Côte d'Ivoire  
  Serbia and Montenegro  

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If ever there was a nightmare group, then this is it. Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia and Montenegro, and Côte d'Ivoire are all in the top 50 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The Oranje and the Albiceleste are third and fourth respectively. As a result, the South Americans, who were also drawn in a tricky group in 2002, face a tough battle if they are to fare any better than they did in Asia.

The Dutch, imperious in qualification, will have their hearts set on making a successful return after an eight-year absence. The Serbo-Montenegrins, meanwhile, will come to the tournament full of confidence fresh from a preliminary competition where their defensive solidity impressed the entire world. And if the Africans are considered the minnows of the group, they are nonetheless brimming with talent and enthusiasm. It would be a brave man who staked his reputation on predicting a winner...

  Standings and Results
Group C MP W D L GF GA Pts
ARG 3 2 1 0 8 1 7
NED 3 2 1 0 3 1 7
CIV 3 1 0 2 5 6 3
SCG 3 0 0 3 2 10 0

10 Jun ARG : CIV 2:1
11 Jun SCG : NED 0:1
16 Jun ARG : SCG 6:0
16 Jun NED : CIV 2:1
21 Jun NED : ARG  
21 Jun CIV : SCG  


Date for your diary: Frankfurt, 21 June, Netherlands v Argentina
Potentially the most exciting clash of the first round. All the more so since third in the world meets fourth in this decisive clash in a finely poised group.

David v Goliath: Hamburg, 10 June, Argentina v Côte d'Ivoire
The opening match of the group sees a baptism of fire for debutants Côte d'Ivoire against two-time champions Argentina.

History repeats itself: Netherlands v Argentina
The teams have met three times before at the finals and though the Dutch have emerged as winners on two occasions in 1974 and 1998, Argentina will be more than happy to have won the one that counted most, the final of 1978.


The Albiceleste must be starting to think they are cursed. In 2002, they drew England, Sweden and Nigeria in the first round. Despite being favourites, they then failed to emerge from the group. This time, they meet two strong European sides in the Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro, along with Côte d'Ivoire who, if they acclimatise quickly, will lack nothing in finesse or talent.

The Dutch, formidable in qualifying, undoubtedly pose the greatest threat to the South Americans. The two teams have met on numerous occasions, including three encounters in the FIFA World Cup™. The quarter-finals of France 98 in Marseille saw the Oranje net a last-minute winner to decide an enthralling tie. And the final of Argentina 1978 between the teams of Mario Kempes and Johan Neeskens has gone down in the history of the tournament.

However, the pair will not have things all their own way. Serbia and Montenegro enjoyed an exceptional qualifying tournament, edging past Spain and conceding just one goal in 10 matches. Without compromising their technical ability, Ilija Petkovic's men have solidified their back line in impressive fashion. As for Côte d'Ivoire, their qualification ahead of Cameroon was nothing short of miraculous. Henri Michel's troops evoke comparisons with the Senegal team of 2002 with their attacking talents (Didier Drogba, Bonaventure Kalou and Aruna Dindane) and a refreshing enthusiasm. And we all know how the Lions of the Teranga fared in Asia.

Did you know?
Côte d'Ivoire's Didier Drogba, Argentina's Hernan Crespo and Dutchman Arjen Robben all play their club football at Chelsea and will all come up against each other in this group. And if that was not enough, they will also meet Serbia and Montenegro's Mateja Kezman, their team-mate last season.