Nigeria’s run in Brazil 2014, so far so good? – Lanre Adenmosun

headrubDisappointment is an understatement to what over 50% of the population of the biggest black nation, Nigeria felt after her first outing in 2014 world cup currently going on in Brazil.

Nigeria played her first game against Iran which ended in a boring goalless draw. A pundit went on to tag the game as the most boring game of the tournament so far and a bad advertisement for African football, and in a group that has Edin Dzeko’s Bosnia Herzegovina and four time balon d’or winner Lionel Messi’s Argentina, getting maximum points against a Carlos Quieroz led Iran seemed like the only opportunity the African champions of will have to make it out of the group.

Mikel-ObiHowever, it has been a tournament of upsets so far as World and European champions, Spain crashed out in the group stages after their first two games. A whitewash against the Netherlands and a two nil defeat in the hands of Alexis Sanchez’s Chile. Spain is even yet to score a goal from open play interestingly. Also, the three lions of England are without a single point after their first two games and have been eliminated from the competition. Nigeria will be hoping for that sort of upset when they file out against Bosnia in the next game and also Argentina in the last game of the group.

Looking at the game against Iran and you just must be confused at Nigeria’s style of play, that is if there was any at all. The Super Eagles looked clueless on how to go about the business of attacking Iran, John Obi Mikel who ended up winning the man of the match award by fifa much to the surprise of many, looked tired and demoralized, playing and passing the ball at a walking pace.

imagesEmmanuel Emenike looked a child missing his parents upfront as he seemed to have completely been forgotten by the midfielders. Ramon Azeez whom we gather made the team because of his brilliance in training ahead of Sunday Mba and a couple of other experienced guys went on to show on the night that indeed ‘Form is temporal, Class is permanent’, but looking at it critically, a large portion of the blame should go to Stephen Keshi and his technical crew because Ramon Azeez is more of a defensive midfielder than attacking. He plays a deeper role in midfield for his Spanish club Almeria.

And that brings me to Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha’s comments on Keshi. Okocha went on to question Keshi’s tactics, substitutions and technical approach approach, he questioned some of Keshi’s decisions before and during the game, I couldn’t agree less with him. Keshi also hasn’t been mute, he went on to blame Osazie Odemwingie who so many think was even more effective in the last 10 minutes of the game when he came on, saying he didn’t play to instruction, what ever the instruction was, we do not know. Keshi also went on to say he is not God and that he can only try everything humanly possible against Bosnia but can’t assure Nigerians of all three points in that game.

EaglesIranWith a key player in the heart of defense Godfrey Oboabona out to injury, Nigerians have everything to worry about coming up against the goal hungry attacking pair of Dzeko and Ibisevic. I expect to see a more determined side against Bosnia. Sometimes, the better your opposition, the better your performance. I expect Osaze Odemwingie to start ahead of Ahmed Musa, I expect Ramon Azeez and Ogenyi Onazi to play behind John Obi Mikel since he is the most creative of all our midfielders at the world cup, how sad. I don’t want to drag us into the Ik Uche saga but I think we miss him so much in the team.

The defense got an above average rating in the last game in my head, but hey, it was Iran who didn’t even really attack, but when they did, the defense was up to it. I think Joseph Yobo’s experience will be key in the game against Bosnia and so I expect him to start in that game. And above all, I pray for all three points.

super-eagles1I have learn over time that impossibility is nothing, and remember this is football, anything can happen . Go Eagles!!!

Thanks for reading.

FIFA WORLD CUP 2014: Group H Preview – Tola Ogunlewe

BELGIUM.

images (1)Perhaps the team with the most potential in the World Cup, Belgium qualified unbeaten with a national record of seven consecutive wins. Having qualified for six World Cup tournaments in succession between 1982 and 2002 and reaching the knockout phase five times, this is perhaps Belgium’s most talented squad in decades. They are currently ranked 11th in the world.

This is Belgium’s golden generation with stars including Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Axel Witsel, Thibaut Courtois and Vicent Kompany to mention a few. Hazard has to be the star of the show with a string of impressive performances for Chelsea all season earning the award of PFA Young Player of the Year Award in England and being touted as heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Performances from Kompany at the back would also be crucial to Belgium’s progress as the defender captained Manchester City to Barclays Premier League glory last season.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmot, a former captain of the national team took over in June 2012 and has guided his side from 54th in the world rankings to an impressive 5th. Having been assistant manager for three years before taking over as manager, he knows this Belgium team in and out and would relish the challenge of living up to the hype of his team. Should all his stars perform, it isn’t farfetched to see Belgium going deep in the tournament.

This is Belgium’s final 23-man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers:Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem).

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).

Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

ALGERIA.

images (2)The Desert foxes of Algeria are one of Africa’s representatives at the World Cup and the only Arab nation in the finals. They qualified beating Burkina Faso over two legs in the play-off round of the African qualifiers. As the first African nation to win two matches in the same World Cup tournament in 1982, Algeria have not progressed out of the group stage at their two other appearances in 1986 and 2010. They are currently ranked 22nd in the world.

Algeria boasts an array of stars at this tournament including Sofiane Feghouli of Valencia who turned down the chance to play for France at an early age. His performances would be critical to the Algeria’s chances in this group, a group in which they are the dark horses behind Russia and Belgium. Nabil Bentaleb of Tottenham Hotspur is another player to look out for. He broke into the Spurs first team this season and is being touted as a player with a bright future in the game. What better way to announce your appearance than on the grandest stage of them all.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic formerly coach of the Ivory Coast has brought his discipline to the squad and many in the game are touting his side to be one of the dark horses in the tournament.

This is Algeria’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Rais Mbolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine), Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger).

Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Watford, on loan from Granada), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwya Club), Liassine Cadamuro (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoualm (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica Coimbra), Aissa Mandi (Stade Reims), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (AC Ajaccio).

Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Yasine Brahimi (Granada), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassan Yebda (Udinese).

Forwards: Abdelmoumene Djabou (Club Africain), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Nabil Ghilas (Porto), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb).

RUSSIA.

download (1)Russia qualified top of group F edging out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the process. They have been at the World Cup finals on two separate occasions since becoming an independent nation but failed to qualify from the group stage both times. Russia is currently ranked 19th in the world.

Russia’s strength is in their defence, defence heading by four CSKA Moscow players who have been an integral part of the Russian team in recent times. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and defender Sergei Ignashevich would be crucial at the back but perhaps it is in midfield their strengths lie. Midfielder Alan Dzagoev also of CSKA Moscow is the player to watch, gifted and technically sound he is the engine room of the Russian team and the man who creates the chances and makes the team tick. An impressive performance from him at the tournament might well see him move to a bigger club over the closed season.

Manager Fabio Capello is a man with vast experience having previously managed power houses such as England on the international scene and the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid at club level. Under him Russia have steadily continued their rise in World football and would look to improve on performances at 2008 European Championships.

Russia’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup is;

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan).

Defenders: Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Andrey Eshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Alexey Kozlov (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Terek Grozny), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow).

Midfielders: Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Zhirkov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexey Ionov (Dynamo Moscow), Pavel Mogilevets (Rubin Kazan), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Victor Faizulin (Zenit St Petersburg), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg).

Forwards: Maxim Kanunnikov (Amkar Perm), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow).

SOUTH KOREA.

downloadSouth Korea narrowly qualified for the World Cup having finished second to Iran and edging out Uzbekistan on goal difference in Group A of the Asian qualifiers. Having hosted the competition in 2002 with Japan, they shocked the World by knocking out Italy and finished fourth. It was their best ever performance at the finals and one they would likely not forget in a hurry.

Key players for the team include 21 year old Son Heung Min and 24 year old Kim Young-Gwon whose performances in midfield and defence respectively would set the Koreans in motion. Son Heung Min is Bayern Leverkusen’s most expensive player and he dazzled the Bundesliga last season. He would be hoping for a similar performance in Brazil.

Manager Hong Myung-Bo would well be remembered for his performances at 2002 World Cup which saw the red army finish fourth on home soil. He was the national replacement for the job as they search for leadership qualities in their new manger. He would look to use his personal experience to push his team forward and lead them to an unlikely qualification for the knock-out round.

This is South Korea’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-ryeong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Horang-i), Lee Bum-young (Busan I’Park)

Defenders: Yun Suk-young (QPR), Kim Young-kwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Hwang Seok-ho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal), Lee Yong (Ulsan Horang-i), Kim Chang-soo (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Joo-ho (Mainz)

Midfielders: Ki Seung-yueng (Sunderland, on loan from Swansea), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan), Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Jung-woo (Guangzhou R&F), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers), Ji Dong-won (Augsburg).

Forwards: Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Arsenal), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Horang-i).

FIFA WORLD CUP BLOG -Day 1- #HALFTIMENGWC2014

It’s the 20th edition of the World Cup and it got under way with a very colourful opening ceremony and a game shrouded with controversies as the host nation, Brazil defeated Croatia by 3-1.

This is a page that will serve you updates, pictures, videos, embedded tweets and match reports during the duration of the biggest football spectacle.  We will also be getting live updates from our man on ground during the tournament.

Hop on, let’s go for a jolly good ride to the samba land on HalftineNG.

THE OPENING CEREMONY

Some excited fans in the stands.
Some excited fans preparing for the biggest show-piece.

It all began with a loud, glitzy and glamorous opening ceremony in the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. The focus at the opening ceremony was on the “three treasures of Brazil” – nature, people and football, the “true Brazilian art form.”

The light ball..
The light ball..
Performers are led by Brazilian pop singer Claudia Leitte (C) as they take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014, prior to the opening Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARITFRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images
Performers are led by Brazilian pop singer Claudia Leitte (C) as they take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014, prior to the opening Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARITFRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images

This particular actors got me really thrilled.

AP_world_cup_mar_2_140612_4x3_992

 

And here comes the Official theme song performed by Singers Jennifer Lopez, Claudia Leitte and Pitbull perform during the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the official FIFA song, “We Are One (Ola Ola)”.

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MATCH DAY 1

Brazil stumbled early on, but came back to overpower rival Croatia in the group A preliminary round match in Sao Paulo at the opening of the FIFA World Cup 2014.

Neymar scored twice and Oscar added a third on Thursday as Brazil ran out 3-1 winners in the first match of the 2014 World Cup. The hosts struggled early against a lively Croatian side, but late-game quality and some kind refereeing ensured the Brazilians didn’t disappoint in front of their home crowd.

Not a convincing display by the hosts but they sure look like a team that can improve as the competition progresses.

Neymar celebrates after scoring the equaliser.
Neymar celebrates after scoring the equaliser.

 

Neymar scores from the spot.
Neymar scores from the spot.
Oscar perfectly picks his spot for the third goal.
Oscar perfectly picks his spot for the third goal.

 

Brazil 2014 Group B Preview

Group B preview

The football purists will feel that they have their job made easy, simply because Spain and Holland will coast through and the decider for first place will be in their opening game in Curitiba, a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final. But remember, nothing ever goes according to plan in football. Me thinks Spain playing Holland on opening day of action in Group B gives Chile a chance to steal maximum points against the Socceroos of Australia and sets them in good stead to take on Spain and Holland.

Arturo Vidal

The big problem for Jorge Sampaoli is the fitness of Arturo Vidal who is still not 100% after undergoing surgery, he remains a key cog in the team although they can count on the “Pitbull” Gary Medel and Alexis Sanchez to offer guidance. The Netherlands, pre-tournament seem to be under Blatter searchlight with Dutch FA boss Van Praag slamming Sepp Blatter at the FIFA Congress. They’ve got worries of their own too, seems the three at the back Louis Van Gaal formation hasn’t convinced many considering the fact that players like Arjen Robben have been more restricted to the middle, not from the flanks where he can wreak havoc. robben-and-van-persie-world-cup-brazil-group-b-netherlands-spain-chile-australia-brazil-2014-trophy-profile-pc-image-best-top-photo

They haven’t scored much in warm ups and they know how important not losing to Spain is on the opening day of action.

Spain also don’t score much these days but they know how to keep the ball away from you, they seem not to be in that realm they were in 2010 anymore but we must respect them because they are defending champions. David Villa has looked lively in build up games but Diego Costa looks lost in the set-up but the key thing for Spain will be how to score from the numerous chances they will create and keeping it tight at the back.

Spain Diego Costa

The Aussies will fondly be remembered for their heroics in 2006 when they held eventual champs Italy to a standoff but lost, this is a new squad but Tim Cahill still much around to give guidance, they would hustle and bustle but they should be home by the end of June.

VERDICT: SPAIN AND CHILE TO QUALIFY

Brazil 2014 Group F Preview.

The Schedule (All times in GMT+1)
June 15: Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina – Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 11:00PM
June 16: Iran vs. Nigeria – Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, 8:00PM
June 21: Argentina vs. Iran – Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 5:00PM
June 21: Nigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba, 11:00 PM
June 25: Nigeria vs. Argentina – Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 5:00PM
June 25: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran – Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 5:00PM

nigeria_vs_messi_juneGroup F will feature one match that has become something of a classic fixture of and five that have never been played on the big stage before. Bosnia-Herzegovina are making their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup while Iran have only ever faced their group rivals in friendlies. As for Argentina and Nigeria, the other two combatants in the group, there is not much they do not know about each other. Their next meeting will be the latest instalment in an exciting rivalry between the two sides, led by Lionel Messi and John Obi Mikel, who have faced off three times in major competitions at different age levels: the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005, the gold medal match at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 and in the group phase at South Africa 2010. On all three occasions Argentina won.

argentinaARGENTINA
Argentina qualified in grand style with a 14 match unbeaten run during the south American qualifiers. Brazil 2014 is the 11th consecutive appearance for them.world cup winners in home soil in 1978 and again at Mexico 1986, runners up in Uruguay in 1930 and Italia ‘90. The Argentines are heavy favourites to top the group, as well as win the World Cup. The team’s strength is their fire power upfront but despite possessing a strong squad on paper, Argentina lacks balance which cost them the last World Cup. No.1 goalkeeper Sergio Romero is also a weak link as he only made three Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco this season.
Coach: Alejandro Sabella
Top players: Lionel Messi Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Ángel di María

nigeriaNIGERIA
After impressing on their way to the second round in each of their first two FIFA World Cup appearances, 1994 and 1998, Nigeria have struggled since, going out at the group stage twice while taking just two points from their last six matches in the finals. A muddled South Africa 2010 campaign did little to bolster Nigeria’s reputation, but Brazil 2014 offers another chance for the reigning African champions to soar.
Coach; Stephen keshi
Top stars; Vincent Enyeama, John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses

bosnia-herzegovinaBOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
Bosnia-Herzegovina had an outstanding campaign, winning eight of their ten matches, drawing and losing just once to earn its first qualification for a first appearance at a FIFA World Cup with .When FIFA ranked Bosnia at 13 they surpassed all the highest ranks ever achieved by any Yugoslavian Team. Though Bosnia and Herzegovina are playing their first ever World Cup, they are not being dubbed the underdogs of the group or the tournament. With ample attacking talent and technical ability, Bosnia found the nets 30 times (from 10 games) during their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Coach: Safet Susic
Top stars: Edin Džeko Vedad Ibiševic, Miralem Pjanic Asmir Begovic.

iranIRAN
Despite their presence within Asia, Iran have so far been unable to progress beyond the group phase at the FIFA World Cup. They finished their debut campaign with a point, courtesy of a 1-1 draw against Scotland. But their first win came in the second appearance when a golden generation, boasting the likes of Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri and Mehdi Mahdavikia, came up with a memorable 2-1 defeat of USA. Their last participation at Germany 2006 saw them head home with a point after a 1-1 draw against debutants Angola.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Top stars: javad Nekounam, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Jalal Hosseini Steven Beitashour

 

HalftimeNg prediction
This is really Argentina’s group to lose. They should come out tops. The second place battle will come down to talent and coaching really.

Brazil 2014 Group E Preview By Abdul Malik Mahid

GROUP E – REVIEW                                                        

SWITZERLAND 

The Swiss national football team (also known as the Schweizer Nati in German, La Nati in French, Squadra Nazionale in Italian) will be making their 9th appearance at the FIFA World Cup. They have posted solid if unspectacular performances with the Quarter-Final finishes in 1934, 1938 and 1954 being their best performances. In 2010, the Swiss beat Spain in the shock result of the tournament in South Africa. They have a decent record in qualifying for international tournaments without ever winning any. They   play an exciting, attacking brand of football. The Swiss have a solid squad of seasoned professionals playing all over the top European Leagues and a healthy sprinkling of local talent mostly from FC Basel, who have done very well in European Competition in recent seasons.

ONES TO WATCH

Gorhkan Inler

The Skipper and engine of the team, he made his name in the tough Italian Serie A first at Udinese and now Napoli. He is a tough tackling midfielder at the peak of his powers. He has 79 Caps and is very experienced. His range of passing and shooting are also very impressive. His form is crucial to how far the team goes.

shaqiri-Switzerland-World-Cup-2014-Brazil-in-Group-E-with-France-Honduras-and-Equador

Xherdan Shaqiri

He is the star name of the Swiss team. Though a bit part player at the star studded Bayern Munich, his talent is unquestionable. He burst on to the scene with stellar performances for FC Basel in the Champions League. He can be one of the star performers in Brasil. He has explosive pace, shoots with both feet and is blessed with strength to hold off opponents.

 

X FACTOR

Ottmar Hitzfeld

ottmar-hitzfeld

This serial winner qualified Switzerland to the 2014 World Cup without losing a single game. The vastly experienced Manager has won titles in Switzerland and Germany notably at Borussia Dortmund and in two stints at Bayern Munich. He is one of a few Managers that has won the UEFA Champions League with two different clubs 1997 with Dortmund and 2001 with Bayern. He is a very astute Manager who is going into retirement at the end of the World Cup. This is his last shot at the big time and he will not go out without a fight.

PREDICTION

Switzerland has the potential to be a dark horse in the Tournament. I see them making it out of the Group and potentially getting to the last 8.

FRANCE           

                                                                   

Les Blues are favorites to win the Group. The Champions of 1998 qualified via the playoffs after coming through a very though group which included World Champions Spain. They have made 14 previous appearances including an appearance in the Semi Final in 1986 and a Final appearance in 2006. The team led by the World Cup winning Captain Didier Deschamps is a mixture of youth and experience. The Manager courted controversy by omitting Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasir from the squad. The squad was further hit by the injury in camp to their star player Franck Ribery. This has robbed them of their most creative player and put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of young Antoine Griezmannwho is the most natural replacement in the squad. Big things are also expected from Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and Laurent Koscielny. Though this French team does not include any world beater, it is a very solid and talented squad made up of experienced players. For many journey men professionals like Cabaye and Koscielny who are late bloomers, it would be their first and last chance at the big time. Others like Evra and Sagna would be too old by the time the next international tournament comes around and they would want to make this count. If they click, the team can be very devastating and a new set of super stars can be born.

ONES TO WATCH

Pogba-France-c-endotafricatopsortsdotcom

PAUL POGBA

The former Manchester United youth prodigy has had another stellar season for Italian Champions Juventus. This is moment to make the step up to world class status on the biggest stage of all. This is even more so that there is no recognized leader in the team. He has all it takes to come of age in this World Cup. The fortunes of Les Blues will largely rest on the young but able shoulders of this raw diamond that is destined for greatness.

X FACTOR

Pundits have already written off their chances in this tournament. The lack of pressure on the entire team can work in their favour. They may not be the greatest French team especially in recent times, but this is a group of solid and reliable professionals, if they gel, would go very far in this tournament.  Like I stated before, for a lot the squad this is their first and last shot at glory, they would like to make it count.

PREDICTION

France would easily win their group and I will stick my neck out here to predict a semi- finals.

 

ECUADOR

Netherlands v Ecuador - International Friendly

 

The Ecuadorian’s also called La Tri have been to 3 of the last 4 FIFA World Cups. They are enjoying relative growth in the last 2 decades. They qualified from the tough South American section. They are a hard working team who fight for each other. Their record in the World Cup was the Round of 16 in 2006 when they were eliminated by England. The squad is made of an assortment of players playing mostly in South American Leagues, 3 in the English Leagues and 2 in the Middle East. They are very much an unknown quantity and nothing much is expected from them.

ONE TO WATCH

 

Antonio Valencia is the skipper and by far the most outstanding player in theteam. The Manchester United utility player has a fantastic engine and he always gives 100% all the time. At 28, he is an experienced international whose form is critical to the performance of the team. He is one tree that can make the forest.

X FACTOR

It is difficult to see any, really.

PREDICTION

First round exit. May be they will beat Honduras.

 

HONDURAS

   Wilson-Palacios-Honduras-World-Cup-Brazil-2014-Group-E-with-France-Equador-and-Switzerland                                                                                               

Los Catrachosas the Honduran national team are affectionately called by their fans qualified from the CONCACAF region for the 3rd time in their history. They have never won a match in their previous appearances. Their qualification was notable as they edged Mexico out of the finals.  This was achieved in part due to a stunning victory over Mexico in the famed Aztec Stadium. Their squad is made of home based players and the MLS. There a few in the English League Juan Garcia, Manny Figueroa, Roger Espinoza and Wilson Palacios. The major target for them is to win a game in this group.

ONES TO WATCH

Apart from the British based players, the rest of the squad is really made of journeymen footballers. Roger Espinoza has been very good for Wigan and he is worth keeping an eye on.

X FACTOR

Unknown, it would be revealed if they are able to win a game.

PREDICTION

Honduras are the whipping boys of the group. They would exit in the 1st Round without a win.

 

Brazil 2014 Group C Preview by Tola Ogunlewe

colombia-world-cup-poster-espn-600x900

Columbia qualified from the Commebol region with 30 points from 16 games, second only to Argentina. They have qualified for the World Cup on four previous occasions reaching the Round of 16 in 1990 where they lost to Africa’s Cameroun. They are currently ranked number 8 in the World.

Columbia announced their final 23-man squad for the World Cup amidst much frenzy. Question was would Radamel Falcao be fit enough for the Finals. We had our answer yesterday as Jose Pekerman told the world he was leaving Falcao at home and the striker himself admitted he wasn’t ready and wouldn’t want to deny a team mate who legitimately deserved to be on the plane.

falcaoreu_2756364b

With Falcao’s absence, James Rodriguez would be the man to watch in coach Jose Pekerman’s variation of an attacking 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 formations. If he ticks then surely Columbia would too. Monaco’s £37.5 million man would certainly want to impress and justify his rise in football.

Jose Pekerman is very experienced and led his native Argentina to the Finals in 2006 losing to Germany. He took charge shortly after the start of the qualifiers where Le Cafeteros made a stuttering start and is their first foreign manger in 30 years.

Colombia-Team-World-Cup-2014-Featured-662x250

This is Columbia’s final 23-man squad for the Finals.

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Independiente Santa Fe).

Defenders: Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Pablo Armero (West Ham), Cristian Zapata (Milan), Mario Yepes (Atalanta), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo), Santiago Arias (PSV), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate).

Midfielders: James Rodriguez (Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Aldo Ramirez (Morelia), Alex Mejia (Atleico Nacional), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Fiorentina).

Forwards: Jackson Martinez (Porto), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Borussia Dortmund).

 

IVORY COAST.

ivory-coast

Cote D’ivorie qualified for the Finals from Africa were they were unbeaten from their preliminary group and defeated Senegal in the Play-Off Round 4-2 on aggregate. Fair enough the Elephants have been unlucky in the World Cup having been drawn in the group of death in 2006 and 2010 and went out at the group stages in both tournaments. They are currently ranked at number 24 in the World.

They have flattered to deceive over the last couple of years especially on the African continent with only one appearance in the final of the African Nations Cup to show for their golden generation of stars. Those stars are now getting old with Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, and Didier Zokora all past their 30th birthdays.

Didier Drogba made his 100 appearance for the elephants in a friendly match against……and he would sure hope to go out with a bang. Yaya Toure had a stellar season with Manchester City and along with Drogba would be Ivory Coast’s biggest theat in the competition. The Ivory Coast should be Columbia’s biggest threat in the group with Falcao out and his goal scoring prowess gone.

Coach Sabri Lamouchi is inexperienced at this level and many were surprised he survived in the job after losing to Nigeria is the Quarter-Final of the African Cup of Nations last year. A competition they were favourites for. He would need to bring his A-game if the Ivory Coast are to impress at this tournament.

ivory-coast (1)

This is Ivory Coast’s final 23-man squad for the Finals.

Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek)

Defenders: Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Toulouse), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart), Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kolo Toure (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Geoffroy Serey Die (Basel), Ismael Diomande (St Etienne), Max Gradel (St Etienne), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle United), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96), Mathis Bolly (Fortuna Dusseldorf)

Forwards: Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Gervinho (AS Roma), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Giovanni Sio (Basel).

Greece

grek

Greece European champions of 2004 are nowhere near what they were when they won that competition and reached the Quarter-Final of Euro 2012 and do not have the inspirational Otto Rehhagel they had 10 years ago. However as they showed in that competition, all it takes is to put together a good string of performances and stay strong at the back. They qualified through the play-offs having finished second to Bosnia in Group G and beating Romania 4-2 on aggregate. Having departed the competition at the group stage the last two times they made it in 1994 and 2010, a better performance might be expected this time around. They conceded on four goals in qualifying second only to Spain. They are currently ranked number 12 in the World.

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Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou would be their talisman having enjoyed a horrendous stint at the London club. Having signed for a club record fee of 11 million in January from Olympiakos he only managed two games as Fulham were relegated from the Premier League. He is a big target man with loads of goal in him. He would need to be on form because as we have seen in the past when Greece go ahead they are difficult to break down at the back.

Greece Kag

Coach Fernando Santos took over in 2010 and has not lived up to the reputation of Rehhagel and quite frankly nobody expected him to. He is gradually carving a nitch for himself in Greek football and fancy his chance to take Greece out of this group.

This is Greece’s final 23-man squad for the Finals.

Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos).

Defenders: Vassilis Torosidis (Roma), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Costas Manolas (Olympiakos), Vangelis Moras (Hellas Verona), Jose Holebas (Olympiakos), Giorgos Tzavellas (PAOK), Yiannis Maniatis (Olympiakos).

Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Yiannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Bologna).

Forwards: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK).

Japan

Japan team

The first team to qualify for the finals, Japan had the most points and most goals in Asia’s final round of qualifying. This would be their fifth straight appearance at the World Cup, making their first in 1998 and reaching the Round of 16 twice. They are currently ranked 46th in the World.

For Japan its always been a case of good players but an inability to combine as a team to deliver on the world stage.  Even when they hosted the completion in 2002, they were knocked out in the round of 16 by turkey, who eventually reached the semi finals. Star players Shingi Kagawa and Keisuke Honda both had unimpressive seasons for Manchester United and AC Milan respectively but are among the best Japan have to offer and can certainly turn games around single handedly. Japan needs them as they have a chance to make it out of this group.

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni is as experienced as they come having previously coached AC Milan to a Seria A title. His experience is key for Japan a team he has led since 2010.

Japan

This Japan’s final 23-man squad for the Finals.

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)

Defenders: Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart)

Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Makoto Hasebe (FC Nuremberg), Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuremberg), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F Marinos)

Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka), Yuya Osako (TSV Munich 1860), Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale)

Brazil 2014 Group G Preview

Group G is overall a very interesting group. A perennial powerhouse. A perennial bust. An African dark horse and the United States.

german machine

Germany

A perienniel contender, when was the last time that Germany didn’t go into a tournament as anything less than a viable contender? The Germans have been long known for their ruthless machine like efficiency and their football team is no different, manager Joachim Löw has a plethora of riches to chose from in midfield with the likes of Schweinsteiger,  Kroos, Khedira, Ozil, and others battling for starting spots. The same cannot be said about strikers as Low decided to name only one recognised striker to his 23 man squad – Miroslav Klose.  There has been some discontent with their recent form but once the ball is dropped, expect the Germans to once again be a massive force to be reckoned with

Ghana

 

Ghana

The Black Stars were one Luis Suarez moment of brilliance / madness away from  becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals in South Africa 4 years ago but will be hard pressed to replicate that feat. Ghana qualified relatively easy to get to Brazil and had to have been pleased with the group they received. They have now qualified for 3 straight World Cups and should be comfrotable with the eyes of the world on them . While Kevin Prince-Boateng will play a large role helping to create chances, the Front man Asamoah Gyan will be key and he will be looking to atone for the huge penalty miss on the Suarez play in South Africa.

 

USA

 

United States

Landon Donovan. That’s the first thing off of everyone in America’s lips whenever the topic of the mens national team is mentioned. Why is his name on the tip of every soccer sports journalist’s tongue since the official 23 man roster was announced? Well its because coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to leave the all time leading scorer off the roster. In fairness Donovan has had an inconsistent year after taking time off early in 2013 and not sure Klinsmann was fond of that,  but for a team lacking in marquee names it was somewhat of a surprise that Klinsmann could not find a spot for the 32 year old forward. Leaving the off field issues aside, the United States will need a big tournament from midfielder Michael Bradley.  Bradely who recently moved to Toronto FC of MLS will be relived on to provide through balls to the forwards led by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Altidore has continued to struggle scoring goals but found his scoring boots against Nigeria so Dempsey will need to have his scoring boots on if the USA is to try and grab the 2nd spot in the group

Portugal

Portugal

After continually flaming outs in international tournaments and a tough battle just to qualify for Brazil 2014, Portugal come into this tournament with little fanfare and this may actually serve them well.  Even though they are ranked #3 in FIFA’s world rankings, other teams in their group will have to feel that this team is their for the taking. With the German team a seemingly lock to win the group, every team will undoubtedly be targeting their game with the Portuguese as a must win.

Ronaldo

Portuguese fans will hope that the next time they see Cristiano Ronaldo takes his shirt off to celebrate it will be in the team’s national colours as the star man has often struggled on the worlds stage, but in fairness Ronaldo came up large in the Qualifying playoff versus Sweden and if he can maintain that rich vein of form, Portugal could manage to find a way out of the group however with the World Player of the year struggling with a knee injury they will  need big tournaments from the surrounding cast.

Group G stars WC2014

 

When the dust settles it is hard to see Germany not winning this group comfortably. The interesting thing is going to be who will finish 2nd.  It would not be surprising if two teams finish tied on points in the 2nd spot and it comes down to the tie breakers. It will be a toss up but I think the Black Stars of Ghana may just sneak through

Dark Horses for Brazil 2014

It feels weird to write this but never in the history of the World Cup has an underdog won football’s biggest prize. Always the usual suspects, step forward Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Uruguay, Italy and the roll call continues.

But we also need to define the term dark horse, Wikipedia.com simply defines Dark Horse as “a little known person or thing that emerges to prominence especially in a competition of some sort or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed

Let’s get the show on the road!!!

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BELGIUM

On one of my radio shows Sports Café on Top Radio90.9fm I tried sampling the opinions of the listening audience on who their dark horse at Brazil 2014 is, everyone went with the Red Devils of Belgium, reasons? They have a very good squad and bla bla bla. I also thought maybe because it was Nigerians obsession with the Barclays Premier League remembering that the Belgians have got a massive presence in England.

True talk the Marc Wimots side is blessed with a rich side in terms of talent, quality and depth in every department. Thibaut Cortouis and Simon Mignolet complement each other in goal, Vincent Kompany is the leader, even Thomas Vermaelen enjoys playing on the left side of defence. There is embarrassment of riches offensively, but, there are questions for this golden generation of Belgian stars, have they got the big game mentality? They have an easy group in Pool H but what about life outside Group H, Portugal, Germany probably will lie in wait in the second round.

belgium red devils

URUGUAY

La Celeste’s build up to Brazil 2014 has been all about Luis Suarez’s injury and how well will he be fit for the Mundial. But they have a chance, maybe not a fat chance but remember no European team has won the World Cup on South American soil. Saw them against Slovenia in a warm up game, they looked solid in every aspect, without Suarez, Diego Forlan was amazing, and Edinson Cavani was predatory as usual, watch out for Christian Stuani. With Oscar Washington Tabarez, they are in safe hands but first things first they need to navigate their way past the Azzurris, Hype-Machine England and coasting to nowhere Costa-Rica

Uruaguay

CHILE

With no fear, I can proclaim that Chile will be bringing some of the best brand of football to Samba town. England can testify to what they witnessed at Wembley earlier this year, 3-5-2 is Jorge Sampaoli’s emblem of the team, the players love the system and lucky for the coach, the right players fit into the system. Alexis Sanchez leads his team offensively with plenty of skill and Arturo Vidal is nearing 100% and I would never forget the Pitbull, Gary Medel, the man who loves heading into tackles and snapping at heels. But can they last seven games in Brazil starting with a gargantuan task in Spain and the Netherlands….

Chile

BRAZIL 2014: GROUP A PREVIEW

6days251_big-lndWith Six days to the start of the world cup, Halftimeng is set to take you through a wonderful ride as we prepare to witness the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.

Only six of the 19 editions of the FIFA World Cup have been won by the host team. After the first two (Uruguay 1930 and Italy 1934), the hosts had to wait 32 years before England won it when they hosted in 1966. Following two wins by the hosts in 1974 (Germany FR) and 1978 (Argentina), there was another 20-year break before France in 1988. The question is: will Brazil become the seventh this summer?

We begin our countdown on HalftimeNg by giving you a detailed preview of all the 32 teams.

You can also be a part of the fun by sharing your comments via our facebook page, twitter handle – with the (hash-tag HalftimeNG) ending  all comments and the comment section of this page.

GROUP A

The schedule (all times in GMT+1)
Brazil vs. Croatia, June 12, Sao Paulo, 9 p.m.
Mexico vs Cameroon, June 13, Natal, 5 p.m.
Brazil vs. Mexico, June 17, Fortaleza, 8 p.m.
Cameroon vs. Croatia, June 18, Manaus, 11 p.m.
Croatia vs. Mexico, June 23, Recife, 9 p.m.
Cameroon vs. Brazil, June 23, Brasilia, 9 p.m.

Group A includes host Brazil (4), Mexico (19), Croatia (20) and
Cameroon (50). It’s that sort of group that you can comfortably dub
the hosts as favourites to progress from. Brazil will look to win a
record sixth World Cup title this summer, an achievement that would be
even sweeter on its home soil. The Seleção is under incredible
pressure to do just that especially considering the fact that they won
the Confederations cup last year on home soil.
Mexico who struggled mightily in qualifying and Croatia might just be
dark horses in this group. Mexico are World Cup regulars, having
qualified for the competition 14 times, however have never really
lived up to expectations, their highest finish being the quarter
finals back in 1970 and 1986 but Miguel Herrera’s side will be hoping
they can do better this year. Croatia on the other hand will be making
just their 4th world cup appearance this summer, and Niko Kovač’s
squad will believe they can make their way out of the group stage with
relative ease especially with a strong squad comprising of several
players with European experience.
Meanwhile, African giants, Cameroun are another side who could find it
hard to compete for a position that would see them out of this group
despite making their 7th World Cup appearance. They have to beat
Mexico in their opening game so as to stand a chance of making it to
the next round.

Players to watch:
All the four teams have quite a handful of players to watch out for
but some of them will be outstanding for their teams at the mundial.

Neymar (Brazil), Giovani dos Santos (Mexico), Luka Modrić (Croatia)
and Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

HalftimeNg prediction
Looks like an easy group for Brazil, they should come out tops. The other one to go through alongside the hosts is delicately poised.

Squad:
brazil5141_big-lndBrazil 2014 World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor
(Atletico Mineiro)

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS
Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (both Paris St Germain), David Luiz
(Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli)

Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar
(all Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg),
Fernandinho (Manchester City)

Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred
(Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)

download (1)Cameroon 2014 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor),
Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)

Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric
Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas
Nkoulou (Marseille), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto
(Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Joel
Matip (Schalke), Stephane Mbia (QPR), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux), Alex
Song (Barcelona), Edgar Salli (Lens)

Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (unattached), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz),
Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Pierre Webo
(Fenerbahce), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem)

croatia-football-team-2014Croatia 2014 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco),
Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton),
Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld, Danijel
Pranjic (both Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime
Vrsaljko (Genoa).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen
Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic
(Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sammir (Getafe), Ivan
Mocinic (Rijeka).

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg),
Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic
(Fiorentina).

downloadMexico – 2014 World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa
(Ajaccio), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigres), Paul
Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno
(Espanyol), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America), Diego Reyes (Porto),
Rafael Marquez (Leon).

Midfielders: Miguel Angel Ponce (Toluca), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon),
Javier Aquino (Villarreal), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela
(Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Carlos Pena (Leon).

Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester
United), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan
Pulido (Tigres).