World Cup Group B Preview, Predictions, Fixtures

Group B Odds: Argentina 2/5; Nigeria 9/2; South Korea 9/1; Greece 8/1.
Group B Schedule/Fixtures: South Korea v Greece, Port Elizabeth, June 12, 1.30pm
Argentina v Nigeria, Johannesburg, June 12, 4pm
Argentina v South Korea, Johannesburg, June 17, 1.30pm
Greece v Nigeria, Bloemfontein, June 17, 4pm
Nigeria v South Korea, Durban, June 22, 8.30pm
Greece v Argentina, Polokwane, June 22, 8.30pm
*All times local

Group B Teams:
Argentina: Sergio Agüero; Mariano Andujar; Mario Bolatti; Nicolás Burdisso; Martín Demichelis; Ariel Garcé; Jonás Gutiérrez; Gabriel Heinze; Gonzalo Higuaín; Ángel Di María; Javier Mascherano; Lionel Messi; Diego Milito; Nicolás Otamendi; Martín Palermo; Javier Pastore; Diego Pozo; Clemente Rodríguez;Maxi Rodríguez; Sergio Romero; Walter Samuel; Carlos Tévez; Juan Sebastián Verón. [ad#as2]

Nigeria: Dele Adeleye; Rabiu Afolabi; Dele Aiyenugba; Yussuf Ayila; Uwa Echiejile; Austin Ejide; Vincent Enyeama; Dickson Etuhu; Lukman Haruna; Brown Ideye; Sani Kaita; Nwankwo Kanu; Obafemi Martins; Chinedu Obasi; Peter Odemwingie; Victor Obinna; Chidi Odiah; Danny Shittu; Taye Taiwo; Kalu Uche;John Utaka; Yakubu; Joseph Yobo.

South Korea: Oh Beom-Seok; Kim Bo-Kyung; Park Chu-Young; Lee Chung-Yong; Lee Dong-Gook; Kim Dong-Jin; Cha Du-Ri; Kim Hyung-Il; Kim Jae-Sung;Park Ji-Sung; Ahn Jung-Hwan; Lee Jung-Soo; Kim Jung-Woo; Yeom Ki-Hun; Kang Min-Soo; Kim Nam-Il; Lee Seung-Ryul; Ki Sung-Yong; Cho Yong-Hyung; Lee Young-Pyo.

Greece: Angelos Charisteas; Theofanis Gekas; Pantelis Kapetanos; Giorgos Karagounis; Kostas Katsouranis; Sotirios Kyrgiakos; Stelios Malezas; Vangelis Moras; Sotiris Ninis; Avraam Papadopoulos; Sokratis Papaststhopoulos; Christos Patsatzoglou; Sakis Prittas; Dimitrios Salpigidis; Georgios Samaras; Giourkas Seitardis; Nikos Spiropoulos; Vasilis Torosidis; Alexandros Tziolis; Alexandros Tzorvas; Loukas Vyntra.

Group B Predictions:

Greg Neville: Good luck to any team in this group trying to stop this trio – Messi, Tevez and Higuain. And good luck to any commentators calling the South Korea – Greece game: “Kim to Lee back to Kim, no another one, tackled by Papaststhopoulos!” I’m going to tune in just for the commentary even though I think it will be the most boring nil-all draw of the tournament. Argentina advance with nine points and likely the best goal differential from the group stages. And I’m sticking with Nigeria to sneak in as well … even without the injured John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), there is enough European-based talent (Yobo, Yakubu, Martins etc.) in this side that will get the job done.

Frank Finnegan:
Argentina is far too talented for anyone in this group to challenge them, even with Maradona at the helm. He’ll meet his match tactically later on in the tournament, but I expect 9 points and a goal difference of about +7 from Messi and Co. This Nigeria squad is far from the best they’ve ever assembled, but I’ll go with them to nab 2nd in the group, and I think they will be a threat to whomever wins Group A, and have a real shot at making it to the quarterfinals. Greece is in play here because of their defense, and their ability to lull their opponent to sleep through sheer boredom. If they nab a win over South Korea in the opening match, and Nigeria lose by 3 or 4 goals against Argentina, then Greece really has a chance to hunker down and just play for a draw against Nigeria, and then just try to control Argentina’s scoring in the finale. And by game three, Argentina will be through and probably even resting some players, thereby helping Greece even more. I think I’m actually talking myself out of taking Nigeria…but alas, I think South Korea is good enough to get a draw against Greece, thereby rendering the above scenario moot. In short, Argentina and Nigeria move on.

Peter Howard: This group will be decided on 17 June when Greece and Nigeria play in Bloemfontein. Argentina is far and away the best team in this group, and should ease through the Group State without being tested (which will likely cost them later in the tournament). I think the South Korean side is solid, but this is really a three-team group playing for one spot, and that is too difficult a spot for the South Koreans. Greece played inspired football to win Euro 2004, but that’s six years in the past. Nigera, with the European-based talent Greg mentioned, will come away with a 1-0 win over Greece in what should be one of the better Group Stage matches of the tournament, and that will push Nigeria through along with the powerhouse Argentina.

Ron Patel: There’s no way Argentina can mess this up, even with Maradona at the helm. And they arguably get the hardest game out of the way first. Argentina has an array of talent to choose from, so Maradona might even get the chance to tinker in the group stage, before things get really exciting. The battle for second is anyone’s guess. South Korea has fared well against European sides recently, and what they lack in size they make up for in pace. Park-Ji Sung has a real chance to shine. Greece has little creative spark, but they know how to defend and at least have a scorer in Theofanis Gekas. Nigeria is athletic, has a potent striker and is now led by a savvy European coach. But will it be enough? Argentina and Greece to advance, although I hope either South Korea or Nigeria can break through.

Alex Michaels: I know they made hard work of qualifying, but even Maradona would do well to mess things up in this group. Their overwhelming quality should (and I emphasise the word ‘should’), see them finish top after the three matches, although I’m desperately hoping for stories of dissent in the Argie ranks causing a shock early exit. I am looking forward to seeing the speed of the South Koreans, and they could well test some tired second half legs in all three matches. In Ji-Sung Park (Manchester United) and Young-Pyo Lee (formerly of Tottenham), they have some experienced Premier League players in their ranks. Nigeria always promise much after success in the African Cup of Nations in recent years, but then disappoint when it comes to the big occasion, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do the same here. Nigeria and Argentina were in the same Group of Death in 2002, both missing out at the hands of England and Sweden, so they will be desperate to avoid the same fate. The Greeks, under German coach Otto Rehhagel who led them to shock success at Euro 2004, shouldn’t be underestimated either after an impressive qualifying campaign, although warm-up losses to the likes of Paraguay and Senegal suggest they’re not at their best going in. So, I’m going for Argentina and South Korea to go through from this group.

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