Spain is viewed as one of the favorites to take the Cup and rightfully so. If you look at their lineup, they are stacked with talent. At the back, Casillas and Valdes are both solid and experienced goalkeepers. On defense, though not their strength, they have Sergio Ramos, Puyols, Capdevilla & Marchena, making it a good core. At midfield, and here is where they start dominating, are Iniesta (keep an eye on his health; may miss first game), the amazingly talented Fabregas, Xavi and Xabi Alonso; this group when playing well are the best in the world. Lastly, their attack, with Villa and Torres making for a deadly and potent duo. Everything is there for them to breeze through group stage, as they did in 2006. The real question here is, can they shake off their stigma of early knockout stage eliminations? I think this could be the year, keep an eye on them!
First the good news, it seems like Behrami may be ready for their opener against Spain, which would be a boost to their midfield. The bad news? Frei, their star attacker, once again before a major international competition is hurt (ankle). The severity will go a long way into deciding how much the Swiss will accomplish this World Cup. Back in 06 they faired out well, winning their group, however were eliminated by Ukraine in penalties (despite not allowing one goal against the entire competition). Look for them to play a somewhat similar style to get out of the group. The key match-up will be against Chile.
Chilean soccer has been revitalized. With Argentinian coach Bielsa and a young and talented generation, Chile has put on the their best qualifying campaign ever. After failing to make the World Cup in 8 years, they are back, and if the show they put on during qualification is any indication, watch out, they could get out of group stage and do some damage. They finished tied in most wins, one goal less than Brazil and one point behind as well. They had impressive victories against Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay. Suazo could be the difference maker in the attack, however don’t count out the rest of the team,including talented midfielder, Valdivia. This is a good group and I think they’ll get the second spot.
Honduras barely made it into the World Cup. Barely. If you watched USA vs Costa Rica match in the final round of qualifying you know how close. I think overall Costa Rica was a better team, but Honduras’ strong start to the tournament paid off and here they are. The best in Central America, as some Hondurians like to boast, however they unfortunately are a few steps below Mexico, USA and most other World Cup teams. That’s not to say they’ll go down quietly, they do have some quality; Pavon and Palacios are the names to watch. The potential to score goals is there, my doubts are at how their defense will hold up.