World Cup PreviewDate: June 11, 2014
By John Fanta
For the 20th time, one of the most captivating moments in all of sports will take center stage around the world. It only comes once every four years, making it all that more meaningful. Not enough hype? Well, it is staged in a country that is at the top of the world in the way it celebrates the great game of soccer. While Brazil is in conflict currently, the nation holds soccer as a priority.
And as for Brazil squad, they lead a Group A that gives them a very good chance to move on. The expectations for Brazil are so high that the pressure on them could be their own worst enemy, if there is any, in group play. Brazil will open up with Croatia. The Croats' offense is expected to possess an explosive factor, but goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and their defense are suspect to giving up goals.
As far as the scheduling goes, Crotia will have to play in the toughest of atmospheres when Brazil opens the whole tournament. On a brighter note, the pressure turns to the Brazilians with the crowd. The Croats will face a setback as forward Mario Madzukic is suspended for the first game, as Nico Kovac's role will be even more increased to deliver a star impact. If Croatia loses, their game against Cameroon most likely becomes a must-win. Striker Samuel Eto'o, a legend of Africa, leads Cameroon in. The striker brings a star impact to the table, and if Cameroon is going to make a run, it will come because the Croats sleep on them. As for Mexico, they appear to be the most dysfunctional team entering the tournament. Not many know about what they'll do under manager Rafael Marquez. Defensively, it looks as if they will go with three center backs. For the past four seasons, Mexico has advanced to the knockout stages, but the question remains as to how their offense will be structured.
Just as Brazil is the frontrunner in Group A, Spain is stacked from top to bottom. Xavi, David Villa, and Xabi Alonso are back for the squad, one that is loaded with veterans. There is no sign of a hangover from Spain, but Group B has some depth to it. Chile is the team that many like, and they've backed those projections up recently. The Chilean team has moved into the top 15 in the World Cup rankings and has stayed in the same spot in the last two years. While Alexis Sanchez leads a very potent attack, Juventus standout Vidal had knee surgery and his stability is certainly in question in this tournament. Chile has to attack, because playing a physical, slow-paced game will lead to their demise. The Dutch, which are led by Robin Van Persis once again and look to get back into the World Cup Finals. The question with the Netherlands still lies with the goalkeeper situation. Edwin van der Sar is no longer, leaving Michel Vorm, Tim Krul, and others fighting for it. The most overlooked team in the group is Australia. It's not a well-known team, with the most notable player being striker Tim Cahill. The team will play a style that spreads defenses out, which could open up an opportunity to make some noise, but it's highly unlikely that they move on.
As for Group C, it's anybody's game. If Radamel Falcao strikes the way he's advertised, Colombia should be the frontrunner in the group. Yet, Ivory Coast looks to be on the forefront of a berth to the final 16. Japan, led by Shinji Kagawa, does not look to be a physical team, but the group's not really made out to play that way. And Greece is one big question mark, as they will heavily rely on Kastas Mitroglou.
Luis Suarez, one of the most captivating players in the entire World Cup, will substantially determine how Group D will play out. His knee injury has many wondering if Italy and England can slide into the top of group. While the Italians are younger, head coach Cesare Prandelli's style should win out in this group. With three former champions in the group, it creates that message of experience compared to the wide open Group C. Star player Wayne Rooney looks to deliver for England. As for Costa Rica, they come down to defense after they only allowed seven goals in their final 10 qualifying phase matches. In the end, Italy has the most overall talent and experience, and Suarez is quite a question.
France has caught breaks entering this World Cup after a disastrous 2010 in which the team protested the tournament. The French won the Championship Game in June of 2006 with losing seasons and no postseason sandwiched around that year. Didier Deschamps, a new coach, looks to open up Les Blues, as they call them. Four years after the Swiss struggled to find a goal in South Africa, their offense still doesn't have many answers. The dark horse, an explosive Ecuador team, could take advantage if the Swiss attack doesn't get anything easy. Following that, Honduras will be the final team in the World Cup. The draw certainly favors France, and this is a prime example. Senior year isn't over yet.
Check back tomorrow for John Fanta's complete preview of Groups F, G, and H, including the latest on USA Soccer and more. To follow the World Cup, check us out on twitter @John_Fanta and @WSOUSports