Previewing Pot 3 of the World Cup Draw:
Teams ranked 19th-34th in the FIFA World Cup Rankings of the teams qualified – Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran (except that Korea won’t be paired with another AFC team). Some of those teams are quirky enough for neutrals to gravitate their support towards – Iceland in particular. Though on paper these are teams that Korea would want in their group, none should be taken for granted. They all have cracks in their armor, but also have enough in their locker to be darkhorse candidates.
Last Meeting: Never met
Writer Ranking: Jae (16), Jinseok (16), Michael (15), Nicole (14), Roy (17), Tim (18)
Christian Eriksen is the franchise player that you all know as Spur’s #23; he’s been the driving force that’s propelled Denmark into the finals. The team is completely built around Eriksen; they’ve had to rely on the Spur’s creative midfielder for many of their goals as they labored to qualify (Denmark did not make Brazil 2014). Kaspar Schmeichel between the sticks has made it difficult for opponents to get on the scoreboard, but other than that – with names like Nicklas Bendtner still hanging around the squad, it’s no wonder that Denmark is praying mightily hard for Eriksen to stay healthy for Spurs this season.
Last Meeting: Never met
Writer Ranking: Jae (17), Jinseok (19), Michael (16), Nicole (20), Roy (15), Tim (19)
Iceland is a tough in a number of ways, but let’s not dance around the elephant in the room. There’s no winning against Iceland, regardless of the actual result. That’s because they have already won many hearts during their improbable deep run in the 2016 Euros. A tiny island nation of just 334,000 people – now a plucky European force of their own to reckon with in their first World Cup final. How did this happen? Not a complete answer, but it is one part Icelandic willpower, 2 parts planning and long term strategies to keep improving (i.e. making many indoor football facilities across Iceland more than a decade ago). That trajectory from Euro 2016 continued as they qualified for the World Cup with Ki’s former teammate, Gylfi Sigurdsson the star man. A warrior/talisman for Iceland, should he be on form by the time June rolls around, teams would be unwise to underestimate the tiniest nation to have qualified for Russia 2018.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2005)
Results: South Korea 2 Sweden 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (18), Jinseok (17), Michael (18), Nicole (16), Roy (16), Tim (21)
Sweden made a dramatic entrance to the World Cup this month, grinding out a playoff victory against Italy. It’s difficult to really make any heads or tails about Sweden; they did manage some impressive results in their group qualifiers, winning 2:1 against France (after losing to them by same scoreline earlier), and some head-scratching losses, like a 3:2 stumbler against Bulgaria. They’re a European side that doesn’t have flashy names attached to them (Remember Marcus Berg – Son’s old teammate from the Hamburg days? Sebastian Larsson with Championship side Hull City, anyone?). But there’s still quality in their ranks, Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) is one bright spot in particular. And to make teams think twice about facing them: Sweden’s been very stingy with hardly any goals conceded. Having qualified for the first time since 2006 (and squeaking past Netherlands in the qualifiers no less), Sweden is looking to make the most of their chance in the finals.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2014)
Result: South Korea 1 Costa Rica 3
Writer Ranking: Jae (20), Jinseok (25), Michael (22), Nicole (15), Roy (26), Tim (25)
Los Ticos were a revelation in the 2014 edition of the World Cup, quarter finalists and turning heads. They’ve kept a relatively good form and qualified runner-ups in CONCACAF’s hexagonal to join the big show. Joel Campbell is now in Arsenal purgatory, on loan to Real Betis with only one appearance to his name; thusly Costa Rica is relying on a mish mash of MLS players to bolster their ranks. They’re fast and they can score goals, just ask the USMNT. And yet, the real threat isn’t in the form of an outfield player at all: it’s Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas – scoring goals against him is easy – in bizarro world.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2014)
Result: South Korea 0 Tunisia 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (26), Jinseok (27), Michael (23), Nicole (25), Roy (25), Tim (26)
The warm up loss to Tunisia right before the 2014 World Cup should have been a canary in the coalmine for Korea. Nevertheless, it was just a tuneup and on the actual World Cup stage, Tunisia hasn’t been able to muster much of significance. In fact, they’ve only managed one World Cup win (1978 against Mexico). Still, Tunisia has topped their CAF group and have quality in their midst in the form of Wahbi Khazri (Rennes) and CB Aymen Abdennour (Valencia – on loan to Marseille). One has to wonder whether this version of Tunisia, returning to the World Cup after appearing in Germany in 2006, could be the next Algeria- the 2014 version that gave Korea fits of trouble in Brazil. Or continue to find unhappiness at the highest echelons of international competition.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2005)
Result: South Korea 0 Egypt 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (19), Jinseok (18), Michael (19), Nicole (26), Roy (19), Tim (17)
Another feel good story of the WC qualifiers, rapturous sounds of weeping and joy from millions of supporters seeing the Pharoahs qualify after a 28 year absence from the World Cup stage. That this is happening is even more remarkable considering the intense political turmoil of the last several years. Egypt topped their group with Mohamed Salah as the centerpiece. The Liverpool journeyman has made good for both club and country – having scored over 70% of Egypt’s goals in qualifying (he scored in each and every Egypt matches during round 3). Egypt may not be the best team in Russia this summer, but should not be taken for granted. To be sure, they are bringing 28 years of pent-up passion, and will be using every ounce of it.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2009)
Result: South Korea 2 Senegal 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (22), Jinseok (23), Michael (20), Nicole (32), Roy (22), Tim (27)
Before we get to present day Senegal, interesting footnote to the last time these 2 met, Ki Sung-Yeung and Oh Beom-Seok both netted goals to win the game for Korea (a fairly young squad it was then – Go Yo-Han was in that game as well). Senegal topped their group to qualify (their last World Cup was in Korea/Japan in 2002) – though it could be argued that it was a weaker group. That said, while it’s difficult to assess how they might fare in international competition, they have some outstanding talent to watch out for, including Anderlecht’s Kara Mbodji. However the marquee name that will worry opposition coaches and players the most: Liverpool’s 32 million £ man Sadio Mane. Senegal will probably be incredibly unpredictable – wickedly fast and creative but unbalanced and suspect at the back.
Tavern Average Pot 2 preferences:
Easiest -> Hardest
Tunisia, Senegal, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark
Join us soon as we preview Pot 4
This is arguably the most important pot in terms of Korea’s chances for advancing.
Would we be able to see the consolidated rankings of all 32 WC teams from the Tavern writers in one place? Thanks!
Big day tomorrow!!
No matter what group Korea gets in, it just depends on their mentality. ANYTHING can happen.
Costa Rica, who had never done shit before, was in the group of death and advanced in 2014.
Italy was in one of the easiest groups in 2010 and couldn’t get through.
All depends on Shin Tae Yong’s preparations with the group and their confidence/teamwork.
Still fun to watch the drawing though!
And having said all that, I really, really hope Korea doesn’t get Iceland. Because as you mentioned, if we play them, it will basically be Korean fans vs the world. I’d rather have the world on our side…