Previewing the World Cup Pots – Pot 3

Today we continue looking at the pots for the World Cup. Next up is pot 3, which is the pot that Korea is in. Pot 3 consists of the teams from North and Central America as well as Asia. Obviously, since Korea is in this pot, they will not play any of these teams in the group stage, but could meet them in the knockout rounds.

Pot 3 – CONCACAF & AFC

USA, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Australia

South Korea is of course in this group, so let’s include a mini-overview of them for completeness’ sake. Korea backed into the World Cup after the team lost to Iran on the final day, only for Uzbekistan to fail to overturn the goal difference. Since then Choi Kang-Hee has left, and Hong Myeong-Bo has come in. Hong has helped straighten out the defensive issues, but the team is still vulnerable to set pieces and counterattacks. Striker remains a massive issue with Park Chu-Young frozen out at Arsenal, and no one else has stepped up. Many pundits are predicting a quick end to Korea’s Brazilian trip, but the team, if they can pull it together and function together well, could surprise some and make it to the knockout rounds.

Writer Ranking: Jae (20) Jinseok (17) Roy (18)

Also in the group are archrivals Japan. Japan, after a small stumble last summer at the Confederation’s Cup, have surged to record two quality wins over Belgium and the Netherlands. Despite those positives, Japan still has some questions that need answering. Shinji Kagawa’s future with United is still debated as he remains a part-time player for David Moyes. Keisuke Honda is supposedly moving to Milan in the winter, how smart a move that is can be debated as well. The midfield and fullbacks are quality, but Brazil and Mexico showed that when you bypass the central midfield and press the fullbacks deep, Japan struggles. Japan is another team that could surprise some, and they are probably the best team in the pot.

Last Meeting: East Asian Cup 2013
Result: South Korea 1 Japan 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (16) Jinseok (16) Roy (17)

Iran topped their qualification group, but has since dropped off the map. Iran has only recently started playing matches (for Asian Cup qualification), but there was a four month gap where the national team did nothing. Will that lack of competitive action against quality sides hurt their preparation? Possibly, only time will tell. As for the team, midfielder Javad Nekounam is the star man, but at 33 this is probably his last hurrah. Forward Reza Ghoochannejhad has decent numbers, 8 goals in 10 appearances, and the team will be relying on him and Nekounam to get goals. Iran’s biggest strength is their defensive organization. In the final round of qualifying Iran conceded just two goals in eight matches. They’ll need similar performances if they have any hope of getting out of the group stages.

Last Meeting: 2014 World Cup Qualifying
Result: South Korea 0 Iran 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (28) Jinseok (29) Roy (31)

Australia is a team that has been going through a massive overhaul over the past year. German coach Holger Osieck got the boot after a series of poor results and hammerings. In came Ange Postecoglou, but with just one match under his belt and not many more before the World Cup, it will be difficult for him to structure a quality, cohesive side. Many of the players that carried Australia in previous World Cups and tournaments are on the way out, and the younger players have not been properly tested yet. Australia could be a good team, but may need to wait until 2018.

Last Meeting: East Asian Cup 2013
Result: South Korea 0 Australia 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (27) Jinseok (25) Roy (29)

Across the Pacific we go, to the USA. The USA started slowly under Jurgen Klinnsman, but slowly they’ve bought into his methods and started to produce solid results. The older veterans like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard are still important, but some younger players are coming through. The US recorded some quality wins over the last year or so, defeating (an admittedly second string) Germany, Italy, and Mexico at the Azteca. Many pundits see the US as the strongest side in the pot, and the Americans could prove to be tough opponents. However, the team seems to lack a decisive creative player as Donovan has struggled with fitness this season and has been in and out of Klinnsman’s team. The US is well built to deal with the more physical, combative nature of CONCACAF teams, but I feel that they will struggle against the more technical sides from South America and Europe.

Last Meeting: 2002 World Cup
Result: South Korea 1 USA 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (21) Jinseok (17) Roy (22)

Mexico is an interesting team, kind of like Uruguay. On paper, they are one of the better teams, and certainly the most talented in the pot, but on the pitch they’ve really struggled. They barely made the playoffs, and only did thanks to two late goals by the US of all teams. The team has also changed their manager four times in the past year. The current boss is Miguel Herrera who had previously coached at Club America. Mexico has a group of talented attacking players such as Gio Dos Santos, Andre Guardado, Javier Aquino, and Javier Hernandez. An additional name that could be thrown in there is Carlos Vela (but he has turned down call ups lately due to disputes with the FMF). If they pull together, Mexico could make a run (see the 2012 Olympics), but Mexico always seems to fall apart at the senior stage at the most inopportune times.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2006)
Result: South Korea 1 Mexico 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (23) Jinseok (21) Roy (24)

Down to central America we go for Honduras. Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa are the only recognizable names for Honduras. The side is unspectacular, but solid. They will be difficult for teams to break down, but they won’t score much either. Probably a lot of 1-0 losses.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2011)
Result: South Korea 4 Honduras 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (31) Jinseok (28) Roy (30)

The last pot 3 team is Costa Rica. Costa Rica strikes me as a similar team to Honduras. Difficult to break down, but lacking in the firepower department. Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz and Olympiacos’ Joel Campbell will be relied on for goals, but Brazil seems like it will be a short trip.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2006)
Result: South Korea 0 Costa Rica 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (30) Jinseok (30) Roy (28)

Tomorrow we will look at the final pot, pot 4, which contains the nine* UEFA teams.

About Jae Chee 313 Articles

A football fan with who got bit by the writing bug.

10 Comments

  1. I think you guys’ underrate USA and Mexico because I think USA is strong currently and Mexico isn’t at their best but I think the team itself is better than Korea’s. I would rate Colombia 15, Japan 16, USA 17, Mexico 18, and Korea 19.

    • Well, I can’t speak to Jinseok’s and Roy’s rankings, but I agree that the US is doing well, but they haven’t historically been good travelers and I still feel the team is similar to the 2010 version. A favorable draw could see them out of the group, but any decent pot 1 and 4 team will see them undone. Mexico is a team I could have place much higher, but given all the drama and change they’ve gone through in 2013 is something I couldn’t ignore. On paper Mexico is in the top half of teams, but on the pitch they’ve been woeful (New Zealand aside).

    • I appreciate your POV, but I’ll say that while USA is a decent team, especially under Klinsman — Donovan and Dempsey are pivotal to their performance in this WC. Both are struggling atm. I submitted the rankings (as imperfect as my reasonings can be admittedly) in the here and now – USA could exceed my expectations perhaps If both have a magnificent spring in their clubs (also if they can get playing time on loan in Europe) – all these things will factor. The USA will struggle mightily if those 2 don’t show up, figuratively and/or literally. Jozy definitely factors meanwhile, tho he seems to score more easily for USMNT -while he just got his first with the Blackcats yesterday. Eyes are on him -if he continues to progress at Sunderland -who knows?

      It’s more a gut unscientific element at play but also as I witness how things are living in here the US, (codeswitch warning) soccer is so not in the blood and consciousness of it’s citizens. Most have no clue what you’re talking about when the subject is brought up. Until there’s a critical mass at all levels (take Brazil’s football culture or in Europe at large), the US can really only play at the margins of int’l football.

  2. Do you guys know, if for friendlies such as the one vs. the U.S. on Feb 1, any of the star players for Korea can get excused from their clubs to go to the U.S. for the three games? Has a player ever done that even though the game was not on FIFA’s schedule or whatever?

    • KFA can ask for any player they want, but clubs are not obligated to release them since it’s not on FIFA’s schedule. And none will release them. The only two even remote possibilities are PCY and JDW if neither move to another club in Jan. but it’s unlikely as they would need to be released in mid-late Jan while the window is still open. Expect K League/J League players.

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