South Korea v Togo
The first match of the day is an intriguing affair between South Korea and Togo. The South Koreans caused a major upset four years ago beating Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland en route to the Semi Finals but that was at home. Can they manage another upset in a group that features both France and Switzerland?
On paper, Togo appear to be one of the weakest sides in the tournament despite impressing in qualifying. A dreadful African Cup of Nations led to the sacking of their coach who had fallen out with the influencial striker Adebayor. Even his timely return is unlikely to cause teams any real upset. The South Koreans give Togo their only opportunity for victory but they look unlikely to beat them. They will, however, gain a lot of experience from their first trip to the World Cup Finals.
Prediction – This should be an easy game for South Korea; enabling them to take their first World Cup points away from home soil. They do, however, struggle to score goals so 1-0 looks the most likely result. Park Ji Sung in midfield may prove to be too much for Togo to contend with.
France v Switzerland
France have not been the most consistent of teams in recent major tournaments. In 1998 they lifted the World Cup thanks to a fleet of talented and determined players. They repeated this success at the Euro 2000 tournament and pundits, analysts and fans alike felt they could continue with their world domination for a number of years. However, the World Cup 2002 saw a very different result with the French team failing to even score a goal in qualifying and going home very early.
Switzerland are known for their ability to mop up the lesser opposition. In theory, France could not be considered lesser opposition. While they should manage to qualify for the next stages by coming second in their group they could be set for a whitewash from a French team looking to their most recent effort far behind them.
Prediction – The French may have bitterly disappointed in the last World Cup but they should be able to push Switzerland aside with relative ease. There are potential goal scorers all over the park and this could turn out to be another entertaining and high scoring match. 3-1 to the French. Look out for Frei scoring the Swiss goal and any of Henry, Trezeguet or Zidane to score for the French.
Brazil v Croatia
Brazil are the team that most fans have been waiting to watch. They exude class and individual talent in huge quantities. They have been criticized in the past for their obvious lack of defensive play, but this just serves to make them more entertaining and more likely to beat the opposition. It is virtually impossible to single out any one player as being the star of the team – in Ronaldo they have an incredible striker whether fit, not fit, underweight or overweight who has been crowned world player of the year twice. In Ronaldinho they have the current world player of the year who mesmerizes with his incredible footwork and vision of the game.
Croatia are a struggling nation in terms of football despite comparative success ten years ago. They have struggled to find any player during qualifying who really stood out as being their best goal scorer. That accolade is best left to Dado Prso but he sorely disappointed during the qualifying rounds. While Brazil tend to concede a goal in most games Croatia will struggle to capitalize on any opportunity given to them.
Prediction – Brazil should open their account with an emphatic victory but it would be difficult to pick a player most likely to score the first, the last or any other goal. Ronaldinho is almost bound to provide entertainment with his unbelievable talent. 3-0 to Brazil. At the very least.