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Ready to face-off in South Africa: deconstructing group B

sports Updated: Jun 03, 2010 01:07 IST

J. Mascherano (C)
Despite a tortuous qualification campaign, Argentina have serious designs on winning the title for the first time in 24 years. To achieve that, the 1978 and 1986 champions have pinned their faith in coach Diego Maradona, the country’s most famous footballing son. His task is made easier by the star-studded squad at his disposal, with several survivors of the team that reached the quarters at Germany 2006, not to mention Lionel Messi and a host of other young stars. The Argentinians appear to have the resources to win the country’s first international trophy since the Copa America in 1993. Maradona now has a chance to repeat as a coach his finest achievement as a player. He retains the aura that made him such a revered figure during his playing days and will be hoping to impart his experience and know-how to a group of players who figure among his most ardent admirers.
Key players: Lionel Messi, Juan Sebastian Veron, Sergio Aguerro.
Coach: Diego Maradona.
Odds: 5-1
Record: P: 65 W: 33 D: 13 L: 19

Kanu (C)
Expectations are diminished for Nigeria at the WC, but it wasn’t long ago the Super Eagles were seen as the most likely African nation to reach the last four of a WC. Though they have just a point from their last five matches in the finals and missed out on Germany 2006 altogether, Nigeria could be a dangerous dark horse with little to lose. That was how they came to USA ‘94, dismantling eventual semi-finalists Bulgaria 3-0 before falling 2-1 against Italy in the second round. However, that was not before Sunday Oliseh, Victor Ikpeba, Jay-Jay Okocha and Finidi George had become synonymous with the next generation of explosive African football. A similarly quick start in 1998 — they stunned Spain 3-2 and beat Bulgaria again 1-0 — gave way to another second round defeat 4-1 by Denmark.
Key players: Obafemi Martins, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Nwankwo Kanu, Jon Obi Mikel
Coach: Lars Lagerback
Odds: 66-1.
Record: P:11 W: 4 D:1 L:6

South Korea
P. Ji-sung (C)
Asia’s most frequent visitors to the WC, Korea Republic are also the continent's most successful team at the event. They may have qualified for their seventh consecutive finals, but it was a bumpy ride. The appointment of Huh Jung-Moo in December 2007 put an end to the Dutch influence under the likes of Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat. Despite a sluggish start in the Asian Zone qualifying, the former Korea Republic midfielder silenced his critics by guiding his experimental side into the finals with two games to spare. Having scored a goal against Italy at Mexico 1986, he is no stranger to this stage as he also took part in Italy 1990 and USA 1994 as fitness trainer and assistant coach respectively. Huh was an interim coach of Korea Republic twice before, and led the U-23 side at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Sydney 2000.
Key players: Park Ji-Sung, Ki Sung-Yong, Park Chu-Young.
Coach: Huh Jung-Moo.
Odds: 200-1.
Record: P: 24 W:4 D:7 L: 13.

G. Karagounis (C)
Greece continue to defy the odds under wily coach Otto Rehhagel and have clinched qualification for only their second WC. The Greek FA kept the faith with Rehhagel and were rewarded by qualification for their first global finals since USA 1994. South Africa 2010 will be coach Rehhagel’s first FIFA World Cup finals, where he is set to be the oldest strategist on show. After a glittering career in his homeland, the German boss has earned worldwide recognition for his achievements with the Greek national team since taking over in 2001. With Greece having only reached one FIFA World Cup and one European Championship prior to his arrival, within three years of taking the post Rehhagel has guided the Greeks to EURO glory, before going on to clinch qualification for both EURO 2008 and South Africa 2010.
Key players: Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Theofanis Gekas, Angelos Charisteas.
Coach: Otto Rehhagel.
Odds: 125-1.
Record: P:3 W:0 D:0 L:3