elephants on 20 June.
I suspect that the Brazilian television crew I saw were reporting back as much, as they broadcast from pitchside shortly after the final whistle.

A Brazilian TV crew (presenter looking somewhat chilly) reporting from London on a match between an Asian side and an African team - it must surely be a sign that the World Cup is almost upon us.

And when the action starts for real we will find out if valuable lessons have been learnt from the pre-tournament friendlies.

You can follow me throughout the season at


  • Comment number 1.

    Ageing nigerian team? I understand you're trying to 'big-up' the south Korean team, but do check your facts. There is only one player in the current Nigerian squad over 30 (kanu) and he doesn't start matches these days. The average age of the super eagles is around 26. Hardly aging in my book.

    And while we're on the subject, I don't think the Nigerian and ivorien styles of play are similar, so it's questionable what south Korea have learnt by playing ivory coast...

  • Comment number 2.

    South Korea probably have the best chance amongst all the Asian teams and its nice you were impressed by them, however its important to realise that with the exception of the few European based players - the bulk of the South Korean squad that played in London has been together for a few weeks now and has just finished competing in the East Asian Championship in Tokyo, so I think they are a little more sharper than the Ivorians - who are currently coachless and have just probably met up a few days before the match.

    Shame Park Chu-Young was injured though. Would like to have seen him in action.

  • Comment number 3.

    There's a World Cup on?

  • Comment number 4.

    Aarfy the only holdovers from the domestic squad that played the EAFF are the keeper, a central defender(the other central defender was out with injury after China game), Lee Keunho(subbed out in 1st half in this game) and Lee Dongguk. That's 3-5 players from domestic squad on pitch anytime in game. The majority of the team were euro based players and new callups: Cha Duri, Lee Youngpyo, Lee Chongyong, Ki Sungyong, Park Jisung, Kim Namil, Ahn Junghwan. With Argentina, Niger and Korea looking good, this is going to be a really tough group. I just hope Korea doesn't end up being the only team to not advance with 4 points. 17th place at WC isn't bad but if Korea can reach 16th, it's really going to get interesting. This Korea team can do some damage.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ageing Nigerian team? You must be really misinformed or you are just like the British press who'd turn lies into truth by creaming. I suggest you get your facts right before running down a team like Nigeria. For your information, Nigeria are mandated to win the WC which is apparent they can do. The Nigerian team you'll see in SA is different from the one you saw in the ANC

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm korean.

    I'm so happy that I see this korea article even I understood

    just a half(or less). hehe.

    after defeat with china 0-3 about a month a go (the first defeat with

    china), we said the korean defender is 'an automatic door'

    or 'Moses´miragcle(seperate !)'.

    so we are happy '0' more than '2'.

    that's it.

    Vive la Coree ~~ Allez Le coreen et les Bleus ~~!

  • Comment number 7.

    Following up from the recent Africa Cup of Nations, Ivory Coast struck me as a collection of talented individuals more than a team. They are immorally loaded with talent in every position but their national game seemed mediocre. Many of their players looked disinterested and unmotivated, and I thought it was more than just the tactics of their now sacked coach, Halilhodzic.

    Will they worry members of their World Cup group, with or without Hiddink at the helm? The potential remains. They have the physicality, athleticism and experience. The aggregate caps at club level for Drogba, Toures, Sagna, and Kalou, to mention a few is considerable. They potentially match up to Brazil, maybe except in lifting of international trophies. That transition to me isn't beyond the Elephant's reach.

    They need to learn from playing speedy teams like South Korea, and work on building their own fitness. There should be no stars at international level, an example being how Messi looks ordinary for Argentina. I feel the potential's there for Ivory Coast but they need belief and a little less playing arrogance. Among our African representatives they still look the strongest in every position.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just a quick note to Ji-Sung Park.......Australia is also part of the Asian Confederation.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's clear u haven't done ur homework paul. Nigeria an aging team? The current nigerian team can be called a lot of names but certainly not aging. For ur information, the bulk of d current nigerian team were at d last olympics where they made d final.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ 9. > No It's you that hasn't done the homework I'm afraid. Apart from you comment being full of grammatical errors.

  • Comment number 11.

    "As Park explained: "North Korea play defensively and it is not easy to beat them. They like to stay in their half and then counter-attack.""

    Now now. Let's keep politics out of this.

  • Comment number 12.

    International friendlies are nothing but warm up matches and do not necessarily indicate the true strength of the teams participating. In three months, the world cup will begin in South Africa. The footballing world will be surprised to note that the pre-tournament favorites might perform poorly.

    The Nigerian team, irrespective of the established players, is a relatively young team. Age-wise, the vast majority are in their mid twenties. Most of the current players with the Super Eagles are from the 2005 Fifa U-20 championship and the 2008 Olympic games.

    With regards to Ivory Coast, the resource curse theory might come to play. There have too many established and high profile players in their ranks. It is difficult to manage such a mix. Brazil does not have the quality of players that Ivory Coast has. They need a strong and tactically astute coach to train their team of egomaniacs.

  • Comment number 13.

    " ageing Nigeria" What do you mean an ageing Nigeria? They have already aged!

    Yakubu, Obafemi Martins, Kanu and Mikel are all at least 35 :roll:

  • Comment number 14.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting one there TheBigMan. I'm afraid the scandal might be more widespread than even Nigeria. There's a culture of cheating that has emanated from trying to get success by any means, legal or otherwise. Teams lie all the time, to "help" their own (nepotism or kinsmen in general), or beat a long-time rival (however unethically). The soccer stakes are forever getting bigger, better remuneration, better lifestyle, a chance to escape poor living conditions, etc. The motivation is there but using a wrong approach. How does one explain players whose age never seems to change regardless of how long they've featured? The likes of Messi and Casillas might be the exception courtesy of prodigious childhoods and the start of soccer playing at an unusually early age. It's a really sad thing if true about Nigeria.

    There must be more to life than just doing what each of us is currently engaged in, and it's good to move on after its completion. A change is said to be as good as a rest and one good example is the current Australian PM, John Howard, who is set to take over the ICC chairmanship after first serving as its vice chair. To any such cheats, get a life!

  • Comment number 16.

    artic footie just because they say they're under 30 doesn't mean they is a well known fact that most of the nigerian team don't have a birth certificate and have made up their age to increase their value and duration of their playing career. I know this as fact from my time in west africa where the u-16's team could stand up to play against fully grown men.

  • Comment number 17.

    Personally I thought Nigeria were suffering now after the retirement of a number of ageing stars. Must admit I am not certain how well that transitional period is going, but they seem to have some decent young players in there. Not sure you can compare their playing styles either, perhaps someone more informed can help me out? Is that akin to saying Spain and England's playing styles are alike because they're both European?

    The thing I like about Korean football is the team dynamic. It's amazing how much they work for each other, especially when you look at the ego-driven top leagues in Europe now. Now I don't mind ego at all, in fact I quite enjoy watching extreme arrogance, but to be truly successful (in football at least) the team generally has to come first.

  • Comment number 18.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far.

    The word ageing to describe Nigeria seems to have touched a few raw nerves. I take the point that the Super Eagles have plenty of new faces kicking around - and with five players who started the Cup of Nations match against Ghana 25 or under the team has certainly been injected with some fresh impetus.

    But who has really made their mark so far? When the chips are down is the team not still too reliant on the same old names?

    I would love to know what supporters think of the appointment of Swede Lars Largerback? He certainly has plenty of major tournament experience but do you feel he knows enough about African football?

    On the subject of new coaches - the Ivorians are now looking for a short-term fix. In this context would Guus Hiddink, with his wealth of experience, be the right man for that job?

    And when we talk about comparing playing styles of future opposition I think the key point is not related to formation but physicality. I think that is what the Koreans will take from their match at Loftus Road - handling a big and powerful side.

    As for South Korea - I'm pretty sure they have played 12 friendlies since qualifying, a remarkable number. They played Serbia before Christmas and I'm told they looked very ordinary that day in losing 1-0.

    However, I can only talk about the performance I saw yesterday and it suggested to me that although they are supposed to be dodgy at the back they have a chance of qualifying from their group.

  • Comment number 19.

    RE 9,

    How hard is it to type 'the'??? God, those two extra taps of the keyboard must be really taxing for you. If you want people to take your comments seriously I suggest enroling in an evening English course. Most local colleges and educational institutions provide this service and at a relatively cheap cost.


    I would love to see an African team do well on home soil this year but I can't see it happening personally. The Ivory Coast rely on Drogba far too heavilly, it seems if he doesn't perform then the team don't either. It's also the same story with Cameroon and Eto'o.

    Ghana will need the likes of Appiah, Muntari and Essien in the midfield to do well. This wasn't apparent in the ACON and although the young side put out exceded expectations I believe they'll be found out by higher class opposition. When one of your striking options in Junior Agogo you will struggle for goals.

    Nigeria have some good young players coming through and will always be dangerous in attack with the Yak and Martins. But I don't think they'll make it past the group stages from the evidence I saw in the ACON.

    In my opinion it's Algeria who have the best chance to make it through the group stages, they have quality throughout the team and will not fear the USA or Slovenia. And we all know how much hard work England make of the group stages.

    As for the hosts, of course the team will be buoyed by the home crowd and occasion. But as by far the lowest ranked team in the competition they should enjoy the three group games because thats all they're going to get i'm afraid.

    98 days and counting.....

  • Comment number 20.

    Everyone is putting all the African nations under intense scrutiny to perform at their World Cup (I know it's in South Africa, but it does feel like it's a World Cup hosted for the whole of Africa). It seems as if the likes of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast are struggling under the spotlight when usually they would be going into a WC as plucky underdogs. Nobody can doubt the talent that exists within these sides, but the fact remains they are still light years behind European and South American countries tactically and disciplinary.

  • Comment number 21.

    Park seems to have forgotten that Australia also comes from the Asian football confederation. Don't know whether he would see it as a good achievement if the Socceroos come out of their group.

    I was a bit surprised by the appointment of Largerback. The guy has big tournament experience but as far as I know he has never coached outside Sweden.

    Going for him is the fact he can get a team playing together as we saw many times with Sweden.

    I hope he will do a good job for Nigeria because they have got the talent and it only needs to be harnessed.

    South Korea may have played a West African team and nothing more. Nigeria is so different from Ivory Coast in football terms.

    Full time analysis

  • Comment number 22.

    @ melonbarmonster,

    Damage? They only did damage at the 2002 WC cause they baught the referees. It is not the first time Korea have done this either.

  • Comment number 23.

    On the subject of Nigeria I wasnt particularly impressed with them at the ACN but theyve certainly got the players to do damage. As someone pointed out earlier, theyre not ageing at all and with a potential strikeforce of Yakubu and Obafemi Martins they can do any team damage on a good day.

  • Comment number 24.

    Mr Paul What do you mean by ageing Nigeria squad? Please check fact before you write this load of rubbish. How many years have you been following African Football? Ivory Coast and Nigeria play DIFFERENT TYPE of football.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ cjewelz (post 22) - no need to get stroppy sir, they got to the latter stages of the competition, ipso facto they did "damage". Keep your conspiracy theories to yourself.

    Were you the manager that dropped S.Korean player Ahn from that Italian team and is still bitter by any chance?

  • Comment number 26.

    Generally speaking International friendlies are sadly 95% meaningless. How motivated do you think the likes of Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres et al are in these type of games when they are under strict instructions from their clubs to 'come back fit'? They have no bearing at all on the World Cup itself...where teams will be at full strength and totally committed in the tackle. You get the odd exception like Wayne Rooney - who wants to win every game, but even players 'playing for places' don't seem that bothered anymore. The only advantage is in bedding a team together, but with so many changes going on no-one even does that!

    What I will say about the Korean win though - is that it somewhat lays to bed the myth that modern footballers all have to be 6ft plus giants to compete at the top level of the modern game.

  • Comment number 27.

    ~13. hahahahahahahaha

  • Comment number 28.

    #11 needs a mention for his Private Eye style political tomfoolery. Good work.

  • Comment number 29.

    Referring to the Nigerian team as aging is misplaced irrespective of the context i.e age cheats or presence on the team. Just because the likes of Osaze and Yobo were part of the 2002 world cup team does not make them old.

    Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand etc have been with the England team for close to a decade yet you don't refer to them as aging.

    Perhaps, you had better reserve the aging team analogy for the Italians.

    On Lars Lägerbeck, he's is a nice coach and given the circumstance, should do he's best to help the Nigerian team. Granted his record with Swede, a country of 10m people with a limited pool footballing talent, Nigeria should afford him the opportunity to excel at management.

    Nigeria has over 1000 professional football players who can easily play for the Super Eagles. Selecting the best 23 in 80 days might prove to be the ultimate challenge for Lägerbeck. I hope he gets a long term contract after the world cup.

  • Comment number 30.

    Yes, if you look at the Nigerian team that played in Angola this year, they are old. I think some of you have forgotten that Nigeria made the 2008 olympics final with a young squad and they made the final of U-19 world cup which was held in Nigeria. The problem here is that these players were no drafted into the final squad that was taken to Angola. See what Ghana did with their youth players in the tournament.
    Lagerback has been brought to fix this problem. If we can blend in the talent olympic finalist team along with the U-21 team along with some experienced senior players, we have a proper squad to take on argentina, greece and south korea and probably the best african squad in this world cup.
    Dont bet on us not doing well because the Super Eagles are coming to light some fire!

  • Comment number 31.

    Now if we can just get the Superstars galore England team anywhere near the finals...

  • Comment number 32.

    #8 Just a quick note to Ji-Sung Park.......Australia is also part of the Asian Confederation.

    "Confederation" maybe, but when I was a lad at school and you'd have mentioned Asian football teams to me, I wouldn't have included Australia in that list.

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm beginning to wonder if Serbia could win this WC... I know this is about African teams but they've done well on the dark continent & could be worth a flutter. Plus it would wrankle the EU no end.. ha ha

  • Comment number 34.

    Look Paul, I think you should accept you got it wrong using the word 'ageing' so that it ceases to be a distraction from the original point of your (otherwise very good) blog, rather than gloss over it, as you've tried to do.

    'Same old names' doesn't qualify either. What same old names? Any team worth its salt would have a core, spine - call it what you want, around which the team is built, and that's actually a good thing.

    Anyways, to other issues. I think Lagerback is a good choice - at least there won't be a 'media circus' around him. I just hope that the Nigerian Football Federation would leave him to do his job and not interfere or hinder his work. Lagerback may want to have a chat with Westerhof on how to deal with the NFF!

    IMO, Nigeria have a decent chance of progressing to the second stage - at least they're not in a group of death - but a lot of hard work (and some luck) will be called for.

    And finally - sorry I can't resist this - if the Koreans were really looking to have an idea of what to expect when playing Nigeria, why didn't they play (in your words) an 'ageing' side?

  • Comment number 35.

    arcticfootie (post 34) - maybe you're right, it just seemed to me as I looked at a lot of the names that played in the tournament in Angola that they had been around for a long time. Perhaps they just started early.

    I'd be interested to hear how you think Nigeria will line up in South Africa.

    I was most perplexed to read Orkaambe (post 29) suggest that Nigeria have a 1000 players that could make the Super Eagles squad. That strikes me as being a great, great number of prospective internationals.

  • Comment number 36.

    For a country of more than 150millon people, I wont be surprised if the country could even generate 10 different super eagles team, IMHO

  • Comment number 37.

    Paul@10:40pm; Nigeria's population is over 140 million strong and it's a bell shaped population pyramid thus lots of young people thus i think 1000 professional players capable of being in the national team is a gross underestimation considering the fact too that football is like the unofficial national religion in Nigeria...south Korea will struggle to get ouf of group B during the world cup and so will Greece (who lost to senegal yesterday) so i believe it will be a repeat of Nigeria's 1994 world cup debut where they and Argentina made it out of their groups

  • Comment number 38.

    Really to call the Nigeria team ageing is been biased, Nigeria may have it's football problem but no more then any country,lets say England who has never won any tournament for close to 40 years,we all know the Koreans and Greece team will crumble at the world cup.

  • Comment number 39.

    The Swedish Coach is world class and has already got down to work,Nigeria were smart not to have taken the other Swede Ericksson and the other English caretaker coach Taylor.

  • Comment number 40.

    Folks, you must remember that this world cup is being palyed in South Africa. While most of us tend to be fanatical about the perennial underachivement of African teams at the WC, the situation will be different this time. There is a pyschological factor at play this time with Africa as a whole trying to prove a point. There will be shocks, surprises and more of them come June......some big teams will pack earlier than expected, especially those countries that play their soccer in the media, perennial favourites at world cup, habitual under achievers.

    Honestly, the Nigerina team is not ageing. I think this was poor reserach or knowledge abiout the Nigerian team. This is waht will shock most teams about the Nigerian and African teams. Remember the ACN was a training session for most teams, and for Egypt, that was the only opportunity to save their face....You would be in a surprsie to see the African teams all going to secodn round.....we will make noise with our vuvuzelaz (those noisy trumpets) and confuse all the visting teams.....this will be interesting.....Do I see Engalnd crashing in the secomnd round? Be warned, soccer is palyed on the pitch, and these pitches, unfortunately are on African soil this time....Friendlies dont tell a real story

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi, I think the criticism of Paul's "ageing" comment about the Super Eagles has been slightly unfair. As has been aluded to already, this might be down to him having touched a few Nigerian nerves sensitive to any reference to the team being supposedly older than it actually is - this clearly was not his intention, but was hinted at by TheBigMan's Guardian article (post 14).

    As a Nigerian myself, I would freely admit that the team has been 'ageing', a reference more to the fact that Nigeria's coach Amodu was slow to replace the underperforming and unfit established stars in the team and this proved to be his undoing eventually. He should not have picked Kanu if he was only going to use him for a few minutes in one match, and similarly, the likes of Yakubu, Martins and Yobo were all unfit and not playing at their best going into the tournament. There were younger fresher players ready to step in but unfortunately the coach was not bold enough to introduce them into the team.

    As someone else mentioned, I was rather surprised by the appointment of Largerback, I don't think he is the right fit for Nigeria and I will be surprised to see him still with the team after the World Cup. I felt it was a disappointing and deflating outcome for most Nigerians, who were promised the likes of Hiddink, especially considering how much we're reportedly paying him for the 5 months to the World Cup. It also leaves the bitter taste of someone reaping where they did not sow, especially since the same man couldn't take Sweden to the World Cup, has never coached outside his own country, and has NEVER won anything of significance in a coaching career spanning more than 30 years.

    What's more, even if Nigeria had to sack Amodu, we missed a great opportunity to go to the first African World Cup with one of our own indigenous coaches. Sadly, whenever the chance to hire a foreign coach arises, too many people stand to gain something from awarding a large contract for common sense to prevail...

  • Comment number 42.

    These african teams are rubbish they will have no chance at the world cup as for nigeria they are old look at the players they played in their two tournaments the same faces yakubu,yobo,martins etc etc they need fresh new faces quickly if their national team is to developed into a unbeatable powerhouse as they once were in the 90s with the likes of okcha and Kanu. But sorry i doubt any of these africans will get further than the group stages ! they were all woeful at the african cup of nations and egypt taught them a valuable lesson even though they havent qualified for the world cup in a long time.

    As for the ivory coast its the same story with them ! they play with big name stars such as yaya toure,drogba,kolo toure, eboue,kalou!!! blah blah they look good on paper but fail to impress at the closing stages ! they are like the holland of africa and the arsenal of africa ill have to admit they play the best football at times but fail to impress when the true mentatility and spirit is needed.

    South korea i reckon have a very good chance to be honest more than african teams yesterday showed they are not a force to be reckon with even though it was just a international friendly but they showed they had strength in depth to rip teams apart. As for north korea i dont know how the hell they qualified ahead of saudi arabia to be honest they were average in their group stages and failed to impress in any of the matches they played in.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's so not right how the media have played all the World Cup games; knocking out Bafana Bafana already even before the game starts in June. Football is played on the pitch not on western media computer and websites.
    Yeah, the only team that has got chance to win World Cup is England=HYPE.
    Don't forget how United States destroy star studded Spain.

  • Comment number 44.

    @Paul post 35: I also find it perplexing. The national football team is supposed to represent the cream of the crop of the nation's footballers, and it's either the '1000 footballers' comment is a figure of speech, or the bar for getting into the Nigeria squad is set quite low.

    I think Lagerback is a good choice, and may just surprise a few people. I think Eriksson's football philosophy may just be too rigid for the fluid style of football Nigeria plays. Hoddle would have also been good, but I think the NFF may be looking at Lagerback for the longer term - if the team do well, and I'm not sure if Hoddle was gong to stay long term.

    For what it's worth, my team to start against Argentina would be:


    Mohammed Yobo Shittu/Apam Taiwo

    Ayila Etuhu/Olofinjana


    Obinna/Martins/Obasi Odemwingie


    The question then is - man-mark Messi or cut off his supply lines?

    It would be interesting to see what others think...

  • Comment number 45.

    P4ofessor Chaos

    Ghanas performance at the ANC was a fluke so the notion that one should build teams round U-20's is laughable.
    Ghana lost their first game 3-1 to CIV and pretty much played the ANC in their own half undr pressure. In essence they were an extremely fortunate team and were comprehensively out played by ALL their ANC opponents with the possible exception of Burkina Faso

    There is nothing Ageing about Nigerias team in fact it's a relatively young team. The problem was Amodus overreliance on Yakubu whom has never been fit for an Eagles shirt . The presence of an Uche Ikechuwku or a fit Martins or even an in form Utaka would have made the difference.

  • Comment number 46.

    At 11:28am on 04 Mar 2010, Forrad83 wrote:
    Everyone is putting all the African nations under intense scrutiny to perform at their World Cup (I know it's in South Africa, but it does feel like it's a World Cup hosted for the whole of Africa). It seems as if the likes of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast are struggling under the spotlight when usually they would be going into a WC as plucky underdogs. Nobody can doubt the talent that exists within these sides, but the fact remains they are still light years behind European and South American countries tactically and disciplinary.


    Nigerias record agaisnt European Teams at the WC is 4W 3L 1T
    Hardly a picture of "light years behind European and South American countries tactically and disciplinary"

    PS:At the Olympics and at the U-20'S AND u-17'S it's so lopsided in Nigeria's favor I wont bother to give you the Stats

  • Comment number 47.

    Looking at the WC groups I see Nigeria as the African team most likely to get past the first round as they don't have a really difficult group. Decent results against S.Korea and Greece should be achievable and they could even get something out of their first game against Argentina. The opening game for the big teams is historically the most likely to cause upsets. e.g.(France v Senegal)2002
    Ivory Coast, if they can get their preparations back on track, are capable of beating their first opponents, Portugal, even with Ronaldo, they are beatable. They should not have difficulty to overcome N.Korea and that would be them qualified. Their result against Brasil wouldn't matter.
    It is difficult to imagine any of the other African countries qualifying from their groups, though Algeria maybe have a small chance. Even the hosts who are in a nasty group are likely to struggle for the results they'll need.

  • Comment number 48.

    The Nigerian national team may be a huge joke but they are not ageing,infact there are lots of young players in the team,but can they get their act together?
    Lagerback looks a decent coach but how much does he know about African football players and their mentality?
    I still feel that any African Nation that makes it to the second round of this world cup should pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

  • Comment number 49.

    No doubt Ivory Coast are a good team but they are unfortunate as they have fallen in the GROUP OF DEATH and i dont see Sven Goran Eriksson coaching the team to the second round.

    If they do progress to the second round, it would be at the expense of the favorites Brazil or Portugal which is very unlikely.

    However it would be nice if Portugal and Ivory Coast qualify fromn the group since Brazil(even though being undeafeated under Dunga in any tournment is a relatively younger side relying too much on Kaka).But Portugal can be the casualty in the group like Argentina(Argentina,England,Sweeden,Nigeria)in FIFA 2002.

  • Comment number 50.

    Regarding the Brazil, Dunga did some mistakes when he chosen the players. In fact, when we look the Brazilian team, Ronaldo, Adriano and Ronaldinho will not participate in the world cup. An other example is Pato or Motha who did I very good season in Italia.

    I think Brazil will not arrive in the two first positions. Portugal and Ivory Cos twill probably fight Brazil.

    What do you think about the Brazilian team ?


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