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Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2014/15 season. Here you can read match reports, transfer news and other important things to do with Arsenal
Latest News: Arsenal lose 2-0 to Dortmund away from home in first CL group stage game - match report now up!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dortmund dominant as Arsenal fall to first defeat

Tuesday night saw Arsenal embark on their 2014/15 Champions League campaign after successfully fending off the challenge of Besiktas in the qualifying stages last month. It wasn't a welcome return though as the Gunners were defeated 2-0 at the hands of German side Borussia Dortmund. It was one of the worst Arsenal performances in recent years and signaled our first defeat of the 2014/15 season having been unbeaten up to now.

In terms of the line-up Arsenal made three changes, two of which were forced. Debuchy and Monreal were both out with injury whilst Chambers had tonsillitis. Defence was the place we didn't want any injuries and being Arsenal that is of course the area we now seriously lack in. Debuchy's injury and Chambers not being 100% meant Bellerin came in for his first start whilst Gibbs returned at left back. The other change saw Arteta come in for Flamini.
It was a bad day at the office for Arsenal who were wearing their new blue kit for the first time
It's difficult to know where to start with Arsenal's performance in Germany yesterday evening. It was filled with a lot of flaws, and not a lot of positives, if any. At the moment there appears to be an open debate over whether to blame the players or the tactics of Wenger for our performances recently. It can be argued that there is a bit of both involved but one of the most frustrating things at the moment is the managers inability to not change his tactics.

Many a pundit recently has picked up on our inability to change our game when we come up against the big teams. It appears as though we approach every game with the same game plan and so far this season 4-1-4-1 just simply hasn't worked whatsoever. Our full-backs bombing forward seem to be the main issue at the moment, but that wouldn't be an issue if we had an enforcer in the middle of the park. Whether Wenger tells the full-backs to effectively play as wingers or whether they chose to do it themselves remains an unanswered question but our centre-backs are being left with no cover. Last season we got opened up against the big teams on the counter attack and against City and Dortmund it's been no different.

That was evident with the goal Ciro Immobile opened the scoring with yesterday. He exploited the gap in midfield and drove into the space where the left back should be. Although he perhaps got a little lucky with a touch to take him away from Koscielny he still provided a confident finish. The second goal meanwhile was a ball in behind and after Szczesny came racing out of his goal, Aubameyang stole in to fire into an empty net.

It was an extremely poor defensive performance which wasn't helped by Mikel Arteta's inability to keep the ball in midfield. Our new skipper is definitely not the answer to our defensive midfield woes and at the moment I'm finding it difficult to find a solution to that role. It amazes me how we failed to sign a player in that position despite having the funds available. Flamini, despite being a bully in midfield isn't the type of player that we're looking for to break up play and move it on throughout the different phases. Until that problem is addressed I can't see Arsenal doing particularly well in the big games, which comes as no surprise really.

On a more mundane level Hector Bellerin had an average game on his first start for the club. His attacking play was good but he looked a little vulnerable defensively, an area which I've already touched on.

Despite Dortmund's dominance throughout the game, Arsenal did have chances in the game and all of them seemed to fall to Danny Welbeck. Despite the fact that Dortmund probably should've won the game by a much bigger margin we did have our chances. In the first half Welbeck dragged a similar chance to the one he had against City wide, before in the second half blazing a chance over the bar after turning nicely past Sokratis. It's difficult to judge him after two tough games and I'm sure he'll improve but from first sightings he does look as though he needs to improve his composure, something that was picked up on during his spell at Man United.

The players will need to get this result out of their system quickly and move on and hopefully put in a much different performance next time out. Arsenal will be looking for their first win in four matches on Saturday as they travel to the Midlands to face a high flying Aston Villa side.

The team's line-ups:

Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Durm, Subotic, Sokratis, Schmelzer(79), Kehl(45), Bender, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Grosskreutz, Immobile(85).
Subs: Langerak, Bandowski, Ginter(45), Amini, Jojic(79), Kagawa, Ramos(85).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta(77), Ozil(61), Ramsey(61), Wilshere, Sanchez, Welbeck.
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(61), Rosicky, Cazorla(61), Campbell, Podolski(77).

Referee: Olegario Benquerenca.
Attendance: 65,851. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Arsenal impressive in entertaining draw with Man City

Before the international break Arsenal had had perhaps a slow start to the season but they showed no signs of rustiness as they secured a 2-2 draw in an entertaining fixture against Man City. It was already the second time the sides had met each other this season after the Gunners victory in the Community Shield. However, this time round it was more of an evenly fought contest which saw both sides come from behind at some point in the game. Aguero opened the scoring for City before a superb attacking display in the second half led to goals from Wilshere and Sanchez. It was a goal six minutes from time that decided the game though as Demichelis found the net and City's equaliser.

Arsenal made two changes from the side that faced Leicester almost two weeks ago as Wilshere replaced Cazorla and Welbeck made his debut in place of Yaya Sanogo who didn't make the squad at all. 
Jack Wilshere ran the show whilst former Gunner Samir Nasri (right) started on the bench
This match, coming just four games into the new Premier League season perhaps held extra significance considering our form against the top sides last season. We held City to a 1-1 draw last season at the Emirates but it was out 6-3 defeat away from home that we needed to avenge for. Everything looked rosy having gone 2-1 up but we showed signs of our former selves by conceding the equaliser in such a desperate way.

Similarly to last season Wenger allowed the full backs to move on up the pitch, and because of that we almost conceded more than we did. It was because of that that we did concede though. Navas was allowed to run freely down the right hand side with Monreal no where to be seen, the Spanish winger then found Sergio Aguero who got ahead of Szczesny to put the away side in front.

Arsenal's start up to then had been promising. We'd gone close on a few occasions but it was debutant Danny Welbeck who came closest. He picked up the loose ball before dinking the ball over Hart and off the post. It would've been the dream start for a man that swapped Manchester red for Arsenal red on transfer deadline day. Welbeck offered the Gunners something very different, something we haven't had for a few years in the form of pace upfront. Walcott had played up top on a few occasions but not to a consistent level. Welbeck will hopefully provide us with that consistency, and after a promising debut will look to score goals whilst Giroud is out injured.

It was the way with which we dropped all three points that was extremely disappointing though. A corner came in and Arsenal's zonal marking came back to haunt them as Demichelis somehow found himself unmarked to head home from 12 yards. After the quality of our goals, it was a big let down to go and let the game go like that.

Arsenal's goals came from the games outstanding performers. There have been questions raised recently over Jack Wilshere's role in the side and having played in a more deep lying role for England, he was granted a more attacking one against City. It appeared to pay off as he scored the equaliser and put in a brilliant midfield display both defensively and going forward. He linked up with Ramsey for his goal before beating Joe Hart at his near post with his weaker foot. Sanchez's goal was ever more impressive though. He's had a fine start to life at Arsenal, scoring in each of his last three games. Wilshere headed the ball back into the box before the Chilean side footed home an exquisite volley. It was a goal worthy of winning any contest, but sadly it wasn't to be.

Apart from the defensive display there were two other negatives. The first was that of Mesut Ozil. He was once again asked to play out on the left flank and he was rarely involved. It's such a shame to see a player who was considered one of the best players in the world before he joined us, playing out of position. 3 assists in his last 19 Premier League games backs up just how averagely he's performed recently. No runners in behind and having to play out of position are just two of the reasons for his dip in performance. It appears that for Wilshere's benefit and inclusion in the team, Ozil is having to suffer as a result and it isn't helping the German at all. As for the other negative, that fell to Mathieu Debuchy who after a string of consistent performances picked up a bad looking ankle injury that looks as though will keep him out of action for 2-3 months.

Our next game sees us travel to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League as the group stage gets underway. We beat them 1-0 last season away from home so here's hoping for a similar result!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy(81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini(90), Sanchez, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Welbeck(87).
Subs: Ospina, Chambers(81), Gibbs, Arteta,(90), Oxlade-Chamberlain(87), Cazorla, Podolski.
  
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Lampard(45), Milner, Navas, Silva, Aguero(68).
Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Sagna, Kolarov, Sinclair, Nasri(45), Dzeko(68).

My man of the match: Jack Wilshere.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg. 
Attendance: 60,003. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Laboured Arsenal drop points at promoted Leicester

Arsenal's somewhat laboured but unbeaten start to the season continued away to newly promoted Leicester on Sunday afternoon. Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring before Ulloa equalised minutes later for the Foxes who came away from the game with a deserved point. As for the Gunners, it signals that many improvements are needed and the same problems that we faced last season still need addressing. Writting this on deadline day it's clear that we need to sign a striker with only one natural one in Sanogo being available with Giroud's injury. However there were positives to find despite struggling against a team we should quite frankly be putting several goals past. The line-up saw a return for Ramsey who was suspended in the week against Besiktas which meant Wilshere missed out despite impressing. The Ox was back on the bench as Sanogo started up front whilst the defence were unchanged from the 1-0 win in midweek.
Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal in the Premier League
Following Arsenal's qualification into the Champions League for a 17th successive season, everyone in the club hoped that now would be the ideal time to kick on and really display our intentions. However, a draw against newly promoted Leicester was obviously not the best result to head into an international break off the back of. It was a slow performance and we struggled to create any real chances, just as the case was against Everton last week.

As much as Giroud is slated he's a much better alternative than that of Yaya Sanogo who still looks way out his depth at the moment and signing a striker in my opinion is a necessity. Sanogo was however involved in the goal but it was typical him in the fact that his miscued shot found Sanchez who was left with more or less an open net to fire into. It was the Chilean's second goal in as many games and he looks to already be paying back his hefty price tag. 

Arsenal's defence looked a bit shaky meanwhile and that was proved by the Leicester goal. Schlupp was allowed to get down the left and then Koscielny misjudged the ball to allow Ulloa to come in and head past Szczesny who arguably could've done a little better. Koscielny had to go off though and on came Chambers who looked assertive again. Nacho Monreal continued his consistent start to the season and he looks a completely different player to last season which is hugely encouraging considering Gibbs' injury troubles.

Mesut Ozil wasn't overly impressive but looks to be finding some sort of rhythm again but Santi Cazorla who was playing in a more central role, and a preferred central role looked much better than out wide. He managed to control the game quite well but we lacked that proper penetration from midfield to kick on in attack and that's why we didn't create that many chances. Again Ozil looked isolated on the left and another German, Podolski did when he came on up front which didn't surprise me.

Next up after the international break is Manchester City which will be an incredibly tough test but hopefully we'll sign one or two players on deadline day that will massively improve the team. Here's to hoping we don't get any injuries over the break too!

The teams line-ups:

Leicester: Schmeichel, Moore, De laet, Morgan, Konchesky, King, Mahrez(64), Schlupp(70), Hammond, Nugent, Ulloa(76).
Subs: Hamer, Wood, Drinkwater(76), Cambiasso, Wasilewski, Albrighton(64), Vardy(70),

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny(27), Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla(77), Sanchez, Ozil, Sanogo(77).
Subs: Martinez, Chambers(27), Wilshere, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(77), Campbell, Podolski(77).

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Attendance: 31,535.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Arsenal rescue point but same problems still remain

Arsenal once more put in a far from convincing display as their slow start to the season continued. The Gunners had to come from two down against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday evening as late strikes from Ramsey and Giroud rescued a point. It was a game of two halves and it took Wenger to make some bold changes in order for the game to turn around. Over the years matches between Everton and Arsenal have been very interesting and this was no different! Arsenal made a few changes from the opening day win as Ozil and Mertesacker returned whilst Flamini came in for the injured Arteta. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also started ahead of Santi Cazorla.
Olivier Giroud scored a vital late equaliser as Arsenal drew with Everton
It is difficult to describe exactly what Arsenal fans feel like after the draw with Everton. In some ways it feels like a win, and there is a mass sense of relief. However, you can't be happy with the way the side played. It was bold of Wenger to play quite an experimental line-up, as Alexis started up top with Ozil on the left. It was an experiment that didn't quite pay off, especially with Mertesacker playing with Chambers at the back for the first time.

It was clear to see the defense had been shuffled about and ultimately that led to our down fall, as well as the fact we had no runners when it came to our attacking phases of play. The first goal was poor marking at the back post as Ozil allowed Coleman to get round the back of him and head home a cross. As for the second one, Mertesacker was bullied by Lukaku before Chambers dived in and Flamini didn't go to his man. That all allowed Naismith to fire home despite looking slightly offside.

What was encouraging though and for the second week running was Arsenal's will and determination to not give up and to keep going. Arsenal had to go down and make some changes and the main one was that of Olivier Giroud. Sanchez hadn't particularly played as well as he could've done upfront and as a result was subbed at half time. Giroud completely changed the game around and gave us a different dimension up top and showed how valuable he can be at times. He did miss a big chance with his first touch at the beginning of the second half, blazing a volley over from close range. However he made up for that by scoring a vital headed equaliser from a Monreal cross in the dying embers of the game.

Aaron Ramsey was the player to yet again make the difference though. Another of the subs Santi Cazorla played well when he came on as he swung in a low cross to Ramsey who couldn't miss with six minutes remaining. The midfield combination of Wilshere and Ramsey hasn't seemed to work yet and it wasn't until Jack was brought off that Ramsey seemed to have more of an effect on the game. The question remains over Wilshere and he's going to really have to pick up his own game for the good of the team, and for his overall performance levels.

Arsenal's attacking play with Giroud on the pitch was very encouraging but like with all games there are negatives and despite the way we came back the defence does need addressing when it comes to these big games. Hopefully we'll see Koscielny back for the game against Leicester next weekend. First up is the second leg against Besiktas and following a 0-0 draw in Turkey, we simply have to win.

The team's line-ups:

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas(84), Pienaar(9), Lukaku(74), Naismith.
Subs: Joel, Alcaraz, Stones, Besic, Osman(9), Atsu(84), McGeady(74).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere(74), Oxlade-Chamberlain(74), Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez(45).
Subs: Martinez, Koscielny, Bellerin, Rosicky, Cazorla(74), Campbell(74), Giroud(45). 

Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 39,490. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Late Ramsey goal ensures opening day victory

Arsenal were made to work to ensure they came out of their opening Premier League fixture of the season with a win. Crystal Palace were Saturday's opponents who after Tony Pulis was sacked two days before the season got underway, didn't have a manager. Many predicted because of that the Gunners would steamroller their opponents but it was far from comfortable. Crystal Palace took the lead through a corner before Koscielny equalised and then Ramsey scored a real poachers goal deep into injury time. Arsenal were unchanged from the Community Shield as Sanchez, Debuchy and Chambers were all given league debuts for the club. Yaya Sanogo meanwhile continued up front.
Aaron Ramsey's late goal rescued all three points for the Gunners
Compared to last season's opening day, a game which we lost 3-1, the weekend saw a vast improvement. That improvement wasn't really something to be admired though. It was a slow performance with little attacking penetration. If you look at the win over Manchester City the weekend before there was a lot of interchanging passes on the edge of the area but against Palace they made that difficult as they remained solid at the back and gave us little chance to play the one-two's we find so effective.

All that was proved by the goals we scored. After having gone behind to poor marking to allow Hangeland to head home, Arsenal's first goal also came from a set-piece. Alexis Sanchez floated in a free-kick and Koscielny got free of his marker to flick home the Gunners first goal of the new campaign. The second came after a bit of a goal mouth scramble. Koscielny and Giroud both got up well to keep possession and then Debuchy saw an effort saved. The ball however rebounded to Aaron Ramsey who couldn't miss as Arsenal won the game with a matter of moments left.

Arsenal's late surge was helped by a red card to Jason Puncheon. Earlier in the second half he'd been booked for challenge through the back of Ramsey but then saw red for a clumsy challenge on Nacho Monreal. Monreal had originally been on the bench but due to yet another injury to Kieran Gibbs the Spaniard came on. Nacho had had a good start to life at Arsenal but he struggled for any real consistency last season but when he did come on against Palace he looked assured and gave Arsenal another dimension down the left hand side. Is the curse of the dreaded number 18, which he now wears, finally over? Only time will tell.

There weren't many standout performances but Mathieu Debuchy once again gave Arsenal fans a reason to be happy. There were doubts when Sagna left but Debuchy has been brilliant so far and we haven't missed his fellow Frenchman at all. He's showing clear reasons as to why he's been the preferred choice at right back for the French national side and long may his fine performances continue. He already looks very committed and his passion is second to none. His celebration with Monreal after Ramsey scored backs up that point. He's certainly already one of us despite only playing two competitive games for the club.

Calum Chambers has been thrown right in at the deep end since his move from Southampton but once again slotted straight in at centre back and looked assured. Perhaps not as assured as in recent weeks but his performance was still of a high caliber and he looks the real deal. Koscielny meanwhile saved us on a couple of occasions and apart from the goal we conceded the defence didn't really look in much trouble.

The midfield weren't as good as we expect from them but Wilshere especially is beginning to find his level again. There were instances when Arsenal struggled to keep hold of the ball and that'll have to be improved in the weeks coming. Against the bigger sides it'll be punished and it almost was when Arteta gave the ball away a few times in the Community Shield. Yaya Sanogo it's fair to say has been given his fair share of opportunities but despite scoring four relatively simple goals in the Emirates Cup against Benfica, he was poor against City last week and again against Palace. Giroud gave us something different when he came on and hopefully he'll start to play regularly now he's built up his match fitness.

Next up is a tough away trip to Besiktas for the first leg of our Champions League qualifier before we face Everton away from home next weekend.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Gibbs(53), Arteta, Wilshere(69), Ramsey, Sanchez, Cazorla, Sanogo(62).
Subs: Martinez, Monreal(53), Coquelin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(69), Campbell, Giroud(62). 

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Dann(75), Hangeland, Ward, Ledley, Jedinak, Puncheon, Bolasie(90), Chamakh, Campbell(85).
Subs: Hennessey, McCarthy, O'Keefe(90), Delaney(75), Bannan, Gayle(85), Murray.

My man of the match: Mathieu Debuchy.

Referee: Jonathon Moss.
Attendance: 59,962.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Arsenal win Community Shield with victory over Man City

Arsenal started the new season in the way they finished the last one, by winning a trophy. Sunday afternoon saw the Gunners take on League winners Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley, and despite both sides having weakened line-ups, it was Arsenal who ran out victors with a 3-0 win. Arsenal hadn't had the best pre-season possible having lost 2 out of the 4 games they played but they showed no form of rustiness with a brilliant counter attacking display against City. Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy all made their competitive debuts whilst new captain Mikel Arteta started in midfield. With Giroud lacking match fitness Sanogo started up front following his four goals against Benfica in the Emirates Cup.
It was a very comfortable display from Arsenal who dominated for many periods of the game and weren't really troubled by a City side who were lacking in strength due to a number of their World Cup players not featuring. Arsenal were without the likes of Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski but that didn't seem to matter as Cazorla, Ramsey and Giroud sealed another win at Wembley for Arsenal.

Santi Cazorla's goal came at a time where we had been putting an unerring amount of pressure on City. The Spaniard, back from an unsuccessful World Cup campaign, put that all behind him as he swiveled and put the ball onto his left foot before firing past former team mate Willy Caballero in the City goal. The second goal was taken brilliantly by Aaron Ramsey as he linked up with Yaya Sanogo before flicking the ball over the defenders leg and firing into the far corner. The game was to be settled by a bit of rare individual brilliance from Olivier Giroud. He got the ball 30 yards out from goal and hit a dipping effort which sailed into the net for undoubtedly his best goal in the red and white of Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud was bizarrely given the man of the match award despite only playing the second half. In my opinion the young Calum Chambers at centre half deserved it for an outstanding performance. A few eye brows were raised at the £16m price-tag but that has all been forgotten after some brilliant displays at the Emirates Cup were followed up by an excellent display of defending yesterday against City. For such a young player he has adapted remarkably well and looks as though he's been playing for years. He's very assured and composed on the ball, whilst his decision making and reading of the game is also brilliant. He reminds me a little bit of Per Mertesacker, just younger and with obviously more pace.

The other debutantes meanwhile also put in a solid shift. I was a bit apprehensive about the signing of Mathieu Debuchy but having seen him play yesterday he's an absolute warrior and gave his all for the team. He got stuck in and made some brilliant tackles which contributed to a comfortable defensive display for the Gunners. Alexis Sanchez ran himself into the ground in the first half before being substituted at half time. He never stopped running and could've had a goal and a number of assists to himself.
Arsenal lifted the Community Shield for the first time in 10 years
With the Germans to come back into the side, everything looks very positive at Arsenal at the moment. One or two more additions and I think we'd be set but providing the players stay relatively injury free we should be there or there abouts in terms of the Premier League this season. Our first game of the season is against Palace and here's to hoping it'll be a lot lot better than 2013/14's opening day!

The teams line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny(45), Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(83), Wilshere(67), Sanchez(45), Cazorla(70), Sanogo(45). 
Subs: Martinez, Monreal(45), Flamini(67), Rosicky(70), Oxlade-Chamberlain(45), Campbell(83), Giroud(45). 

Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Boyata, Nastasic, Kolarov(75), Fernando, Toure(60), Navas(83), Nasri(45), Dzeko(60), Jovetic. 
Subs: Hart, Richards(75), Rekik, Zucilini(60), Milner(60), Silva(45), Sinclair(83). 

My man of the match: Calum Chambers.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 71,523. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup Preview; Groups G & H

In the final part of my preview ahead of this year's World Cup in Brazil, I explore both Groups G and H.

Group G:

Germany: The Germans are being tipped as widely one of the favourites to go far, and maybe even win the tournament. They've finished in third place at the last two World Cup's and came second in 2002. It will be up to Joachim Low's 'nearly men' to go further and win their fourth world title. It's extremely hard to pick a weakness in their squad. They have arguably the best keeper in the world, a mix of youth and experience, a solid defence, a vast amount of creative players and Miroslav Klose who is just two goals away from scoring the most goals at a World Cup finals by an individual player. Aside from Brazil, I think Germany are one of the teams with the most pressure on them at this years tournament. Prediction: I think they will at least makes the semi-finals and could possibly go onto reach the final and maybe even win it.

Portugal: They go into this World Cup with possibly one of their worst crop of players they have ever had. Saying that, they do have the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo who has the potential to win games on his own for Portgual. They reached the finals through a play-off win over Sweden and their side not having a renowned striker means they may not live up to their full billing. Their defence looks decent but in Bruno Alves and Pepe they may pick up a lot of cards, meanwhile their midfield will probably be ran by Joao Moutinho of Monaco. Prediction: Behind Germany it's a three horse race to see who will qualify in what is being named the Group of Death. However, because of Ronaldo I think they'll just about scrape through.

Ghana: In 2010 the Ghanians managed to reach the quarter-finals and have the potential to perhaps go far again but will probably come unstuck against Germany and Portugal by their leaky defence. They have a great midfield and attack with incredibly depth though which means they should be fine when it comes to scoring and creating goals. Kevin Prince-Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, Essien, Muntari and the Ayew brothers will be big players for them. Prediction: Have the potential to harm Portugal and therefore may make it out of the group, I think they'll just fall short and finish third though.

USA: The Americans may have a tough time at this years World Cup but have plenty of experience. However, their defence could be exposed against the greatness of the attacks of the other teams in their group. They themselves have a decent attack in Dempsey and Altidore. They meanwhile have Jermaine Jones who used to play for Schalke and also Tim Howard in goal. Landon Donavon was surprisingly not included in the squad and that could prove to be a mistake. The US managed to draw with England in 2010 but you feel that Germany and Portugal will be a bridge too far for them in Brazil. Prediction: Bottom of the group having not won a game, a dismal tournament for Jurgen Klinsmann's men.

Group H:

Belgium:  Belgium could prove to this years surprise package and are filled with some amazing talent that could see them go far in the competition. The finished top of their qualifying group having not lost a game and they'll look to take that form into Brazil. For all their amazing talent, Hazard, Kompany, Witsel, Courtois etc, they could struggle due to Benteke being out injured and Lukaku only just returning from an ankle injury. Therefore their hopes could rest upon young Divock Origi to score the goals. What could get them far though is their extremely solid defence and the strength in depth in the midfield department. Prediction: I think they'll top the group but the last 16 could be the limit for the Red Devils.

Algeria: This time round the Algerian's will be hoping that they can actually score a goal at this year's tournament, let alone get any points in their group. In South Africa they didn't score a single goal but this time round a lot of their players play in Europe's top five leagues. The man to watch for them will most likely be Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli. Their forward line doesn't look great but they have depth in midfield and that could be crucial if the Algerian's want to progress. Prediction: Like with 2010, I think they'll finish bottom of their group having not won a game.

Russia: The Russian's go into this World Cup managed by former England boss Fabio Capello and could cause an upset along the way. It's a very interesting group and it's hard to tell who will probably follow Belgium into the last sixteen. Like with a few of the other teams in Brazil, they have a good mix of youth and experience to call upon. Ignashevich is a very experienced defender whilst their goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev isn't too bad either. Alan Dzagoev impressed at Euro 2012 and is their main creative outlet. Meanwhile, they will be relying upon Alexsandr Kerzhakov to bag them the goals needed to progress. Prediction: Second in the group, but knocked out in the last 16.

South Korea: With the group the South Koreans are in, they have the potential to get out of it but they don't usually seem to click when it matters. They're in poor form going into the World Cup and a 4-0 defeat to Ghana proved that. Their defence will probably be their man downfall but their midfield and striking department isn't all that bad. Park Ji Sung usually seems to perform well for South Korea whilst the also have ex-Sunderland player Ji Dong-Won and Leverkusen's Son Heung-Min to call upon. Meanwhile, Ki from Sunderland and Lee from Bolton have both been included in the squad. Prediction: I've said with many teams that they have potential and South Korea are one of those nations that definitely fall into that category. I can see them getting out of the group, but I can also see them failing, and that's what I think they'll do by finishing third in what looks an interesting group on paper.