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Posts Tagged ‘ Antonio Cassano ’

World Cup 2014: Predictions For Every Team

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With the kick-off of World Cup 2014 now less than a week away, the excitement is starting to build. Coverage of the event is starting to really pick up, as the footballing world gets ready for the beginning of it’s biggest event of any calendar year. With that in mind, I would like to put forward my predictions for every team and how they will fare, including all the teams who will fall at the group stage hurdle, all the way on to who I predict will be the eventual winners.

Group stage eliminations

Cameroon

The most likely victim of what is a very tough draw, Cameroon seem like long shots to emerge from Group A. Hosts Brazil, potential dark horses Croatia and Mexico make up the rest of the group, and it may well prove too much for Cameroon to claim enough points to sneak in to the knockout stages. An experienced squad led by captain Samuel Eto’o as well as veterans Alex Song and Jean Makoun, Cameroon also boast young defensive talent in Nicolas N’Koulou and Joel Matip. Unfortunately for them, it seems unlikely that they will prove good enough to edge out two of the other teams, and so it looks like three games and out for Cameroon.

Mexico

It looks quite likely that Brazil and Croatia will emerge from this group, especially if the Croatians can get a point in the tournament’s inaugural match. Mexico had a very ugly qualifying campaign to even reach Brazil, finishing fourth in their group, behind the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras. They eventually beat New Zealand comfortably in a play-off, but it does not augur well for them in such a tough group. Still, Mexico boast a very experienced squad, with the likes of Rafael Marquez still around to organise them. If the likes of Javier Hernandez (who has a scoring rate of better than one every two games for his country) catches fire, then maybe they have a shot. But all signs point to an early exit for Mexico.

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Spotlight On Italy

Ireland’s third game is against our old friends Italy and takes place on the 18th June in Poznan. Italy have only won this tournament once which is a surprise seeing as they have won the World Cup four times, their most recent victory coming in 2006.  The critics have said that Italy will finish in close second to Spain in this group but as we know from past meetings, the Italians are beatable and with our secret weapon, Mr.Trapattoni, an upset could be on the cards. 

Italy came through qualifying unscathed, remaining unbeaten and only conceding two goals in ten games. The Italian squad, as always, contains some very talented players but their defence could be key to them going far in this tournament. Spain knocked Italy out in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 and they failed to make it out of a group they would have expected to win at the 2010 World Cup so they will be out to prove that they can still compete at the major tournaments. 

Before the World Cup in 2006, Italy was rocked by a match fixing scandal and it seems to have reared its ugly head again after police turned up at the Italian’s Euro 2012 training camp recently to inform left back Domenico Criscito that he was under investigation for match fixing. Criscito has since been dropped from the Italian squad, and is being investigated about betting on games along with nineteen other people including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and Juventus’ title winning manager Antonio Conte. 

Many people will say the Italians went on to win the World Cup in 2006 despite the match fixing scandal but they had a much stronger squad six years ago. Italian manager Cesare Prandelli will hope that Antonio Cassano is fully recovered from a recent heart scare and can spearhead his attack alongside Manchester City bad-boy Mario Balotelli. Prandelli will hope Balotelli can hit the headlines for his footballing ability and not for his off the field antics. Prandelli has the hard task of succeeding World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi and with his young side, he hopes to outwit fellow Italian, Trappatoni. 

Previous Meetings: The two sides most recent meeting was last summer in a friendly that Ireland won two nil in Belgium. During qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the two teams drew twice, the second of those draws meaning the Italians qualified despite Ireland leading in the late stages of the game. In twelve games against the Italians, Ireland have only won twice but one of those victories was one of Irelands greatest ever victories. At Giants Stadium in New York at the 1994 World Cup, a Ray Houghton goal was enough to see off an Italian side that went onto lose the final to Brazil. Ireland will be hoping to cause another upset against the Italians in Poznan. 

Strengths: The Italians have a history of solid defences and that trend continues with the side only conceding two goals in ten qualifying games. Despite their usual solid defence, they are no longer a negative counter attacking side and look to play an attractive style of football. 

Weaknesses: Giovanni Trapattoni & Marco Tardelli. The Ireland manager who coached the Italians at World Cup 2002 and Tardelli who won the World Cup with Italy will be out to beat their homeland and will have sussed out the Italian tactics. Mario Balotelli can be a liability and if he is not on his best behaviour, he could cause trouble in the camp. The camp has already been rocked by a match fixing scandal and will have that hanging over them during the tournament. A young & relatively inexperienced team may fail to flatter like they did in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.

 Key Player : Antonio Cassano  

Some people may argue that veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo is still the main man controlling the game but Cassano has flourished under Prandelli scoring six goals in qualifying. Cassano suffered what could be described as a mini stroke in October and after good recovery he will hope to continue his form at his third European championship. He has improved his game quite a lot at AC Milan providing many assists and will be a serious threat in Poland.

 

By Andrew Harte

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