60 hours away from the World Cup draw, and in those 60 we are going to cram in as many posts as possible about who we’d like to face and avoid in Russia. Next up, Pot 2.
Previewing Pot 2 of the World Cup Draw:
Teams ranked 8th-15th in the FIFA World Cup Rankings of all teams qualified – Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia
If there is one team to avoid in Pot 2, it’s Spain. Through some anomaly of the FIFA ranking system the 2010 champs find themselves as the team nobody wants to face – this is the team of the Group of Death. There is the issue of aging players, particularly in defense. Pique, Ramos, Iniesta, Busquets and David Silva will all be older than 30 years old at the World Cup. But there is promise all around, with David De Gea between the sticks and Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata and Isco all near the prime of their careers. Though they have been poor in their last two major tournaments, this is a Spanish side who you just can’t count out for the trophy.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2016)
Result: Spain 6 South Korea 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (3), Jinseok (4), Michael (4), Nicole (5), Roy (4), Tim (2)
Peru fall heavily in the “has really improved” column. Very few would have picked them to scrape out of a competitive CONMEBOL qualifying, but they did so with poise, before qualifying as the 32nd team by beating New Zealand in the intercontinental play-off. The country that claimed to invent the bicycle kick, Peru revolve around around Flamengo’s Paolo Guerrero, who, at 33, is the side’s heartbeat. With controversy swirling Guerrero over potential drug use – he claims his innocence – and no World Cup experience in the side deprived of 36 years from the World Cup, it’s hard to tell what Peru will show up in Russia. On paper alone, they look like a beatable side – only Lokomotiv’s Jefferson Farfan has more than 10 goals for the national team in the last callups.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 0 Peru 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (15), Jinseok (14), Michael (17), Nicole (29), Roy (18), Tim (15)
Switzerland are a side that just keeps on grinding out results. The one word that strikes me about them is balance. They aren’t flashy, nor are they overly compact. Sure, they needed a questionable penalty against Northern Ireland to qualify for the World Cup, but going 9-0-1 in qualifying, losing only to Portugal on the final matchday, is no easy feat. They’re a healthy mix of veterans and startlets, and will rely on Benfica’s Seferovic, Stoke’s Shaqiri and Juve’s Lichtsteiner to put them past opponents. A team to not be underestimated, but not one that strikes terror on the outset either.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 2 Switzerland 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (14), Jinseok (12), Michael (11), Nicole (24), Roy (11), Tim (14)
Ah, England. Ridden with misfortune and poor performances in every major competition in ages, pressure will be high on Gareth Southgate’s side to quite simply do something in Russia and not embarrass themselves. It will not be the striker position that will worry them too much, as Harry Kane will do quite nicely, with Jamie Vardy a good bench option, but rather the midfield. If the creative responsibilities on this side will be hoisted on the shoulders of Ruben Loftus-Cheek or a presently out-of-form Dele Alli, then England could be in some trouble. Coasting through qualifying while playing dull, drab football may have worked then, but it won’t in Russia. That said, England have the raw talent, and there is still time for these issues to be addressed.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2002)
Results: South Korea 1 England 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (7), Jinseok (8), Michael (10), Nicole (8), Roy (8), Tim (9)
The Colombia we saw in Suwon quite likely will not resemble the Colombia we will see at the World Cup, but Korea did manage to expose some of their flaws. For one, a heavy reliance on James Rodriguez, indicative perhaps of the Colombian addiction with becoming the next great ’10’. The gulf in quality between James and a resurgent Radamel Falcao with the rest of the side is significant, and a smart opponent will seek to stymie their predictable game plan. Though there are easier sides to draw in this pot, and though they still have quality going forwards, Korea will be confident about clashing swords with the Colombians yet again given recent results.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2017)
Results: South Korea 2 Colombia 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (11), Jinseok (13), Michael (12), Nicole (9), Roy (12), Tim (12)
Mexico walked CONCACAF qualifying this time around, and what a flamboyant, dynamic side they can be. Though a majority of the side aren’t big European names, electing to stay in Liga MX or the MLS, they remain a threatening, fluid attacking team. With reliable, century-club veterans such as Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado to rely on, the Mexicans’ dispersed club allegiances should be no barrier to a group that boasts formidable veterans and promising young talents like PSV’s Hirving Lozano. However, a masochistic tendency to just fall apart when it matters the most could haunt an El Tri side aiming to make it to the Quarter-Finals for the first time on foreign soil.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2006)
Result: South Korea 1 Mexico 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (13), Jinseok (11), Michael (14), Nicole (13), Roy (13), Tim (10)
Korean fans will still be bitter about Uruguay knocking Huh Jung-moo’s side out of the 2010 World Cup, and facing Uruguay in the draw won’t probably help those feelings subside. A power-duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will be devastating to fragile defenses if both players are in-form, but an aging defense and lack of consistency saw them fail to leave a mark at the last two Copa Americas (2015 and 2016’s Centenario). Korea’s usual centreback problems don’t give us much to hold up against Uruguay’s powerful forwards, but a compact and quick-counter approach could see us get something out of another one of this year’s darkhorses.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2014)
Result: South Korea 0 Uruguay 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (9), Jinseok (9), Michael (9), Nicole (10), Roy (9) Tim (8)
Croatia are rather strange. They have the orchestra conductors of two of the finest clubs in the world – Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric – and yet they limped through qualifying in a group with Iceland, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland and Kosovo without ever really putting in a dominant performance (except for a 6-0 away at Kosovo). Though they eventually dismissed the Sunderland of the World Cup, Greece, in the European playoff, their new manager Zlatko Dalic, who spent 7 years coaching in the Middle East, has some work to do to turn them into world beaters. Korea might be able to take a point off of Croatia, but they would naturally deprive the squad of possession and I doubt the 4-4-2 is ready to handle a Rakitic-Modric double pivot just yet.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 1 Croatia 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (10), Jinseok (10), Michael (11), Nicole (19), Roy (10), Tim (11)
Tavern Average Pot 2 preferences:
Easiest -> Hardest
Peru, Switzerland, Mexico, Croatia, Colombia, Uruguay, England, Spain
Join us tomorrow as we preview Pot 3. Note: I’ve also updated Pot 1 with Mr. Jae’s rankings.