World Cup Preview and Grouping Guide

Finally it’s here! The World Cup 2014 is upon us! We’ve put together a
lengthy guide to the group stages below covering all teams and given

our recommended tips.

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Below you will find a team by team analysis of all the teams involved

in this year’s World Cup. We have some recommended bets listed below.

Hope you enjoy the tournament!

Group A


A solid looking squad, a World Cup winning manager (Luis Felipe

Scolari) and home advantage are the ingredients that make Brazil one of

the favourites for this World Cup.

Their star player, Neymar, has not set the world on fire for Barcelona

this season and his form has dipped in recent months. Although it

cannot be said he has been entirely disappointing, with 9 goals & 8

assists in just 26 La Liga matches, and completing more dribbles with

the ball (42) than any other player in the Champions League last term.

The adrenalising and energising effect of playing in a home World Cup

should see the winger add to his already impressive tally of 31 goals

in 48 games for Brazil. But more than that, it is Neymar’s jovial

personality, along with centre back David Luiz; players who are seen as

the key motivators on and off the pitch, big personalities who can

galvanize belief within a squad as the tournament progresses.

The confidence has been building steadily after destroying Spain 3-0 in

the Confederations Cup in 2013. Although, interestingly, whoever has

won the Confederations Cup has never won the World Cup the following

summer. Brazil may be the team to break this trend though, winning as

they have, all their previous 7 friendly matches, scoring 25 goals and

conceding just 2 in the process.


Potential for squad implosion and fallouts over money and endorsements

always seem to be an issue when it comes to Cameroon at a World Cup.

Samuel Eto’o is a big, albeit fading, superstar in a weak squad. The

Chelsea striker has complained about the standard of Cameroon’s

facilities, but now may be more upset by not getting a starting berth

for the Lions. Vincent Aboubakar of Lorient may start up front instead

after the 22 year old grabbed 16 goals & 7 assists in Ligue Une last


The experienced Stephen M’bia is still one of their key men when it

comes to midfield orchestration, but there are also other options up

front like Eric Maxim Choupa-Moting (10 goals in 19 starts for Mainz),

who has been an exciting player in the German Bundesliga this year,

completing 114 successful dribbles, making the fifth highest player in

the League despite his limited appearances. Cameroon are unlikely to be

a contender for second spot in this group; their qualifying campaign

saw them score just 5 goals in 7 matches before their play-off win over



Mexico have sold the most tickets, and will take an army of supporters

south to Brazil. This football mad nation has never achieved anything

approaching success on the World stage, and all the indications are

that they will struggle to make an impact on this tournament.

Villarreal’s Giovani Dos Santos is the man who needs to be on form if

this Mexico outfit are to gel creatively. The tricky winger was

involved in 32% of his Club’s goals last season (19 of 60) as

Villarreal finished in 6th place in La Liga.

Another poor season for Manchester United’s Chicarito Hernandez means

that Santos’s Oribe Peralta will be relied upon to score the goals,

while the veteran skipper, Rafael Marquez will marshal a three man

defence, with him as a sweeper.

Mexico’s final group game against Croatia could be the key game for

both Nations, in deciding who qualifies in 2nd place behind Brazil.


Although they nearly fell apart near the end of qualifying, with two

defeats to Scotland, a surprise draw against Brazil in the opening

match of the World Cup is definitely not beyond this talented set of

Croatian players. Their superbly talented midfield of Rakitic (Europa

League winner with Seville in May), Modric and Kovacic is one of the

most gifted trio’s in the tournament.

The Seville Captain, Rakitic scored 12 goals & made 10 assists in La

Liga last season, great statistics for a central midfielder. Luka

Modric was one of the integral parts of Real Madrid’s 10th European Cup

win, and Mateo Kovacic is a precocious 20 year old who wears the No.10

shirt for Inter Milan, all three are technically excellent in


Mario Mandzukic provides an aerial threat (7 headed goals for Bayern

Munich last term, the most in the Bundesliga) that would have unsettled

the Brazilian centre back pairing of Thiago Silva and David Luiz, but

the giant target-man is suspended for their opening match, giving an

opportunity for Eduardo or Jelavic to grab the goals Croatia need to

claim a draw or possibly all three points. The pressure is certainly

all on the hosts, although the Croatian’s will still bank on winning

their next two matches to escape from Group A.

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Group B


Is Tiki-taka dead? Did it die with the 8-0 aggregate win for Bayern

over Barca in 2013?

Have Spain already been written off before this World Cup has even

begun? Does Xavi have any energy left to play the pivotal playmaker

role for Spain anymore?

The fire-power of Diego Costa (an impressive 25% conversion rate from

shots on target to goals ratio for Atletico Madrid in their La Liga

title winning season) may give Spain a new dimension and a more

clinical edge up front, but is he fit enough? Costa swapped allegiances

from his birth nation Brazil to gain citizenship in Spain, which might

create something of an interesting atmosphere should the sides meet in

the knock-out stages. His 27 league goals last term will mean he will

certainly start ahead of the out of form Fernando Torres, and the

ageing David Villa.

Could they be the first European team to win a World Cup in South

America? Is that even a relevant statistic? Spain are vying to be the

first team to win four major tournaments in a row. To write them off

would be foolish considering their camaraderie and experience, ability

to keep possession in the tough climates, all the while being calmly

guided by their tactically astute manager, Vicente Del Bosque.


A brilliant qualifying campaign for Louis Van Gaal’s ‘Oranje’ has been

dampened by a very difficult group. Roma’s Kevin Strootman may be a

very big miss in midfield, yet his absence could make the Dutch a more

solid outfit as Van Gaal has changed from a 4-3-3 to three at the back.

Wesley Sneijder’s form has slid dramatically since the 2010 World Cup

and he may struggle to adapt to the tough conditions, after letting his

level of play drop dramatically by opting to play his football in

Turkey for Galatasaray.

Robin Van Persie has 11 goals in Qualifying, joint top with Luis

Suarez, the Dutch captain has had a better season for Holland than Man

United. Under Van Gaal he has 14 goals and 3 assists in 16 matches.

A young, thrusting and vibrant team, based on the youth systems of Ajax

and PSV, the Dutch also have the experience and solidity of Nigel De

Jong and Ron Vlaar at the back and at the base of midfield to shore

things up for the more creative players to shine.

The 20 year old Memphis Depay may be a player who can make a difference

from the bench, scoring 12 goals and making 7 assists for PSV Eindhoven

last season.

The Dutch have enough World Class players to find their way out of the

hardest Group at this World Cup, and Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben is

one of them. The forward is a constant menace cutting in from the right

wing on his favoured left foot (Robben was only 2nd to Ronaldo in terms

of shots (54) on goal in the Champions league this year) and he has a

habit of making a difference in tight, important matches.


Jorge Sampaoli’s unorthodox formations and tactics continues the

tradition of former manager and newly appointed Marseille boss, Marcelo


Chile can switch from three at the back with wing backs to a rigid four

or five, to confuse opponents. Their adaptability and fluidity is one

of their main strengths along with bravery and commitment to attack.

The courage in closing people down high up the pitch is a strength

which can become a weakness if caught out by highly skilled opponents

on the counter-attack.

An exciting team to watch with World Class players, Arturo Vidal (18

goals for Juventus from midfield) and Alexis Sanchez (a conversion rate

of 29% for his 15 goals for Barcelona in La Liga), they are more than

capable of causing a shock by eliminating either the Dutch or the

Spanish in the Group stages.


A young Australia team could really struggle in this ‘Group of Death’,

as the saying goes.

Apparently they are building a young team for their hosting of the

Asian games, but this way of thinking could seriously dent their

confidence if they are destroyed in the three games they play here in


Mile Jedinak is their most solid player. He was instrumental in keeping

Crystal Palace in the Premier League with his unmatched tally of 133

tackles and 139 interceptions, the highest in the League.

Not even the industry and commitment of Jedinak will save Australia

from an early exit, their only other player of note is an ageing and

slightly past-it Tim Cahill up front.

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Group C


Missing their talismanic striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia can now

consider their status as dark horses reduced. Although within the squad

the belief remains because of the back-up they possess in the centre-

forward position.

Jackson Martinez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Seville) and Adrian Ramos (16

goals for Hertha Berlin, and now transferred to Dortmund), have all

scored double figures in top European Leagues last season.

The Colombians can be considered the Group favourites here, and they

certainly boast players who have shown great form this season.

Fiorentina’s Juan Guillermo Cuadrado has 11 goals and more completed

dribbles (118) than any other player in Serie A last season.

Coach, Jose Pekerman’s attractive style of play and emphasis on

movement and possession, mean we could see some very attack minded and

possibly high scoring matches in Group C, but will the natural caution

and defensive mindset of Greece win out over the sharp, incisive

passing of the Japanese and the Colombians?

Ivory Coast

The other side to make up this Group are an Ivorian outfit who have had

the doomed tag ‘Golden generation’ hanging over them for the past


The now ageing squad have qualified for third World Cup in a row but

have most of their superstar players well past their best (Kolo Toure,

Didier Zokora, Didier Drogba) apart from Yaya Toure, who is perhaps in

his prime, but goes into this tournament carrying some niggling

injuries from the end of last season. Swansea’s Wilfred Bony may get

the nod up front over Drogba.

A solid looking midfield but a ramshackle defence, apart from the

classy right back, Serge Aurier.

The fragile confidence of Gervinho has been a feature of the winger’s

career; on form he can cause problems to any defence but will need to

start the tournament well. He may benefit from the open, attacking

style of Japan in the Ivory Coast’s opening match, the spaces that will

be left in behind the Japanese defence could be perfect for Gervinho to


He has looked more impressive since his switch to Roma than, and could

be a real surprise to most Arsenal supporters at this World Cup.


Greece will be hoping to win most of their matches 1-0 as they kept the

highest number of clean sheets in qualifying with 8/10. They will be

relying on Mitroglou to provide the goals, and they could possibly

sneak out of the group with some solid draws.

As is the way with Greece, the players to look out for are the

defenders. Kostas Manolas is a very old before his years central

defender who completed 70 clearances for Olympiakos in the Champions

League last year, the 2nd highest for a defender behind Real Madrid’s


If Greece can manage a hard fought draw with the Colombians, this could

give them the confidence to carry on implementing their negative

tactics (which to be fair to the Greeks, requires a tremendous amount

of hard running and concentration) in the remaining two matches.


Alberto Zaccheroni’s exciting Japan team were a revelation at the

Confederation Cup last year, especially in a memorable 4-3 defeat to

Italy. Impressively quick and incisive passing means they will be one

of the most attractive teams at this year’s World Cup.

The climate will not affect them and they could be one of the dark

horses to make the semi-finals, if they can navigate their way out of

this tricky group.

Shinji Okazaki has 15 goals for Mainz in Bundesliga with a 20.8%

conversion rate.

Their Italian coach will be hoping he can finish off the beautiful,

intricate build-up play of Kagawa and Honda, the highly creative,

gifted players operating in behind the striker.

Fortunately, the midfielders have a habit of lifting their game when

they put on the blue shirt, often playing better for Japan than for

their club sides.

This has the potential to be the most fun and exciting group of the

tournament, with Colombia and Ivory Coast the favourites, yet the

defensive qualities of Greece and the attacking verve of Japan could

well see the team’s playing in dark blue strips go through to the

knock-out phase.

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Group D


Semi-finalists last time out but possibly a team in decline this time

around, especially with the absence of Suarez through a knee injury,

although he may be fit enough to take part due to triple training

sessions, and you feel that Oscar Tabarez’s men will severely lack

belief without his presence on the pitch. His 31 goals for Liverpool

last term was the highest of any player in Europe’s top 5 Leagues.

It’s in the defensive third of the pitch where Uruguay have had real


They made hard work of qualifying in the South American Conmebol

section, conceding 25 goals in the process (the highest of any team to

have qualified for Brazil 2014)

They still retain the now creaky looking defensive pairing of Lugano

and Godin, although their inspirational skipper was a substitute for

West Brom for most of the season and can be considered a weak link in

the side.

They simply must beat Costa Rica in their opening match to have any

chance of making it out the group.

Costa Rica

Missing some key players such as Everton’s Brian Oviedo and top scorer

in qualifying, Savorio, who broke a metatarsal just two weeks before

the tournament, they are none the less a solid unit, keeping six clean

sheets from their last eight competitive matches.

They have pace up front with Olympiakos’ Joel Campbell, and creativity

with Bryan Ruiz operating in the No.10 position, but realistically they

will be the whipping boys of Group D, with England, Italy and Uruguay’s

hopes of escaping a tight group, possibly resting on goal difference,

and therefore, how many goals they can register against the Costa

Ricans could be vital.


Unfortunately, statistical analysis isn’t going to help us when it

comes to discussing England’s chances in this World Cup.

Will Roy Hodgson approach this tournament in the right attacking manner

that England fans are crying out for? A noble and rousing defeat, of

high pressing, exciting football would restore a lot of national pride,

and with the players available, this is a realistic possibility.

Hodgson has the blue/red print for an already well grooved attacking

unit if he decides to deploy the six Liverpool players within his

squad. Not only will this bring forward momentum, but also hopefully

some tactical understanding and similar movement and positioning from

Liverpool players who have enjoyed one of their best campaigns for 25


Gerrard and Henderson will surely start in midfield, with Sterling,

Sturridge and maybe even the Mighty Reds’ new recruit Lambert up front.

Many journalists are insisting on the deployment of either Adam Lallana

or Ross Barkley in the No.10 position, signalling the omission of Wayne

Rooney from the starting line-up. Daniel Sturridge could be the key man

in this group if he can gain some confidence with an early goal. Cahill

and Jagielka can be shaky but at least they are establishing a

partnership after playing the last six internationals together.

If England can deploy the genuine pace and skill they have in their

ranks, then they could be the surprising Group winners.


Cesare Prandelli has many options in midfield and attack, with their

defence already established.

Verratti will start in midfield, the ageing Pirlo (still made the most

accurate through-ball passes (12) in all of Serie A last season for

Juventus) may even be on the bench, although the team will have a

Juventus spine.

Candreva is most likely to play off Balotelli. Although the inform

Cerci (13 goals & 10 assists) and Immobile of Torino, could be a

combination to bring on together off the bench.

Cassano is another dangerous option from the bench after a great season

at Parma, this is also the veteran strikers’ first World Cup.

The English and Italians are the Group favourites, as a waning Uruguay

side are over reliant on their strikers, with only Edison Cavani being

fit enough to start. England’s squad should be a good enough one for

them to be able to change matches from the bench in this intense heat.

Fitness will be key in this group, especially for the games in the

Jungle in Manaus.

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Group E


A relatively simple looking group for the French on paper, but they

have failed in previous World Cups in far easier groups. Deschamps’

team do seem revitalised this time around, with some youthful vigour in

the centre of the park in the shape of Juventus’ Paul Pogba; 7 goals

and 7 assists in Serie A last season, with 10 completed through balls,

only 3 players completed more in the entire league.

Cabaye and Matuidi make up the rest of the midfield trio. Matuidi the

muscle, Cabaye the vision and passing, while Pogba provides the power

and a serious goal threat.

Franck Ribery’s stuttering form and injury concerns means there could

be a chance for another impressive youngster, Antoin Griezmann, 16

goals & 3 assists for Real Sociedad this season.

The trickery of Valbuena and the now established striking prowess of

Champions League winner Karim Benzema, means that this is a French team

that could be bound for the quarter finals at the very least.

France are the overwhelming favourites, with the Swiss just edging into

2nd ahead of Ecuador.


The Swiss kept seven clean sheets out of ten in the qualifying stages,

and as you’d expect under Ottmar Hitzfeld, they are a very difficult

team to score against.

Individually, there are plenty of exciting, young players who ply their

trade at some of Europe’s top clubs. Inler of Napoli, has made 268

tackles for the Naples club in the centre of midfield over the last 3

seasons, more than any other player. Right full back, Lichtsteiner, has

been a key part of Juventus’ Serie A dominance in recent years. While

Shaqiri is a a squad player for Bayern Munich, rotating for the likes

of Ribery and Robben, usually in Bundesliga matches. Stocker will

provide the pace and directness on the other flank.

Wolfsburg’s star left back, Ricardo Rodriguez could find himself at one

of Europe’s elite clubs if he continues his fine club form (5 goals and

9 assists in the Bundesliga) into the tournament, while Joseph Drmic is

a fast young striker who has cemented his place as their No.1 striker.

The Swiss are an excellent counter-attacking side and have a very

realistic possibility of qualifying.


A formidable prospect on home soil, due to the humidity, which enabled

them to qualify with a near perfect home record. Away from Ecuador they

are not such a force, but they may have an advantage over the French

and the Swiss because of the Brazilian climate.

Dynamo Moscow’s Christian Noboa is the engine room in midfield,

weighing in with 6 goals and 5 assists from the base of midfield,

alongside Segundo Castillo they make up a very physical and fit looking

midfield duo. One to watch out for is Vitesse Arnheim’s Ibarra

(averaged 2.1 successful dribbles per game in the Dutch League, the

most of any Vitesse player), who can come up with an unexpected piece

of skill that is so valued at this level of football.

The Ecuador against Honduras game will be a key match for both

countries chances of progressing from this group. If Ecuador can get a

draw against the Swiss in the opening match, then 3 points versus the

Hondurans could be vital if France can do them a favour by beating


The already qualified French would then face a highly motivated Ecuador

team in the final group match. A more complicated group then meets the

eye possibly?


Undoubtedly the weakest side in this group, the Hondurans are a hard

working outfit, who do not really possess enough high quality players,

Espinoza of Wigan, Palaicios of Stoke, and their midfield linchpin

Oscar Garcia, who only plays in the vastly inferior MLS in the USA, are

the stand out players.

They can frustrate teams with highly defensive and aggressive football,

designed to break up the game and prevent the opposition from building

up any rhythm. Their acclimatisation to the conditions in Brazil could

work in their favour when trying to frustrate France and Switzerland.

Realistically though, Honduras have not won any of their 6 games from

their previous, and only, two World Cup appearances.

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Group F


One of the favourites for the title, and going for their third World

Cup win, one which would be so much sweeter than the previous two

because their arch rivals, Brazil, are the hosts.

Lionel Messi doesn’t need a World Cup winners medal to be considered

one of the all-time greats, that status is assured, but this must be

his best and possibly last opportunity to claim the illustrious honour.

Messi will turn 27 during the course of this tournament, an age when a

player is at the absolute peak of his powers. Although, his club form

this season has been markedly lower, on goals scored and in general

play, (he still scored an amazing 36 goals from 38 appearances in La

Liga & the Champions League, but when you compare it to last season’s

tally of 54 from 43 apps, and the season before when he registered an

outer-planetary 65 goals from 49 apps), many feel his best season’s may

be behind him and this World Cup has come too late for the diminutive


Messi is backed up by a very talented first XI. Up front will be

Aguero, Higuain and Messi.

Gago and Mascherano provide a shield in midfield, with Di Maria as the

link between midfield and attack. Di Maria had the most assists (17) in

all of Europe’s top 5 leagues this season.

Issues at the back may be their undoing in the later stages of the

tournament, although Zabaleta is a rock at right full back, and his

relationship with Messi on the right hand side could be key.

Argentina’s recent tournament experience is poor, the only team

Argentina have beaten (without considering penalties) since they beat

Brazil in the World Cup 2nd round in 1990 is Mexico in the 2006 2nd


Argentina to go through comfortably, with Nigeria and Bosnia fighting

for 2nd spot.


The Cinderella story of this World Cup, as Bosnia qualify for the first

time. Bosnia’s easy qualifying group has led some to mark them as dark

horses for this competition, although outside of their talented forward

line of Dzeko, Ibisevic and the creative midfielder, Pjanic (6 goals

and 6 assists for Roma), they are not blessed with many more

exceptional talents.

They will be competing for 2nd place in this group with Nigeria and

Iran if they are beaten badly by Argentina in the first game of the


Nigeria The African Champions are a very pacey team, with Victor Moses

and Emenike up front, but at the back is where the real talent lies

with Moses’s fellow on-loan Chelsea team mate Kenneth Omeru, shining at

Middlesbrough last season – the 20 year old centre back was at the top

of the defensive stats list for Boro last term with 3.1 tackles 1.9

interception per game.

Goalkeeper Enyeama played every minute of the French season for Lille,

and is one of the most consistent keepers in the tournament.

Nigeria have not won a World Cup match since beating Bulgaria at the

1998 tournament, so their chances of making the knockout stages for the

third time will depend on whether they can get a win from their opening

two games before they face Argentina.


Jakanbakhsh is a 20 year old winger playing at NEC Nijmegen, and he

will be the one that Carlos Queiroz hopes can produce a bit of magic

for the Iranians, in what is a very limited squad and first XI.

The young winger produced 5 goals and 4 assists in the 11 games he

started in the Dutch Eredivisie. Fulham’s Dejagah is another player who

can grab a goal from nowhere, something Iran will need as they are very

likely to play a highly defensive counter-attacking formation.

The start of Ramadan on the 24th June could also cause some problems

for the Iranians as they go into their final group game against Bosnia

a day later on the 25th.

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Group G


The time has come for this generation of German players to win

something after coming so close in recent tournaments. Bad kick off

times and dealing with the sweltering heat has made them the bookmakers

4th favourite behind Brazil, Argentina and Spain.

Injuries have taken their toll on the German squad, key players like

Khedira, Schweinstiger, and Lahm (and potentially the Goalkeeper Neuer)

are all not fully fit as the team fly out to Brazil.

World Cup veteran and main goal scorer Miroslav Klose may also not be

100% fit – this could be crucial as many feel this German team possess

the guile and craft of Ozil, Gotze and Reus (16 goals & 13 assists for

Dortmund), but not the ruthless clinical finishing power, that only

Klose can provide.

Joachim Low has been experimenting with Gotze (or Schurrle) as a false

9 in the centre-forward position, a formation that then relies on

Muller and Reus to get goals from the wings. Lucas Podolski is

potentially another option up front.

Instability at the back may also cause problems as Dortmund’s Marco

Schmelzer pulled out of the squad to leave Eric Durm (just one

international cap) as the only specialist left back in the squad.


Star player’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s muscles injuries are a major concern

for the Portuguese as they face a very tricky task of emerging in the

top two of this very physical group.

Monaco’s Joao Moutinho makes this side tick in the middle of the park

(he was 2nd in the Ligue Une stat table for the most completed passes

in the final third of the pitch, 577) along with Raul Merieles.

Portugal’s build up play is neat and tidy, but as always, putting it in

the back of the net is a problem.

A lack of a real, genuine quality striker is again an issue at a major

tournament, with just Postiga and Almeida to choose from up front,

although they are often there to act merely as a foil for Ronaldo to

then move into a dangerous position from the left wing.

Over reliance on Ronaldo could be their downfall if the Real Madrid man

does not recover from his tendinitis.


An ageing side who are unlikely to repeat their feat of reaching the

semi-finals of the previous World Cup in South Africa.

Christian Atsu is another Chelsea loan player who has shone at Vitesse

this season.

The 22 year old will operate on the wing for his country but played

most of the campaign in the middle for his club, scoring 5 goals and

providing 6 assists, making him their player of the season.

Kevin Prince Boateng is a player who can score a spectacular goal,

something which may be needed in this rather functional and

unimaginative Ghana outfit.


The Americans have no real outstanding individuals but have a very

strong team ethic which can make them difficult to beat. Their fitness

levels are exceptional and this could go a long way in the stifling


Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are the stand out players with the

most European experience, and will provide a decent backbone for a team

that will work tirelessly but will come short when it comes to creating

chances, and ultimately, scoring goals.

Germany and Portugal to progress if their star performers can turn it

on, but Ghana’s physicality and USA’s stamina and cohesiveness may

cause problems for the group favourites.

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Group H


One of the most talented squads and the tournaments’ dark horses. A

semi-final appearance is very possible after a brilliant qualifying

campaign. World Class players in every position, from Goalkeeper,

Courtois of Spanish Champions Atletico Madrid, to the imposing centre

forward, Lukaku (2nd most shots on target in the PL last season (45)

for Everton), it says everything about the strength of this Belgian

team when most football fans of different nationalities can name Marc

Wilmots’ first XI.

Kompany and Vermaelen at centre back is an established partnership,

with converted full backs Vertonghen and Alderweireld making up a solid

back four.

Witsel, De Bruyne and Dembele is a midfield trio that has everything

you could wish for: the positioning, composure and organisation of

Witsel, the dribbling, work-rate and flair of Dembele, and the

creativity, vision, and goal scoring of De Bruyne.

Add to that the wing wizardry of Eden Hazard (completed 39 more

dribbles than any other Premier League player last season) and Dries

Mertens, plus the fire power of Lukaku, and you have a group of players

who, on their day, could beat any team in the tournament.

A substitute bench of Fellaini, Defour, Mirallas and Januzaj could also

be vitally important as players will tire in the heat and humidity.

A lack of tournament experience could be their only weak spot when it

comes to the knockout stages.


Russia have not conceded more than a single goal in a match since a

friendly with USA in 2012.

Fabio Capello’s defensive tightness has rubbed off on his latest

national team project.

Mainly home grown players from the Russian league, this could be their

strength in terms of unity, but also their weakness, in terms of lack

of experience in a stronger European league.

Qualifying seemed fairly straightforward but the heat, and the step up

in quality could be too much for them.

Alexander Kokorin is the new hope up front with 10 goals and 6 assists

form 22 starts for Dynamo Moscow.

Russia are a cohesive possession based side under Capello and they

should have enough quality to emerge as runners-up in the group, their

opening match against South Korea will be a vital one so they must hit

the ground running.

South Korea

A very fit and well organised team who can deal with the climate and

who will be competing for 2nd spot with Russia in this group.

This is their 8th consecutive World Cup appearance, getting out of the

group in two of the last three, and of course making the semi-final on

home soil in 2002.

The 21 year old Son Heung-Min is their star man, scoring 10 goals for

Leverkusen last season from the left-wing position.

Their coach, Hong Myung-Bo was voted third best player at the 2002

World Cup, and his inspirational leadership will be crucial to

harnessing spirited performances from this very hard working, youthful

and lively Korean side. Their opening match with Russia will be crucial

for qualification to the next round.

Belgium and Russia are the favourites to qualify from this group, with

their only obstacles being the stifling heat and possibly tiredness in

Belgium’s case, as all their players had tough Premier League campaigns

in England.


Algeria got a 0-0 draw with England at the 2006 World Cup, through

sheer dogged determination, and a very unadventurous defensive shape.

The same tactics will be deployed again at this tournament, with the

aim to frustrate and annoy the superior opposition they will be facing.

Discipline and organization will be the key to Algeria in trying to

obtain a 0-0 draw, which is all they can really hope for at this


The Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli is their brightest star, leading

the assist table with 8 for Valencia in the La Liga, while scoring 3

goals in his club’s progression to the Europa League semi-finals.

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