Argentina, Greece, Nigeria, & South Korea. Argentina are now led by Diego Maradona, who took over last year, and how shall we put it... is crazy. Greece are still lead by the same man that guided them to victory in Euro 2004. Swede Lars Lagerbeck took over the Super Eagles in Feb of this year, while South Korea are on their 7th boss since they hosted the World Cup, but lucky #7 has been in charge since 2007. Argentina are big favourites to win this group, in spite of their manager such is their talent. It is second place in this group that is up for grabs, who will get it? Defensively resolute Greece? The inconsistent Nigerians? The organised Koreans? Lets have a look at the travel, elevation, and preparations of the teams and find out.
Argentina begin the tournament in Jo'burg at 1753m, and stay in Jo'burg for their second match as well. They have to travel the 322km to Polokwane and drop in elevation 190m. By way of warm up matches Argentina played Canada and won easily 5 -0. While it wasn't the strongest side Canada has ever fielded we weren't going to do much damage to Argentina, especially not at their 200th birthday party.
Greece start in Port Elizabeth at sea level, then they head north to Bloemfontein a distance of 664km and an elevation gain of 1400m. Next they make their way north east to Polokwane 717km away and a drop of 90m. Greece played North Korea to a 2-2 draw in May, before losing to Paraguay 2-0 yesterday. Not really the sort of results that inspire confidence in the Greeks progressing.
Nigeria kick things off in Jo'burg at 1753m before going to Bloemfontein a drop of 353m and a distance of 397km. Nigeria wrap things up in Durban at sea level 637km away and 1400m lower. Nigeria were held to draws by Saudi Arabia and Colombia in their two warm up matches and have one remaining against North Korea. The draw against Colombia was particularly shocking, given that the match was in the UK and Colombia had played against South Africa in South Africa only 3 days earlier.
South Korea begin in Port Elizabeth at sea level, then it is off to Jo'burg 1062 km away and a gain of 1753m. South Korea finish the group stage in Durban at sea level 569km down the road from Jo'burg. South Korea's warm up includes victories over Ecuador in Korea, Japan in Japan, as well as a loss to Belarus in Austria. The Taegeuk Warriors have one match remaining against Spain, also in Austria.
Here is how I see the matches in this group going.
South Korea - Greece
The Taegeuk Warriors will break down the stalwart Greek defense and earn a hard fought victory.
Argentina - Nigeria
Argentina cruise to victory but Nigeria get on the score sheet.
Argentina - South Korea
With only having to switch stadiums in Jo'burg, Argentina are well rested and ready, and have little difficulty dispatching South Korea.
Greece - Nigeria
Both teams recovering from opening losses, they will battle back and forth, and nobody will score.
Nigeria - South Korea
With both teams knowing that a win will likely see them advance, there is a good game here and the nobody will take it. I think it will be a scoring draw.
Greece - Argentina
Argentina having already secured first place will field a weaker side, unfortunately for Greece their weaker side is still too strong.
Here is how the table will look at the end of the group stage:
Argentina 9 points
South Korea 4 points
Nigeria 2 points
Greece 1 point