09 June 2006

WC: Group A Overview

I'm cheating a bit -- doing this after the first game. Oh well!

The host nation, they can rely on the support of every crowd they play to. It's a powerful team, with an excellent blend of experience and youth. Their attack has already been spectacular, but the defense is rather suspect.

Success: Winning it all.
Disappointment: Missing the semis.
Previous best: Won in 1954, 1974, and 1990.
2002: Lost in the finals to Brazil.

Poland are a fairly anonyous team. Their best known player is probably keeper Jerzy Dudek, but he's not even in the squad. They've shown an ability to score -- they were not shut out in any of their qualifiers -- so it's their defense that will be under the microscope.

Success: Reaching the quarterfinals.
Disappointment: Failing to reach the knockout stage.
Previous best: 3rd place in 1974 and 1982.
2002: Bottom of Group D, losing to South Korea and Portugal before winning over the US in a meaningless game.

Ecuador are trying to establish themselves as the #3 team in South American soccer, behind Brazil and Argentina. They do well in qualifications, as teams don't like to play at altitude in Quito, but they've had difficulties translating that into success away from home.

Success: Reaching the knockout stage.
Disappointment: Finishing last in the group.
Previous best: Reaching the WC Finals in 2002.
2002: Finished 4th in Group G, losing to Italy and Mexico, and winning over Croatia.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica are the #3 team in CONCACAF due to the emergence of the US as a consistent leader. The Ticos seem to run hot and cold, beginning their qualification run with several bad performances, before making a strong run to the finals. Unfortunately, their performance in the opening match doesn't bode well for their campaign.

Success: Reaching the knockout stage.
Disappointment: Finishing last in the group.
Previous best: Knockout stage in 1990.
2002: 3rd in Group C, winning over China, drawing 1-1 with Turkey, and losing 2-5 to Brazil.

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