June 12, 2014

2014 World Cup preview part 2: Groups E-H

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

We’re back with the four remaining groups for Brazil 2014. If you’re not excited for tonight’s opener, you might not have a pulse.

Group E

While many will fret Franck Ribery’s injury, it’s not like France has a lack of options. This could be Antoine Griezmann’s opportunity to bust out on the big stage. The Real Sociedad winger could be in for a move to big club with a good showing … France has a habit of being off and on from World Cup to World Cup. Considering its massive failure in 2010, Les Bleus are due for a decent run … Switzerland may be the most underrated overrated team. While it isn’t necessarily deserving of its high FIFA ranking, it isn’t as bad as many think. The Swiss have some good players like Gokhan Inler and Xherdan Shaqiri to make some plays and win a game or two … Ecuador, which plays its home games it altitude, is a real wildcard. I don’t doubt their stamina and ability to play in the heat, but the team lacks the star power and should be short on offence … Honduras has looked good in the pre-tournament warmups, causing bookmakers to lower their odds of getting out of this group.

Prediction: No team scores more than a goal in any match. The Swiss will get a late winner against Honduras to send it through while Ecuador can’t top France on the group’s final day. Standings: France, Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras.

Group F

This group is Argentina’s to lose and a big reason why Lionel Messi is a good pick to win the Golden Boot. The three opponents he will face have less than stellar defending, which should help him get a head start on opposing scorers … Argentina isn’t short on offensive talent either if Messi chokes – as he usually does internationally. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria are more than capable of picking up the slack … If you’re thinking that Argentina can win it all, just remember the curse of Group F. No team coming out of Group F has ever won the World Cup … Bosnia & Herzegovina is the smallest nation at the World Cup and one of the smallest ever, in fact … The former Yugoslav nation will be led by Edin Dzeko, who Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said should have been the EPL player of the year – for what that’s worth … The Dragons are also the only team in Brazil making their World Cup debut. It’s the first time since 1950 that there has been a lone debutant … Nigeria has never been out of the group stage at the World Cup, but don’t hold that against it. The Super Eagles may not have the star power of fellow African nations, but they do work well as a team … Iran is full of unknowns that play in the Iranian league, making it a true wild card. It is also the highest ranked team in AFC, ahead of the likes of Japan, South Korea and Australia. I’m just not sure how well it can play under the pressure of the World Cup spotlights with so many minor-league players.

Prediction: La Albiceleste waltzes through with nine points while Dzeko powers his country past Nigeria and Iran fades into the background. Standings: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, Iran.

Group G

Germany has four things in Brazil: Incredible attacking depth, injury problems, defensive question marks and a lot of support … Marco Reus’ injury was the latest hit to the Germans, who say that they’ll be fine without the Dortmund attacker. They have replacements, but few of Reus’ calibre … If it can’t be solid across the back line, I don’t see Zee Germans winning the tournament, as more than a few pundits have predicted … Portugal’s hopes lie with Cristiano Ronaldo and his ability to stay on the field. Tendonitis and muscle injuries don’t exactly go away or heal in hot, humid climates. That said, Portugal’s defence was one of the overlooked good stories in South Africa … Ghana has a habit of knocking the USA out of tournaments, but won’t have that shot given that they meet in their opener … It was nice of Jozy Altidore to score twice in the Americans’ final tuneup, but if that form doesn’t continue it will spell trouble … TFC’s Michael Bradley could vault himself into international stardom if he can replicate his recent play on the biggest stage … Ghana may not have the name players like Cote d’Ivoire, but it often plays even better than its West African rivals.

Prediction: The USA regrets leaving Landon Donovan at home as the goals dry up. The Germans and Portuguese have little trouble advancing, with goal differential being the ultimate difference. Standings: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.

Group H

Belgium, a country divided, has stumbled into one heck of a golden generation. With young talent like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne, the Red Devils shouldn’t have much trouble in this group. It’s next round, when they’ll face the Group of Death’s runnerup, that will give them trouble … Russia will be a lot more defensive under Fabio Capello than this team has been in recent years. While most players are from teams in the Russian league or in eastern Europe, this side shouldn’t be overlooked … The Russians looked good in their opener at Euro 2012, before faltering and ultimately bowing out early … South Korea is the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, yet many like their prospects of making it to the knockout phase … It has been 12 years since that miracle run to the semifinals at home and people tend to overrate them because of that glorious run … Algeria is one of the tournament’s biggest darkhorses, according to our Kurtis Larson. I, personally, just don’t see it. With a lot of unknown players, the North African nation could surprise, but we’re likely in for a “park the bus” routine like it tried in 2010.

Prediction: Algeria won’t pick up a point, but will cause headaches on the pitch. Russia barely nudges out South Korea to join Belgium in the next round. Standings: Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria.

Last but certainly not least, I’ll be back later with my knock-out phase predictions and of course the pick to win it all.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki as well as QMI’s @KurtLarSUN for his on-the-ground coverage in Brazil.

1 Comment

  1. I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

Leave a Reply