Monday, December 29, 2014

Rajon Rondo Trade Part 2: Dallas Mavericks Perspective

This guy is in the business of winning championships.

As I said in the Boston Celtics perspective of the Rajon Rondo trade, Danny Ainge did what he had to do. 
The Celtics are in rebuilding mode and their best player is on an expiring contract and not necessarily playing in the team's best interest. Despite many disagreements, Danny Ainge did what is best for the franchise.
Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson did what was best for his franchise as he added a piece to a team looking to win another championship. While Rondo may not be the easiest player to deal with on the court and off the court, Dallas Mavericks are in a win-now situation and adding one of the better point guards in the NBA was a necessary move for a team who is playing in the toughest conference in the league.

How well is Rondo fitting with the Mavs
The Dallas Mavericks have been 3-2 since acquiring Rajon Rondo. Over the course of those four games, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has been experimenting how to use the former Celtic point guard. During those five games, Rondo has averaged 13.6 points per game 6.2 rebounds and 8.4 assists. His best game came most recently December 26th against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rondo scored 21 points on 59 percent shooting, dished out 7 assists and grabbed 8 boards. Like I said, Rajon Rondo is a ball dominant point guard, in order to play his best he needs the ball in his hands to operate. At least that is just common thought as Rick Carlisle had Rondo running off screens, cutting inside and operating from mid range while other ball dominant guard Monta Ellis had the ball in his hands. 
At first when Rondo got traded to the Dallas Mavericks, my first thought is that Monta Ellis would have to be relegated to sixth man to get most of his effectiveness. Monta Ellis is a flat out scorer but not like the prototypical two guard who constantly runs off screens. Monta Ellis scores by operating as the primary ball handler, which clashes with Rondo as the primary ball handler. 
Rick Carlisle played around with the rotations pairing Ellis with a lower usage point in Devin Harris and Rajon Rondo with a point guard comfortable playing off ball in JJ Barea. It proved effective for Carlisle as it gave the Mavericks an extra dimension as both guards excelled in the rotations.
Against Oklahoma City Thunder yesterday, Rick Carlisle elected to use a small lineup of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, JJ Barea, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki all on the court at the same time! What resulted was 22 points in the first five minutes of play as the Mavericks offense were playing at a tempo Jeff Hornacek and the Phoenix Suns would be proud about.  
What Dallas has is five different guards in Rondo, Ellis, Barea, Harris and Felton that can be interchanged and have different skill-sets making the Dallas Mavericks a faster team.
 While Rajon Rondo may have not been good for the young rebuilding Celtics team at this stage of his career, he is a positive addition for the Dallas Mavericks. 
While consistently working with Monta Ellis may take some time to get used to, the pick and roll between Rondo and the Big men Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler is nearly unguardable. 
Rondo and Dirk gives the Mavs a pacy point guard driving to the lane with  one of the best shooting bigman of all time popping out for a jumper. 
Think of the days when Tyson Chandler had Chris Paul at point guard for the New Orleans Hornets, that spike in offensive production for Tyson will have a similar effect with Rondo at the helm.

Dwight Powell may be a forgotten member in the trade but could play a role for the Mavs.
Enter Dwight Powell
Speaking of small lineups, Tyson Chandler did not play that game against the Thunder due to back spasms. After Dallas traded Brandan Wright, they are lacking depth behind the center position. Mark Cuban even said that his Dallas Mavericks have been looking at the 36 year old Jermaine O'Neal. As I said in Part 1, Brandan Wright is a rim protector and to have that as a backup is a valuable asset.

Although the Dallas Mavericks may have found a gem in the acquisition of big man Dwight Powell. The Canadian tore it up playing for Dallas Mavericks' D-League affilate Texas Legends Saturday Night. Dwight Powell was a player that the Mavericks wanted in the trade and would accept the deal without him. Powell is a 6'11 240 pound big man with a 7'0 wingspan and like Brandan Wright can provide length and may be the replacement Dallas is looking for. 

While losing a key member in the squad losing Brandan Wright, Donnie Nelson and the Mavericks brass did what was best for business and now makes the Western Conference even more competitive than what it already was, Although their backup big man issue needs to be figured out if they want to go far as they can not get away using a three guard set on a consistent basis. 
One has to wonder, with all the talented point guards in the Western Conference, can Rondo ever make the All-Star team again granted if he stays? Despite that, the Dallas Mavericks will be a fun team to watch.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Rajon Rondo Trade Part 1: Boston Celtics Perspective

Did Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics do what was necessary trading Rajon Rondo.

Over this past week was the blockbuster trade of Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo after months of speculation. Originally I was going to grade both teams on who got the better end of the deal, but since both clubs were about even in the trade (I'll explain below) I will give a two part recap on what impact it will have on both the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks.

Just for a little recap here is the trade for the Celtics and Mavericks

Celtics Receive:
C Brandan Wright, F Jae Crowder, G Jameer Nelson, Protected 1st Round Pick, 2016 2nd Round Pick, 12.9 Million Trade Exception

Mavericks Receive:
G Rajon Rondo, F Dwight Powell

The Boston Celtics were at the point of no return with Rajon Rondo as he was nearing the end of his contract. Rumors say that Rondo was not going to sign back with the Celtics, Even if he wanted to re-sign with the Celts, Danny Ainge would have to overpay for his services, as he is 28 on a young team that is some time away from being a contender.  Danny Ainge earned his nickname as the "The Snake" because of his lack of loyalty to long tenured players and will trade or release them when he sees fit. This might serve as a good trait for a GM because he is not hanging on to bad contracts and aging players, this can be seen from the Brooklyn Nets trade years back which now seems like the Celtics got away with robbery.

Coming off a torn ACL, Rondo's value was not as high as previous years so it was not realistic for the Celtics to get a trade similar to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Kevin Love or Denver Nuggets with Carmelo Anthony. Rondo despite his assists and rebound numbers is having a down season in terms of efficiency.

Rondo is shooting .416 in true shooting percentage. To get an idea how bad that really is, that shooting percentage is on par with Ben Wallace. Now Rajon Rondo is a good defensive player but not a four time defensive player of the year winner, you do not want your point guard shooting that bad on offensive as it allows opposing defenses to clog up the paint.
Although he is the top assist leader, Rajon Rondo is a ball-stopper. As we seen with the New York Knicks, ball-stoppers can be detrimental to the team. The Celtics were shown at times operating better as a cohesive unit when Rondo is on the bench.

Look back to the Toronto Raptors around the same time last season when they traded leading scorer Rudy Gay, Toronto if not spectacular, were doing particularly well in the Eastern Conference. Being the leading scorer, he was the highest usage player on the team while also not being an efficient player(like Rondo) and trading him opened up the offense. Rudy Gay was hindering other players on the team such as Kyle Lowry, Terrance Ross and Demar DeRozan and with the trade, the Raptors played with more cohesion and a year later is the top team in the Eastern Conference, Danny Ainge can only hope a similar effect can happen with the trade of Rajon Rondo.

Brandan Wright may be prove to be a wise acquisition for the Celtics.
What about the players Celtics got for Rondo?

Jameer Nelson
The former Orlando Magic point guard's best years are definitely behind him, and he was for the most part a throw-in player in the trade but he can be a useful role-model to the young players. Believe it or not but now the Boston Celtics are a young team and with one other player over 30 in Gerald Wallace. Jameer Nelson may not be a Celtic after the season but can play a role within the club this season as a mentor for young guards in Marcus Smart and Phil Pressey.

Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright is a 6'10 long athletic big-man which the Dallas Mavericks will definitely miss when Tyson Chandler is on the bench. The former North Carolina bigman is averaging 8.6 points per game, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 18.3 minutes. Stretch that to 36 minutes and he is averages 16.9 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. With a bunch of offensive minded bigman in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller and Brandon Bass, Brandan Wright is much needed rim protector that has the potential to vastly improve the Celtics defensively. Wright is on an expiring 5 million contract this season so no guarantees he is coming back. So despite his usefulness, Celtics also can use the option of trading him for more assets.

Jae Crowder
Any NBA team can use a player who works game in and game out fighting for the 50/50 balls and playing within their role. Jae Crowder is that type of player who will hustle and work hard, he may not be as technically gifted as the other players in the NBA but he uses his strength and determination to be a menace for the opposition, It just so happens, Jae Crowder is a Brad Stevens type of player. Still on his rookie contract, Jae Crowder is a player who can very well play an integral role in the Celtics rebuild.

12.9 Million Trade Exception and Draft Picks
This part of the deal for the Celtics is the main reason Danny Ainge pulled the trigger. Let's start with the draft picks, The protected first round pick for the Celtics is the Mavericks' pick this season if they get it from 1-3 or 15-30 and in 2016 from 1-7. Unless Dallas gets in a miraculous losing streak,the Celtics will most likely have the first round pick and the second round pick in 2016. The Celtics will have four 2016 first round picks.
The best asset of this trade is the 12.9 million trade exception, this allows them to bypass the NBA contract guidelines when trading and allows the Celtics to take on any contract within a 12.9 million difference before the February trade deadline. This allows the Celtics to potentially acquire a star player from a team who is trying to offload their contract without sacrificing much of their own. Danny Ainge made magic in the past acquiring the big three, he might pull myself out of his hat before the deadline this season.

After former Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was drafted with the 6th overall pick, it seemingly spelled the end of Rajon Rondo's tenure in Boston after making two final appearances, and winning the title once during his time with the Celtics. After many months of speculation, the rumors were true and Rajon Rondo was finally traded and is now out to the Western Conference with the Dallas Mavericks. By face value, seemingly the Celtics were the losers of the trade, but on the other side of the spectrum, the management felt it was the right move to make given Rondo's contract ends after this season. Nonetheless, the Rondo trade marks the final member of the 2007 Boston Celtic championship squad to leave the team.

Part 2: Dallas Mavericks Perspective

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Premier League Season Predictions

The start of the new 2014-2015 Barclays Premier League season begins Saturday 7:45 Manchester United versus Swansea City and just as usual many storylines come into the table at the start of the English Football season. How will Manchester United fare under the new leadership of Louis Van Gaal? How will Arsenal fare with another season of Arsene Wenger and new signings such as Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy. Can all the star players Chelsea has at disposal can coexist? Who will be their goalkeeper? These questions will be answered with a glimpse of what's to come during the first week but for now here is my prediction on who will fit in the top six of the table.

1. Chelsea
New Signing Diego Costa will have to do alot of celebrating for Chelsea to finish at the top of the table.

Key Additions: F Diego Costa, MF Cesc Fabregas, DF Filipe Luis, GK Thibaut Courtois, F Didier Drogba
Key Losses: MF Frank Lampard, DF Ashley Cole, DF David Luiz, F Romelu Lukaku

Chelsea come into this Premier League season as my favorites to win the title given their vast majority of talent all over the pitch. Diego Costa gives Chelsea what they lacked for many years, a clinical striker who can consistently score goals. 
Cesc Fabregas is another major signing in my opinion will recapture that form he once had at Arsenal and will create a deadly combination with all the other midfielders such as the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Schurrle. 
Chelsea also get back Thibaut Courtois from loan where he was arguably one of the top goalkeepers in the world as Atletico Madrid won the La Liga trophy with their stifling defense. 
Speaking of their defense, Chelsea also poached their left-back Filipe Luis who fills a much needed gap that Chelsea had last year with Ashley Cole out of form. If David Luiz plays any way like he did in the 2014 World Cup, than Chelsea got away with robbery selling him for 50 million euros.
While not playing last year for Chelsea, I listed Romelu Lukaku as a key loss as I thought he would be their future number 9 however they made a good profit from him selling the Belguim international for 28 million euros, however I believe Romelu Lukaku has the potential to be a world class striker. 

Bold Prediction: If Chelsea does not finish in the top 2 or win a major trophy, the "Special One" Jose Mourinho will be sacked as manager.

Key Player: Diego Costa
Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas

2. Arsenal

Key Additions: F Alexis Sanchez, DF Mathieu Debuchy, F Joel Campbell, DF Callum Chambers
Key Losses: DF Bacary Sagna, GK David Ospina

Arsenal's victory over Manchester City was no fluke, sure Man City did not play all their top players but what I saw out there was a Gunners team that was ready to redeem themselves in this new season. 
Arsenal was at the top of the table for the longest time of any Premier League team but due to a rough patch of injuries, bad form and just a plain tough schedule, Arsenal faltered and eventually fell into the spot they knew all to well, 4th place.
Injuries are always an obstacle the Gunners have dealt with, Theo Walcott is still recovering from an ACL injury. If Arsenal is up for a title challenge, by all means necessary Aaron Ramsey needs to stay healthy. The Welsh international was Arsenal's best player last season over more heralded players Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. 
Went from the amazing journey of recovering from a horrific leg injury in 2010, becoming the fans' punching bag for every loss once he came back from injury to now Arsenal's hero.
 Ramsey's constant engine and darting runs forward will be vital for Arsenal's title chances along with new signing Alexis Sanchez who will help a final third in need of depth.
He should follow up his tremendous World Cup performances along with another South American Joel Campbell who finally is going to play for the Gunners after Arsene Wenger signed him in 2011. Arsenal lost Bacary Sagna but is replaced by Mathieu Debuchy who can be seen as an upgrade.

Bold Prediction: Aaron Ramsey will win PFA Player of the Year if he is healthy

Key Player: Aaron Ramsey
Player to Watch: Joel Campbell

3. Manchester City

Key Additions: DF Bacary Sagna, MF Fernando, GK Willy Caballero, DF Eliaquim Mangala, MF Bruno Zuculini
Key Losses: MF Javi Garcia, DF Joleon Lescott

In what was a historically close battle to the top of the table last season, Manchester City finished as the eventual champions. 
With Manuel Pellegrini now entering his second season with the club, his job is to obviously repeat that same feat. His job would not be made easier by the additions of their counterparts Arsenal, Chelsea and even Manchester United. 
Although Manchester City did not make any groundbreaking transfers, they did not have to as they already have a team with amazing amounts of talent. 
Former Gunner Bacary Sagna becomes another ex-Arsenal player to have cashed in, Fernando and Eliaqulim Mangala are two ex-Porto players looking to shore up the defense. 
Goalkeeper Willy Caballero will give much needed competition for Joe Hart whom was very inconsistent the past season. Unlike the Manchester City transfer philosophy, they did not sign high profile players and rather signed players who would play an role in an already stacked squad. 
Manchester City certainly did not regress from last season, it is just the other teams have gotten better. 
With Luis Suarez biting his trade in La Liga, Sergio Aguero is the favorite for the scoring title barring any injury.

Bold Prediction: The point difference from Chelsea to Manchester City will be within 4 points.

Key Player: Sergio Aguero
Player to Watch: Stevan Jovetic

4. Manchester United
Call it a business relationship.

Key Additions: DF Luke Shaw, MF Ander Herrera
Key Losses: DF Nemanja Vidic, DF Rio Ferdinand, DF Patrice Evra,MF Ryan Giggs

This is a bold prediction in itself that Manchester United will qualify for a spot in the Champions League. While as you can see there are not that many new signings, (however they are in talks to sign Netherlands' Daley Blind.) the change in manager should prove a huge difference and major improvement for this upcoming season. 
What new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal proved to me during the 2014 World Cup was that he was the best tactical manager in the tournament as he made the most out of the talent of the Netherlands squad adopting a 3-5-2. 
Also known for the genius subsitute putting in Newcastle's Tim Krul over Jasper Cillessen to defeat Costa Rica and advance in the semifinals. 
We have seen the introduction of the 3-5-2 in the preseason and it has produced promising results for the Red Devils allowing the use of all the key players in what LVG calls an "unbalanced" squad.
Former Southampton fullback Luke Shaw will occupy Manchester United and England's left side for years to come while Ander Herrera is an underrated signing that strengthens that central midfield that seriously lacked quality and depth.Adnan Januzaj was the breakout performer during the Moyes era, how will he gel with LVG? 
Phil Jones has a chance to play a major role in this new regime playing in a three back line. Wayne Rooney maybe the new captain but the fate of the Red Devils will lie in the boots of the Flying Dutchman Robin Van Persie.

Key Player: Robin Van Persie
Player to Watch: Phil Jones

Bold Prediction #2: Daley Blind will become a member of Manchester United before the deadline. Nani will be transferred or loaned out.

5. Liverpool

There is someone missing from this picture.
Key Additions: MF Adam Lallana, F Rickie Lambert, MF Emre Can, DF Dejan Lovren, DF Javier Manquillo, DF Alberto Moreno, MF Lazar Markovic

Key Losses: Luis Suarez

The Bite heard around Brazil that former Liverpool superstar Luis Suarez bestowed to an unfortunate Giorgio Chellini was called into question and Liverpool were once again in a difficult situation with the Uruguayan. Liverpool made the best decision possible and transferred a player who was one bite away from a lifetime ban to Barcelona for a 75 million euro transfer fee.
Liverpool did not let the money go to waste as they have strengthened the team across the spectrum mostly at the expense of Southampton fans. Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert enjoyed an excellent season with the Saints and will try to replace that potency Liverpool had to its free flowing attack. 
Dejan Lovren gives Liverpool a stalwart defender as he also enjoyed a great season with Southampton. Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno are two young Spanish fullbacks to provide depth for the present and future. 
Lazar Markovic is a pacy winger with huge amounts of potential who adds flair into their midfield. 
With all these signings why do I have Liverpool at 5th place? 
Well the schedule will be their downfall as it is common for teams to struggle dealing with European qualification and while they have added depth it is still not enough to cope with their rigorous workload in the season. 
Obviously their striker position is in doubt, Daniel Sturridge can prove that he does not need Suarez to be a top striker. However Sturridge is known to be injury prone and Lambert is the only cover.
Also questions if Steven Gerrard can still handle it at top level after a horrible World Cup, look for Emre Can to be in that defensive midfield if Gerrard can't hold up. 18 year old Jordan Ibe has been getting reps during the preseason and could be the next breakthrough youngster in Brendan Rodgers' squad.

Key Player: Daniel Sturridge
Player to Watch: Jordan Ibe

Bold Prediction: Steven Gerrard will get fazed out of the starting eleven.

6. Everton

Key Additions: Romelu Lukaku, Christian Atsu(loan), Gareth Barry, Muhammad Besic
Key Losses:  Gerard Deulofeu

In his first season as Everton manager, Roberto Martinez finished 5th place over the likes of rivals Manchester United. 
Roberto Martinez proved how effective the loan market can be, acquiring the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Gareth Barry all through the loan market. 
They were able to acquire Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry on permanent deals while Deulofeu has been replaced with the loan of Christian Atsu. 
The Lukaku signing at a club record 28 million euros however marks the progress being made at Everton as he has shown he is already one of the better strikers the Premier League has to offer and at 21 years old will be leading their line for years. 
Although we can't forget the player who is behind him, Ross Barkley who has enjoyed a breakthrough under Roberto Martinez. The midfielder however will miss six to eight weeks with a knee injury. 
Muhammed Besic brings Everton a young holding midfielder that can make a good combination with Gareth Barry and James McCarthy in the midfield. 
John Stones became Everton's starting center-back towards the end of the season, how will he improve in his first full season in the first eleven?

Key Player: Romelu Lukaku
Player to Watch: John Stones

Bold Prediction: Romelu Lukaku will score over 20 goals this season.

Here is my outlook on the rest of the Premier League table
7. Tottenham 
8. Newcastle 
9. Stoke
10. Sunderland
11. Hull 
12. Southampton
13. Swansea 
14. West Ham
15. Queens-Park-Rangers 
16. Aston Villa 
17. West Brom 
18. Leicester
19. Burnley
20. Crystal Palace

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 World Cup: Group B

This group stage presents an interesting potential matchup with Spain and Netherlands in the same group. These two teams played each other in the final of the 2010 World Cup with Spain emerging victorious winning with Andres Iniesta scoring the winning goal in the 116th minute. With Chile and Australia looming in this group stage can the two ex-finalists make it out of this group stage?

Manager: Vincent Del Bosque
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKIker Casillas (c)20 May 1981 (aged 33)153Spain Real Madrid
2DFRaúl Albiol4 September 1985 (aged 28)46Italy Napoli
3DFGerard Piqué2 February 1987 (aged 27)60Spain Barcelona
4MFJavi Martínez2 September 1988 (aged 25)16Germany Bayern Munich
5DFJuanfran9 January 1985 (aged 29)6Spain Atlético Madrid
6MFAndrés Iniesta11 May 1984 (aged 30)95Spain Barcelona
7FWDavid Villa3 December 1981 (aged 32)94Spain Atlético Madrid
8MFXavi25 January 1980 (aged 34)131Spain Barcelona
9FWFernando Torres20 March 1984 (aged 30)107England Chelsea
10MFCesc Fàbregas4 May 1987 (aged 27)88Spain Barcelona
11FWPedro28 July 1987 (aged 26)38Spain Barcelona
12GKDavid de Gea7 November 1990 (aged 23)1England Manchester United
13MFJuan Mata28 April 1988 (aged 26)32England Manchester United
14MFXabi Alonso25 November 1981 (aged 32)109Spain Real Madrid
15DFSergio Ramos30 March 1986 (aged 28)115Spain Real Madrid
16MFSergio Busquets16 July 1988 (aged 25)64Spain Barcelona
17MFKoke8 January 1992 (aged 22)7Spain Atlético Madrid
18DFJordi Alba21 March 1989 (aged 25)25Spain Barcelona
19FWDiego Costa7 October 1988 (aged 25)1Spain Atlético Madrid
20MFSanti Cazorla13 December 1984 (aged 29)62England Arsenal
21MFDavid Silva8 January 1986 (aged 28)79England Manchester City
22DFCésar Azpilicueta28 August 1989 (aged 24)6England Chelsea
23GKPepe Reina31 August 1982 (aged 31)31Italy Napoli

Spain are the defending champions of the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 UEFA Euro cup but lost the 2013 Confederations Cup in the finals to Brazil. While they still have the top players that made them champions twice out of those three years, they have gotten older and the tiki-taka possession style of play has been exploited over time(ask Pep Guardiola). Spain may change that style a bit with the addition of Diego Costa, a true striker into their squad as we have seen them go into striker-less formations recently. Their famed midfield will be a question as Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta are all 30 and over and may be the last time the trio will be together in a World Cup.

Key Player: Diego Costa

Known for being a controversial striker, Diego Costa may be getting himself into the most controversy yet. A born Brazilian, Diego Costa declared for Spain after having a Spanish citizenship for his many years playing in La Liga. Both countries lacking an elite striker, Diego Costa could have started for either country, but felt more at home playing for the Spanish. The outrage in Brazil was so big, the Brazilian Football Federation wants to strip Diego Costa of his citizenship. Nonetheless after scoring 35 total goals last season, Diego Costa will give Spain the striker they haven't had in years.

Player to Watch: Koke

Another Atletico Madrid club member is also a player to keep an eye on. While not as heralded as Diego Costa, Koke was nearly if not as important as Costa was to the Atletico Madrid squad. Manager Diego Simeone played him everywhere from right wing to central midfield to left wing and shown no drop-off in quality as he is extremely creative while having a unique ability to track back and make the key tackles. It speaks alot that he is the young Spaniard to be chosen in the squad over the likes of Isco, Ander Herrera, Borja Valero and Jesus Navas. Koke might be the spark Spain needs for the aging midfield.

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Predicted Group Finish: 3rdNumber/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKClaudio Bravo (c)13 April 1983 (aged 31)79Spain Real Sociedad
2DFEugenio Mena18 July 1988 (aged 25)25Brazil Santos
3DFMiiko Albornoz3 November 1990 (aged 23)2Sweden Malmö FF
4MFMauricio Isla12 June 1988 (aged 26)47Italy Juventus
5MFFrancisco Silva11 February 1986 (aged 28)12Spain Osasuna
6MFCarlos Carmona21 February 1987 (aged 27)44Italy Atalanta
7FWAlexis Sánchez19 December 1988 (aged 25)67Spain Barcelona
8MFArturo Vidal22 May 1987 (aged 27)54Italy Juventus
9FWMauricio Pinilla4 February 1984 (aged 30)27Italy Cagliari
10MFJorge Valdívia3 October 1983 (aged 30)57Brazil Palmeiras
11FWEduardo Vargas20 November 1989 (aged 24)30Spain Valencia
12GKCristopher Toselli22 June 1988 (aged 25)4Chile Universidad Católica
13DFJosé Rojas3 June 1983 (aged 31)19Chile Universidad de Chile
14MFFabián Orellana27 January 1986 (aged 28)26Spain Celta Vigo
15MFJean Beausejour3 June 1984 (aged 30)59England Wigan Athletic
16MFFelipe Gutiérrez8 October 1990 (aged 23)18Netherlands Twente
17DFGary Medel3 August 1987 (aged 26)61Wales Cardiff City
18DFGonzalo Jara29 August 1985 (aged 28)65England Nottingham Forest
19MFJosé Pedro Fuenzalida22 February 1985 (aged 29)23Chile Colo-Colo
20MFCharles Aránguiz17 April 1989 (aged 25)21Brazil Internacional
21MFMarcelo Díaz30 December 1986 (aged 27)21Switzerland Basel
22FWEsteban Paredes1 August 1980 (aged 33)35Chile Colo-Colo
23GKJohnny Herrera9 May 1981 (aged 33)8Chile Universidad de Chile
Chile is a team that has quite a few household names in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal and to the average fan, they also have some players you have never heard of, Chile can be a team that can be a team that has potential to make it out of a group stage but also a possibility to finish fourth. Chile has a team full of fast and skillful athletes but lack size as their tallest player on defense is Miiko Albornoz at 5'11. Chile will of course have to depend on their superstars but their lesser known players as well to get out of the group stage.

Key Player: Arturo Vidal

Just as the video says, Arturo Vidal is a complete midfielder. In 46 total matches for club team Juventus, Vidal scored 18 goals and 6 assists while being a key factor on defense. Vidal also is an engine that rarely tires during 90 minutes and will might as well play every match for Chile as they will need him the most. Alexis Sanchez is also a key player to watch as Chile will look for him as their main attacking outlet.

Player to Watch: Eduardo Vargas

A few years ago, Eduardo Vargas was dubbed the next Alexis Sanchez, a player packed with so  much potential Napoli bought him from Club Universidad de Chile for over 18 million dollars. In Napoli, he struggled to get playing time on the field and was eventually loaned out to Brazilian club Gremio and now Spanish club Valencia. Vargas shown sparks in Valencia of the player from South America that was highly regarded, and can continue to redeem his career in the World Cup.

Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Predicted Group Finish: 4th
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKMathew Ryan8 April 1992 (aged 22)7Belgium Club Brugge
2DFIvan Franjić10 September 1987 (aged 26)9Australia Brisbane Roar
3DFJason Davidson29 June 1991 (aged 22)7Netherlands Heracles Almelo
4FWTim Cahill6 December 1979 (aged 34)69United States New York Red Bulls
5MFMark Milligan4 August 1985 (aged 28)29Australia Melbourne Victory
6DFMatthew Špiranović27 June 1988 (aged 25)18Australia Western Sydney Wanderers
7FWMathew Leckie4 February 1991 (aged 23)8Germany FSV Frankfurt
8DFBailey Wright28 July 1992 (aged 21)0England Preston North End
9FWAdam Taggart2 June 1993 (aged 21)5Australia Newcastle Jets
10MFBen Halloran14 June 1992 (aged 21)2Germany Fortuna Düsseldorf
11MFTommy Oar10 December 1991 (aged 22)15Netherlands Utrecht
12GKMitchell Langerak22 August 1988 (aged 25)3Germany Borussia Dortmund
13MFOliver Bozanić8 January 1989 (aged 25)3Switzerland Luzern
14MFJames Troisi3 July 1988 (aged 25)11Australia Melbourne Victory
15MFMile Jedinak (c)3 August 1984 (aged 29)44England Crystal Palace
16MFJames Holland15 May 1989 (aged 25)14Austria Austria Wien
17MFMatt McKay11 January 1983 (aged 31)47Australia Brisbane Roar
18GKEugene Galeković12 June 1981 (aged 33)8Australia Adelaide United
19DFRyan McGowan15 August 1989 (aged 24)9China Shandong Luneng Taishan
20MFDario Vidošić8 April 1987 (aged 27)23Switzerland Sion
21MFMassimo Luongo25 September 1992 (aged 21)1England Swindon Town
22DFAlex Wilkinson13 August 1984 (aged 29)3South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
23MFMark Bresciano11 February 1980 (aged 34)74Qatar Al-Gharafa
Australia finished third in the group stage in the last World Cup in 2010. This is their third consecutive World Cup and will be a tough group for them as Spain, Chile and Netherlands are three tough teams that have the quality to get to the elimination stages themselves. This Australian team is full of unproven talent but still boast Australian heroes Tim Cahill and Mile Jedniak. Can Australia make it out of this challenging group stage?

Key Player: Tim Cahill

MLS fans have gotten quickly acquainted with who Tim Cahill is whom can very well go down as a legend for English club Everton. Tim Cahill at 34 years old most certainly will be playing in his last World Cup and it is a question to see if he can still play against the nation's top soccer athletes. Tim Cahill is a midfielder that is known to make late runs and score goals can he still do it and pull Australia out of this group stage?

Player to Watch: Matthew Ryan

He is the first choice goalkeeper for  Belgian club Club de Brugge and his quickly become one of the top goalkeepers for the Jupiler Pro League. The 22 year old will get a chance to defend Australia's back line as last Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer retired from international play. With the strength of attack in his group stage, Matt Ryan will definitely be put to the test and will need to be on his best if Australia is to survive.

Manager: Louis Van Gaal

Predicted Group Finish: 2md
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKJasper Cillessen22 April 1989 (aged 25)8Netherlands Ajax
2DFRon Vlaar16 February 1985 (aged 29)24England Aston Villa
3DFStefan de Vrij5 February 1992 (aged 22)12Netherlands Feyenoord
4DFBruno Martins Indi8 February 1992 (aged 22)16Netherlands Feyenoord
5DFDaley Blind9 March 1990 (aged 24)12Netherlands Ajax
6MFJonathan de Guzmán13 September 1987 (aged 26)10Wales Swansea City
7DFDaryl Janmaat22 July 1989 (aged 24)16Netherlands Feyenoord
8MFNigel de Jong13 November 1984 (aged 29)71Italy Milan
9FWRobin van Persie (c)6 August 1983 (aged 30)85England Manchester United
10MFWesley Sneijder9 June 1984 (aged 30)99Turkey Galatasaray
11MFArjen Robben23 January 1984 (aged 30)75Germany Bayern Munich
12DFPaul Verhaegh1 September 1983 (aged 30)2Germany Augsburg
13DFJoël Veltman15 January 1992 (aged 22)2Netherlands Ajax
14DFTerence Kongolo14 February 1994 (aged 20)1Netherlands Feyenoord
15FWDirk Kuyt22 July 1980 (aged 33)98Turkey Fenerbahçe
16MFJordy Clasie27 June 1991 (aged 22)8Netherlands Feyenoord
17FWJeremain Lens24 November 1987 (aged 26)22Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
18MFLeroy Fer5 January 1990 (age 24)6England Norwich City
19FWKlaas-Jan Huntelaar12 August 1983 (aged 30)62Germany Schalke 04
20MFGeorginio Wijnaldum11 November 1990 (aged 23)5Netherlands PSV 
21MFMemphis Depay13 February 1994 (aged 20)6Netherlands PSV
22GKMichel Vorm3 October 1983 (aged 30)14Wales Swansea City
23GKTim Krul3 April 1988 (aged 26)5England Newcastle United

Netherlands, the 2010 South Africa World Cup runner-ups are back with a different manager and a squad filled with young players and aging superstars. Netherlands were a huge disappointment in the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup without scoring a single point in the group stage. How does a team with Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder fail to even tie a single game? While they have big names, the question is their defense which features a completely different cast since the 2010 World Cup and is very young and inexperienced. What new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal needs to instill is selflessness with their superstars. In the Euro Cup their players (*cough* Arjen Robben) were playing too selfish and focused more on putting a highlight reel than playing a team game. If they can play as a team again, they can get out of this group stage and hopefully play as well as they did in 2010.

Key Player: Robin Van Persie 

Robin Van Persie scored 30 goals during his first season at Manchester United in the 2012/2013 season. However, his second season was marred by injuries and manager issues with David Moyes. Now that his new manager is his National team manager the Flying Dutchman should be motivated to recapture his 2012-2013 form. The goal right now for Netherlands' captain and all-time top goalscorer should be the World Cup and how to impress his new manager to lead his Netherlands back to glory.

Player to Watch: Memphis Depay

This will be the 20 year old's first World Cup and deservedly so after a tremendous season for the youngster where he registered 14 goals and 10 assists in 46 matches. Depay is a inverted left winger in the mold of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Reus who can cut inside and let loose a powerful long shot with his right foot. Memphis Depay has a chance to see alot of playing time during this World Cup if the older regime of Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder can't play 90 minutes.

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