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Posts Tagged ‘ Luka Modric ’

World Cup 2014: Predictions For Every Team

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With the kick-off of World Cup 2014 now less than a week away, the excitement is starting to build. Coverage of the event is starting to really pick up, as the footballing world gets ready for the beginning of it’s biggest event of any calendar year. With that in mind, I would like to put forward my predictions for every team and how they will fare, including all the teams who will fall at the group stage hurdle, all the way on to who I predict will be the eventual winners.

Group stage eliminations

Cameroon

The most likely victim of what is a very tough draw, Cameroon seem like long shots to emerge from Group A. Hosts Brazil, potential dark horses Croatia and Mexico make up the rest of the group, and it may well prove too much for Cameroon to claim enough points to sneak in to the knockout stages. An experienced squad led by captain Samuel Eto’o as well as veterans Alex Song and Jean Makoun, Cameroon also boast young defensive talent in Nicolas N’Koulou and Joel Matip. Unfortunately for them, it seems unlikely that they will prove good enough to edge out two of the other teams, and so it looks like three games and out for Cameroon.

Mexico

It looks quite likely that Brazil and Croatia will emerge from this group, especially if the Croatians can get a point in the tournament’s inaugural match. Mexico had a very ugly qualifying campaign to even reach Brazil, finishing fourth in their group, behind the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras. They eventually beat New Zealand comfortably in a play-off, but it does not augur well for them in such a tough group. Still, Mexico boast a very experienced squad, with the likes of Rafael Marquez still around to organise them. If the likes of Javier Hernandez (who has a scoring rate of better than one every two games for his country) catches fire, then maybe they have a shot. But all signs point to an early exit for Mexico.

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Five Players To Watch At The World Cup

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With just two weeks to go now until the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, it feels like time to start examining the participants in greater detail. There is hardly any point in telling you to look out for the likes of Xavi, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo, so instead we’re going to take a look at some of the slightly lesser hyped individuals, whose performances could be the difference between their countries falling flat in the group stage or making a surprising run to the latter stages of the competition. A lot of countries at this year’s World Cup will fancy their chances of going all the way, and a lot of unheralded players are about to become a lot better known. With that in mind, here are five players we have picked out to watch. Continue reading

World Cup 2014: The Dark Horses

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Yesterday, we had a good look at the four teams most likely to win the upcoming World Cup. What we have yet to touch on is one of the most lively debates before any international tournament. Who will be the team who emerges from nowhere to thrill the crowds and cause a few upsets along the way? Is there a team from lower down the international pecking order who can surprise us all and go all the way? Usually there is at least one team who overachieves in these competitions, and calling them right is often the difference between winning and losing the fantasy football wars, so here we will look at four teams who could potentially go from dark horses to World Cup champions in the space of a few weeks in June. Continue reading

Euro 2012 Group Preview

Euro 2012 kicks off on Friday when hosts Poland play Greece in Warsaw. The final will take place 22 days later on 1 July on the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Sixteen teams will take part in the tournament, and John Hislop takes a look at four groups and some of the players to watch out for.

Group A

This could be seen as the most open of the four groups, with Dick Advocaat’s Russia favourites to progress. They reached the semi-finals four year ago and most of that team remain, and star player Andrey Arshavin is back on top form after his loan spell with former club Zenit St Petersburg. Second place is anybody’s guess, with hosts Poland determined to reward their long suffering fans who are desperate to see a return to the glory days of the seventies. This squad includes a trio from the Bundesliga double winners, Borussia Dortmund, Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek. Much is expected of Lewandowski in particular who is attracting the attention of Manchester United amongst others. Euro 2004 champions Greece will have something to say about that though, having qualified without losing a game.Panathinaikos midfielder Sotiris Ninis who is also linked with United carries a goal threat, and no-one should underestimate the Czech Republic who saw off the Scots in the qualifying campaign. Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky hopes to continue his end of season form.

Group B

Although the Irish might disagree, this group has been assigned the ‘Group of Death’ tag. Germany start favourites despite a 16 year drought, and the experience gained in South Africa will have done their young stars no harm. Real Madrid star Mesut Ozil hopes to continue where he left off two years ago. The Dutch will be waiting for any slip up after ditching their total football philosophy, and scoring 37 goals in ten qualifying games cannot be ignored. Great things are expected from England’s Player of the Year Robin van Persie who couldn’t stop scoring last term. Portugal, who only qualified via a playoff victory, will need Real Madrid favourite Cristiano Ronaldo to be in top form to stand any chance while Denmark with Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner will be determined to show what he can do with his contract at the Emirates up this summer.

Group C

World Cup winners and Euro 2008 champions Spain are hot favourites to carry on where they left off two years ago, and manager Vincente Del Bosque is determined to become only the second manager in history to win both tournaments, whilst Barcelona superstar Andres Iniesta will be a handful for any opponents. Italy, who went out of the World Cup in the group stages two years ago, have dismantled their squad and  replaced many of the old hands with younger players although Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo’s experience could prove vital. Liam Brady believes that Croatia could be the dark horses for the actual championship and Spurs star Luka Modric who has hinted that he may leave White Hart Lane will be keen to put himself in the shop window. Never write off the Irish however who always enjoy the big occasion and normally punch well above their weight. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has a wealth of experience with 10 league championships in four countries, whilst the main goal threat comes from Robbie Keane.

Group D

France are slight favourites in this group with manager Laurent Blanc having united the squad which left South Africa divided under previous boss Raymond Domench. Real Madrid star Karim Benzema is one to watch. For a change, the English media have not already claimed the championship, and the reaction to new manager Roy Hodgson has been underwhelming to say the least. Injuries to key players and star man Wayne Rooney’s suspension have not helped, and his failure to bring back Rio Ferdinand following the injury to Gary Cahill could come back to bite him if results do not go their way. Ukraine are a shadow of the side which did so well in the World Cup in 2006, and the expectancy of the home support could either inspire or otherwise. Andre Shevchenko remains the main goal threat. Not much is expected of Sweden although their 3-2 victory over Holland in the qualifiers demonstrates that they will be no pushovers. AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proved himself at the highest level, and the Swede’s hopes rest with him.

Spotlight On Croatia

Ireland kick off their first European Championship since 1988 against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia in Poznan on June 10th. If Ireland are going to get out of this extremely tough group I believe they will have to go out all guns blazing against the 1998 World Cup Semi-Finalists. The critics are saying that we will be fighting for third place with the Croats and even that won’t be an easy task. 

Just like Ireland, the play offs were the route that the Croatians took to gain qualification. They finished two points behind Greece in their group and were handed a two legged tie against Turkey. Croatia put three past the Turks in the first leg meaning a nil-all draw at home secured a place in Poland. 

Croatia aren’t as strong as their 1998 World Cup golden generation and don’t have a player quite as influential as Davor Suker but they can still pose a serious threat. Suker was a thorn in the side of the Irish team scoring three goals in four meetings including a 94th minute winner in a Euro 2000 qualifier. 

Since the heady heights of the late nineties, Croatia have done reasonably well, qualification has usually been achieved, missing out only twice, however group stage elimination has usually followed. The exception came at Euro 2008 under current coach Bilic. Having qualified ahead of England, who they defeated at Wembley during the campaign, Croatia went on a run to the quarter finals, where they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey.  This team pose a threat but it’s a similar squad to the one that failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. 

Bilic announced that he would be stepping down as manager of Croatia after this tournament and this may give his side extra incentive to perform to the best of their ability and give the manager a good send off. They are extremely compact without the ball, making them very difficult to break down, and play a pressing game, giving their opponents very little time on the ball. When they do have the ball they play an incredibly quick, counter attacking game, which relies on one and two touch play, pace and clinical finishing. 

Previous Meetings: The two sides most recent meeting was a nil all draw in a friendly last summer. Ireland have beaten Croatia twice in six meetings and only lost once in that time. Ireland will hope to continue their good record against the Croats when they meet at Stadion Miejksi in Poznan.

Strengths: Croatia have some very talented players and have a serious attacking threat with the likes of Modric, Krancjar, Olic, Jelavic and Eduardo tasked with firing them to glory.

 Weaknesses: Croatia lack real quality in their defence and an even further dent to their back line was the omission of Lyon defender Dejan Lovren who misses out through injury.

By Andrew Harte

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