After predicting five matches correctly in eight tries through the group stage of the World Cup, Tex Hopper (right) is about to put in some overtime as the knockout rounds begin on Saturday. That's because the Mean Green Prediction Machine (yes, it's a thing) will be predicting every single match of the tournament from here on out.
Which means the red-hot fire belly toad will be pulling double duty on match days through the quarterfinals. Don't worry, he'll be fairly compensated for his services (It's about to rain crickets in that aquarium). Check out the Toad to Brazil page to see Hopper's full prediction schedule and don't miss his live predictions on YouTube every World Cup match day at 10am CT!
The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup begins for FC Dallas tonight in the fourth round against the San Antonio Scorpions at 8pm at Toyota Stadium. FCD played in a total of three game last year winning two before falling in the quarterfinal round. Let's take a look back at how the tournament went for FCD last year.
Game 1 - Third round - May 29th, 2013 - FC Dallas 2, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 0: The first half saw clean sheets from both sides until ultimately Blas Perez and Matt Hedges were able to come through to help FCD gain the win in the second half played at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
In the 54th minute, Je-Vaughn Watson sent a cross to Castillo at the far post who then kicked the ball to Blas Perez who was unmarked in front of the goal. Perez slid under Strikers goalkeeper to give FCD the lead. They scored their second goal in the 64th minute that would eventually be the last goal of the match. Michel took a free kick that found Hedges at the far post and he was able to easily head the ball into the goal.
USOC HIGHLIGHTS: FCD 3, HOU 0
Game 2 - Fourth Round - June 12th, 2013 - FC Dallas 3, Houston Dynamo 0: The scoring opened for FCD in the 38th minute when Michel sent a ball to Jacobson at the far post who then tapped the ball to Cooper in front of the goal who was able to send it past the Dyanmo goalkeeper. The second goal came just before the 60th minute when MIchel again served a corner kick right to Cooper in front of the goal who headed it home. Dallas closed out the game in the 76th minute when Dynamo keeper fumbled a ball that came back out in front of Zach Loyd who chipped the ball over the keeper from 20 yards out.
USOC HIGHLIGHTS: FCD 2, PTFC 3
Game 3 - Quarterfinals - June 26th, 2013 - FC Dallas 2, Portland Timbers 3: FCD opened up the game in the 15th minute with a strike from Je-Vaughn Watson. As quick as FCD gained the lead, they lost it. Portland responded to Dallas' goal with three goals for their own. Perez was able to notch FCD their second goal to come within reach of the Timbers and David Ferreira hit the post with the final kick of the match, but ultimately it wasn't enough as the TImbers advanced to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup eliminating FCD.
2014 World Cup Group G
How they got here: Steamrolled their UEFA qualifying group winning 9 out of 10 games.
2010 World Cup: Fell 1-0 to Spain in the semifinals.
Best case: Germany has been to at least the semifinals in the last three World Cups and while this team is banged up, Germany goes into every World Cup looking to win it. In a bracket where they won't face a Brazil or Spain until at least the semifinals, Germany is really contending with Argentina for that semifinal spot. Given the South American location, you'd think the Germans would be happy with a semifinal appearance.
Worst case: Key injuries leave Marco Reus sidelined and other key German players hobbled heading into a tough group. As crazy as it sounds, it's not inconceivable that Germany slips up against Portugal, then draws the US and Ghana. It's a long shot, but not out of the question.
Player to watch: Winger Mesut Ozil comes into this tournament relatively healthy and coming off his big money move to Arsenal. Ozil is truly world class and with others hobbled around him will be relied on to create much of the German attack.
X Factor: Bayern Munich's diminutive winger Mario Gotze solidified his first team position as the season went on and he's coming into this tournament firing on all cylinders.
How they got here: Defeated Bob Bradley's Ghana side in the qualifying playoff.
2010 World Cup: Defeated the United States in the round of 16 and were extremely unlucky to fall to Ghana in the quarterfinals.
Best case: They enjoyed some good luck and punched above their weight in 2010, but if things come together they can advance from this group. They'll have to beat the USA in that first game to have any chance.
Worst case: With aging stars, Ghana is unable to repeat their heroics of 2010 falling to the United States in the first match and failing to recover with two more losses to Portugal and Germany.
Player to watch: Kevin Prince-Boateng, brother of Germany defender Derek Boateng, is one of the top attacking players on Ghana. He's a veteran of AC Milan, Tottenham and Schalke 04 among others.
X Factor: Michael Essien is an old 31 years old and can he reconjure his greatness for one more tournament. Their central midfield becomes a litle weak without him.
How they got here: Defeated Sweden in that epic playoff qualifying round
2010 World Cup: Fell to Spain in the round of 16
Best case: Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar goes into beast mode and takes Portugal onto his back leading them out of the group stage and past Belgium in the round of 16 into a quarterfinal match.
Worst case: Cristiano is hobbled by his muscle issue(unlikely) and Portugal struggles to find another offensive option crashing out at the group stage.
Player to watch: Look out for Portugal's big forward Eder. The 26-year-old has recently broken into the Portugal team and has a big body that could give the US defenders a lot of problems.
X Factor: Well this one is kind of easy. Portugal will go as far as Cristiano Ronaldo takes them, end of story.
How they got here: Won their CONCACAF qualifying group
2010 World Cup: Fell to Ghana in the round of 16 after winning their group.
Best case: The United States finally exorcises their Ghana demons and earns a point from either Portugal or Germany to advance second from the gorup with four points.
Worst case: The USA's tournament is practically over before it starts after a third-straight loss to Ghana. With two tough games after that, it's a very real possiblity that the old US & A could finish with 0 points.
Player to watch: Outside back Fabian Johnson has been arguably the USA's best player in the kickoff series games. The Borussia Moenchengladbach signing could prove to be an attacking force from the back for the United States making them much more dynamic.
X Factor: Jozy Altidore's two goals against Nigeria were perhaps the best development of the last month. If Altidore can find his goal-scoring touch, paired with Dempsey, Bradley and the other proven stars, the USA could advance from this group.
Germany 1st, Portugal 2nd, United States 3rd, Ghana 4th
Boy the USA really got a raw deal with this group and prior to Tuesday's Portugal thrashing of Ireland, I thought maybe the USA could pull off the upset, but this is just too much for them.
I feel like the United States will beat Ghana in their first match, but Portugal's draw with Germany in the first match paired with 4 points from Ghana/USA means we'll see Germany 5, Portugal 5, USA 4, Ghana 1.
What do you think?
2014 World Cup Group F
How they got here: Finished first in CONMEBOL qualifying
2010 World Cup: Beat 4-0 by Germany in the quarterfinals.
Best case: Argentina is one of the few teams that can say they have a real chance to win this tournament. Their trio of Messi, Di Maria and Aguero is better than any in the world and if the defense can hold up, they're going to cruise to at least the quarterfinals. They can't possibly meet Spain or Brazil until at least the semifinals, so the stage is set for Argentina...
Worst case: It would be shocking to see Argentina not at least advance to the quarterfinals. Perhaps the worst case is falling to a team like Germany or Belgium in the quarterfinals which, while possible, would be a huge disappointment for a team with championship aspirations.
Player to watch: Who else but Lionel Messi? He's the best player in the world and he's been in decent form with Argentina heading into this tournament. As unfair as it is, the 2014 World Cup will go a long way to determining whether we see Messi as the best of all-time.
X Factor: We know about Messi and Aguero, but if Angel Di Maria can play as well as he has been recently with Real Madrid, Argentina becomes almost unbeatable. Di Maria, now 26 years old and in his absolute prime, will be a huge piece of the Argentina offense.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
How they got here: Won their UEFA qualfiying group, beating Greece on goal differential.
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: Playing in their first World Cup, B&H leans on their stars, Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic, and those two star forwards score the goals that get B&H through a relatively easy group. The USA must be wondering why they couldn't have been drawn here.
Worst case: With a no-name defense and a first-time World Cup squad, the stage is just a little bit too big and Nigeria is able to beat the Europeans, sending them out at the group stage.
Player to watch: We've seen him do the business with Manchester City winning two EPL titles and Dzeko can solidify his name among the best forwards in the world if he can lead Bosnia out of the group stage.
X Factor: Miralem Pjanic is the creative, attacking engine of this team and he will need to pull the strings to create the goals Bosnia needs.
How they got here: Finished first in AFC qualifying, ahead of South Korea
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: This Iran team is pretty much unknown with a squad that plays almost exclusively in Iran so it's incredibly tough to call. If they win a game, they'll be very pleased with themselves.
Worst case: Iran is simply overmatched against three solid teams with very different styles and they go out without a point from the group stage.
Player to watch: One of the few that plays in Europe, Ashkan Dejagah had an up and down season for Fulham, but is capable of scoring great goals and would be the one who likely scores if Iran could nip a 1-0 win.
X Factor: I'd be lying if I said there was a player other than Dejagah that I've ever seen play. The X Factor for Iran isn't simply one player, it's staying compact defensively against Nigeria and Bosnia.
How they got here: Defeated Ethiopia in their qualifying playoff.
2010 World Cup: Did not win a match, going 0-1-2. They haven't won a World Cup match since 2002.
Best case: Playing in a manageable group, the Super Eagles return to their former success advancing from the group stage for the first time since 1998.
Worst case: Nigeria is unable to cope with the European talent on Bosnia and they fall in that group-deciding match failing to advance from the group.
Player to watch: Ogenyi Onazi is the central midfield engine of both Nigeria and Lazio. At just 21 years old, Onazi is primed to move to a big European club with a solid World Cup.
X Factor: Peter Odemwingie has been a decent forward in the EPL since 2010 and while he's had an up and down career for Nigeria, he's likely their best forward option and will need to score some goals for the Super Eagles to advance.
Argentina 1st, Nigeria 2nd, Bosnia & Herzegovina 3rd, Iran 4th
This one is pretty straight forward for first place, but second is a toss-up between Nigeria and Bosnia & Herzegovina. They play second in the schedule and I think Nigeria playing Argentina 3rd could play into the Super Eagles' hands.
I like Nigeria to earn 5 points out of the group which will be enough to advance second.
What do you think about this group?
2014 World Cup Group E
How they got here: Finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: Playing in South America, Ecuador punches above their weight a bit and finishes at the top of a group that's there for the taking. With a matchup against the weak second place team in group F, Ecuador makes it all the way to the quarterfinals.
Worst case: Ecuador is unable to take advantage of the South American conditions and fall to a pair of teams that, on paper, are probably better than Ecuador, sending the South American's out at the group stage.
Player to watch: Jefferson Montero is a dynamic attacking midfielder who has found lots of success in Liga MX for Morelia after washing out of Europe. He'll be a player Ecuador will be relying on for a lot of offense.
X Factor: Antonio Valencia is the one name on Ecuador that will be known by most soccer fans and he's got the ability to make Ecuador a very tough team to beat. It will be interesting to see where the versatile player lines up.
How they got here: Came from two goals down to defeat Ukraine in UEFA qualifying playoffs
2010 World Cup: Disastrously crashed out at the group stage failing to win a game.
Best case: France continues their yo-yo World Cup trend and dominates a group that, on paper, they're clearly the best team. The 1998 champions will miss Franck Ribery, but Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba pick up the slack for a France side that strolls to the quarterfinals.
Worst case: A younger French squad fails to gel together, Ribery is badly missed and the in-fighting once again plagues the French team who falls at the group stage for the second straight world cup.
Player to watch: With Franck Ribery out, a French winger named Antoine Griezmann could be set for a big tournament. Having played his whole career at Real Sociedad in Spain, the 23-year-old isn't terribly well known, but he's impressed in the Champions League and has scored three goals in France's World Cup warmup games.
X Factor: He's as streaky of a forward as you'll find, but Karim Benzema will have to be good for France to advance far in the tournament. If he can create his own chances and punish weaker defenses of Honduras and Ecuador, a guy like Benzema could be a dark horse for the golden boot.
How they got here: Finished third in CONCACAF qualifying.
2010 World Cup: Finished with one point in their group and did not score a goal.
Best case: For Honduras, they'll remember the lessons of 2010 and have a better World Cup. That doesn't mean they'll advance from the group, but perhaps they can score a couple goals.
Worst case: Another winless and goalless tournament is very possible for Los Catrachos.
Player to watch: A player that long-time MLS fans will be familiar with, former DC United Homegrown signing Andy Najar has done very well since moving to Anderlecht in Belgium. Still just 21, the winger has a chance to be Honduras' most famous and best player ever.
X Factor: Another former MLS'er, midfielder Roger Espinoza will be key to Honduras' hopes. Having played in the Premier League, Espinoza will not be out of his depth at the World Cup and could earn a move to a bigger team than Wigan with a nice tournament.
How they got here: Won their UEFA qualifying group.
2010 World Cup: Had a respectable 1-1-1 showing including a win over eventual champions Spain, but failed to advance from the group.
Best case: A young and dynamic team has one of their myriad of youthful attacking players step up to another level and Switzerland finds the goals to make them a formidable team in the tournament advancing from the group.
Worst case: Where do the goals come from? There are some very good players on the Switzerland team, but the lack of depth proves consequential and the Swiss simply can't find the goals to beat anyone in the group.
Player to watch: Tiny Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri could be set for a breakout tournament. He's been somewhat hidden by the mass of attacking talent at his Bavarian club side and the World Cup gives him the stage to shine.
X Factor: Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio can be among the best in the world when on the top of his game, but he's fallen off the map a little bit recently with Wolfsburg. Benaglio is a player that could earn Switzerland a result almost single-handedly.
France 1st, Ecuador 2nd, Switzerland 3rd, Honduras 4th
I really think France could be set for a surprisingly good tournament. Rumors have abounded that Ribery's absence may turn out to be a positive for Didier Deschamps' side and I like them to have a relatively easy group stage win.
After that, I'm going to take the South America factor for Ecuador to get them past Switzerland.
What do you think about this one?
2014 World Cup Group D
How they got here: Finished second in CONCACAF qualifying, easily advancing to the World Cup.
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: Costa Rica doesn't really have any hope of advancing from the first group in World Cup history with three former champions, so they'll be hoping to nick a famous result against one of the three big teams. A win in this group would be a huge accomplishment for Los Ticos .
Worst case: You can certainly see a scenario where Costa Rica is eliminated from the tournament with three losses and nary a goal scored.
Player to watch: Look out for 21-year-old forward Joel Campbell. The strong and fast forward made his move across the pond at a very young age and has bounced around Europe as he worked towards an English work permit. He now has that permit and could be a big part of Arsenal next year.
X Factor: Costa Rica's one big hope is their world class goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The former Saprissa man took La Liga by storm this season making some jaw-dropping saves this season. At just 27, Navas could be set for a big money move soon.
How they got here: Finished first in their qualifying group one point ahead of Ukraine.
2010 World Cup: Unconvincingly advanced through to the knockout round where they were blown out 4-1 by Germany.
Best case: The Three Lions perhaps have the least pressure coming into a World Cup that we've seen in quite some time and that could play into their advantage. A young team gels together and wins the group setting up a manageable second round matchup against Group C that England wins to advance to the quarterfinal.
Worst case: The experienced England players like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard fail to pull their weight and England crashes out at the group stage for the first time in this World Cup format.
Player to watch: All the reports out of the England camp have been praising Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling. Similarly to FCD's Fabian Castillo, we've seen flashes of greatness from Sterling and at just 19 years old, this could be his world coming out party.
X Factor: Another Liverpool player, Steven Gerrard will go a long way in dictating how this England team does. If the legendary winger and England captain can conjure up one more world class tournament, England has a great shot at advancing. If he looks like the 34-year-old who was inconsistent for the Reds this year, they're going to have to find answers elsewhere.
How they got here: Easily advanced from their UEFA qualifying group 6 points ahead of second-placed Denmark.
2010 World Cup: Crashed out in the group stage without winning a match.
Best case: Italy typically alternates between good and bad World Cups and they're set for a big one in 2014. This is a tough group, but these Italians are experienced and will know what it takes to advance. If the stars align, a semifinal appearance isn't out of the question.
Worst case: The Italians falter in that first game against England and fail to get a result in a tough final group stage match against Uruguay crashing out at the group stage for the second-straight World Cup.
Player to watch: Italian forward Ciro Immobile is set to explode onto the world stage and the 2014 World Cup could be his tournament. After scoring 22 goals in Serie A last year, Borussia Dortmund came in and snapped up the 24-year-old who scored a hat trick in Italy's 5-3 win over Fluminense.
X Factor: Italian defensive mid Daniele De Rossi will have a huge task shutting down the England and Uruguay offenses. If he can find his form, that will free up Andrea Pirlo to work his magic and Italy will be the favorites to win this group.
How they got here: Struggled to qualify from CONMEBOL, defeating Jordan in the inter-continental playoff.
2010 World Cup: Had their best showing since 1970 advancing all the way to the semifinals before falling to Netherlands.
Best case: Uruguay has the talent to make it back to that semifinal spot of 2010, but it's going to depend on the health of Luis Suarez. If he's fit and ready to go, Uruguay playing in their own back yard can pose problems for any country in the world.
Worst case: If Suarez is unfit to play and talismanic players Diego Lugano and Diego Forlan show their age, this is a good enough group to send Uruguay packing after the group stage.
Player to watch: "El Matador" Edinson Cavani will be the man that Uruguay turns to if Suarez can't find full health and he's got the talent at forward to fill some big shoes. He scored 16 goals in his first season in Serie A with PSG and will be a huge force for Uruguay.
X Factor: We keep mentioning him, but Luis Suarez is as big of an X factor for his side that you'll find in the World Cup. If he's fit and healthy, this small country can do big things in Brazil. If he can't hit form, it's tough to see Uruguay advancing past the round of 16.
Uruguay 1st, Italy 2nd, England 3rd, Costa Rica 4th
It's clearly three teams for two spots in group D and this one is a tough call. I'm fascinated to see how this England side does with a squad that faces no pressure, but I just can't see them getting out.
Put me in the camp that thinks Uruguay might be playing a little bit of possum with Luis Suarez as I feel he's going to be ready to go at least by the second game. They'll have no problem with Costa Rica and should be able to get the 7 points they'll need to win the group.
Let us know what you think in the poll!
Here's your Toyota Keys to the Match for FCD's final game before the World Cup break in Portland on Wednesday:
2014 World Cup Group B
How they got here: Finished second in CONMEBOL qualifying just two points behind Argentina
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: Colombia should advance from this managable group despite the loss of Falcao but a Round of 16 matchup against either England, Italy or Uruguay will pose problems. Playing in the tougher half of the bracket, a quarterfinal apperance is as much as Los Cafeteros can hope for.
Worst case: The stage is just a little too big for a Colombian team appearing in their first Mundial in 16 years. The loss to Falcao and a draw against Greece in their first match dooms Colombia to a first round exit.
Player to watch: With Falcao now definitely out of the tournament, Colombia will need someone to step up at forward and Jackson Martinez could be the man for the job. The big, strong forward has been an absolute goal machine at all three stops in his career including 46 goals in the last two seasons at Porto. A big World Cup could see him make the move to one of the top clubs in the world.
X Factor: The biggest questions for Colombia are in the back and whether they can hold teams off the board. In his prime, Mario Yepes was one of the best defenders in the world and now 38 years old, Colombia will be hoping to get one last hurrah out of the center back.
How they got here: Finished second in their UEFA qualifying group defeating Romania in a two-legged playoff.
2010 World Cup: Fell in the group stage winning once and losing twice.
Best case: Greece has never advanced out of the group stage at the World Cup and the only way they will this time is if they can repeat their defensive efforts of 10 years ago in the 2004 European Championships. Sneaking through with four points and a neutral goal difference is about the best they can hope for.
Worst case: A mis-firing Kostas Mitroglu is unable to find the back of the net and Greece exits the tournament with only a point.
Player to watch: Giorgious Karagounis is the Greece captain and an absolute soccer legend. A pitbull of a midfielder, Karagounis has been the heart and soul of the Greece National Team and now 37 years old, this will be his final spotlight on the world stage.
X Factor: The previously mentioned Mitroglu has a prolific scoring record in the Champions League over the last year and for an aging Greece attack, they'll need Mitroglu to pull out some heroics to have any chance.
How they got here: Defeated Senegal in two-leg playoff after winning their CAF qualifying group
2010 World Cup: Barely missed out on advancing out of their group with Brazil and Portugal.
Best case: Ivory Coast could be the real surprise team of this tournament and advance a long ways. I back them to advance from this group and a round of 16 match against either England, Italy or Uruguay would be fascinating. Much like Colombia, the quarterfinals isn't out of reach for the Elephants.
Worst case: Didier Drogba can't quite reach his world class level again and the rough-and-tumble style of Ivory Coast picks up a crucial red card early in one of their games to doom them to another group stage exit.
Player to watch: Gervinho had arguably his best season as a professional finishing tied at the top of Serie A assist leaders and we saw it first hand with his goal and assist vs El Salvador at Toyota Stadium. He's quite simply one of the best wingers in the world right now.
X Factor: How healthy is Yaya Toure? He didn't play in either of Ivory Coast's American tour games and his status will go a long way to determining how the Elephants will do. Arguably the best two-way midfielder in the world, Toure has the ability to carry this team on his back...if his legs can support them.
How they got here: Easily qualified from their AFC qualifying group.
2010 World Cup: Defeated Cameroon & Denmark en route to the round of 16 where they fell to Paraguay on penalty kicks.
Best case: Japan has been working towards a quarterfinal appearance for the last decade and they have the talent and experience to get there. Could be another dark horse like Ivory Coast and Colombia.
Worst case: The Japanese have done poorly in the World Cup following their round of 16 appearances and their disastrous 2013 Confederations Cup throws up a huge red flag that perhaps Brazil won't go too well for them. In a group where anyone could advance, Japan might be the ones who suffer.
Player to watch: Keisuke Honda has been the Japanese attacking engine for what seems like years. He was spectacular scoring two goals in the 2010 World Cup and has finally settled his club situation after moving to AC Milan in the winter.
X Factor: Shinji Kagawa struggled to break into the Manchester United first team, but his attacking talent is unquestioned. If he can prove to be a successful foil to Honda and take some defensive pressure off him, Japan should find the goals to advance through the group stage.
Ivory Coast 1st, Colombia 2nd, Japan 3rd, Greece 4th
For me this is by far the toughest group to predict with probably the most diverse four teams in the tournament.
Perhaps I'm biased because we saw them up close right here in Frisco, but Ivory Coast is such a formidable team and with two prior World Cups under their belt, they now have the experience to know exactly what it takes to succeed on soccer's biggest stage.
It's tough for me to go against Colombia at least advancing from the group in South America which leaves Japan as the odd man out. Their 2013 Confederations Cup disaster really scares me and even though on paper they might be the most talented team in the group, I think they'll crash out with a Greece team that simply can't score enough goals.
WORLD CUP GROUP PREVIEWS: GROUP A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H
2014 World Cup Group B
How they got here: Finished second in qualifying group
2010 World Cup: Eliminated in group stage
Best case: Australia saves some face by winning a game in the group. There's really no scenario where they'll make it through this group, but a win would be a definite positive.
Worst case: The Socceroos seem the odds on favorite to lose all three games in this group and could go home with a last place next to their names.
Player to watch: Check out Aussie winger Tommy Oar. The attacker is one of the few players on the Australia squad that has the potential to go to a top team in Europe and after another solid season at FC Utrecht could see his stock rise with a good touranment.
X Factor: Tim Cahill is now 34 and not the player he once was, but for Australia to pull a shock result against one of the big three in the tournament, he's one of the few players that could find that goal.
How they got here: Finished 3rd out of 9 teams in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying earning an automatic qualification spot.
2010 World Cup: Fell in the round of 16 to Brazil after defeating Switzerland & Honduras to advance out of the group stage.
Best case: Many love Chile as a dark horse to advance quite a long ways in the tournament. If they can win the group and avoid Brazil, which is certainly a possibility, a quarterfinal finish isn't impossible.
Worst case: Chile fails to cope with the high-powered European teams and falls in their games against Holland & Spain, thus being eliminated in the group stage which would be a disappointment for La Roja.
Player to watch: Arturo Vidal is an absolute monster of a two-way midfielder at the heart of the Chile side. The Juventus man is one of two truly world class players on the Chile roster and when he's on, Vidal is perhaps the best combination of attack and defense in a midfielder on the planet.
X Factor: Alexis Sanchez will feel no pressure going up against the Spanish as he faces them every week in La Liga play with Barcelona. You can certainly see Sanchez as the player who unlocks defenses for La Roja.
How they got here: Obliterated their qualifying group, winning nine out of ten matches and finishing with 28 out of a possible 30 points.
2010 World Cup: Advanced all the way to the final before losing to Spain 1-0 in extra time.
Best case: Should Netherlands win the group, the road to the semifinals isn't terribly difficult for the Oranje. A potential round of 16 against Mexico and quarterfinal against Italy won't scare Louis Van Gaal's side too much.
Worst case: Robin Van Persie fails to reach good form, one of the oft-injured Dutch wingers picks up a knock and the rest of a young squad fails to gel as the Oranje fall in a tough group.
Player to watch: Feynoord central midfield Jordy Clasie could be the next big name in European soccer. The 22-year-old has started nearly every match for the Dutch giants in his last three seasons and could be on the brink of a big-money European move with a solid tournament.
X Factor: As Robin Van Persie goes, so will Holland. They'll really be looking to outscore teams rather than defend tightly in Brazil and if RVP can't find the goals, it's going to be really tough on the Dutch.
How they got here: Easily qualified from a group containing France and three also-rans.
2010 World Cup: Won their first World Cup in a 1-0 win over the Netherlands in the final.
Best case: La Furia Roja continues their span of world domination, winning their third straight international tournament. There's not much left to prove for Vicente Del Bosque's side and a second World Cup solidifies this as one of the all-time special groups in world soccer history.
Worst case: What was a thrilling and innovative squad in their prime in 2010 becomes an outdated, aging and easy-to-defend side in 2014. Netherlands finds revenge against Spain in their opening match and a draw against Chile makes the final match against minnows Australia a meaningless match.
Player to watch: Diego Costa has just one cap for the Spanish side, but he may be the most important player in 2014. The defense and midfield have unquestioned talent, but if a 32- year-old David Villa and out-of-form Fernando Torres can't get the job done up front, this naturalized Brazilian will be huge to Spain's hopes of repeating as champions.
X Factor: Does Andres Iniesta have even more top level soccer in him? At 30, he's starting to show signs of his age and having played so much soccer over the last four years, you wonder if it's starting to wear on him a little bit and whether he can be at the level he once was.
Spain 1st, Chile 2nd, Netherlands 3rd, Australia 4th
This one is really three teams for two spots with Chile, Spain and Netherlands battling it out. The question becomes which team is most likely to falter and I think it's going to be the Netherlands.
It's just so tough to go against a team like Chile in Brazil and I can't see how Spain doesn't make it out of the group. Netherlands and Chile play on the final day of their group stage and that's likely to be an all-out war to see who advances with Spain to likely face Brazil in the round of 16.
Let us know in the poll who you think will advance and be sure to listen to the podcast above to hear Kevin Hartman's thoughts on the group.
Check out our Toyota Keys to the Match for Saturday's big game against Colorado: