Previewing the World Cup Pots – Pot 4

Finally, we reach the last pot, pot 4, which holds the nine* teams from UEFA (remember one will move to pot 2 prior to the draw).

Pot 4 – UEFA

Italy, Holland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Portugal, France, Croatia, England, Russia, Greece

Let’s start off with our old friends Italy. Italy seems perpetually plagued about questions over their age and whether the team is past it. And once again there are questions about Pirlo, Buffon, Barzagli, and De Rossi. But this isn’t your daddy’s azzurri. Italy is not reliant on a watertight defense, and instead look to the younger attacking talents of Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi to win them games. The team has re-formed well after the disastrous second coming of Marcello Lippi, under Cesare Prandelli. The team always seems to come alive at major tournaments, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Italy make yet another deep run.

Last Meeting: 2002 World Cup
Result: South Korea 2 Italy 1 A.E.T.
Writer Ranking: Jae (5) Jinseok (5) Roy (7)

Korea has fond thoughts of Holland, if only because of Guus Hiddink. Holland has a reputation for self-imploding at tournaments, especially at the World Cup, but a final appearance in South Africa certainly helped ease that image (although the subsequent poor showing at Euro 12 did not). Once again, on paper, the Dutch look like world beaters with Van Persie, Robben, and co all ready to run roughshod over all comers, and certainly their qualification campaign was near perfect (9-1-0, 34 scored, 5 conceded). Can the Orange keep it together in Brazil? One would think so, at least enough to make it to the later rounds.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2007)
Result: South Korea 0 Holland 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (7) Jinesok (6) Roy (5)

If the practice draw was right, Korea would meet up with creators of the modern game in England. England can largely be summed up in a series of questions. Can Joe Hart handle the pressure? Which Wayne Rooney will show up? Midfield? Center of defense? Can someone be creative? The answers to these questions will largely determine how England does. England could be a very good team in Brazil, but they could also disappoint like in years past.

Last Meeting: International friendly (2002)
Results: South Korea 1 England 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (16) Jinseok (14) Roy (11)

France needed a huge comeback against the Ukraine in the playoffs to make the World Cup. France in some ways mirror the Dutch in that they can be absolutely brilliant at times, but dreadful at others. There always seems to be some problem in the squad and that often hurts them. On paper, France are top class with the likes of Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery, Mathieu Valbuena, and Hugo Lloris as well as young talents like Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane. France could be a potential dark horse candidate, but that will all depend on their ability to keep a lid on personal problems and egos.

Last Meeting: 2006 World Cup
Result: South Korea 1 France 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (12) Jinseok (9) Roy (14)

If there’s any team that is wholly reliant on one player it’s Portugal. How Cristiano Ronaldo goes, they go. And in the playoffs he was on fire. If Ronaldo can bring that kind of form to Brazil, Portugal will be dangerous. If he struggles, Portugal may face an early flight home. There are other decent players on the team like Nani, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho, but the team is based around getting Ronaldo the ball and getting him to score.

Last Meeting: 2002 World Cup
Result: South Korea 1 Portugal 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (9) Jinseok (10) Roy (9)

Croatia is a team that Korean fans will not have fond memories of, as that 4-0 loss at Craven Cottage last year really stung. But since then Croatia has fallen off the wagon a bit. There were major doubts as to whether the Croats could beat Iceland in the playoffs, but they managed to do so with little fuss in the end. Croatia still has plenty of talent, but whether they can reform into a cohesive team under new management is a concern. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Darijo Srna are all class players, but the suspension of Mario Mandzukic for most of the group stage will hurt.

Last Meeting: International friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 1 Croatia 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (18) Jinseok (11) Roy (10)

Russia has gone through some big changes over the past few years. The team looked to be an expansive, attacking team under the Dutch guidance of Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, but since Fabio Capello took over they’ve become a pragmatic, solid side. Russia seems firmly like a middle of the pack team, in that they won’t likely beat many top sides, but should have enough to keep the lower sides out.

Last Meeting: International friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 1 Russia 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (13) Jinseok (15) Roy (13)

Somehow, Greece always make it. I can’t remember the last time Greece actually went out to win a match, but somehow they always get the result they need. A defensive, pragmatic team through and through, Greece holds down the score and tries to get a bit lucky. One feels though, that the Greeks won’t have a very long stay in Brazil. Certainly the weakest of the European sides.

Last Meeting: 2010 World Cup
Result: South Korea 2 Greece 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (26) Jinseok (24) Roy (27)

Last, but not least, we come to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia topped their qualification group on goal difference (ahead of the aforementioned Greece), and may spring a surprise or two at the World Cup. They have plenty of firepower in attack, led by the duo of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic. On the wing is the talent Miralem Pjanic, and they also have Son Heung-Min’s Leverkusen teammate Emir Spahic in defense. Unfortunately for them, the center midfield is nothing to write home about, so they may struggle to control matches against better sides.

Last Meeting: International friendly (2006)
Result: South Korea 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (19) Jinseok (26) Roy (23)

And so we come to the end of our previews for the World Cup. The final draw will be soon, and after that (in the coming months) we’ll take a more in-depth look at our group opponents.

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


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