Let’s face it, America. Most of us know nothing about the beautiful game of football. Oh, wait… Soccer. Anyway, there is a pretty big tournament coming up that nearly half the world population will view during the next month. One might dare to say it is the greatest and most popular sporting event on Earth.
Though I am no expert in soccer, I will try my best to educate you just a tiny bit on the 2014 World Cup. Let me break down each and every group (A through H) and let you know just a little bit about each team.
Chances to win key: 5- legitimate chance 4- a possibility 3- with some luck 2- play every game to perfection 1- better chance to go outside on a sunny day and get struck my lightning
1. Brazil- Brazil is the host nation of the World Cup this year, and they are considered the favorites going into the tournament. A load of world class talent.
Player to watch- Neymar. He is considered to be the next great Brazilian forward, but he didn’t seem to bring that ‘superstar’ spark everyone expected from him when he was transferred to Barcelona. This guy might anger you with his tendency to dive (more often than most, because everyone dives these days), but his foot-skills and speed will make your jaw drop. If Brazil wants to win it this year, Neymar is going to have to step it up and be the top forward for this squad.
Chances to win- 5
2. Croatia- This team has a good shot of moving on to the elimination stage because they were put into a favorable pool. There are not too many names people will be familiar with, but there is some talent on this squad and I have them finishing 2nd here behind Brazil.
Player to watch- Luka Modric. He is one of the top players in the world and currently plays for Real Madrid. He is a crafty midfielder who can anchor a team’s pace and style with his quick passes and high IQ for the game, and depending on how they use him he could be an occasional goal scorer. Defensively and offensively sound, Modric will be the guy for Croatia that you will notice more than anyone else on the pitch when Croatia is playing.
Chances to win- 2
3. Cameroon- Like Croatia, they will have a chance to advance, but this African team is lacking the talent to be a real contender this year. Not much to say except that they are going to have to get lucky to even be noticed by the casual viewer.
Player to watch- Samuel Eto’o. Far past his prime, Eto’o used to be one the best strikers on the planet. He struggled to make a difference for Chelsea this year, and being 33 years of age, this appears to be his last World Cup. If Cameroon wants to advance, they are going to have to rely on some flashes of brilliance from the aging forward.
chances to win- 2
4. Mexico- Their road to qualifying for this World Cup was so lucky. It really came down to the United States pulling off a miracle win to eliminate the team that would have taken their spot at Brazil, but now that they are in there is the expected hype from the media that this could be their year to make some noise in the tournament. I’m not buying it, and their most talented player, Javier Hernandez, isn’t even expected to start for the squad. Not sure how that will go, but we will see.
player to watch- Giovani Dos Santos. Currently playing for Villarreal in Spain, Dos Santos is a speedy little forward/ attacking midfielder who is starting to produce goals. He had a lot of promise as a youngster, but he never really panned out to be the next great Mexican footballer that some expected. This is the year he could prove some critics wrong.
chances to win- 2
1. Spain- This national squad is on a historical run of winning the last three major national tournaments (2008 and 2012 Euros, 2010 World Cup) and they are looking to make it four straight. They are getting older and some are picking them to be the contender who will be knocked out early, but I haven’t heard one real reason why. Yes, the historic run will come to an end some day, but by no means are they just going to lay down and be knocked out this early, right?
player to watch- Sergio Ramos. With Puyol out with injury and his career likely over, Sergio Ramos is going to be relied upon to anchor this Spain defense this year. Yes, they are filled with loads of talent at every position, but Puyol was arguably the best defender in the world four years ago, and somebody will have to replace his brilliance on the back line. Ramos was an outside defender last time you saw him with his long hair, but now he’s in the middle and he’s even found a barber shop. He will be key to their success.
chances to win- 5
2. Chile- This is going to be my favorite group in the tournament, and my 2nd choice for the team to advance to the elimination round is Chile. Maybe it’s because I use them in FIFA14, but I really like this squad. Plenty of talent from top to bottom to match with the power houses in this group, so I chalk up my prediction to my love for the team and the fact they are playing in their home continent.
player to watch- Alexis Sanchez. One of the forgotten stars on Barcelona, this little forward went under the radar for his club team this year scoring 19 goals in 34 games in La Liga. He’s a talented winger who will be one of the top players in this group.
chances to win- 4
3. Netherlands- They were the runners up in the 2010 World Cup, and they are looking to make another run at it this year. They have a mix of European stars and home grown players, so the chemistry of the team tends to be a question mark at National events like this, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they advance out of this group.
player to watch- Robin Van Persie. Netherlands top striker and arguably one of the best in the world right now. He was hampered with injuries this year for Manchester United, but if he can find his legs he will be relied upon to score goals for this squad. Can he make the next step to be considered one of the best? We will see.
chances to win- 4
4. Australia- The first team neither I nor you know anything about and won’t know really any more after this tournament. I don’t know what to tell you except that this isn’t a country that will make any threat this year.
player to watch- Mat Ryan. I sort of lied above because this goalkeeper is getting some praise in being the next great goalkeeper in the world. He won’t have a chance in advancing them to the elimination round, but his play will be a determining factor in shutting down the opposing teams and hoping to get a draw against superior opponents. He just may be the player that decides who won’t advance in this group of death.
chances to win- 1