|Argentina||Ivory Coast||Netherlands||Serbia and Montenegro|
The Big Match
Argentina vs. Netherlands: What a way to close out first-round play in Group C! Depending on what happens in the first two games, this contest could seal first place for one team and send the other one home. These two sides have met seven times since 1974 with the Dutch holding a slight advantage over the Argentines (4 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss). The Netherlands won the last match (a 1-0 victory in a friendly on Feb. 12, 2003), but Argentina beat the Dutch in the final of the 1978 World Cup. This should be the best game of the first round.
|June 10||Argentina vs. Ivory Coast||Hamburg|
|June 11||Serbia and Montenegro vs. Netherlands||Leipzig|
|June 16||Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro||Gelsenkirchen|
|June 16||Netherlands vs. Ivory Coast||Stuttgart|
|June 21||Argentina vs. Netherlands||Frankfurt|
|Serbia and Montenegro vs. Ivory Coast||Munich|
What the experts say:
John F. Molinaro, Editor, World Cup 2006, CBC Sports Online:
This is a very tough group - no wonder they call it the 'Group of Death.' Argentina is one of the pre-tournament favourites and is eager to make ammends for its horrible showing at the World Cup in 2002 when it crashed out in the first round. With Juan Roman Riquelme pulling the strings in midfield, Argentina can dictate the pace of the game and pick apart defences. Look for them to top the group.
As much as I respect Dutch coach Marco van Basten, I don't agree with his decision to pick such a young team. You need experience at the World Cup, and I fear that the Dutch will pay a heavy price for not naming more veterans to the roster.
Serbia and Montenegro is my dark horse pick. I think they could stun the field the same way Croatia did in 1998 or South Korea did in 2002. I like the way Ivory Coast plays and if they were in any other group, I would pick them to go through. But not in this group.
Predicted finish: 1. Argentina, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Netherlands, 4. Ivory Coast
Peter Mallet, Soccer reporter, Globe and Mail:
All four teams in this summer's infamous 'Group of Death' would likely advance if they had the good fortune to have been placed in a different glass fish bowl during last December's World Cup draw.
A new Dutch youth movement, which includes striker Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord) and Arjen Robben (Chelsea), will team up with midfielders Wesley Sneijder (Ajax) and Rafael van der vaart (Hamburg). But the Dutch will find it a difficult task to outpace South American powerhouse Argentina and finish at the top of the table.
Big things are expected from Argentina with offensive weapons like striker Hernan Crespo (Chelsea), Carlos Tevez (Corinthians), winger Lionel Messi (Barcelona) coupled with Juan Roman Riquelme (Villareal) in the midfield.
Serbia and Montenegro, who allowed just one goal in ten European qualifying matches, are led by Schalke 04 defender and captain Mladen Krstajic but will likely be hard pressed to produce the same effort in their first World Cup appearance.
Ivory Coast are nicknamed the Elephants for good reason - the team were the
giants of the African qualifying zone and are also making their first World
Cup appearance. The Africans are led by the potent finishing of target man
Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and the experience of defender Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal).
If they somehow manage to escape the Group C Grim Reaper they may be one of
this year's tournaments teams to remember.
Predicted finish: 1. Argentina, 2. Netherlands, 3. Ivory Coast, 4. Serbia and Montenegro
David Pye, Soccer reporter, Grimsby Telegraph:
Every tournament has one and Germany 2006 is no different. Group C is the 'Group of Death'. Four tough teams line up in a 'Royal Rumble' style battle for the two qualification places.
Argentina are hotly tipped for the title while the Netherlands are always a favourite amongst neutrals and will be vociferously backed by their army of 'Orange' fans. But Serbia mustn't be written off after an impressive qualifying campaign. They are stubborn in defence and take no prisoners.
The Ivory Coast will also be more than also-rans after reaching the final of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year. A tough group to call with Argentina favourites to finish first.
The big game of the group is likely to be the match between Serbia and and the Netherlands with the winners sure to gain one of the top two spots.
Predicted finish: 1. Argentina, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Netherlands,
4. Ivory Coast