World Cup Handicapping: Group D Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/10/2010
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Group G is unquestionably this year's group of death, but Group D should also be considered at least a group of serious injury. None of the squads in the group are serious favorites to win it all, but all have the talent and the potential to pull off a serious surprise and even win an elimination game or two.
In most groups you can rule out a team or two before anything starts, but in this group you could make a solid case for any team to advance. There are going to be some serious fireworks here, so sit back and enjoy the show. Here's a preview and some World Cup predictions for Group D (all odds are from Bodog):
There are few teams in the world that are as good at getting up for big games than Germany. They lost in the finals of the 2002 World Cup, finished in third on home soil in 2006, and lost in the finals again a Euro 2008. They aren't strong closers in recent years - though their three World Cup championships show that they were in the past - but they are extremely good at getting focused and winning more than their share of games.
At 8/11 to win the group, bettors have high hopes for them to get hot at the right time again this time around. At the risk of generalizing, you could say that Germany performs exactly like you might expect them to - they aren't explosive or creative, but they are extremely disciplined. They make far fewer mistakes than most teams, and they rarely get caught out of position defensively. They play with unity that would be the envy of most teams.
They qualified strongly, with eight wins and two draws in 10 games, so current form isn't an issue. The player to watch here is the captain, midfielder Michael Ballack. He's the best German player of his era, and at 33 he knows that this is probably his final World Cup. He is a fiery, determined player who has to be frustrated by coming close with nothing to show for it. He has the ability to put this team on his shoulders and carry it far. If he is up to that challenge then the world should look out. It's a tough group, but I don't seethe Germans tripping up.
The oddsmakers have Serbia tabbed as the second best team in the group, with odds of 7/2 to win the group. This is technically their first World Cup appearance, but they have been there 10 times when you factor in their times as Yugoslavia and as Serbia and Montenegro.
Serbia found themselves in a tough qualifying group with France, but they were able to rise to the occasion as the French faltered, and they won their group. There are two guys on this team that I really like. Dejan Stankovic, the captain, has been on the national squad since 1998. The midfielder plays with a zen-like calmness, and that total lack of panic radiates to his whole team. He stands out when you watch the team play. The other is Nemanja Vidic, the Manchester United star who is one of the top defenders in Europe. Serbia looked very good in qualification this year, but that makes me uneasy - in 2006 they allowed just one goal in 10 qualifying games, but finished with a disastrous 0-3 record at the World Cup and were outscored 10-2.
Ghana, 5/1 to win the group, is yet another dangerous African squad that will be motivated to shine on their home continent. They aren't a deeply experienced international squad - this is just their second World Cup - but they are unquestionably a team on the rise.
In their first World Cup in 2006 they moved on through an incredibly tough group by finishing ahead of both the U.S. and the Czech Republic. In 2009 they won the U20 World Cup by beating Brazil in the final. This year they made the final of the African Cup of Nations before falling to Egypt. They are on a roll.
Their showing in 2006 showed that they are up to the challenge of a short, pressure-filled tournament. Their talent is deep and solid - especially in the midfield where they have three stars who play in Europe, led by Michael Essien of Chelsea. They aren't the best defensive team in the country, but their explosiveness and creativity with the ball could be enough to overcome that. I have a feeling that Ghana will be playing more than three games again in this World Cup.
Australia is a wild card here. They are 9/1 to win the group, and though it's hard to see value in that price it's equally as hard to rule them out entirely. 2006 was their second World Cup, and their first since 1974. Not only did they advance to the round of 16, but they came incredibly close to upsetting the eventual champions from Italy - the Italians needed a last minute goal in extra time to squeak through. Australia carried that momentum into qualifying this time around - they allowed just one goal in eight qualifying games, albeit against not a particularly strong qualifying group.
The biggest disadvantage they face coming into this tournament is the absence of Guus Hiddink. The Dutchman was their coach last time around, and he has a magical touch when it comes to getting teams to overachieve in the World Cup. He moved on to Russia this time around (and failed to qualify), but some of his magic could still be in place - current coach Pim Verbeek was an assistant to Hiddink with South Korea in 2002. I won't rule Australia out entirely, but I don't have a lot of faith in them this time around, either.
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