The passion for football runs deep in the studios of SBS in Sydney. While the team spend countless hours on-camera discussing the merits and tactics of football teams around the world and tackle the greatest issues facing the game, it’s a pastime that continues when the cameras switch off.
Each World Cup has a flavour and this one has an African flavour. But it could be that the tactics of Mr Rehhagel [Greek coach Otto Rehhagel] might be too much for Nigeria. David Basheer SBS
Here, the SBS team reporting from South Africa, Craig Foster, Mariana Rudan, Les Murray and David Basheer, discuss the upcoming action.
So guys, who would you like to see in the final?
Spain versus England. They’ve been in such sensational form and are two world-class sides. I’d like to see Australia in the final obviously but that might be hoping for too much… I agree, I’d like to see Australia in the final against Spain.
That’d be fantastic. But I’m not expecting it. My dream final would be Brazil against Spain. The world’s greatest-ever World Cup nation against the finest football playing nation right now. I’m with Craig, Australia in the final. It’ll happen one day, maybe in my lifetime. But a Brazil versus Spain final is destined to be the showpiece.
They’re the two best footballing countries in the world today. But if I had another choice I’d love to see an African nation in the final. I’d like to see a Spain versus Argentina final only because of the unpredictability that’s gone on with Diego Maradona.
Over the qualifiers they’ve used over 100 players. I’d love to see an African nation do well. You mention Argentina, what’s your view of Maradona as an international coach? He’s not a coach in the true sense of the word; he’s a manager of Argentina – and a chaotic one. All he really does is select the players and formation.
[Carlos] Bilardo was supposed to do the tactical side but Maradona has not been able to relinquish the main role. So in a tactical sense they’re a complete opposite to a European team which is usually highly-organised.
But the personnel are still exceptional. So if you have the right mix of players playing collectively, all you need to do is manage the group.
Anything can happen but it’s likely their disorganisation is going to cost them – particularly in the latter stages of the tournament.
Wouldn’t you say one of the disadvantages of Maradona is that the players are so in awe of him that when he makes decisions, players tend to go with what he says? And that can work to their detriment? But he’s got to harness it properly.
If Argentina happens to do well it’ll be in spite of Diego Maradona. He’s a God. So it’s a whole different dynamic. I agree it could be an issue. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to criticise or speak up to a guy who’s a God. [Juan Roman] Riquelme did and that’s cost him his international career.
Winning a World Cup takes talent and supreme organisation and limited weaknesses.
For Argentina, the weaknesses which can be exposed are the tactical ones where he’s not solving the problems.
But the thing with Argentina is if they start to play well and they get on a bit of a roll, then all of sudden Argentina will believe in this cult of Maradona. He rides on emotion, he uses it. As a player he was extremely smart at dominating tournaments and manipulating them.
Even in 1990 he was a spent force but was the most dominating persona of that World Cup tournament.
Remember how most of the south barracked for Argentina rather than Italy? And he will make those ploys in this World Cup. But he seriously needs an assistant who knows a little bit about tactics.
And to allow that person to have an influence. But he’s also a God in Africa so he’ll be playing to the Africans to get them onside in the way no other coach can.
Can the Socceroos repeat their feats of 2006 and emerge from group D?
My heart says Australia goes through but my head says it’ll be a toss of the coin. I think Germany will top the group, but just. Then it’s a roll of the dice.
I think Serbia has had the best form of any other teams in that group and in Radomir Antic, they have a fantastic coach. Serbia could top the group… People talk about our first game but we’ve got a pretty bad draw as it’s the first and last – against Germany and Serbia – that are going to be the hardest.
So can Australia get through?
It’s possible. In second… I have every confidence that Australia can lift their game at the World Cup, in what is a difficult group. Serbia in the last game is going to be so difficult, though. I think we could sneak it but it’d be a toss of the coin.
It depends on the first match against Germany. If we can get something out of that it would set us up for Ghana and from there, let’s just see how it pans out.
Let’s have a quick look at some other groups. Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France?
France has an ideal group. I think they’ll go through but it will be interesting for the second place.
I don’t think South Africa is a chance to go through despite being hosts. Javier Aguirre has done pretty well with Mexico since taking over and Uruguay is hot and cold. So it’ll be between those two for the second spot.
I predict South Africa will go through and they’ll be buoyed by the home support. I’d love to see that. Carlos Alberto Parreira’s back, he’s much better than that [Joel] Santana guy they had. The French will get lucky.
I’ve got them tracked to the semi-finals. But without Zidane and with this coach, they’re just not the same team. You need strong personalities to deal with that expectation, and I’m not sure South Africa has that.
But I do believe the African teams in general will over-achieve. It’s extraordinary what home support will do.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.
Each World Cup has a flavour and this one has an African flavour. But it could be that the tactics of Mr Rehhagel [Greek coach Otto Rehhagel] might be too much for Nigeria.
I think Greece will get through with Argentina. Argentina could make the final, or comfortably go out in that group against well-organised teams.
They could do a France from 2002. The rest of the group is extremely even.
Group C: England, Algeria, Slovenia and USA… a pretty diverse collection of playing styles.
USA had a good Confederations Cup in 2009 but I don’t know what sort of future there is in the way they play.
It’s a defensive game based on quick breaks which they executed brilliantly but you can’t keep on doing that and getting away with it.
Slovenia, from what we know is a very good team and they knocked out Russia in qualification.
England will certainly get through with Capello.
I’d like to see Theo Walcott have a good World Cup. He’s a talent, still very young and a bit hot and cold but I’d like to see him do well. I think it’s going to be a very big World Cup in many ways for Wayne Rooney.
And one of the reasons why England won’t be in the final is that they are too reliant on him. That gives you a sense of how far he’s come.
At the moment, he’s unbelievable. He was by far their best in qualification and extraordinary in the UEFA Champions League. He’s fit, maturing and ready to go.
Group E: the Dutch, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.
I’d rate the Dutch in this World Cup just slightly below Brazil and Spain so they should go through in a canter. And they have a very pragmatic coach.
It’s a toss of the coin as to who goes through with them. You talk to anyone involved in African football and they’ll all tell you, you need a really big personality to lead a group of disparate egos in a sort of chaotic environment.
Group F is another intriguing group. There’s New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay and the reigning world champions Italy, a team close to your heart Mariana…
I was living in Italy in 2006 and the press were going crazy calling them the parasites of the World Cup. T
hey do tend to sneak it through; you don’t notice them and they come up unsuspectingly and do really well.
I wouldn’t put it past them to do well but it’s an ageing squad now. [Gennaro] Gattuso was the engine but he’s now faltering. They do look a bit old now. And [Fabio] Cannavaro is still first-choice defender.
Italy’s tradition is to have four or five World Cups in between winning one. So this is a team in transition.
Can New Zealand get anything out of this group?
They’ve got Slovakia in their first game and the Slovaks are World Cup debutants, so they’ll be firing on all cylinders. And with Paraguay also in that group – who were excellent in qualification – it’ll be tough for them.
Group H: Spain, Chile, Switzerland and Honduras.
Spain in a canter and Chile for second place. Chile under Marcelo Bielsa are doing some wonderful things with good attacking football. Traditionally, they have a history of imploding at World Cups but I don’t know if that would happen this time Bielsa is an Argentine manager with plenty to prove.
He’s got the ghosts of not doing well for Argentina at previous World Cups but Chile was fantastic in qualifying. The Swiss under Ottmar Hitzfeld were fantastic in qualifying too but like Les, I predict Spain and Chile to go through in this group.
Spain and England definitely have the easiest groups so that’s why I’m picking them. They’ll reach the semis, if not the final. After so many years of disappointment, the Spanish have learned how to win consistently. The Euros win over Germany was a huge turning point.
But I think they’re now even better. David Villa and Fernando Torres have come on and they lose nothing with coach Vicente Del Bosque in for Luis Aragones. So why not?
They play the best football in Europe, why wouldn’t they keep on winning?
For me common sense prevails. They’ve now found a formula to get rid of their regional disputes collectively to perform as a group.
They’re a class operation with Villa, Torres, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. On the elements of balance and depth, they’ve got it. It is the era of the Spaniards and it’s their calm temperament and consistency that will get them there in the end.
Well, that’s the action on the park, what about the broadcast? There’ll be a studio in Cape Town and we’ll have all the colour on the ground with the fans. There’ll be previews, reviews, breakfast shows… the whole lot.
I’ll be commentating on the Socceroos with Kevin Muscat. He brings a raw freshness to the broadcast.
To be given the responsibility of the Socceroos is a great honour. I’m not fazed by it, I’m excited by it. Sixty four live matches across two channels: SBS One and SBS Two. Football 24-7, you can’t get better than that.
This article was originally published in The Official Guide SBS Guide to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.