Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. The good doctor handles teeth, not broken arms, but he’d love to see Didier Drogba take on some tough opponents in Group G:
Brazil: Along with Spain, the favourites to win the whole enchilada, and for many good reasons. Coach Dunga has assembled a well-oiled machine that breezed through South American qualifying. The team played so well, in fact, that there was no room for Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Pato in the final squad. Aesthetically, however, this may not be the Brazil most fans are used to. Anchored by underrated center backs Lucio and Juan, this version of the Selecao is happy to concede much of the possession and torch the opposition with the most blistering counterattack in history. Get caught in possession upfield and Kaka, Robinho, Maicon, and co. will may you pay dearly.
Portugal: Squeaked into the tournament by earning 13 out of a possible 15 points in their final five qualifiers, then narrowly edging Bosnia-Herzegovina in a playoff. The Portuguese will definitely be relying on the towering Bruno Alves in defence, especially with Jose Bosingwa injured and Pepe short of match fitness after a six month layoff. They were dealt another injury setback with news that Nani will miss out due to shoulder problems. Even more now, Portugal will be pegging all its hopes on twinkle toes Ronaldo. They’ll go as far as he takes them.
Cote d’Ivoire: The Elephants are, in this writer’s opinion, the most talented team in Africa. They can consider themselves extremely unlucky to be drawn in the Group of Death for the second consecutive World Cup. Their luck has not improved this week with news that Didier Drogba may miss some or all of the tournament after breaking a bone in his arm. Still, this team is no one-man show and with the likes of Emmanuel Eboue, the Toure brothers, and the underrated Gervinho they are more than capable of an upset. If Drogba does win his fitness race, then look out.
North Korea: The most reclusive and lowest-ranked team in the finals (yes, even lower than New Zealand), the North Koreans will rely heavily on their star striker, Jong Tae-Se, who operates out of Japan’s J-league, where he’s known as the Asian Wayne Rooney. He’ll need to play like the real Roooney for North Korea to be able to beat teams likely to start the real Didier Drogba, the real Christiano Ronaldo, and the real Kaka.
Cote d’Ivoire 1-1 Portugal
Brazil 4- 0 North Korea
Brazil 2-1 Cote d’Ivoire
North Korea 1-3 Portugal
Portugal 0- 2 Brazil
Cote d’Ivoire 3-0 North Korea
Brazil 9 pts
Cote d’Ivoire 4 pts
Portugal 4 pts
North Korea 0 pts
Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B, and predicts an opening-round sweep for England in Group C. The good doctor expects a three-way dogfight in Group D and is happy to see the Netherlands healthy in Group E, and isn’t counting out the aging Azzurri in Group F.