• Here is my third part:

    Group C: Colombia

    Strengths: Colombia probably has one of its most balanced and talented squads ever. From the 21-year-old defender Eder Alvarez Balanta (Club Atlético River Plate) to the 42-year-old goaltender Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), the squad comes around with international star players such as the experienced defender Mario Yepes (Atalanta B.C.), midfielder Fredy Guarin (Internazionale Milan) and of course the talented forward Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco FC). Especially the offensive side of the team has a lot of depth and includes other potential star players like the 2013-2014 UEFA Europa League winner Carlos Bacca (Sevilla FC), Jackson Martinez (F.C. Porto) and Adrian Ramos (Hertha BSC Berlin). The team is currently 5th in the FIFA World Ranking behind Spain, Germany, Portugal and Brazil. In 2013, Colombia won seven out of twelve matches.

    Weak points: Colombia has gone through a depressing era over the last decade. The team didn't manage to qualify for the last three World Cups and they only survived the group stage once, back in 1990. This means that the current squad has no World Cup experience. In South America, the team only won one Copa America in 2001 and the squad never managed to win a CONCACAF Gold Cup. Expectations in Colombia are elevated as everybody is now speaking of a new golden generation and this is putting a lot of pressure on the team.

    Expectaions: Colombia will survive the group stage and make it to the round of 16.


     Colombian national football team in 2014

    Colombian squad from March 5, 2014 against Tunisia (copyright: The Epoch Times)

    Group C: Greece

    Strengths: It's exactly ten years ago when the Greek national football team achieved its greatest success by winning the 2004 UEFA European Championship in and against Portugal. Nobody expected the team to win and many criticized German manager Otto Rehhagel for his conservative and defense-based style of play who said that he had to adapt the tactics to the characteristics of the available players. Ten years later, Greece can still count on the same strengths with successor Fernando Santos: a great team spirit without any big stars, a disciplined and robust defense, clear tactics and the fact that nobody really expects them to go far in the tournament. In additon to this, the squad improved its overall efficiency and attacking capabilities. In four years, Fernando Santos has won 57,1% of his matches including a national record of seventeen unbeaten games. During the qualification process, Greece has only lost one out of twelve games.

    Weak points: As strong as their defense might be, their attack is rather weak. A good example is forward Georgios Samaras who regularly scored for all of his clubs in three different leagues but who was only scored eight goals in seventy-one caps for his national team. Out of their seven last victories, Greece only won with 1:0 in five of these games. In addition to this, the Greek national team might have a strong spirit but they don't have a player who really stands out and who might be able to make the difference against a bigger team.

    Expectations: Greece won't survive the group stage of the tournament. 


    Greek national football team in 2014

    Greece' squad on March 5, 2014 against South Korea (copyright: Demotix)

    Group C: Ivory Coast

    Strengths: Ivory Coast's squad is filled with many gifted players who have excellent technical skills and who play an energizing offensive style of play. In their last sixteen games, the team scored a stunning number of thirty-nine goals. If one compiles the goals scored by all seven forwards of the preliminary squad in their national team career, one gets the number of 113 goals. Ivory Coast's squad includes many internationally experienced star players like the brothers Kolo and Yaya Touré (Liverpool F.C. and Manchester City F.C.), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray S.K.), Salomon Kalou (Lille OSC) and Gervinho (A.S. Roma) among others.

    Weak points: While the attack is playful and strong, the defense lacks consistency and discipline and still needs to improve. In the last six games, Ivory Coast's opponents managed to score eleven goals. In addition to this, the humerous managerial changes surely don't help to add some stability to the squad. In the past six years, the team had six different managers from five different countries (France, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden and Ivory Coast).

    Expectations: Ivory Coast might play its best World Cup to date. I definitely think they could make it to the quarter finals.


    Ivory Coast's national football team squad

    Ivory Coast's squad on March 5, 2014 against Belgium (copyright: Soccer Laduuuuuma!)

    Group C: Japan

    Strengths: The Japanese women won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup in Vietnam. As amazing as the female squad is, the male squad only won one important tournament: the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. This year could be Japan's breakthrough. The players know each other very well: eleven players are still playing in Japan while seven are working in the first and second division of the German Bundesliga. The Japanese squad looks balanced. Goaltender Kawashima Eiji (Standard Liège) could make the difference, defender Nagatomo Yuto (Internazionale Milan) adds a lot of tactical discipline, midfielder Kagawa Shinji (Manchester United F.C.) is often cited as one of the best Japanese players of all times and forward Okazaki Shinji (1. FSV Mainz 05) just had his breakthrough season by scoring fifteen goals in the German Bundesliga.

    Weak points: Historically, the Japanese team never made it beyond the round of sixteen in any World Cup and often struggled to win in South American countries and against South American teams. Recently, Japan lost all of its games in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup against Brazil, Italy and Mexico. Especially the defense had a lot of struggles as Japan was very vulnerable to attacks from the wings and didn't manage to keep teams out of their penalty area. 

    Expectations: Japan won't survive the group stage this year.


    Japanese national football team in 2014

    Japan's squad on May 27, 2014 against Cyprus (copyright: Reuters / The Wall Street Journal Japan)

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  • Here is my second part:

    Group B: Spain

    Strengths: Spain is the defending World Cup Champion and in addition to this, the squad has also won the last two UEFA European Championships. Even though Brazil managed to beat Spain during last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, the Spanish style of playing hasn't lost anything of its efficiency. Real Madrid has won the 2013-2014 UEFA Champions League against their rivals Atlético Madrid and many players from the national team like defender Sergio Ramos or left midfielder Koke had a brilliant performance in this final. The 2013-2014 UEFA Europa League was also won by a Spanish team with Sevilla FC. Especially young Spanish players are still hungry for titles and the current squad of the national team is still filled with some of the world's greatest players.

    Weak points: The Spanish tiki-taka style of play has taken the soccer world by storm over the past years and many other teams are now able to play it on a very high level. The Spanish style of play has become a little bit predictable after all and the team is not as dominating anymore as it had been over the past six years. The threat that some of the veterans in the team aren't as hungry for another title as many other teams who have been standing in line in the past is also real.

    Expectations: The Spanish squad could make it to the finals but should lose to Brazil.


     Spanish national football squad 2014

    Squad from March 5, 2014 against Italy (copyright: Spanish Football Sports)

    Group B: Netherlands

    Strengths: The Dutch squad made it to the last World Cup finals where the Elftal lost against Spain. This time the two squads already meet at group stage. The squad still includes some of the world's greatest and most successful midfielders and fowards such as Nigel de Jong (A.C. Milan), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray S.K.), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (FC Schalke 04), Robin van Persie (Manchester United F.C.) and Arjen Robben (FC Bayern Munich).

    Weak points: Oranje is going through quite some changes these days. Many young talents are in the squad that have few or no World Cup experience at all and that have played less than ten games for their national team. Controversial head coach Louis van Gaal will go to Manchester United F.C. after the World Cup and will be replaced by Guus Hiddink. The team's star players showed a weak performance during the 2012 UEFA European Championship where the team lost all their games. Current results of the squad aren't excellent either. The Flying Dutchmen lost against France earlier this year and only made a draw against the underdogs from Ecuador at home.

    Expectations: The squad will probably survive the group stage but not the round of 16 where the team could already meet Brazil.


    Dutch squad 2014

    Netherlands' squad on May 17, 2014 against Ecuador (copyright: Associated Press / The Hindu)

    Group B: Chile

    Strengths: Chile has a rather experienced squad with a lot of players in their late twenties and only a few youngsters and veterans. The squad is on form: out of their last fifteen matches, Chile only lost three. The underdog is playing without any pressure in this year's death group of the tournament. They can also count on the support of the enthusiastic South American soccer fans.

    Weak points: Some important and promising players are currently injured or still recovering from recent injuries like star player Arturo Vidal (Juventus F.C.) but also the experienced Mathias Fernandez (ACF Fiorentina) and Pablo Hernandez (O'Higgins F.C.) who had scored twice in his very first game for the squad earlier this year.

    Expectations: Chile has a strong team but due to several unlucky injuries and a really tough group they won't probably make it to the round of 16.

    Chilean national football team in 2014

    Chile's squad on March 5, 2014 against Germany (copyright: Lennart Preiss / Bongarts / Getty Images)

    Group B: Australia

    Strengths: Australia has become better and better over the last few years and played very solid World Cups in 2006 in Germany as well as in 2010 in South Africa. The team has started to integrate a couple of promising young talents like goaltender Mathew Ryan (Club Brugge K.V.), defender Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), midfielder Tom Rogic (Celtic F.C.) and forward Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets FC). The future looks bright for the squad and they play without any pressure in this tournament.

    Weak points: The young players in the squad have few to no World Cup experience. Apart of forward and vice-captain Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), the team has no experienced star player. The team hasn't been particularly successful in its last matches either. Australia lost against Romania (2:3), Brazil (6:0), France (6:0), Japan (3:2) and the People's Republic of China (3:4) in 2013 and against Ecuador (3:4) in 2014. They were not able to win their last game either and only got a draw at home against South Africa (1:1). Especially the defense still requests a lot of improvement.

    Expectations: Australia doesn't seem to have a chance against Chile, the Netherlands and Spain. I guess they won't survive the group stage of this tournament.

    Australian national football team in 2014

    Australia's squad on May 26, 2014 against South Africa (copyright: Reuters UK)

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  • The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is close at hand and I’m already very excited about the most important sporting event of the summer. I want to take a look at the different groups and teams and analyze their strengths and weak points and point out some expectations regarding a final result. Obviously, I’m not a clairvoyant and all these things are impossible to predict. It’s just my own personal opinion based on what I think to know about soccer. You can add your own comment and I also invite you to vote for the team you think is going to win this year’s World Cup: http://kluseba.eklablog.com/who-will-win-the-2014-fifa-world-cup-in-brazil-s158050

    World Cup 2014


    Here is my first part:

    Group A: Brazil

    Strengths: Host nation Brazil is a country that adores soccer. It’s almost some kind of religion. No nation has won more World Cups than Brazil. They have won it five times: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. In my opinion, chances are elevated that Brazil will add another title to its impressive collection this year. Why? First of all, the players have an entire passionate country of soccer maniacs behind them and an obvious home advantage. Secondly, they have clearly beaten actual World Cup and Euro Cup champion Spain during last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup. My third reason is that the country has a balanced squad of experienced players (goaltender Julio Cesar of Toronto FC, defender Maicon of A.S. Roma and defender Maxwell of Paris Saint-Germain) and young shooting starts (above all FC Barcelona’s Neymar). In addition to this, many players play in different international top leagues from Russia over Germany to Spain and know many of their potential opponents in other squads very well. A look at recent results is also very clear: Brazil has won its last seven games against opponents such as Chile, Portugal and South Korea. The team has scored 25 goals in these seven games while their different opponents only scored 2 goals.

    Weak points: If Brazil has some kind of weak points, it might be their goaltenders. Julio Cesar and company are very good players but not as excellent as the rest of the squad. In addition to this, expectations from their fans are elevated and might build up a lot of pressure. The instable political situation in Brazil might also affect some of the players after all.

    Expectation: Brazil will win the World Cup!



    Squad Brazil

    Squad from October 15, 2013 against Zambia (copyright: The Globe and Mail)

    Group A: Croatia

    Strengths: Croatia or ancient Yugoslavia always had many great players. The country’s current squad also includes a few famous players such as Real Madrid’s midfielder Luka Modric, Sevilla FC’s midfielder Ivan Rakitic and a promising trio from the German Bundesliga: midfielder Ivan Perisic and striker Ivica Olic (both of VfL Wolfsburg) as well as striker Mario Mandzukic (FC Bayern Munich).

    Weak points: Some players still lack international experience and are playing in Eastern Europe. The team is not constant enough either. Out of its last five games, Croatia has only won once and had to deal with two draws and two losses.

    Expectations: They will have trouble surviving the group stage this year.

    Croatian squad in 2014

    Croatia's squad on November 19, 2013 against Iceland (copyright: Darko Bandic/AP)


    Group A: Mexico

    Strengths: After a complicated qualification and two tough playoff games, Mexico’s squad really stands together as a team and has gone through all possible challenges. Many players are still playing in Mexico, know each other very well and may develop a strong team spirit.

    Weak points: Just as Croatia, Mexico had some trouble to qualify for the World Cup and had to go into playoffs where they defeated New Zealand. Mexico has also one of the oldest squads in this year’s World Cup with seven players in the regular squad above the age of 30. Many players lack international experience as sixteen players are currently still playing in Mexican’s top league called Liga Bancomer MX.

    Expectations: They will have trouble surviving this year’s group stage.

    Mexican squad in 2014

    Mexico's squad on April 2nd, 2014 against USA (copyright: www.goal.com)


    Group A: Cameroon

    Strengths: Cameroon has regularly qualified for World Cups. In the last 24 years, the consistent squad has only missed the World Cup in Germany back in 2006. The squad features a couple of star players such as FC Barcelona’s midfielder Alex Song, FC Chelsea’s striker and experienced comeback player Samuel Eto’o and shooting star Maxim Choupo-Moting from Bundesliga club 1. FSV Mainz. The current German manager Volker Finke is a very experienced and clever manager and has a lot of experience with African players as well.

    Weak points: Two years ago, Samuel Eto’o refused to play for his country as he complained about an “amateurish and poorly organized” national team set-up. In the past five years, the team had six different managers and went through some important changes. The atmosphere within the squad has not always been the greatest. Earlier this year, Cameroon had to endure an embarrassing 1-5 defeat against Portugal.


    Expectations: The team will make it to the round of 16 but won’t go any further.

    Cameroon's squad in 2014

    Cameroon's squad on March 5, 2014 against Portugal (copyright: www.237sports.com)

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