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Defense could rule World Cup's Group C

  |   June 6, 2006 at 12:57 PM
BERLIN, June 6 (UPI) -- The consistency of Argentina's play and the level of defense played by the rest of the group will be the deciding factors in the World Cup's Group C.

Not many teams have the reputation of Argentina, which has won two World Cups and finished second twice. That image took a hit four years ago, however, when Argentina didn't make it out of group play.

With a foundation that has won three World Youth Championships and with Lionel Messi an offensive force in the 2005 tournament, that disaster isn't likely to happen two World Cups in a row.

The Netherlands gave up just three goals its 10 qualifying games and it will be that aspect of the game that carries the Dutch. The offense turns to Ruud van Nistelrooy, who is a big-game player.

Serbia-Montenegro went unbeaten in qualifying play, mainly on the strength of its defense, which forced four ties to go with six wins. Any offense is likely to come from Zvonimir Vukic.

The team from Ivory Coast is making its first World Cup appearance and opens against Argentina. However, striker Didier Drogba isn't likely to be cowed. If he can convince the rest of the Elephants that they belong in Germany, an upset is possible.

Argentina, however, should be powerful enough to move into the second round with The Netherlands close behind and Serbia-Montenegro looking to slip in ahead of either team if its offense matches its defense.

Group C play begins Saturday with Argentina and Ivory Coast playing in Hamburg, Germany. The next day Serbia-Montenegro is paired with the Netherlands for a game in Leipzig, Germany.

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