Monday, June 05, 2006

Group together: G

France

How they got here: It looked possible they'd miss out at one stage, round about the home draw with Israel, but a win over Cyprus saw them snatch top spot at the last
Best player left at home: Robert Pires hasn't played for his country since October 2004 after falling out with Raymond Domenech. There's also no Nicolas Anelka and, incredibly, no Ludovic Giuly, uncapped Franck Ribery preferred. Too individual, apparently
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Pascal Chimbonda, obviously
Likelihood of camp divisions: High. There are already widescale beliefs that the squad is riven into divisions led by Zidane and Henry, and of course some of the squad came out of international retirement when this tournament looked to be passing them by
Where it could all go wrong: The current team is caught between two groups anyway, the elder statesmen and a potential new golden generation. The thought is they may not mix well enough over the month
UK media prefix: Va va voom (always go for the blindingly obvious)
Googlism says: "thierry henry is soooooo stunnin"
We reckon: There's a lot of 1998 names still around, some of the critical players being of temperamental form of late. That could well dearly count against them

South Korea

How they got here: After their 2002 heroics they nearly missed out this time, struggling into qualifying from second place
Best player left at home: Lee Dong-Gook's goals were crucial in getting through but he has a cruciate knee injury
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Surely someone will be perceived as wanting to join Lee Young-Pyo. Let's say defender Choi Jin-Cheul
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: It's hard to see where the goals will now come from, and expectations will be at an unreasonably high level
UK media prefix: High aiming
Googlism says: "park ji sung is the one thatz jumpin the highest"
We reckon: Ten of the 2002 squad are left and the rest will be going some to invoke memories of their home triumphs

Switzerland

How they got here: Only just about - beating Turkey on away goals in the play-off after finishing behind France, followed by a fight...
Best player left at home: ...which led FIFA to ban Benjamin Huggel for six official games. Wisely he's been left out, while Hakan Yakin also misses out despite a storming end to the season
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Strikers Marco Streller and Alexander Frei
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: A possible problem with finishing the job off, having been 3-0 up on aggregate against Turkey and ending up drawing 4-4
UK media prefix: Dour
Googlism says: Doesn't know enough
We reckon: The Swiss seem to turn up to every finals and never make any impact. This is a lively team but not one that will pull up many trees

Togo

How they got here: Finishing ahead of Senegal
Best player left at home: Who knows?
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Adebayor is the only potentially world beating player on show and he won't move across, but keeper Kossi Agassa is highly regarded
Likelihood of camp divisions: As high as you want. The Togolese FA president, the wonderfully named Rock Gnassingbe, revealed that the team threatened not to play unless awarded substantial bonuses
Where it could all go wrong: Everywhere. They're in a group with France, they performed poorly at the African Cup Of Nations and popular coach Stephen Keshi was sacked two months ago in favour of Otto Pfister, who hadn't seen his men train until the end of May
UK media prefix: Making up the numbers
Googlism says: No idea about any of 'em
We reckon: Togo's chief voodoo priest has predicted they will beat both France and South Korea and he and his spells will be on hand to make it happen. We'll see about that

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