Group C – England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
England will be strong favourites to win this group which looks one of the easier ones to predict although it might not be the walk over it looks on paper. The USA are a strong team and could easily pull of a shock and both Algeria and Slovenia are capable of upsetting the odds on their day as hey showed in qualifying.
Ajax will take a 2-0 lead to Feyenoord for the second leg of the Dutch Cup (KNVB) after 2 early goals by Siem de Jong. Going 2-0 down inside 7 minutes demoralised Feyenoord completely and they never looked like getting back into the game. Ajax who seemed content with their lead will now be strong favourites to take the KNVB Cup when they play the second leg on 6th May.
The Final is being played over 2 legs following clashed between rival fans and away supporters have been banned from both ties. The last time the KNVB Cup was played over two legs was 1983.
After credible results in their respective away legs last night the odds of an all English Europa League Final came a step closer. Fulham were forced to defend resolutely and with Bobby Zamora looking somewhat below par will be happy to return to the Cottage with a 0-0 draw which gives them a great chance of progressing. However they will have to be careful as Hamburg do have some great players and Rudd Van Nistelrooy is very capable of snatching a goal in dificult away games. Hopefully with Zamora fit again Fulham can advance.
Liverpool also came through a tough tie and will be confident of overturning the one goal deficit that was inflicted by Diego Forlan’s 9th minute goal and they now look favourites to win the cup. If they do meet in the final it will be the second time that there has been an all English Final with Tottenham having met Wolves in the final back in 1972 when it was a 2 legged final. The second legs are due to be played on 29th April.
In a far from enthralling game Bayern Munich managed a narrow 1-0 win over a somewhat lackluster Lyon in the Champions League Semi Final last night. In a game probably best remembered for 2 sending offs Bayern finally broke the deadlock when Arjen Robben (right) struck a 30 yard shot which beat the keeper aided by a slight deflection.
Lyon will be slightly aggrieved by the sending off of Jeremy Toulalon but they really didn’t deserve anything out of the game. They could point to the travel disruptions as contributing to their poor performance and will be a different proposition in the second leg. The result leaves the tie nicely poised and keeps Bayern Munich’s chances of landing the treble alive as they are currently top of the German Bundesliga following their 7-o thrashing of Hannover 96 at the weekend and are already through to the German Cup Final.
After their marathon coach ride caused by the Volcanic ash cloud which has affected European flights, Barcelona looked decidedly below par when losing 3-1 to Inter Milan in the Champions League Semi Final. Despite taking the lead Barcelona never looked like the team who destroyed Arsenal in the previous round and with their influential central defender Carles Puyol being suspended for the second leg they will face an uphill struggle to reach the final again.
GROUP B: Argentina, Greece, Nigeria, South Korea
Group B on the face of it looks to be one of the easier ones to predict the winner of, however the race for second place is wide open with any one of Greece, Nigeria & South Korea being more than capable of qualifying for the second stages In this group the game order might have a higher bearing and Greece might just have an edge in playing Argentina in their final game.
GROUP A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
The 2010 World Cup Finals will kick off on 11th June 2010 with two games from this group – host nation South Africa playing Mexico and France Playing Uruguay. This is an intriguing group and certainly has not done the hosts any favours.
France will be strong favourites to progress but one only has to look back to the 2002 Finals to see that things don’t always go according to plan. However they are not under the same level of pressure as they were in 2002 and they showed in 2006 that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Their Euro 2008 campaign was a bit of a disaster and they only just scraped past a plucky Republic of Ireland team thanks to a blatant hand ball, however it will be a major surprise if they don’t top the group.
Mexico came through the CONCACAF group in second place behind the USA and although they looked comfortable in qualifying they are a much better team at home than away as qualifying defeats in El Salvador and Honduras testify. They have also looked a little less than impressive of late with their last three games being narrow wins over New Zealand and North Korea and a 0-0 draw with Iceland. This is not particularly impressive form and being poor travelers their expected second place in the group is by no means assured.
South Africa who qualified as hosts will benefit from strong local support and will be well suited by the climate especially as a large contingent of the squad will be home based players and are in good form having gained a credible 1-1- draw away to Paraguay recently. They will be hard to beat and could take the second qualifying place if they can avoid defeat against Mexico in their opening fixture.
Uruguay struggled to qualify finally winning a playoff against Costa Rica to gain their place however they are an experienced team and given the population of Uruguay is only around 4 million they have done wonders to qualify. They are characteristically tenacious and in Marcelo Zalayeta and Diego Forlan have strikers who could snatch a goal against any team. They haven’t played any international matches since they qualified so their form is hard to assess but it will be a surprise if they get soundly beaten by any team.
So who will qualify? Well no prizes for guessing that I will predict France to go through probably as group winners, however this is one of the more open groups and any of the other three could qualify for the last 16, although it would be a major upset if they went much further. I just give the edge to Mexico who probably have the strongest squad of the three and they have the experience needed in tough groups such as this. Both Uruguay and South Africa will push them close but neither looks good enough to beat Mexico or France so the final Prediction is:
4 South Africa
Given the current situation with air travel UEFA are currently considering whether to postpone the Europa League Semi Finals, both of which involve English clubs. This is understandable given the difficulty involved in land and sea travel which would be required for the teams, so possibly giving the home team an unfair advantage. Fulham could probably manage things a little easier than Liverpool using the Euro Tunnel and rail to get to Hamburg, so there game could still go ahead but getting to Madrid will be a real problem for Liverpool so if any game is postponed it will be this one.
However the Champions League games will go ahead and Barcelona can look forward to a nice long coach trip of around 700 miles to Milan while Bayern’s trip to Lyon will be a lot easier.At least there will be some quality football to watch if you cant get on your flight.
In what will go down as the second biggest shock in the 2010 FA Cup (after Leeds winning at Manchester United) Portsmouth against all the odds are going to Wembley for the second time in three years. In an entertaining match where Spurs looked the better side for long periods Portsmouth struck two goals in extra time including a slightly dodgy penalty to stun Tottenham and give Pompey manager Avram Grant a dream chance to put one over on his old club Chelsea.
In a far from enthralling encounter watched by 17,671 fans Dundee United made sure there would be a Premier League club in the final, by beating Raith Rovers 2-0 at Hampden Park on Sunday. The result rarely looked in doubt after Dundee United took the lead in the 28th minute and they effectively killed off the tie with a second just before the hour when Andy Webster headed in from a corner. In the match Raith rarely threatened the United goal and only managed 3 attempts at goal in the game, none of which were on target.
Dundee United will now face Scottish 1st Division Side Ross County in the Final on the 15th May 2010.