Australia v Japan
You would be hard pressed to find a more difficult game to predict between two such inexperienced international sides. Australia are playing in only their second World Cup, the first being in 1974 when they finished bottom of their group and didn’t score a single goal. Times have changed, though, and Schwarzer in goal, Viduka as captain and Kewell as winger means they do have a relatively good team that should prove to be creative going forward. The problems arise in defense where they have very little in the way of recognized world-class talent.
Japan, by contrast, have a good defense but don’t look like they will have the attacking flair to cause many problems in front of goal. While Japan have seemingly improved in their two previous campaigns, even progressing out of the group stage last tournament, Harry Kewell looks like being the difference between the two sides.
Prediction – A difficult one to call as it could be a drab low scoring match or one filled with mistakes that lead to goals. I suspect the former and plump for Australia to win 1-0 with a goal from Harry Kewell being the difference.
USA v Czech Republic
World Cup fever has struck everywhere around the world, except in the USA apparently. And that’s despite being ranked an impressive number 5 in the world by FIFA. In all honesty, though, they are unlikely to make anything close to a good impression in this World Cup with their only real chance of points coming in the game against Ghana later in the group stage.
The Czech Republic managed to persuade Pavel Nedved out of retirement to help them qualify for this World Cup but they have a team that consists of other top quality players as well. There really is a strong backbone of class throughout the team and they should be more than capable of beating the USA. They were the highest scoring European team in qualifying but don’t honestly deserve the FIFA number 2 ranking.
Prediction – While the USA will undoubtedly show great talent and also have three very good goalkeepers to choose from, the Czechs shouldn’t falter at this hurdle. Final score – 3-1 to the Czechs.
Italy v Ghana
Ghana will need a miracle to come through this match unscathed, but it is the World Cup and miracles do happen. Italy are not only attempting to win this World Cup but they also want to throw off the label they have earned for being an overly defensive side. The news that Totti is fit again will lift spirits and should he play more than just a bit part in this game there is every chance he will bag a hat full of goals.
Ghana are responsible for the most expensive African player and one of the hottest young African players in the world. However, Michael Essien ( Pounds 22million) is one of very few star names in the Ghanaian team. They play very well as a team but they show frailties at the back and struggle to score which doesn’t leave much hope.
Prediction – Italy should do well in this game and it could be an opportunity to bag several goals and even more confidence but openers rarely go as well as planned. However, I can’t see even Essien pulling anything out of the bag for this game so a 2-0 victory to Italy, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they got more.