World Cup Report: Day 0: And So It Begins

Hey, does anyone know what will start tomorrow?

World_Tea_Cup

Wait…is that what Miguel Herrera meant when he said that Mexico could win the World Cup?

Anyways, in case you missed it:

THEWORLDCUPISCOMING

AREN’T YOU EXCITED? I’M EXCITED!!! TO THE PREVIEWS!!!

(Note: I will basically be your World Cup tour guide. I will be telling you facts and opinions of the world’s biggest single-sport event for the whole tournament. Your welcome.)

Group A: the Group of Passive Interest + Brazil

How excited can anyone who isn’t a fan of one of these teams be for this group? I mean, yeah, Brazil is the host and they’re really good, but outside of that what is there? But it isn’t a bad group, either. Mexico is fascinating, Croatia is a dark horse with great uniforms, while Cameroon has already had their share of drama. But is it as intriguing as Group B (Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia), Group D (Uruguay, Italy, England, Costa Rica) or Group G (USA, Germany, Portugal, Ghana)? No way. While this group can’t be ignored, outside of the Brazilian team I doubt it will dominate the headlines much at all.

Let’s go team-by-team now, shall we? We shall:

Brazil

Confederation: CONMEBOL (South America)

Best result: WINNER! 5 TIMES!

Chances in this year’s tournament: 3 out of 3: Serious Title Contenders!

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari (Big Phil to me, and yeah, he’s won one of these before.)

Key Players:

-Neymar (#10, pos: MF/FW, age: 22, club: Barcelona)

This guy is legit, as he proved in last year’s Confederations Cup. He came in with the weight of the host nation on his shoulders, and he stole the show. He’s had a shaky first season with Barcelona, but everyone on this Brazil team seems, to me at least, to do better for Brazil than they do for their club teams.

-Thiago Silva (#3, pos: DF, age: 29, club: Paris Saint-Germain)

The PSG center-back, and Brazil captain, is often times rated as the best defender in the world, because he is. Considering that Brazil have full-backs who like to get forward, and Silva’s partner in central defense, David Luiz, is inconsistent defensively, Silva will need to come up big in his home nation to shut down the many great attacks they will have to get past.

-Julio Cesar (#12, pos: GK, age: 34, club: Toronto FC/Queens Park Rangers)

Yeah, okay, maybe central attacking midfielder Oscar or striker Fred deserved to be in this space instead of Cesar, but this guy has been playing in MLS! The starting goalkeeper for the Brazil National Team has been playing in Major League Soccer! In Canada, no less! CANADA! Has anyone ever won the World Cup while playing in Canada? I DON’T THINK SO!!!

(Note: he’s on loan to TFC, and since his parent club, QPR, have achieved promotion back to the EPL, he will probably return to London after the World Cup. But where did he go to get playing time? MLS!!!)

Outlook:

This Brazilian side are very good, and they seem confident (especially their young star, Neymar) but the pressure that they are under is huge, and winning the World Cup is never an easy task.

And no, I’m not going to talk about the 1950 World Cup final. If you haven’t heard it, then you must be living under a rock. Or at least not following soccer very closely. Medium-story-short: Brazil, at home, had a chance to win, they lost, everyone was sad, except Uruguay because they won, the end.

About a year ago this Brazilian team was under scrutiny. I remember reading an article in which they were compared to England. England! Things have changed, they won the Confederations Cup convincingly, and now they’re undeniable favorites to win it all.

But just because they’re favorites doesn’t mean they’ll definitely win. Spain, Argentina, Germany, and several other countries have teams almost as good, or, indeed, just as good, as Brazil’s. You can also look at the fact that Brazil’s attacking 4 are all either coming off bad seasons (Neymar, Oscar) or play in relatively weak leagues (Fred, Hulk).

But if Brazil can channel the dominance of the Confederations Cup win last year, they’ll be just fine.

Mexico

Confederation: CONCACAF (North America)

Best Result: Quarterfinals twice (both at home).

Chances in this year’s tournament: 1 out of 3: Uh…Anything Can Happen!

Coach: Miguel Herrera (Master Selfie Taker–no, seriously, he took a selfie of the entire Mexican national team and the President of Mexico! With minimal casualties!)

Key Players:

-Oribe Peralta (#19, pos: FW, age: 30, club: America)

The former Santos Laguna striker lit it up for El Tri last year, as he’s scored 12 goals since last August. “El Cepillo” (The Brush) was clearly the most important player on the Mexican team last year, scoring 5 of the 9 goals in the two-legged win over New Zealand, to get to the World Cup.

-Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (#14, pos: FW, age: 26, club: Manchester United)

Chicharito (“The Little Pea”–see, his father was given the nickname “The Pea”) had a bad season for Manchester United, and he hasn’t been too productive for Mexico in the last year-or-so. But at his best he’s arguably Mexico’s best player, and he has a world-class knack for scoring goals. Which Chicharito will show up in Brazil?

-Rafa Marquez (#4, pos: DF, age: 35, club: Leon)

He’s old, slow, and…maybe he’ll kick people?

Outlook:

This time two years ago, Mexico were considered “dark horses” alongside Belgium and Colombia. The U-23 + 3 team won the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal. But 2013 Mexico was bad. Really bad. They finished 4th in World Cup qualifying, needing Graham Zusi’s help to push them over the line past Panama (de nada!) and then they needed to go to playoffs to face New Zealand. They won. And that’s why they’re here.

In 2013, Mexico went through 4 coaches. Their coach to begin the year, Jose Manuel “Chepo” de le Torre, was close to being fired for most of the year. And then he was fired. There were two other guys who aren’t important, and the current guy, Miguel Herrera, made an interesting coaching decision for the New Zealand game: he dropped the foreign-based players.

The domestic squad did well, but as many of the best Mexican players play abroad, it will be an interesting challenge for El Tri to combine the domestic-based players with the foreign-based ones to create the best team possible.

Serious question: how in the world can they fit Chicharito, Gio Dos Santos, and The Brush all into the same team? Or do they bench one of them? Fascinating questions indeed, and soon we will learn the fascinating answers.

Croatia

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best result: 3rd Place in 1998.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 1 out of 3: Uh…Anything Can Happen!

Coach: Niko Kovac

Key Players:

-Luka Modrić (#10, pos: MF, age: 28, club: Real Madrid)

This guy is a starting central midfielder on the team that just won the Champions League! He’s a somewhat deep-lying playmaker, and the former Spurs man is the best non-Brazil player in the group.

-Mario Mandzukic (#17, pos: FW, age: 28, club: Bayern Munich)

Oh, and this guy scored in the 2013 Champions League final! He’s a target striker, and while he might not be as captivating to watch as Messi or Ronaldo, the man scores goals. He’ll probably leave Bayern Munich, but many top clubs could use a player like Mandzukic.

-THEIR UNIFORM!!!!

Croatia NASA

Yeah, okay, that guy was the one who was banned from this World Cup for, you know, being a Nazi. And yes, it’s obviously his NASA picture from the 1990s, where he got mixed up and wore his soccer gear instead of his astronaut gear. But still, great uniform.

Croatia not NASA

Okay, this doesn’t get the full thing, but it’s better in some ways. Wikipedia didn’t give me that many options. For some reason they decided to show all the pictures of people in their Croatian National Team garb be in the away jersey, but I don’t know why. I mean, this one has checkers! It’s clearly the best jersey in the World Cup. CHECKERS!!!

Outlook:

Like Mexico, Croatia needed to go through the playoffs to qualify for the World Cup. The likeable minnow that they faced was Iceland, not New Zealand, and they were able to get a win over two legs.

Their coach, former club legend Niko Kovac, was appointed in the middle of the qualifying campaign (the last guy didn’t do so well) and he led them into the country’s 4th World Cup (he was a member of the 2nd and 3rd ones, and would’ve played in the 1st if it wasn’t for injury).

Croatia have some good players; Modrić and Ivan Rakitic alongside youngster Mateo Kovacic in the midfield, Mandzukic in the attack, and captain Darijo Srna in defense; but they aren’t really that deep from 1 to 23; understandable considering the size of the country (the Seattle metropolitan area has more people than Croatia).

Cameroon

Confederation: CAF (Africa)

Best Result: Quarterfinals in 1990 (38-year-old Roger Milla, anyone?)

Chances in this year’s tournament: 0 out of 3: Snowball’s Chance in Qatar.

Coach: Volker Finke (one of the four German coaches).

Key Player:

-Samuel Eto’o (#9, pos: FW, age: 72, club: Chelsea)

The legendary forward, and captain of the Indomitable Lions (is that the best team nick-name ever?), will leave his club team Chelsea, but he will stay with Cameroon to attempt to add to his record 56 goals for his nation (he’s scored 3 in the World Cup).

Outlook:

African teams quite often seem to have disputes over pay. Nigeria had one in last year’s Confederations Cup, while Cameroon had it in this World Cup. They refused to board the plane until the matter was straightened out, and even though it was, it doesn’t bode well at all for their chances, especially considering that they’re the weakest team in the group.

Predictions

Chance to make it out of the group (rounded to 5s):

Brazil 95%

Croatia 55%

Mexico 40%

Cameroon 10%

Both Croatia and Mexico are unpredictable, but I expect that Croatia will most likely be the better team in this World Cup.

Schedule:

12th: Brazil vs. Croatia

13th: Mexico vs. Cameroon

17th: Brazil vs. Mexico

18th: Cameroon vs. Croatia

23rd: Cameroon vs. Brazil

23rd: Croatia vs. Mexico

That last game could decide it all.

Brazil vs. Croatia Preview

-The Brazilian team is really good.

-Croatia is also good, but Mario Mandzukic is suspended for the first game. Nikica Jelavic will probably start in his place. Thiago Silva vs. Nikica Jelavic is a total mis-match.

-Brazil is at home. All the fans will be cheering for Brazil.

-Croatia has Modrić and Rakitic and Kovacic, but Brazil more than enough players to out-class the Croats.

-Prediction: 2-0 for Brazil.

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

1. Brazil

They’re arguably the best in the world. They’re at home. They won the Confederations Cup convincingly.

2. Spain

They won the last World Cup, and the last two European Championships, and they’re very good.

3. Germany

One of the best teams, talent-wise, in the World Cup. But they haven’t won anything since the 90s, and I doubt they’ll become the first European team to win in the Americas here. But they have a very good team from front to back.

4. Argentina

Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Higuaín. This team is dynamite in the attack, and they’re playing at their home continent. But they’re weak defensively.

5. Italy

They were second in the last Euros, and they have Pirlo and Balotelli, one of the best in the world along with a volatile striker who performs well for Italy. Do they deserve to be 5th, though? I’m not sure. Did you read the part where I said “Totally Inaccurate?”

6. Uruguay

Suarez, Cavani, Forlan. They’re elite in attack, but weak defensively. Like a slightly poor man’s Argentina.

7. Belgium

This team has many star players, but they have only one who has played in a World Cup. That’s because they haven’t qualified since 2002. I think that the lack of experience will be why they won’t win, but they can still make some noise, and they’re contenders to win future tournaments they compete in.

8. Portugal

They have Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s arguably the best player in the world, and has certainly lived up to that billing for the last year-and-a-half-or-so. Not counting CR7 they have other good players, but nothing amazing, but with him they have an outside chance.

9. Chile

Alexis Sanchez leads this Chilean team’s powerful attack. They’re certainly a dark horse, but they have a hard group and if they don’t surpass both Spain and the Netherlands they could face Brazil in the round of 16.

10. Netherlands

Of all the teams in the World Cup, the Netherlands was one of the most punished by the draw. In most other groups they would advance, but in this one it seems very hard, and almost an impossible task to make the quarterfinals. Oh, and they’re the Netherlands. It could get Netherlands-y.

11. Colombia

No Falcao, but they’re still a solid team. I’m going to try to keep the blurbs short from now on.

12. Bosnia-H

Edin Dzeko is in charge of this dangerous attack, and they’re fairly safe at the other end with Asmir Begović.

13. England

This team has quality players, and promising youngsters, but they’re so…England-y. And no, I didn’t intentionally put them 13th. But it works out nicely.

14. France

They are without Ribery, but they’re still a good team. And they have an easy group. I’d be shocked if they make it past the quarters.

15. Ghana

The Black Stars were a Luis Suarez handball away from being semifinalists last year, and for good reason. They’re a good team.

16. Croatia

This team has good players, as I said, but they aren’t really close to favorites to win. Well, to win anything other than a Best Uniform contest.

17. USA

Wait, by putting the US below the other 3 group G teams, am I saying that America won’t qualify?!? Not really, but 17th seems about right. And that’s a very hard group. In sports, anything can always happen.

18. Russia

Fabio Capello has gotten Russia playing well as a team, especially in the defense. They won a qualifying group against Portugal. But they don’t have enough talented players to go very far, I don’t think.

19. Switzerland

The Alpine nation was certainly the worst of all the seeded nations, so everyone wanted to be in their group, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a bad team. They’re overlooked, but they’re a good team in an easy group. Don’t sleep on the Swiss.

20. Mexico

I’m just not sure what to expect from this Mexico team. #20 is either very mean or quite nice.

21. Ivory Coast

Yaya Toure is really good. If he is healthy, and there are doubts, the team will be at least somewhat good, especially if Didier Drogba is playing well.

22. Nigeria

Other countries are better, but the African Champions certainly shouldn’t be slept on.

23. Ecuador

This is certainly the worst South American team, and you can say that the only reason why they won any World Cup Qualifying games was because their home stadium is way above sea level. But they aren’t a bad team, they did qualify for the World Cup, and they’re in their home continent. Oh, and they have an easy group.

24. Greece

The Greeks haven’t done much since their Euro 2004 win, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll do anything here.

25. Korea

This team has talent, but I don’t think they’re good enough.

26. Japan

(See: Korea) (Also see: I have no idea what the heck I’m talking about). Shinji Kagawa’s good. David Moyes disagrees.

27. Cameroon

This team has talent, and Old Man Eto’o, but the whole money dispute thing scares me, and I also don’t think they’re good enough overall.

28. Costa Rica

This team is good, but without Alvaro Saborío (or even with him) I sadly don’t think they can make it out of the group.

29. Honduras

They aren’t quite as good as Honduras, but they have a much easier group.

30. Australia

Tim Cahill’s team has a terrible draw: Spain, the Netherlands, and Chile. They just aren’t good enough to make it out. A point would be great for the Socceroos.

31. Iran

There isn’t really a bad team in this World Cup, but the Iranians aren’t all that good.

32. Algeria

As I said, it’s the World Cup, and there are no bad teams. But Algeria is pretty close.

Power Rankings Guidelines:

1. When a team wins, I’m not allowed to drop them in rankings.

2. When a team loses, I’m not allowed to raise them in rankings.

3. I will move teams around every day, if they play, and I will only write blurbs for the ones who have just played and were thus just moved.

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for daily World Cup updates from here on out. Are you ready?

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