Friday, 30 May 2014

Brazil World Cup 2014 - Preview #1:

4 years of waiting: The World Cup is almost upon us. 2 weeks.
Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post. Today, with just 2 weeks to go until the official start of the World Cup in Brazil, I will have a preview of a select few international countries. 

In this post, I am going to be analysising the host nation Brazil, who will be hoping to win the World Cup on home soil. Also, I will be previewing the German side, who have not won the World Cup since 1990 and despite having a strong squad, finished 3rd place in South Africa, 2010. 

This is the first installment of my official preview to the biggest and best international tournament in the world, which is set to start on the 12th of June.

Ok, so without further ado - here we go: 

Brazil -
No pressure? Neymar stars in Brazil's World Cup poster - he is important for success
There will obviously be pressure on Brazil to do well in-front of their home supporters; they are more used to the climate, they have used the Brazuca ball more than most nations and they have a strong squad on paper. 

Time to get to work: Brazil have started training as a team, with 2 weeks to go until the start.
Brazil are the favourites to win, being managed by former Chelsea manager Luis Felipe Scolari.
FACT: This is the first time that the World Cup is being held in South America for 36 years.

FACT: The previous four World Cups that were staged in South America were ALL won by South American teams.

Neymar in attack and Thiago Silva in defence will be an integral part for the side's success, they are being hotly tipped as the favourites based on the fact that they are hungry to beat the rest and eager to prove to the world that they are the best. 

Having dominated and won the Confederations Cup back in 2013, could it be a sign of things to come starting in a fortnight? Beating the current world champions Spain in the final this time last year could hint at future success for Brazil, but can they do it?

This is Brazil's group: 
Group A - 
Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. 

Would be a major upset if Brazil failed to progress through the group stages against weaker sides with some good individual players. Croatia have the likes of Mandzukic, Rakitic and Modric while Mexico boast Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos; Cameroon have Eto'o and M'Bia.

Analysis of key players: 

Neymar -
The team's cover star, Neymar will be under pressure to perform at the highest level for his national side this summer. It's justified, given his talent and potential to give defenders trouble thanks to his attacking abilities. 

He is fast, a silky dribbler and has a fierce shot behind him - but he often needs service on the wing to cut inside past the opposition defence. Can he help push Brazil to their first World Cup win since 2002 and prove that he is truly worth the hype after a disappointing first season at Barcelona? 

David Luiz and Thiago Silva -
The heart of the Brazil defence, Luiz and Silva will be playing with each other in the centre of the back four for the host nation this summer, and furthermore afterwards (after Luiz's move to PSG is officially confirmed on July 1st).

Luiz is more of a flamboyant defender, with skills and tricks as well as his defensive qualities, Silva is more of a rock solid centre-back that you can count on - together, they will be important in pushing their markers off the ball and helping to keep clean sheets as they look to win the World Cup.

Julio Cesar - 
The last form of defence, Brazil's number 1 goalkeeper will be expected to keep his side in must-win matches throughout the tournament and not make any crucial mistakes.

Cesar will be hoping that he can lead Brazil to World Cup glory in the coming month and a half
The experienced keeper has played in important matches before, so he should not have too much trouble. But under the expectations of the entire country behind him and the rest of the team, you can never know what will happen.

Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho - 
The defensive rocks of midfield, both midfielders boast having ability in both going forward and defending for their team. 

They will be important for the Brazillians, without them there is no real bite in the midfield, meaning that the opposition can break them down easily. Gustavo and Fernandinho are also relatively quick, which is a disadvantage for their opponents. Ramires also qualifies for this spot in the team.  

Oscar and Willian -
The creative spark in the midfield, the Chelsea duo will also play an important part in Brazil's counter attacking football at the World Cup. 

Their main job will be to create attacks from the midfield, switch the play onto the wings and feed through balls to Neymar up-top, who will then be expected to score from.
No pressure there then.

Germany -

Big guns: Germany's poster includes Ozil, Lahm and Schweinsteiger - can they finally win it?
Germany have failed to get past the semi-final stage in many World Cup finals in recent years, which they will feel frustrated by but realise that they are actually closing in on lifting the trophy itself.

FACT: Germany last won the World Cup in 1990, 24 years ago

To get to a World Cup semi-final is a huge feat, but people only remember the winners ultimately, and Germany will be equally bullish about their chances this year. 

FACT: Germany finished in third place in back-to-back World Cups, 2006 and 2010 - the only country to do that in history.

They have talent across the pitch, which is why they are one of the favourites to go all the way in this summer's tournament. The question for them is whether they can hold their nerve and do better than they have recently, despite having a great team. Will the lack of clear strikers come back to haunt them? 

This is Germany's group:
Group G - 
Germany, Portugal, Ghana and United States

Not a particularly easy group, but still a group that Germany need to dominate if they are going to have any confidence going into the knock-out stages (provided they get there).

Portugal will be the favourites to get out of the group along with Germany, unless Ghana can conjure up another cheeky surprise like they did in 2010 and shock the bigger teams. The United States have a solid team, but their opposition looks on paper to be too strong for them to compete, but who knows?  

Analysis of key players:

Manuel Neuer
Germany's number 1 goalkeeper has to be on his guard in Brazil if he is going to help his team to glory in June and July. 

Proven at the highest level, Neuer will be under pressure to do well when coming up against some of the best players in the world - one of the best goalkeepers in the world will be on display for all to see, but his clear weakness at the moment is set-pieces. If the opposition exploit the back-four (who are not exactly the fastest), Neuer could be in trouble. Interesting.

Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng -
The backbone of the defence, these centre-backs all have different qualities that they will be hoping that they can mix together and help contribute to the team with. 

Mertesacker has been an instrumental part of Arsenal's season this campaign, despite not being the quickest he perfectly executes sliding tackles, has a good clearance, scores headers from set-pieces and has improved significantly from last season - where he looked tentative on the ball and his first thought was to get rid of it quickly, where he was more likely to make a mistake. 

Hummels and Boateng both have similar qualities; both play in the Bundesliga for rival clubs - and both are important to their club teams. Despite having a few injuries this season, Hummels may be expected to start for Germany at the back because:

He is tactically smart and has good visual awareness to be able to find a team-mate with a pass, solid at the back and knows how to defend in tricky situations under pressure - which will be key for the national team in the important games. 

Meanwhile Boateng is an unpredictable centre-back who can also play at full-back occasionally. He sometimes gallops forward if his team are winning, he is not afraid to make a sliding tackle which could risk giving away a foul and he has good passing, which could help benefit the rest of his team-mates. 

However, Boateng is sometimes shaky at the back on the counter attack if it is a two-on-one situation (him vs two attackers for example), he does not know how to handle the scenario and gives away fouls in the process, which could lead to goals.

Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil -
The creative spark of the team. These three attacking midfielders will play an integral part of the German side at the World Cup, because a lack of strikers means that the team will have to rely on their key players to prove their worth and show their skills to succeed. 

Kroos can play anywhere in the centre of midfield (CDM/CM/CAM), which is helpful and means that he can sit behind the likes of Gotze and Ozil in the centre of the pitch to sweep up danger behind them and win the ball in tight situations.

Gotze is more of an attacking midfielder who has been converted to a winger for Bayern - he has played well this season and has consequently been rewarded with a place on the team, but despite his flair, pace and good dribbling sometimes his ball retention is poor and he misses good chances. Hopefully he steps up to the occasion in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Ozil is probably the best attacking midfielder that Germany have, and is an important part of the team that they have. 

He destroyed England back in the World Cup of 2010, where his killer through ball passes and runs on the counter attack were too much to handle for the English defence in the second-half of the match as they walked over the Three Lions in the knock-out rounds. 

Ozil has been heavily criticized for "not turning up" in big matches this season, but I am confident that if he is given the chance to prove himself, he will do just that. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm - 
You could never forget these two players really. Schweinsteiger and Lahm, two of the more experienced German players to still be featuring heavily in the side. 

Why? Because they are very good! Both play for Bayern, and if you have seen them this season you would understand why they have their own category. Schweinsteiger can play anywhere in the centre of midfield just like Kroos, while Lahm is traditionally a full-back who was converted into a CDM by Bayern manager Pep Guardiola this season. 

Both are solid, and good additions to any team, Schweinsteiger works like a raging bull to win the ball back for his team, while Lahm has good vision and can beat a player with skill to find a killer pass to a team-mate, or even cross the ball into the box.

They are the hub of the German team, arguably the most important players in the team.  

Watch this, from 1:00 onwards to see what I mean:

Marco Reus and Lukas Podolski - 
Two strong attacking options going forward for Germany in Reus and Podolski. 

Reus has had a great individual season for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and it is no real surprise that he has been rewarded with a national call-up despite not having a lot of experience. His pace, dribbling, attacking positioning and powerful shot are all key qualities that he boasts.

Meanwhile, Podolski is almost a carbon copy. The Arsenal forward has been converted from a striker to a winger, and back to a striker again. As a winger, his crossing into the box is deadly, he can shoot from anywhere within 30 yards and he is most of all a consistent player. More experienced than Reus, but still a strong attacking option for the national side.

Hopefully both players feature. Reus is still young at 24, and looked irresistible at times during Euro 2012. Podolski meanwhile has experience, which could be beneficial for the younger players through the tournament.

Players to watch out for:

Max Meyer -
The young Schalke creative midfielder will not be expected to have much game time, but the World Cup experience will be hugely beneficial to his career. 

Playing alongside some of his heros and team-mates on the world stage, it does not get much better than the World Cup for the 18-year-old teenager, who is full of talent and is certainly one to watch in years to come. Very good young midfielder, top quality and who knows, he could receive a cameo in Brazil..

Julian Draxler - 
Another wonderkid, again from Schalke. Draxler wowed Europe with his consistent and confident performances in the Champions League this season, but has struggled with injury since the start of 2014.

Despite being out injured for 3 months, he has returned to 100% fitness and is looking encouraging as he looks to get back to the level that he was before his various injuries and knocks - which kept Schalke out of the title race in the Bundesliga.

He has been chosen as one of the 23-men to go to Brazil, despite having injury problems this season for one reason; he is a great young player, who has the potential to become world-class in a few years. 

Remember when Arsenal and Chelsea were linked with a £40million move for him earlier in the year? He'll be worth that soon.

Andre Schurrle - 
A quality forward to have in any team, Chelsea's Schurrle has booked his spot in Brazil despite not playing as much as I would have expected him to after his £20million move from Leverkusen at the start of the season.

His pace, power, agility, dribbling and clinical finishing are all great assets to have in a winger who can be converted to a striker - hopefully he features for Germany and is allowed to showcase his various skills. Very good.

Thomas Muller - 
Another good midfielder, this time from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Muller is under-rated, and it actually helps his game because no-one expects him to perform as well as he does sometimes. 

He may start for Germany in their matches, depending on what formation they decide to go for, he can play in midfield, on the flanks or even in striker.

He uses his height to his advantage and has decent acceleration for his build, but sometimes fails to hit the target or fails to score opportunities which you would expect him to.