Sunday, June 04, 2006

Group together: F

Australia

How they got here: For once they won the traditional stumbling block of the Oceania play-off, beating Uruguay on penalties
Best player left at home: Not sure they have any to leave at home
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Not unless Harry Kewell decides he wants out of Anfield
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: Inexperience and quality at the back
UK media prefix: Probably unprintable, in truth
Googlism says: "harry kewell is a dedicated soccer player who i'm sure everyone has learned to love"
We reckon: You wouldn't have thought this journey would last long, but under Hiddinck, if they can beat Japan and get something from Croatia...

Brazil

How they got here: The first holders to have to qualify, they comprehensively failed to make a mess of it
Best player left at home: Defensive midfielder Edmilson has been released after a training injury. Roque Junior is injured - no, hang on, we were referring to 'best', weren't we - and Real Betis striker Ricardo Oliveira missed out
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Fred of Lyon, just because it sounds right
Likelihood of camp divisions: Medium
Where it could all go wrong: Complacency would seem to be their foremost undoing, having been vulnerable at the back. Plus, sod Jamaica, Brazil's strongest warm up opponents were New Zealand
UK media prefix: Samba stars
Googlism says: "ronaldinho is shot in the face with lightning by ronaldo who seems to have received some sick powers after his unfortunate accident" (we hope that's from a caption competition)
We reckon: Three World Cups out of four? Give someone else a go at least. We know the drill, of course - they won't be as entertaining as the 1970 montages will claim, but they'll be there or thereabouts

Croatia

How they got here: Finished top of their group with an impressive record
Best player left at home: They all retired
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: The almost amusingly named Jerko Leko controls the midfield
Likelihood of camp divisions: Improving through coach Zlatko Kranjcar's robust defence of his son Niko, booed during their last home game
Where it could all go wrong: Lost to Poland and drew with Iran in their warm-ups, and for a team that don't score often that's not the best sign
UK media prefix: Technically adept
Googlism says: "bosko balaban is shit say croats"
We reckon: This isn't a golden Croatian squad but they may take advantage of the weak group to land second, unless the cross-cultural exchange that could see nine Croats and Australians of the other team's ancestry turning out in their final group game gets in the way

Japan

How they got here: Finishing top of their group despite being taken to the last minute by Oman
Best player left at home: After labelling him the country's main striking threat, Zico went and dropped Tatsuhiko Kubo from the squad. There's gratitude
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Surely Shinji Ono can be persuaded to join his midfield British-based counterparts Nakamura, Nakata and Inamoto?
Likelihood of camp divisions: Variable
Where it could all go wrong: Bugger all up front and off form
UK media prefix: Cheery
Googlism says: "hidetoshi nakata is more famous than hideo nomo"
We reckon: Their squad hasn't progressed, so they'll be lucky to

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