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Host Germany Should Reach Round Two at World Cup 2006

By Dennis Ramdass
and Amy Ludlum

Excitement and anticipation is in the air as the FIFA 2006 World Cup draws near. Fans across the globe will turn their eyes towards Germany, host of the premier competition of the world’s most popular sport.

Every four years the World Cup becomes more inclusive. This year 197, teams attempted to qualify, and only 32 made it to the final round taking place in June.

The top eight teams are seeded into the eight different pools. Here we analyze the teams by group, and predict who will make it to the second round.

Group A: Germany, Ecuador,Poland and Costa Rica

In the history of the World Cup, the host has never failed to get out of the initial group stage, and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different. Germany is the strongest team in this group and we expect they will qualify without too much trouble.

The fight for the other qualifying spot isn’t as clear: Ecuador is a battle-tested South American team with big results against the likes of Argentina and Brazil in CONMEBOL; Poland is a solid team that will try to play tight defense and capitalize on what few scoring opportunities come their way; Costa Rica compensates for their weak defense with an enterprising attacking flair and speed down the flanks. This group may be too close to call, but we’re going to say Costa Rica gains the edge and qualifies.

Group B: England, Paraguay,Trinidad & Tobago, and Sweden

England is the most talented team in this group and shouldn’t fail to qualify. Paraguay performed beyond the world’s expectations in the last two world cups, but they need to overcome their inconsistency to stand a chance at qualifying.

Trinidad & Tobago is making their debut appearance in the World Cup and couldn’t be happier just being there. With several players in UK leagues, a unique style of play and an extremely good coach, Dennis predicts T&T will be the upset of the tournament and qualify. Sweden, with the trio of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg, makes for an offensive force to be reckoned with, and Amy thinks they will move on to the second round.

Group C: Argentina, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro, and Holland

Argentina has traditionally been a powerhouse on the world stage, despite their disappointing show in the 2002 World Cup. With some brilliant young talent and South American flair, expect Argentina to win this group.

Ivory Coast boasts Premiership superstars Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, and Kolo Toure, and will undoubtedly put up a good fight. Serbia & Montenegro appears to have a strong defense, but they may be out of depth in the World Cup.

Holland missed out on qualifying for the last World Cup, but with star players at the top of their game, we think they will edge out Ivory Coast for the second qualifying position.

Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal

Mexico and Portugal appear to be the clear choices. They are both talented, and though inconsistent at times, shouldn’t be challenged greatly in this group.

Iran has had some big results over the last several years, but there is little recent evidence to suggest they can outperform Mexico or Portugal. Angola was a surprise African qualifier and should be very happy to have gotten so far, but is outmatched at this level.

Group E: Italy, Ghana, USA, and Czech Republic

Considered the toughest group in the tournament, any of these teams stands a good chance at qualifying. Italy is a passionate team with a solid defense and loads of talented pla

Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Australia, and Japan

Brazil, the 2002 World Cup champions, should have no trouble reaching the second round.

Australia is making their second World Cup appearance after a long hiatus. With a bunch of talented players and Dutch coaching genius Guus Hiddink at the helm, Dennis thinks Australia has what it takes to get through this group. Japan, the Asian qualifying champions coached by Brazilian legend Zico, is Amy’s pick for the second qualifying spot.

Group G: France, Switzerland, Korea Republic, and Togo

France still boasts superstars like Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane and should manage to top this group, even though they aren’t the powerhouse they were a few years ago.

Korea Republic, which made quite an impression pulling off major upsets in the last World Cup (albeit with the help of some dubious officiating), is undoubtedly a strong and underestimated team, coming in as our second qualifier in this group.

Switzerland had a tough time qualifying for the World Cup, but managed to fight their way through. Togo was unlikely to qualify for the World Cup and is more unlikely to get out of the group stage, but should be very proud to play at the highest level of international soccer.

Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Spain will once again prove to be a fiercely competitive team, and should come out on top in this group.

Ukraine is taking part in their first World Cup. Despite their inexperience, they have an abundance of talent particularly from Andriy Shevchenko, one of the world’s greatest strikers, and for this reason we’re picking it as the second qualifier in this group.

Tunisia houses considerable talent, but it would be quite a surprise if they could manage to get out of this group. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia will be well prepared for this competition, but they have done little to prove they can overcome the likes of Spain or Ukraine.