World Cup group A places the home nation Germany against Costa Rica, Ecuador & Poland in a relatively easy group from which they should comfortably qualify.
Although the German team is not thought to be up to the standard of their previous victorious teams, bookmakers currently have them as joint second favourites behind Brazil, and they must be respected as possible winners on home soil. It is difficult to see any of their three opponents being able to challenge them as Group A winners and it would appear that Costa Rica, Ecuador & Poland are competing for a chance to qualify in second spot.
History tells us that when the competition is played in Europe, the European nations tend to outperform the sides visiting from other continents. This coupled with Poland's impressive qualification from a difficult European qualifying stage must make the Poles most likely to progress along with the Germans. For the Poles, who will have an army of travelling supporters, the first game will be massively important, and a win over Ecuador in that game should ease their passage to the second stage.
Ecuador are a talented but temperamental outfit who must be respected, because on a good day they can match most national sides. Germany 2006 is only the second finals they have reached and they will be keen to add to their single victory from Japan 2002. Discipline may be a factor for Ecuador, and the strict refereeing of the Finals may not suit them.
Costa Rica will most probably be the groups whipping boys, first up for them is Germany in the tournament's opening game, a game they can't really expect to gain points from. Their second game against Ecuador will be the one that decides whether or not they can progress further in the Cup, and should provide good entertainment as both sides like to attack, sometimes at the detriment to their defensive duties.
It is difficult to see any other outcome than Germany topping group A. Poland should take the second spot if successful in their first match versus Ecuador, but anything less than a win for them will give the edge to Ecuador. Costa Rica will probably sit at the foot of the table, unless they produce a couple of shocks. . .
Norbert Wartle is a soccer writer for Football England and will be covering the matches at the Fifa World Cup - Germany 2006 .
Norbert also covers the England Football Team's matches.