In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]
With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.
The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:Anger
. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.
To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.
We move on today to Group B, which is the Group of Contrasting Styles. Starting with the team least likely to make any noise...
GreeceGroup B THE BASICS
To Piratiko (literally, it means, The Pirate Ship. How awesome is that?)
Blue and white
•How They Got Here:
Finished second in their qualification group, defeated Ukraine 1-0 aggregate in a two-leg playoff.
•World Cup Pedigree:
Qualified for one World Cup ('94) and failed to score a single goal.THE PLOT
Can this country's soccer fans conspire to find a way to keep the most boring team in soccer off national television to keep the soccer-haters at bay?THE DIRECTOR
The septuagenarian German is a folk hero in Greece after his anti-football approach (read: suffocatingly boring soccer) led the upstarts to their highest plateau -- winning Euro 2004. He is probably their coach for life.LEADING MAN
It's very likely that, without the Panathinaikos midfielder's superb play, Greece wouldn't have won Euro 2004. He scored this goal to open the tournament against Portugal.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward, Bayer Leverkusen) led the team in scoring during qualification and, quite stunningly, was Europe's leading scorer in during that period;Sotirios Kyrgiakos
(defender, Liverpool) is a stalwart in Greek defense, but can't find the field for his club;Kostas Katsouranis
(midfielder, Panathinaikos) is the glue that holds the midfield together and was a star on the Euro 2004 team.LIKELY BREAKOUT PERFORMER
If Greece needs some offense, they can bring inGeorgios Samaras
, a 25-year-old striker with Celtic. He's big (6'4") and would give the team a potent duo (with Gekas).THE LIKELY VILLAIN
The team is a physical team that will likely yield lots of cards. Let's blame the old man.PRODUCTION NOTES
Rehhagel will employ a 4-5-1 which is often actually a 5-4-1. It's boring, but effective. There were times during qualification where the team adapted a more progressive 4-3-3. It won't rear its head unless the team is chasing the game.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
"My Dinner With Andre"
Only, without the promise of food at some point. And slightly longer and less interesting.TRAILER
The "highlights" of their 1-0 victory over Ukraine in the second game of the two-leg knockout.DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
In the entire history of the World Cup, Greece has never, ever, not once scored a goal in the competition. Of course, they've only ever been in one World Cup... but still.CRITICAL BLURBS
The draw could've been much, much worse for The Pirate Ship (seriously, how awesome is that nickname?). Besides Argentina, there's not another team that consistently puts goals on the board. South Korea is a workman-like team with supreme fitness and Nigeria are a physical team without a ton of bite. ... In a round-robin, results-based tournament, parking the bus can easily turn into leaving on the bus. Goal differential matters. ...Best-case scenario?
Drawing Nigeria and Argentina, beating South Korea and losing in the second round. ...Realistic prediction?
Three-and-out, but they will score a goal.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
After frustrating mighty Argentina for 90 minutes and holding onto a precious 0-0 draw, the Greek goalie lines up a stoppage-time freekick. He clobbers it. It seems to hang in the air forever. It hangs. It hangs. Floating slowly and lazily into the Argentina box. A group of Greeks and Argies go for it, including Argentina's keeper. They collide. Bodies fly to the left and the right, all of them crumpling to the ground. The ball descends, landing in the midst of the flower-petal of prone persons. It bounces, skipping unbelievably over the white chalk line of the Argentina goal. Greece wins. 1-0. It's their first goal in a World Cup and the only goal they score the entire tournament. And it was a complete and total accident.
Group A: South Africa
South Korea, Greece, Nigeria, Argentina
Algeria, Slovenia, USA, England
Serbria, Australia, Ghana, Germany
Japan, Cameroon, Denmark, Netherlands
New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay, Italy
North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Brazil
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook