KRIS LINDSAY - Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Ready for Brazil? We are. Here is a quick preview of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup to get you ready.
Brazil - Obvious favorites of the World Cup. Will get out of this group, but there is a question mark at forward. Fred, Jo, Pato, aren't the forwards that you would normally expect from a team of this caliber, but they have the surrounding cast to win it all.
Croatia - Have an incredible midfield. Luka Modric was in the Champions League winning team, Real Madrid, and his partner in crime, Ivan Rakitic, is a world class midfielder, also. Up top, Mario Mandzukic was probably the best striker in the Bundesliga this season. He's tall, has a great header, and is a strong presence in the box.
Mexico - Mexico has had so many problems with chemistry this season, and their forward, Javier Hernandez, hasn't scored in a very long time for El Tri. Almost all of their goals in their send off series came from shots outside the 18, not something you want to count on when you are going up against the likes of Brazil and Croatia.
Cameroon - Actually a decent side, with several world class players on this roster. Led by ex-Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon also has a decent defense, and some playmakers in the midfield. The only unfortunate thing for them is that they landed in a pretty tough group.
Who gets out: Brazil, Croatia.
Players to watch in the group: Neymar (Brazil), Luka Modric (Croatia), Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon)
Watch out for the upset: Cameroon has the ability to get a quick goal, and if they can hold on defensively, they could pull an upset on any team in this group not named Brazil.
Spain - Won the World Cup in South Africa. They haven't lost a lot of players, but they did all age 4 years. Still, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Cesc Fabregas are among the best midfielders in the world. They won't have to deal with no striker this year, however, as they now have the services of the best true striker in La Liga, Diego Costa, Brazilian born, but pledged his services to Spain.
Netherlands - Come stumbling into the World Cup, with two key injuries in the midfield, Rafael Van der Vaart, and Kevin Strootman. The Netherlands will need to rely on Bayern Munich superstar Arjen Robben, and Manchester United standout Robin Van Persie. They will be facing an uphill battle with two other powerhouses in their group.
Chile - Have the advantage of playing on their home continent. They have arguably the best midfielder in Serie A, Arturo Vidal, but will be depending on their offense to come from either Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez, or Valencia forward Edu Vargas, both which carry speed in their arsenal. Major question marks remain in their back line.
Australia - Qualified from the Asian group along with Iran, South Korea, and Japan. They don't have a lot of star firepower, with seven of the 23 coming from the A-League in Australia. New York Red Bull and former Everton midfielder Tim Cahill is actually listed as a forward for the Socceroos, but they may not take any points out of this group.
Who gets out: Spain, Chile
Players to watch: Diego Costa (Spain), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Tim Cahill (Australia).
Watch out for the upset: It was a tough call between Chile and the Netherlands as to who would move on. The game between the two countries may be the deciding factor as to who advances, and who doesn't.
Colombia - Arose as the early dark horse to win the World Cup before news that Radamel Falcao, their star forward, would miss the World Cup due to injury. They looked a bit shaky in some friendlies, and strong in others. Questions arise in the defense, as beyond Mario Yepes their depth is limited in the center. Jackson Martinez leads a strong attacking front.
Greece - The Greeks return to the World Cup with a similar style of play as they had in the previous World Cup: Sit back, attack on the counter. Through their friendlies, they played impressively defensively in holding Portugal to a 0-0 draw. Led by Fulham midfielder Giorgios Karagounis, don't expect a lot of goals from the Greeks, but don't expect them to give up a lot of goals, either.
Ivory Coast - An aging but talented team from the Elephants will certainly make it difficult for other teams in their group to advance. Striker Didier Drogba makes his final return to the World Cup, with 65 goals for his country. Yaya Toure was considered by many to be the best midfielder in the English Premier League this season.
Japan - Several questions will be made about the Japanese back line, but the impressive attacking midfielders may make up for the weakness. Led by Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, the Japanese may not struggle putting the ball in the back of the net, but could have a difficult time keeping the ball out of their own net.
Who gets out: Colombia, Ivory Coast
Players to watch: Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Watch out for the upset: Japan has the ability to score, and could outscore or create havoc for teams that are trying to get crucial results.
Uruguay - Have the ability to score, with two world class strikers heading up their attack force. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have the ability to score, and they get to do it in their own backyard. Combined with a decent midfield, and a great central defense, the Uruguayans are a force to make a long run in the tournament.
Costa Rica - Were dealt a heavy blow, when Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio broke his foot in pre-World Cup training. The Ticos feature one of the best keepers from La Liga this season, in Keylor Navas. Joel Campbell is a striker from Arsenal that has speed, and the ability to work well on a counter. The midfield is decent, but the talent in this group may just be too much for the Central American side.
England - Expectations for this England team were not as high this cycle as in previous cycle, with plenty of youngsters being called in. Coming off a great season with Liverpool, a lot of the scoring load will fall to forward Daniel Sturridge. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a winger who was injured in pre-World Cup friendlies, is still a question mark. The strong midfield is still present, with familiar names Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Italy - Very talented in every area, with Bonucci, Barzagli, and Chiellini shore up a terrific back line, with Gianluigi Buffon in goal. If Mario Balotelli can get in a rhythm and produce goals, this Italian team could be in for a deep run.
Who gets out: Uruguay, Italy
Players to watch: Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Daniel Sturridge (England)
Watch out for the upset: None of the games in this group can be overlooked. Costa Rica has the potential to an upset minded side, while England could easily advance out of this group. Every game in this group is a must see.