KRIS LINDSAY - Thursday, June 12, 2014
Here is Part 2 of Kris Lindsey's epic preview of the 2014 World Cup
Switzerland - Achieved a seeded spot by grace of FIFA's rankings, and little else. They may be one of the few seeded teams that do not advance out their group. They will be looking within for goals, as the highest tallied goalscorer on the team is 29 year old Tranquillo Barnetta, with just 10 goals to his name. Arguably their best talent, Xherdan Shaqiri, plays for Bundesliga champs, Bayern Munich.
Ecuador - Have a speedy midfield, with captain and Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia at the helm. Jefferson Montero provides the speed on the wing, while Felipe Caicedo is a force in the attack. There will be many questions asked about the defense, which has very little depth. They may be able to advance out of this group, but don't look for them to go much further than that.
France - May have been dealt the easiest hand. Their midfield will be the class of the group, and their forwards are very strong also, with Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud leading the way. Hard to see a scenario that doesn't see France through to the next round, but hey, it's France, right?
Honduras - Honduras enter their second straight World Cup as the obvious underdogs in the group. They showed poorly in two of their send off friendlies, before surprisingly drawing with England. In the last World Cup they were able to draw with Switzerland, but weren't able to score a goal the entire tournament. They bring a side that is getting progressively more experience in Europe, but they still rely heavily on the Honduran league to supply players, most notably, their keeper, Noel Valladares.
Who gets out: France, Ecuador
Players to watch: Karim Benzema (France), Paul Pogba (France), Jefferson Montero (Ecuador), Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
Watch out for the upset: Switzerland and Honduras drew in the last World Cup, so there is potential for Honduras to get a big result, especially against Ecuador and Switzerland. Remember that they did draw with England, so they should not be overlooked.
Argentina - Title contenders, without question. Their offensive arsenal is rivalled by none, with Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Ezekiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero, and Inter star Rodrigo Palacio highlighting an obscene attack. If Argentina can score goals, their defense is sufficient enough that it should hold for a deep run on their home continent.
Bosnia and Herzegovina - They have a much improved midfield, and Edin Dzeko is always dangerous as the lead striker. Their question will appear at the back line. They have enough to get out a pretty weak group, but it will likely come down to the game against Nigeria.
Nigeria - Have a lot of speed around the field, but seem to lack a bit of chemistry as a whole. They have some decent players, including Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, and Emmanuel Emenike, but they will need to pull it together against the other teams if they have a shot at advancing.
Iran - Qualified from the Asian confederation. They have 14 players from their domestic league on the roster. Ashkan Dejagah spent the last season with relegation doomed Fulham from the English Premier League, but the surrounding cast doesn't cause a lot of second-glances from the other opponents in the group. MLS fans will recognize their own Steven Beitashour, an Irani-American defender born in San Jose, California.
Who gets out: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Players to watch: Entire group of Argentine forwards, Edin Dzeko (Bosnia)
Watch out for the upset: Nigeria has the punch and the speed to cause some problems for teams that are slow at the back (Bosnia, Iran, and Argentina-). They may steal a draw from one of the top two teams.
Germany - Easily one the class teams in this tournament. The problem? There are several question marks that surround key players, and Marco Reus is already out for the tournament. Germany will advance out of this group, but will they look vulnerable? Absolutely.
Portugal - The health of Ronaldo will probably be the decisive factor on whether or not the Portuguese sneak through to the next round. There is skill in every facet of the game for them, with great players in the midfield, defense and attack (if Ronaldo plays).
Ghana - The Black Stars are considered the weak link of Group G, but they should not be taken lightly. With Andre Ayew, Kevin-Prince Boateng, and Sulley Muntari in the midfield, this team should give a lot of trouble to the other teams in their group, and have an outside shot of advancing, themselves.
United States - Offensively and in the midfield, the Americans seem to be in a good position, but they will rely strictly on how they handle the talented midfielders and wingers with their defenders. If the United States can find a way to retain possession, and keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing weapons, then they have a chance.
Who gets out: Germany, United States
Players to watch: Thomas Muller (Germany), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Michael Bradley (USA), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana).
Watch out for the upset: This is probably one of the few groups where all 4 teams could advance from the group with little surprise, if they were with other teams. The winner of this group may advance with 4-5 points.
Belgium - The Belgians are considered to be one of the dark horses of the tournament, and with good reason. They have the firepower in the midfield, forward positions, and the defense to make a deep run in the tournament. Romelu Lukaku, the powerful forward, may miss the opener with an ankle sprain, but Belgium has a stable of other scoring forwards that can step in.
Algeria - If the Algerians are to make a run, it will start in their midfield, which will be run through Valencia star Sofiane Feghouli. There is no player on the squad with more than 11 international goals under his belt, so they will be looking for offense.
Russia - The Russians also come stumbling into the tournament, losing their captain Roman Shirokov to injury. There is not one player on the Russian team that plays outside of the Russian Premier League, but that does not mean that there is a lack of talent. Aleksandr Kerzhakov has 25 international goals, and five players on the roster boast 60 caps or more with the national team. It is an experienced group, and it should be able to get through to the round of 16.
Korea Republic - The Koreans come in as a bit of a wild card, with several playmakers that have the potential to spark an upset, but not likely enough firepower to advance to the next round. Ki Sung-Yueng and Park Chu-Young are both Koreans with Premier League experience, and that should translate to the field come clutch time in the World Cup.
Who gets out: Belgium, Russia
[b] Players to watch: Eden Hazard (Belgium), Park Chu-Young (Korea Republic)
Watch out for the upset: Korea will have the chance to move on, but it will need to get a good result against either Russia or Belgium, get a win against Algeria, and hope that Algeria can pull a result against either Russia or Belgium.