So this morning the world stopped what it was doing for about 60 minutes and watched the draw for the upcoming World Cup 2014. The draw in classic FIFA fashion featured retired footballers picking small balls out of pots; pots with numbers like 1,2,3, and 4 and letters like X. For the first time in a long time there isn’t a definitive “Group of Death” (sorry US Soccer fans, it’s just not a Group of Death).
So, join me over the next two pieces as I delve into the groups and offer my thoughts on who’s coming out of the groups and who you should watch out for. Here is a loot at Group A through D of next Summers World Cup in Brazil.
Brazil | Croatia | Mexico | Cameroon
If there’s a side feeling pressure to perform it has to be the hosts, but that being said they’ve got themselves a winnable group. The hosts are drawn against a Croatia side who struggled to get past Iceland in the UEFA playoffs, El Tri who looked ABYSMAL during CONCACAF’s final qualifying round but lucked out by drawing New Zealand in the cross continental playoffs, and Cameroon who qualified thanks to a 4-1 second leg win over Tunisia (a match I watched and was MUCH closer than the score indicated). If you are a fan of Seleção you should be expecting to win the group, but the question will be will you drop points, and I’m not sure the group will lead to that. I feel that the Brazil v Cameroon match will be the best match of the group stage, if Cameroon can nick a draw they could come out as group winners.
Runner Up: Cameroon, unless El Tri remember they’re actually pretty good!
Match to Watch: Brazil v Cameroon
Players to Watch: Well you could list the whole Brazil side, but let’s not. So Brazil the main man is Neymar who’ll be the focal point of whatever Nike plan to plug at the World Cup. Naff haircut aside if Neymar does well, Brazil will do well. El Tri’s hopes will rely on whether or not 346 year old Gerrardo Torrado is 100% (I’m reasonably certain he’ll be holding up the midfield for Mexico in Qatar), while Cameroon will be holding out hopes that their golden oldie Samuel Eto’o will be able to bang in a couple of goals.
Spain | Netherlands | Chile | Australia
So the opening Group B tie is a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, will it include a Nigel De Jong karate kick? Let’s hope not. Most people would look at this group and say “oh well Spain will win the group and the Dutch will finish second” (I’ve had several texts saying such), but those people would be wrong. Despite 2010 being their first World Cup in 12 years Chile are nothing to be sneezed at, they took the Spanish to the limit in the group stage in South Africa and I think that they have it in them to shock the world this time. As for the Aussies, they should be happy that they might win the Ashes back in Cricket and happen to be a somewhat okay rugby side.
Runner Up: Spain
Match to Watch: Chile v Spain
Players to Watch: Alexis Sanchez the Barca man tore England to ribbons in the Chile win at Wembley recently and is an absolutely incredible player and I can’t wait to see the battle of Barca when Sanchez lines up against the Spanish Paul Scholes’s of Inesta and Xavi. Speaking of Xavi and Inesta they’re my players to watch for Spain because they are incredible passers of the ball and they grew up admiring Paul Scholes and Matt Le Tissier (Note to England: Messing about with players like Scholes and Le Tiss is why you’ll never win a World Cup, again)
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Colombia are back, but are they for real? If there’s a team which fails to impress on the biggest stage it’s the Colombians. However, this time it could be different powered by Falcao, the Colombians have become a force on the international stage and should win the group. With Greece you know you’re getting a well organized side who’ll play hard (I remember offering this opinion when they won Euro 2004). Ivory Coast will depend very much on Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, and Japan are always going to cause problems.
Winner: Colombia, I’m out on a limb and ready to be let down.
Runner Up: Ivory Coast
Match to Watch: Ivory Coast v Japan, it’ll determine the runner up spot.
Players to Watch: Colombia has Falcao, but they also have Faryd Mondragón who probably won’t see the pitch (he’ll be 43 when the tournament kicks off), and the backup keeper is here as the link to the Colombia sides of Valderrama and Andres Escobar, if he doesn’t make the plane for Brazil I’m going to be let down in my prediction. For Greece the key to success will be Konstantinos Mitroglou who scored 3 of the 4 Greece goals in their play-off win over Romania. Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba will be the men Ivory Coast live and die by. As for Japan, their man is Keisuke Honda who’s sure to be the main Mizuno man in Brazil.
Uruguay | Costa Rica | England | Italy
I’m going to start this from the viewpoint of a lad who was born in Yorkshire, because well, I was born in Yorkshire. England couldn’t have got a worse draw for the World Cup. When England qualified for the World Cup I was asked for a prediction of how they’d do and said “If Roy Hogdson gets them to the Semi-Finals he should be knighted by the Queen”, when I saw this group I changed that knighthood requirement to get out of the group stage. Uruguay have been inconsistent recently, but they have a top three that rival any in the world in Suarez, Cavani, and Diego Forlan, and I think they’ll win the group. Costa Rica can be tricky and US fans will let people know, all about after the Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park Snowbowl. And Italy? Well they’re Italy, they do what they have to, to make sure they make the tournament, then they do what needs to be done to win or come damn close.
Runner Up: Any of the others. Surely you didn’t think I’d guarantee England did you?
Match to Watch: Italy v. Uruguay. If you’re shocked I didn’t pick England and Italy, you shouldn’t be. England Italy will be a dire nil-nil draw because that would serve England best. Italy and Uruguay however, it could be the match of the group stage.
Players to Watch: Suarez because he’s literally on fire. Joel Campbell will be the key for Costa Rica, Pirlo will pull the strings for the Italians, and Joe Hart will be the key to England, hopefully they avoid this.
So this brings to an end, part one of my World Cup 2014 rundown – stay tuned as very shortly I’ll be back with the other half of the draw and my opinions, including whom I think will win the World Cup, here’s a hint, they haven’t appeared yet!