Although this is an Arsenal blog, it’s come to that time of the year where it’s hard to take your eyes off of international football with the world uniting in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Over four parts, I’ll be previewing the teams, two groups at a time, playing in this year’s football festival.
Brazil: The hosts and possible World Cup favourites go into this world cup under the expectancy of a nation. Their last triumph came in 2002 and they’ll be eager to put all the political unrest behind the country as they bid to win the competition for the sixth time. They won last year’s confederations cup which if that is anything to go by, then they’ll have a very successful tournament. Neymar will be pivotal to any success they have and their defence is very solid with the likes of Dante and Thiago Silva at the back. If there’s one issue, it’s in the forward department; Jo and Fred are their main outlets ahead of a very talented midfield. Prediction: I think they’ll reach the final, and may well go onto win the whole thing.
Croatia: The Croats reached the finals via a play-off victory over Iceland. As far as I’m concerned Group A is wide-open in terms of who will finish behind hosts Brazil. Croatia have a very tough start as they face the hosts themselves and because of that could face an uphill struggle against a Mexican and Cameroonian side who the conditions will be favourable for. They do have a very talented squad but whether they can cut it at international level on the biggest stage of all remains to be seen. Their strike force consists of Mandzukic, Jelavic, Eduardo and Olic so they won’t be short going forward. Meanwhile they have the creative talents of Modric and Rakitic. Srna, Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka mean they aren’t too shoddy at the back either. Prediction: It’s tough to predict who will finish second but looking at their squad I think they might just make it through to the last sixteen.
Mexico: The Mexicans have gone into this year’s competition in poor form and for that reason may not do that well when it comes to Brazil. The conditions will favour them but their best has yet to be seen. Carlos Vela is still refusing a call-up to the national side so the hopes rest on Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez. A few of their players seem to be growing old, Rafeal Marquez who used to play for Barca had a good 2010 campaign but is past his best, as is ex-Fulham full back Carlos Salcido. They do have a reliable centre-half in Espanyol defender Hector Moreno though. Looking elsewhere, Guardardo, Giovani and Herrera will be looking to provide Hernandez with the chances. Prediction: 3rd in Group A.
Cameroon: Their golden era of talent seems to be coming to an end and their squad looks very thin on the ground in terms of quality. They’ll most likely be battling it out with Mexico for the wooden spoon in the group but their brand of football and lack of creative players mean they could be in for a very troubled World Cup. Their goals will be relied upon by record scorer Samuel Eto’o. Their defence doesn’t look altogether that bad though, and you can’t help but feel their best tactic would to be ‘park the bus’. Alex Song and Mbia will be holding whilst N’Koulou, Chedjou, Bedimo and Assou-Ekotto will probably line-up at the back, all of those four play their trades in Europe. Prediction: Hard to see them winning any games, will probably finish bottom of the group.
Spain: The 2010 winners go into this World Cup as perhaps the only European side that can realistically win in Brazil. They arguably have a greater pool of players than in 2010 but it can be argued that some of those players lack experience. Saying that, it didn’t seem to matter for the Germans in South Africa with their youthful squad. The Spanish however seem to have the perfect mix of youth and experience within their ranks. The 2013 Confederations Cup showed that they can’t play with the same tempo that they’re so used to and therefore a change in tactic will perhaps be needed if they’re to retain their title and continue their dominance. Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos/Pique and whoever they chose to play upfront will be crucial. Prediction: At least the semi-finals, have the potential to go on and lift the trophy.
Under the stewardship of new Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands have a manager with huge experience and that could prove crucial in what could be a tournament to forget for the Dutch. Their first game is a repeat of the 2010 final against Spain which is an incredibly tough fixture. They didn’t lose once in qualifying though which is an encouraging sign. There’s no doubting their attacking quality with the likes of Robben, van Persie and Sneijder creating and scoring goals but their defence remains an issue. Prediction: Will face a tough battle to get out of the group and I think they’ll finish third.
Chile: They’re being tipped by many to go far in the competition due to the fact that the competition is being held in South America. That’s fairly understandable and they have some players that could really shine at this year’s competition. They managed to finish third only to Argentina and Colombia qualifying and even finished above Uruguay. They meanwhile beat England 2-0 in November 2013. With players such as Barca’s Alexis Sanchez and Juve’s Arturo Vidal they have the potential to go far. Other notable players include David Pizarro, Gary Medel of Cardiff, Beausejour of Wigan and Isla from Juventus. All of the players above should mean Chile are a threat going forward, especially with Eduardo Vargas up front. Prediction: Second in the group, ahead of Holland. Could be worth putting a couple of quid on.
Australia: You have to feel sorry for the Aussies with the group they’re in. They’re highly unlikely to win a game and the Socceroos are probably in for a dismal time in Brazil. The players they fielded throughout qualifying were of a higher quality and experience than the ones going to the World Cup. Many of their notable players haven’t been picked but they still bolster Mile Jedinak, Mark Bresciano and of course Tim Cahill. You can’t see them having anything but from a disappointing campaign and they could leak a few goals on the way too. Prediction: Bottom of the group.