13 June 2006

WC: Group E Overview

Two games gone already. But this one, I'd already thought out beforehand. This is arguably the Group of Death. It's a close race with Group C; the ultimate answer depends a lot on how the US and Ghana play. Some of these questions have been answered already... but I'll write as if they haven't.

Czech Republic
The Czechs have a team loaded with talent; the questions center around their health and their team play. This is a team that could go quite far, or they could prove a disappointment.

Success: Reaching the knockout stage.
Disappointment: Finishing bottom of the group.
Previous Best: Runners-up in 1934 and 1962 (as Czechoslovakia).
2002: Failed to qualify, losing to Belgium in the UEFA playoffs.

Ghana are an intriguing team. They have one world-reknowed player, Michael Essien, but several others who play around the globe. Their players come from a surprisingly diverse group of twelve leagues, including England, Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Like the other newcomer African teams, they are not to be taken lightly.

Success: Reaching the knockout stage.
Disappointment: Finishing last in the group.
Previous Best: First time in the WC finals.
2002: Failed to qualify, finishing fourth in CAF Group 2 behind Nigeria, Liberia, and Sudan.

Italy are a perennial favorite and are one of the stronger European favorites for 2006. They have supplied some dominating performances in the last year and could easily go all the way. Questions mainly center around the overall chaos within Serie A, as scandal and potential harsh penalites are playing out at home.

Success: Winning it all.
Disappointment: Failing to reach the Semi-finals.
Previous Best: Champions in 1934, 1938, and 1982.
2002: Lost in the round of 16, to South Korea, 2-1 AET.

United States
Working desperately to establish themselves on the international scene, the US team enjoyed a very successful qualifying campaign, winning CONCACAF handily. However the US have not had much success playing in Europe, and the difficulty of this group will be a real challenge.

Success: Reaching the knockout stage.
Disappointment: Finishing last in the group.
Previous Best: Semifinal in 1930; Quarterfinal in 2002.
2002: Lost in the quarterfinals, 1-0 to Germany.

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