Group B contains Argentina, Nigeria, Greece and South Korea, in what could be a mini group of death. Argentina were poor in qualifying, and Greece and South Korea are always hard to break down. At the moment I see Argentina and Nigeria moving onto the knockout rounds.
A look at the teams in Group B
Manager: Diego Maradona
Key player: Lionel Messi
Best: Winners (1978, 1986)
World ranking: 8
Argentina endured a torrid qualifying campaign under manager Diego Maradona, who seemed to grow increasingly eccentric as the pressure on him grew. However the side came good in their crunch match in Uruguay, with Mario Bolatti’s late goal securing the 1-0 win which secured their place in South Africa. Argentina had only failed to qualify for a World Cup once in their history – in 1970 – but their victory secured the fourth and final qualifying spot in the South America group.
Whilst they may appear to be as weak as at any time in living memory, you can never truly write off a side that boasts attacking talent such as Barcelona’s 2009 Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria of Benfica. The manager’s selection policy is a concern though and they are vulnerable in defence. Whilst they undoubtedly possess the resources to be competitive, it is difficult to predict how they will get on in South Africa (although the number of detractors continues to grow) but whatever happens, with Maradona in the dugout it will be an interesting ride.
Manager: Shaibu Amodu
Key player: Yakubu Aiyegbeni
Best: Round two (1994, 1998)
World ranking: 22
Nigeria qualified in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win against Kenya in Nairobi. The Super Eagles had to win to have any chance of denying Tunisia. They fought back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1, but conceded a 79th-minute equaliser, only for Obafemi Martins to seal an emotional win.
The Super Eagles were overwhelming favourites to win their qualifying group and in drawing three of their matches, including both against Tunisia, they showed enough fallibility to concern their passionate following. However, their quality ultimately shone through. Any side that boasts the likes of Everton defender Joseph Yobo, Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel and strike duo Martins and Yakubu in their ranks will be a threat to most teams but they will all have to fire if they are to repeat the success of past sides.
Manager: Huh Jung-Moo
Key player: Park Ji-Sung
Best: Fourth (2002)
World ranking: 52
The South Koreans secured a seventh successive World Cup finals place thanks to a 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates in Dubai. Park Chu-young and Ki Sung-yueng grabbed the goals as Huh Jung-Moo’s outfit strolled to a place in Africa’s first World Cup. Four wins and four draws, with just four goals conceded in qualifying are a testimony to a well-drilled unit with the determination and ability to get the job done.
Under the leadership of Guus Hiddink, South Korea famously made it to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup on home soil, beating Portugal, Italy and Spain on the way. They are unlikely to repeat such a feat in South Africa and will do well to make it beyond the group stages. Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung is their captain and star performer but even his impressive work-rate cannot cover for deficiencies elsewhere in the side.
Manager: Otto Rehhagel
Key player: Giorgos Karagounis
Best: Round one (1994)
World ranking: 12
Euro 2004 champions Greece qualified for their first World Cup since 1994 thanks to veteran German coach Otto Rehhagel, who masterminded their success in Portugal. Having finished second in Group Two behind Switzerland, who twice beat them, they met Ukraine in a two-legged play-off and won 1-0 in Donetsk after a 0-0 draw in Athens, with Dimitrios Salpigidis getting the winner.
Rehhagel is a master of maximising the talent he has at his disposal. He added further to his hero status in Greece by guiding the side to only their second ever World Cup finals appearance, and they will be hoping to at least improve on the zero points haul of 1994. Captain and midfielder Giorgos Karagounis will be key to the side in South Africa, as will Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos in a side that relies on solidity over flair. It is not beyond them to shock the established order again but it is unlikely and the first round may once again be the limit of their involvement.