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Another day closer to the big kick off, and we’re back with the second part of our World Cup predictions.
Who will be the biggest let down (country)?
Kevin Coleman: Italy. I think they’ll struggle hugely for a side who only four years ago were on top of the world.
Neil Sherwin: Portugal. They limped through the qualifiers and still haven’t found the top class out and out striker that has been lacking for over a decade now. Pauleta and Nuno Gomes could do a job but just lacked that extra bit of class that wins tournaments.
Gav Reilly: Brazil. Their only real galactico in this era is Kaka and he’s in poor form. Expect to be underwhelmed.
Ed Diggins: Argentina or Spain.
David Bevan: Ivory Coast. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone else has them down as a surprise package because a lot of people seem to think they will finish second and eliminate Portugal. But then everyone always says they are bound to win every African Nations Cup too. If Chile are more than the sum of their parts, then the Ivory Coast are usually less and big-name midfielders in particular often fail to perform to the high standards they set for their clubs.
Eamonn Power: Portugal. Almost a disaster of a qualifying campaign, a 0-0 draw with Cape Verde islands in a warm-up game and a more than difficult group up against Brazil, Ivory Coast and Korea DPR, I’m expecting the Portuguese crew to crash out early and Carlos Quieroz to be booted aside as soon as possible afterwards. Bad news for anyone hoping that they’d knock out the English again.
Chris Mann: Ivory Coast have been given the “Best Team in Africa” tag ahead of the tournament and talked up as the most likely African side to win the competition, but, in all honesty, I think the team is well past its best. The Elephants are more of a collection of individuals than a fully-functioning team unit and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them crash and burn in the group phase.
Kevyn Doran: France, and it’s nothing got to do with Irish bitterness. They were just very uninspiring in qualification, and their big players seemed to have poor seasons. Henry can’t hold down a first team place at Barcelona, Gourcuff had a poor season by his own high standards, and Ribery to me has been nothing but unjustified hype. I’ll even go as far as to say they will not progress from Group A, with Mexico and Uruguay taking the top two spots.
Matthew Wood: Got a feeling France will flop. I’m still not sure how they reached the final in 2006.
Chris Nee: I think Group A will produce a disappointing team. If South Africa can pull it together for their home tournament then one of France, Uruguay or Mexico could well be seen as the biggest disappointment.
Who will be the biggest let down (player)?
KC: Wayne Rooney. After the season he’s had, there is some unsurprising attention on Rooney, and he’s been talked about as the only man that can take England through the competition. With so much pressure, and possibly an injury, I can’t see it happening for Rooney this time around.
NS: Steven Gerrard. He’s coming off the back of a very poor season by his standards domestically and the age old question of whether he can play in the same team as Lampard still lingers.
GR: I suspect it might well be Messi. Blame Maradona.
DB: Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo – by far the two best attackers in the world, of course. All eyes will be on them. What could they possibly do to live up to what they have achieved this season in La Liga? Prove me wrong, for one.
EP: Wayne Rooney. A great season at club level until that injury. Few cared to mention it, but Rooney did not continue his goal scoring form toward the back end of the season upon his recovery and has not scored for England since last September. His unquestionable passion will see him running back 70 yards to make a tackle on the oppositions left midfielder (as demonstrated in the Nike ad) but this won’t do much toward helping him fulfil his main task of scoring the goals that England will desperately need, especially given the likelihood that Emile Heskey may well be playing beside him up front. Rooney will score goals but after a season where he has been talked about as the “best in the world”, a few won’t be enough.
CM: I fear for Messi. Obviously he’s one of the most gifted players the game has ever seen, but Maradona’s tactics prevented his from playing his natural game in the qualifiers and I’m afraid that the same will happen in South Africa. El Diego really needs to get his act together and build his team around the Barcelona man if both his team and the player are to avoid serious difficulties this summer.
KD: Lionel Messi. Everybody is expecting wonders from Messi this summer, but I expect him (and Argentina for that matter) to be hampered by Maradona’s tactics, despite a very kind group draw.
MW: Thierry Henry perhaps. Just hasn’t got the legs anymore, sad state of affairs because he was a truely great player.
CN: John Terry. The man’s a liability.
What team do you want to see do well?
KC: Argentina, anything to see Diego Maradona and his crazy train ride longer into the summer.
NS: It’s got to be Australia. Football has gotten really big over here since 2006, and another good performance will go a long way. Plus it’s the final chance for the ‘Golden Generation’ to compete on the biggest stage of them all.
GR: The Netherlands – now that Spain have won something, the Dutch and the English are football’s great underachievers with just one title to each of their names. I’d like the Dutch to reclaim their spot at football’s top table.
DB: Chile – see above. And Argentina, just to see what Maradona would do in his victorious post-match press conferences.
EP: South Africa. Always adds to the tournament if the hosts can stick around for a while. Failing this, I wouldn’t mind seeing the U.S. do well, although this is mainly borne from the fact that I’ll be watching proceedings from over there.
CM: I’d like to see Ghana do well. The Black Stars have an exciting and hugely talented young side and, if their performance at the Africa Cup of Nations was anything to go by, have the ability to compete with the world’s best. A quarter-final place is not beyond them.
KD: Chile, as indicated in question number four. But if I’m to pick a different answer, then I’ll go for Mexico, for the very biased reason of wanting to see more from Man Utd’s new signing Chicharito.
MW: Funny thing for an Englishman to say but I’d like Argentina to do well. It would be great to see Maradona defy all the odds and go on to win the tournament. Special mention for North Korea aswell, I think even a goal would be great for them.
CN: Apart from England? I’d quite like to see the USA do well because it’s a football country I spend a lot of time watching and talking about. Although if they could hold their good fortune until after June 12th it’d be appreciated.
What team don’t you want to see do well?
KC: Coming from an Irishman, France.
NS: England. Nothing to do with republican views or anything of the sort, I just happen to socialise with a lot of English lads and they would be unbearable if they win it.
GR: France. Cheating scum :)
DB: Switzerland – too neutral. And I want to see Chile in the knockout stages, in case you hadn’t noticed. Honduras would be an acceptable alternative. Switzerland wouldn’t.
EP: New Zealand. Only messing – France, England. I’m an incredibly petty person.
CM: France. Not because of the Ireland/Henry fiasco, but because they’ve been pretty abject for several years now and have hardly justified their place in South Africa through their performances. If Les Bleus end up winning the tournament it will have been an exceptionally poor World Cup.
KD: France. Just kidding, I’m over all that. I’ll go for Argentina. I’m appalled at Maradona leaving out Zanetti and Cambiasso despite their treble winning season.
MW: Dare I say France? Not sure why Domenech is still there. The whole situation with Laurent Blanc coming in after the tournament
kind of undermines the current coach. They probably shouldn’t even be in South Africa either, considering the way they beat the Irish.
CN: Portugal. If England don’t have to play Portugal I’ll be a happy man.
What will be the biggest scandal to emerge from the World Cup?
KC: Something relating to a late night, a few beers too many and a rival country’s WAG.
NS: Ivory Coast draw France in the knockout stages and, as a show of solidarity to their Irish brothers, they turn all their flags backwards for the duration of the game.
GR: Another dodgy handball or poor penalty call (a la Thierry Henry or Italy v Australia, 2006) will result in a renewed debate on goal-line officials and ultimately in their adoption for Euro 2012.
ED: Blatter/Platini involved in a roasting scandle with a ball boy.
DB: All of the above predictions failing miserably.
EP: Much like an African team will eventually win a world cup, a terrible decision that could have been avoided using video technology will one day decide one. Given the technology in the hands of some of the companies broadcasting the tournament this year, mistakes will be clearer than ever and referees will be frequently shown to be making the wrong calls. All it takes is for one player to dive or a ball to bounce over a line for history to be changed.
CM: Biggest scandal? It’ll probably have something to do with Sven and Miss Ivory Coast.
KD: Perhaps not a scandal, but I fancy Robinho to remind everybody that his career isn’t going to fade away in Brazilian domestic football just yet. If I’m predicting Brazil to win the World Cup, he’ll play a big part in that. Apart from that, France not to get past the group stage, Spain to get eliminated in the first knockout stage and Cristiano Ronaldo not to bag a single goal in the competition will see me putting money where my mouth is at the bookies this summer.
MW: An Englishman will get sent off in a crucial knockout game and will be hated for the foreseeable future. Probably Wayne Rooney.
CN: Three Portuguese players sent off for violent conduct in a frustrating 1-0 defeat to North Korea.