Friday, June 02, 2006

Group together: D

Angola

How they got here: Having nearly been put out by Chad in prelimiary qualifying, they sprang the biggest surprise in the whole of the African sector, finishing ahead of Nigeria
Best player left at home: Regulars Gilberto and Maurito are injured
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Unlikely to be one
Likelihood of camp divisions: They're getting offered too much in incentives for that
Where it could all go wrong: How can something go wrong when nobody expects anything?
UK media prefix: Inexperienced
Googlism says: Doesn't know enough about anyone, apparently
We reckon: Little chance, as even they surely admit, although they might go home without the indignity of zero points

Iran

How they got here: Qualified comfortably in a very weak group
Best player left at home: None, as far as we can tell
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Ali Daei, 77, used to be linked with them every summer
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low. International divisions, high
Where it could all go wrong: Don't have the greatest experience on bigger stages and this squad probably isn't as strong as their 1998 selection
UK media prefix: Game
Googlism says: "ali daei is above all a great character and a symbol of national fidelity"
We reckon: Despite Daei's talismanic presence it's not going to look much better on the stats sheets than the last few times they've got through

Mexico

How they got here: With ease from a weak group, as per
Best player left at home: Cuauhtemoc Blanco and coach Ricardo La Volpe have long been at loggerheads and has barely played under him over the last year or so
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Plenty of home-based full backs for them to have a go at
Likelihood of camp divisions: La Volpe doesn't give in easily and has brought in a lot of naturalised players
Where it could all go wrong: Not exactly full of striking potential or first class players
UK media prefix: Industrious
Googlism says: "rafael marquez is met with chants of "nana na na""
We reckon: Number four in the world, which seems generous of a side unlikely to make it past the second round despite any number of helping hands from the luck of the draw

Portugal

How they got here: Piece of piss. Nine wins and 35 goals from 12 games, seven at home against Russia
Best player left at home: Ricardo Quaresma has had an impressive season at Porto but has been left out in favour of Luis Boa Morte, while Jorge Andrade is injured
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: We have suspicions you'll be hearing a lot of Tiago Mendes and Simao Sabrosa in this regard
Likelihood of camp divisions: Average
Where it could all go wrong: Too many 'golden generations' have failed to deliver on the biggest stages
UK media prefix: Enthralling
Googlism says: "cristiano ronaldo is not the only player to have been named after a politician"
We reckon: Well, evidently it'll take quite something for them not to win the group. Beyond that a last eight berth is surely theirs at least

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