Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 World Cup: Group A

Four years later, after Spain defeated Holland 1-0 to lift their first FIFA World Cup trophy in 2010, they would be looking to defend their reigning title against 31 other teams in the world. During those four years, past legends have gotten older, some have passed on, new stars have been born, and this World Cup preview will be touching on which teams will pull out from the group stages and which teams will not. This World Cup will take place in Brazil and the home country heroes are stronger and deeper than ever and will want to win the World Cup. They have defeated Spain in the Confederations Cup but can they win the World Cup? They will first have the conquer the group stage to get where they want to be.

Predicted Group Finish: 1st
Manager: Luis Felipe Scolari
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKJefferson2 January 1983 (aged 31)9Brazil Botafogo
2DFDani Alves6 May 1983 (aged 31)75Spain Barcelona
3DFThiago Silva (c)22 September 1984 (aged 29)46France Paris Saint-Germain
4DFDavid Luiz22 April 1987 (aged 27)36England Chelsea
5MFFernandinho4 May 1985 (aged 29)7England Manchester City
6DFMarcelo12 May 1988 (aged 26)31Spain Real Madrid
7FWHulk25 July 1986 (aged 27)35Russia Zenit Saint Petersburg
8MFPaulinho25 July 1988 (aged 25)26England Tottenham Hotspur
9FWFred3 October 1983 (aged 30)34Brazil Fluminense
10FWNeymar5 February 1992 (aged 22)49Spain Barcelona
11MFOscar9 September 1991 (aged 22)31England Chelsea
12GKJúlio César3 September 1979 (aged 34)80Canada Toronto FC
13DFDante18 October 1983 (aged 30)12Germany Bayern Munich
14DFMaxwell27 August 1981 (aged 32)9France Paris Saint-Germain
15DFHenrique14 October 1986 (aged 27)5Italy Napoli
16MFRamires24 March 1987 (aged 27)42England Chelsea
17MFLuiz Gustavo23 July 1987 (aged 26)19Germany VfL Wolfsburg
18MFHernanes29 May 1985 (aged 29)24Italy Internazionale
19MFWillian9 August 1988 (aged 25)7England Chelsea
20FWBernard8 September 1992 (aged 21)11Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
21FW20 March 1987 (aged 27)17Brazil Atlético Mineiro
22GKVictor21 January 1983 (aged 31)6Brazil Atlético Mineiro
23DFMaicon26 July 1981 (aged 32)72Italy Roma

Aside from Neymar, this may not be greatest Brazilian team in terms of household names such as a Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka etc. but this is one of the more well rounded Brazil teams I've seen in recent memory. They have a strong backline with Thiago Silva and David Luiz, attacking full backs in Dani Alves and Marcelo, a solid midfield featuring the likes of Oscar, Luis Gustavo, Hernanes, Willian and Ramires, Bernard and the aforementioned Neymar. While their strike department is lacking, Fred when healthy has proven to be an effective poacher and if Jo can play the way he did in the Confederations Cup, Brazil should be fine.
Key Player: Neymar

His first season at Barcelona was solid if not spectactular, certainly not as good of a season as Madrid's Gareth Bale. Even his own teammates Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez have had arguably better seasons than this young Brazilian. This World Cup will be especially important for him as he is the most recognizable figure and will have all to prove if he can live up to the hype.

Player to Watch: Bernard

This diminutive 5'4 Brazilian has quietly rose the ranks as one of the top young players in the world. Bernard has made a name for himself at Brazilian club Aletico Minero lifting the Copa Libertadores along with his former teammate Ronaldinho before moving to Shakhtar in 2013. At 21 years old, Bernard is tipped for big things and may been a transfer target this summer because of the crisis in Ukraine. 

Predicted Group Finish: 2nd
Manager: Niko Kovac
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKStipe Pletikosa8 January 1979 (aged 35)111Russia Rostov
2DFŠime Vrsaljko10 January 1992 (aged 22)7Italy Genoa
3DFDanijel Pranjić2 December 1981 (aged 32)49Greece Panathinaikos
4MFIvan Perišić2 February 1989 (aged 25)29Germany VfL Wolfsburg
5DFVedran Ćorluka5 February 1986 (aged 28)72Russia Lokomotiv Moscow
6DFDejan Lovren5 July 1989 (aged 24)24England Southampton
7MFIvan Rakitić10 March 1988 (aged 26)62Spain Sevilla
8MFOgnjen Vukojević20 December 1983 (aged 30)55Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
9FWNikica Jelavić27 August 1985 (aged 28)34England Hull City
10MFLuka Modrić9 September 1985 (aged 28)75Spain Real Madrid
11DFDarijo Srna (c)1 May 1982 (aged 32)113Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
12GKOliver Zelenika14 May 1993 (aged 21)0Croatia Lokomotiva
13DFGordon Schildenfeld18 March 1985 (aged 29)21Greece Panathinaikos
14MFMarcelo Brozović16 October 1992 (aged 21)1Croatia Dinamo Zagreb
15MFIvan Močinić30 April 1993 (aged 21)0Croatia Rijeka
16FWAnte Rebić21 September 1993 (aged 20)5Italy Fiorentina
17FWMario Mandžukić21 May 1986 (aged 28)50Germany Bayern Munich
18FWIvica Olić14 September 1979 (aged 34)92Germany VfL Wolfsburg
19MFSammir23 April 1987 (aged 27)6Spain Getafe
20MFMateo Kovačić6 May 1994 (aged 20)10Italy Internazionale
21DFDomagoj Vida29 April 1989 (aged 25)24Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
22FWEduardo25 February 1983 (aged 31)64Ukraine Shakhtar Donetsk
23GKDanijel Subašić27 October 1984 (aged 29)6France AS Monaco

This can very well can be the golden age for Croatia as talent is prevalent with the likes of Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Dejan Lovren, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitic. Croatia presents a great balance of talent at each position in their squad with arguably more talented strikers than Brazil. Experience in the World Cup is lacking as they did not reach the cup in 2010 but with this much talent, expect Croatia to make some noise as a dark horse.

Key Player: Luka Modric

Luka Modric shown flashes in his first season at Real Madrid, but his second season made a case that he might be the best playmaking midfielder in the world right now. Luka Modric can pick a pass from the smallest opening and has the ability to play either deep in the midfield or behind the striker. His technique and field awareness are extraordinary and if Croatia are to make it out this group stage, he would have to be the reason.

Player to Watch: Ivan Rakitic

Sevilla surprised many when they won the Europa League beating Benfica. The best player on that team was Ivan Rakitic, whom had a number of bigger clubs watching him for a while now but stayed in Seville and brought them home Europa League gold. Rakitic who has a similar game to his compatriot Luka Modric is expected to continue his great form into Croatia as he could be a player on the move after the World Cup is over.

Predicted Group Finish: 4th
Manager: Miguel Herrera
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKJosé de Jesús Corona26 January 1981 (aged 33)34Mexico Cruz Azul
2DFFrancisco Javier Rodríguez20 October 1981 (aged 32)95Mexico América
3DFCarlos Salcido2 April 1980 (aged 34)122Mexico UANL
4DFRafael Márquez (c)13 February 1979 (aged 35)120Mexico León
5DFDiego Reyes19 September 1992 (aged 21)14Portugal Porto
6MFHéctor Herrera19 April 1990 (aged 24)13Portugal Porto
7DFMiguel Layún25 June 1988 (aged 25)15Mexico América
8MFMarco Fabián21 July 1989 (aged 24)15Mexico Cruz Azul
9FWRaúl Jiménez5 May 1991 (aged 23)25Mexico América
10FWGiovani dos Santos11 May 1989 (aged 25)76Spain Villarreal
11FWAlan Pulido8 March 1991 (aged 23)6Mexico UANL
12GKAlfredo Talavera18 September 1982 (aged 31)14Mexico Toluca
13GKGuillermo Ochoa13 July 1985 (aged 28)59France Ajaccio
14FWJavier Hernández1 June 1988 (aged 26)62England Manchester United
15DFHéctor Moreno17 January 1988 (aged 26)53Spain Espanyol
16DFMiguel Ángel Ponce12 April 1989 (aged 25)8Mexico Toluca
17MFIsaác Brizuela28 August 1990 (aged 23)7Mexico Toluca
18DFAndrés Guardado28 September 1986 (aged 27)104Germany Bayer Leverkusen
19FWOribe Peralta12 January 1984 (aged 30)33Mexico Santos Laguna
20MFJavier Aquino11 February 1990 (aged 24)22Spain Villarreal
21MFCarlos Peña29 March 1990 (aged 24)16Mexico León
22DFPaul Aguilar6 March 1986 (aged 28)30Mexico América
23MFJosé Juan Vázquez14 March 1988 (aged 26)5Mexico León

Mexico has had three different managers in the year of 2013 as it was an underachieving year for them. However the reigning Olympic winners look set to once again challenge Brazil an the like with returning members Chicharito Hernandez, Giovanni Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta. Mexico will be heavy underdogs this World Cup and will have a mountain to climb to make it out of this group stage.

Key Player: Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Javier Chicharito Hernandez has found playing time limited as Moyes has preferred other options such as Rooney, Welbeck and Van Persie. However when he has played he still shown that killer instinct to sniff out goal opportunities and make that perfect run. Chicharito is a player that is not known for creating himself but if Mexico can provide him the service, they can count on Chicharito making the most out of it.

Player to Watch: Diego Reyes

This will be the 21 year old's first World Cup and has shown flashes of his perceived enormous potential during his time at Mexican club; America and FC Porto during his first season. Diego Reyes is versatile with the ability to play center-back and the midfield and can show Mexico fans what is to come in the future.

Predicted Group Finish: 3rd
Manager: Volker Finke
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKLoïc Feudjou14 April 1992 (aged 22)2Cameroon Coton Sport
2DFBenoît Assou-Ekotto24 March 1984 (aged 30)22England Queens Park Rangers
3DFNicolas N'Koulou27 March 1990 (aged 24)48France Marseille
4DFCédric Djeugoué28 August 1992 (aged 21)3Cameroon Coton Sport
5DFDany Nounkeu11 April 1986 (aged 28)16Turkey Beşiktaş
6MFAlex Song9 September 1987 (aged 26)47Spain Barcelona
7MFLandry N'Guémo28 November 1985 (aged 28)40France Bordeaux
8FWBenjamin Moukandjo12 November 1988 (aged 25)17France Nancy
9FWSamuel Eto'o (c)10 March 1981 (aged 33)117England Chelsea
10FWVincent Aboubakar22 January 1992 (aged 22)24France Lorient
11MFJean Makoun29 May 1983 (aged 31)66France Rennes
12DFHenri Bedimo4 June 1984 (aged 30)31France Lyon
13FWMaxim Choupo-Moting23 March 1989 (aged 25)26Germany Mainz 05
14DFAurélien Chedjou20 June 1985 (aged 28)31Turkey Galatasaray
15FWPierre Webó20 January 1982 (aged 32)56Turkey Fenerbahçe
16GKCharles Itandje2 November 1982 (aged 31)9Turkey Konyaspor
17MFStéphane Mbia20 May 1986 (aged 28)49Spain Sevilla
18MFEyong Enoh23 March 1986 (aged 28)38Turkey Antalyaspor
19FWFabrice Olinga12 May 1996 (aged 18)8Belgium Zulte Waregem
20MFEdgar Salli17 August 1992 (aged 21)8France Lens
21MFJoël Matip8 August 1991 (aged 22)23Germany Schalke 04
22DFAllan Nyom10 May 1988 (aged 26)10Spain Granada
23GKSammy N'Djock25 February 1990 (aged 24)3Turkey Fethiyespor

Cameroon was disappointing in the 2010 World Cup as they finished their group stage without a win and a quick exit out of South Africa. This Cameroon team will feature most of the same players from the last World Cup with a few new additions. What they had in talent and athletic ability in 2010, they lack in team cohesion and chemistry, will this Cameroon team learn from their South Africa struggles and get out of this group stage?

Key Player: Alex Song

You can make a case that Samuel Eto'o is the best player in Cameroon but he is getting on there in age, Alex Song is currently the most important player Cameroon has in their disposal. Yes, his career has been ruined by Barcelona, but he is a midfielder that can pick out a pass, run the whole field and make a tackle. Song may need this World Cup more than ever to revive his career and prove he is the same player that came from Arsenal.

Player to Watch: Fabrice Olinga

What were you doing at 18 years old? Were you playing in a World cup? Assuming that answer is no, Fabrice Olinga is a position many 18 year dr olds dream of, he is the youngest player to play in the World Cup and has a chance to be a future star for his parent club Malaga team that has saw many of their star players leave over the past season. He holds the record of youngest ever goalscorer in La Liga and has the speed and eye for a goal that has gotten many comparisons to his teammate and idol Samuel Eto'o. Will he be able to handle the pressure of playing in the World Cup?

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