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.
Hear from Oscar Pareja, Walker Zimmerman & Chris Seitz on Saturday's game vs Colorado:
Check out our Toyota Keys to the Match for Saturday's big game against Colorado:
FC Dallas plays the Colorado Rapids Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in their first meeting of the 2014 season. The two teams met three times last season with FCD winning the first, drawing in the second match, and losing the third. Here's a look back at the previous season series:
WATCH: FCD 1, COL 0
Game 1 - March 2nd, 2013 - FC Dallas 1, Colorado 0: In the 11th minute, backup goalkeeper Steward Ceus left his box which allowed Jackson an easy goal from a long ball that David Ferreira played. Jackson almost doubled FCD's lead in the 18th minute when he shot a ball from 30 yards out that looked as if it went in the goal but only found the side netting. Former FCD player Atiba Harris almost made the match even in the 58th minute for the Rapids but failed to send his shot from 25 yards out into the goal.
WATCH: FCD 2, COL 2
Game 2 - June 1, 2013 - FC Dallas 2, Colorado 2: The first 50 minutes were rather quiet for both teams until a ten minute span in the second half saw four goals. Marvell Wynne's throw in near the touchline headed straight for the center of the box which was then headed into the goal by Harris in the 56th minute. Five minutes later, FCD replied when Harris' attempted header to clear a Dallas cross from Michel, found Blas Perez who found the corner of the goal.
Colorado answered FCD's reply when Rapids Chris Klute sent a looping cross into the box which Harris then converted into a simple goald for his second goal of the game. The last goal of the game came soon after when an FCD cross into the box found Perez once again who finished with a shot from 20 yards out.
WATCH: FCD 1, COL 2
Game 3 - September 14, 2013 - Colorado 2, FC Dallas 1: The game was scoreless until halftime but not for a lack of chances. In the 51st minute, Jair Benitez sent a cross to Ferriera in the box who finished for a short range goal. A few minutes later two FCD defenders attempted to clear a Klute cross into the box but the ball came right to Sanchez on the left side of the penalty box which he then sent into the goal. Six minutes after their equalizing goal, Sanchez driblled around FCD defender George John and delivered a cross in front of the goal that defender Hedges accidentally tipped into his own goal.
FC Dallas returns to Toyota Stadium on Saturday night for the final home match before we kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup and we're getting ready for the world's biggest sporting event in style.
Gates open at a special 4:30PM time for Saturday's game as we'll be showing the USA's final World Cup sendoff match against Nigeria kicking off at 5:00PM on a portable jumbotron on the north concourse as well as offering $1 tacos(while supplies last) and $4 beer in the El Jimador Cantina until 6:30PM before transitioning straight from the USMNT into FCD's big match against Colorado at 7:30 on the Toyota Stadium pitch.
If you haven't got your ticket yet for Saturday's match, secure yours right here.
We'll see you out here Saturday night as we celebrate both club and country with FC Dallas taking on Colorado in the final home MLS match before July 4 and watch the USA take on Nigeria in the final tuneup before heading down to Brazil.
The World Cup is just one week away!
We're so excited here at FCDallas.com to share the world's biggest sporting event with you here in Dallas as we hold our World Cup Tour pres. by McDonalds and look to give out $1 million to anyone who can correctly predict what will happen in Brazil.
To get you ready for the tournament, we'll be bringing you short little breakdowns of each World Cup group over the next week as well as quick 10-15 minute podcasts with myself and former FCD goalkeeper and current TV analyst Kevin Hartman talking about the groups that we'll be watching over the next month in Brazil. Here's your group A breakdown, check FCDallas.com on the daily as we release more group previews.
2014 World Cup Group A
How they got here: Automatic qualifier as host country
2010 World Cup: Winners of Group G - Eliminated in QF by Holland
Best case: Lifting the trophy at the Maracana on July 13. The combination of talent & home country familiarity makes A Seleção the favorites.
Worst case: Brazil will have no problem navigating the group stage, but a round of 16 exit is a real possibility with a match against either Spain, Netherlands or Chile from Group B looming.
Player to watch: Who else but Neymar? From a commercial sense, Neymar has been named the most marketable athlete in the world and he backs it up on the field. The 22-year-old eliminated any fears that pressure would be too much for him after scoring four goals in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
X Factor: An aging Brazil squad will need a 22-year-old Chelsea midfielder to play up to his full potential if they want to lift the trophy. The great Tim Vickery says it a lot better than I could.
How they got here: Defeated Tunisia in two-leg playoff after winning qualifying group.
2010 World Cup: Last in Group E - Lost all three group stage matches.
Best case: Cameroon finds a way to defeat Mexico in their first game and squeak through the group stage to their first knockout round since 1990
Worst case: Another winless group stage is certainly a possibility with three matches in which they'll be the underdog.
Player to watch: Vincent Aboubakar lit up Ligue 1 in 2013-2014 scoring 16 goals for his new club Lorient. With an aging Samuel Eto'o unable to produce his heroics on a consistent basis, the Indomitable Lions will need the 22-year-old to step up.
X Factor: Former Aston Villa midfielder Jean Makoun has run the show in midfield for Cameroon and he's one of their only truly world class players.
How they got here: Defeated Iceland in two-leg playoff after finishing second in qualifying group.
2010 World Cup: DNQ
Best case: Croatia has the talent, if they can stay healthy, to finish second in this group and even shock a round of 16 opponent to advance to the quarterfinals.
Worst case: A key player for Croatia goes down early and their thin depth is immediately tested. If the Europeans can't get past Mexico, they have little to no chance of advancing.
Player to watch: Attacking midfielder Ivan Rakitic is one of the hottest names in Europe for a big money transfer this summer. The Valencia midfielder led his squad to the Europa League scoring 15 goals this season in all competitions.
X Factor: Bayern Munich forward Mario Mandzukic can be among the world's best when in good form, but he struggled to hold a starting spot at the German giants this season. He's one of the few on Croatia with experience at the highest levels of Europe and has the potential to lead the red and white to the knockout round.
How they got here: Defeated New Zealand in two-leg intercontinental playoff after finishing fourth in CONCACAF qualifying
2010 World Cup: Fell to Argentina in Round of 16 - Finished second in Group A being Uruguay
Best case: The pieces come together for Miguel Herrera's side to advance from a relatively easy group and they advance to the round of 16 for the sixth straight year. It's tough to find any scenario where Mexico defeats one of the three big members of Group B in the round of 16.
Worst case: An inconsistent squad falls to Cameroon in the first match, gets blown out by Brazil in match two and has nothing to play for once Croatia comes calling.
Player to watch: Oribe "El Cepillo" Peralta is a forward comparable to Chris Wondolowski who has always been lethal in his domestic league but only recently broke through to score goals for the national team. He finds himself in good spaces and has a rocket of a shot when you give him the opportunity.
X Factor: It has to be Chicharito. His struggles at Manchester United last season were well documented, but the fact remains that when he's on, he's a world class forward. For Mexico to have any chance of advancing past the round of 16, Javier Hernandez will need to have a good tournament and potentially earn United a lot of money in transfer fees.
It's time for the first group prediction. For me, this group comes down to the Mexico vs Croatia matchup. Goal difference could be huge going into that match and it's very possible that whoever loses to Brazil by fewer goals will have the upper hand heading into that third group stage match and personally, I'm going to have to stick with Mexico for this one.
I really wouldn't want to be Croatia with that first World Cup match against Brazil next Thursday. You know they're going to come out guns blazing and for me, Mexico is going to have just enough to sneak through in second place on goal differential.
Have your say in the poll and check back soon for our Group B preview!
Welcome to the 2nd edition of the FCDallas.com series “Getting Personal”. This week I caught up with Jamaican midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson.
Je-Vaughn was born in Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica and started playing soccer at the age of eight. He turned professional in 2005 and spent his first six years playing in the Jamaican Premier league with Sporting Central Academy. In the 2011 pre-season, Watson signed with the Houston Dynamo. He was traded to FC Dallas in February of 2013 where he made 24 appearances for FCD and scored two goals for the season. Watson made 10 appearances for Jamaica during the 2014 World Cup Qualifying cycle.
- What's one thing about Jamaica that people who aren't from there don't know?
Je-Vaughn: We're a loving people, we like to have fun and we love to party.
- What's your earlist soccer memory?
Je-Vaughn: Probably when I was about 13. That was the first time I was called up for the Jamaican U14 national team. That was a wonderful experience. The first game I play, I was bigger than most of the other guys and I scored twice in my first game.
- What's your favorite place that you've visited and why?
Je-Vaughn: Paris, it's pretty and the people are friendly. I would like to go back sometime.
- All time favorite music artists?
Je-Vaughn: Bob Marley, Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac, Drake, and on the girls side Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. I went to a Beyonce and Jay-Z concert in Houston it was really good.
- Would you rather be 4 foot 5 or 7 foot 7?
Je-Vaughn: Definitely 7 foot 7.
- What was it like growing up in Jamaica?
Je-Vaughn: It was nice. I grew up with a big Christian family. Every Sunday we'd have to go to church or else we'd get a whooping. I go to church here when I have time. My mom will call me and say "why aren't you going to church??"
- Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Je-Vaughn: That's a lot of years to go, but I will probably be playing soccer if it's God's will. I want to be playing soccer. I enjoy scoring and meeting fans after games. But if not I'll be sitting home with my kids enjoying life after soccer and saving money so I can live good.
- What's one thing you'll splurge your money on?
Je-Vaughn: Shoes. I got a lot of Gucci and Louis Vuitton shoes.
- So you have a good shoe game?
Je-Vaughn: Yeah I got a good shoe game. It doesn't matter the cost, I'll pay for it.
- What's your best scar and what's the story behind it?
Je-Vaughn: The only scar I have is my arm. I was in Jamaica playing and someone tackled me and I fell on my arm and it broke in two so I had to have surgey and they put metal in my arm.
- So when you go through a metal detector your arm sets it off --
Je-Vaughn: Yeah exactly or when it gets cold out it's weird.
Welcome to the first edition of the newest FCDallas.com series "Getting Personal". A new post will be released every Wednesday starring a different player each week. The purpose of the posts are to allow fans to get to know their FC Dallas players a little better on a more personal level that may or may not have to do directly with soccer. For this week's edition, I caught up with defender Zach Loyd.
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Zach is one of four sons. He attended the University of North Carolina while also playing in the USL Premier Development League for Carolina Dynamo. Loyd was drafted fifth overall in the first round in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas. He made his professional debut on April 10 of that same year. In 2011, Loyd played for the U.S. National team in a friendly match against Chile where he started at left-back and was honored as the Budweiser Man of the Match. In the most recent offseason, he re-signed a multi-year contract with FC Dallas.
- Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
Zach: I'm not really superstitious but I listen to praise and worship music before every game.
- What's your favorite movie?
Zach: Shawshank Redemption and Troy. We'll stick with that.
- How many tattoos do you have and which one hurt the most?
Zach: I have no idea, a lot, but the one that hurt the most was the inside of my arm during the shading or my elbow. They all have special meaning to me.
- Favorite sports team?
Zach: The Cowboys. Big football fan. I'm from Tulsa so you're either a Chiefs fan or a Cowboys fan and my family was for the Cowboys.
- What's one thing that you'll splurge your money on?
Zach: Probably nothing. My wife spends all the money.
- Speaking of your wife, what's it like having a wife [Former USWNT player Casey Loyd [Nogueira] that is as good at soccer as you are?
Zach: It's awesome. We play soccer and tennis together and I can't beat her it's so frustrating but it's great because we can go and do a lot of stuff together.
- Favorite super hero?
Zach: The hulk, I like the hulk. My son has the big hulk hands.
- What's your earliest soccer memory?
Zach: Playing for the hotshots for my dad when I was 6. We had bright yellow jerseys so it matched our name. That's pretty much all I remember.
- Would you rather be 4 foot 5 inches or 7 foot 7 inches?
Zach: 7 foot 7 because I could play basketball and be guaranteed a contract.
Check back next Wednesday for the next edition of "Getting Personal".
Matt Hedges has started every match and played every minute of the season for FC Dallas this year, but he hasn't made a save like the one he did on Saturday. After some magic from Earthquakes attacker Yannick Djalo, San Jose's Steven Lenhart headed a looping ball over Chris Seitz that looked destined for the back of the net, but Hedges was the man on the spot to clear away a certain goal.
Hedges' clearance is up for MLSsoccer.com Save of the Week so head over there and vote Hedges!
WATCH: SOTW Week 13