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11 June 3:06 pm

WORLD CUP GROUP PREVIEWS: GROUP A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H

2014 World Cup Group F

ARGENTINA

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.

IRAN

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.

NIGERIA

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.

PREDICTION

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?

11 June 12:00 pm

WORLD CUP GROUP PREVIEWS: GROUP A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H

2014 World Cup Group E

ECUADOR

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.

FRANCE

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.

HONDURAS

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.

SWITZERLAND

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.

PREDICTION

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?

10 June 7:06 pm

WORLD CUP GROUP PREVIEWS: GROUP A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H

2014 World Cup Group D

COSTA RICA

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.

ENGLAND

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.

ITALY

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.

URUGAY

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.

PREDICTION

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!

10 June 5:22 pm

Here's your Toyota Keys to the Match for FCD's final game before the World Cup break in Portland on Wednesday:

09 June 3:23 pm

We spanned the metroplex to find our McDonald's World Cup Junior Reporter, Olivia Rueckert, who will be reporting throughout the 2014 World Cup. We've been filming segments over the last couple weeks and here's the first introduction to Olivia:

09 June 1:17 pm

Here’s the show recap from Sunday’s latest episode of Soccer Today presented by Toyota and co-hosted by Marc Stein and Steve Davis on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio:

Now available on iTunes!

SEGMENT 1: Marc and Steve talk about the U.S. National Team's final preparation match prior to departure for Brazil, Saturday's 2-1 win over Nigeria in Jacksonville.

SEGMENT 2: The hosts talk to ESPN's Bob Ley live from his network's broadcast compound in lovely Rio.

SEGMENT 3: Steve talks to New York City FC manager Jason Kreis, who was kind enough to chat while on vacation with his family in Barcelona.

SEGMENT 4: Marc and Steve go on the record with their World Cup picks ... everything from winner to which player may be the tournament's disappointment.

09 June 1:02 pm

FCD was back to winning ways on Saturday night thanks to Fabian Castillo's game-winner in the 3-2 victory over Colorado. The goal was Castillo's fourth of the season, twice as many as the 21-year-old scored last season, and his wonderstrike has been nominated for AT&T MLS Goal of the Week.

Vote Fabian!


WATCH: GOTW Week 12

 


 

09 June 11:18 am

Check out the best photos from Saturday's win against Colorado

 

09 June 11:10 am

WORLD CUP GROUP PREVIEWS: GROUP A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H

2014 World Cup Group B

COLOMBIA

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.

GREECE

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.

IVORY COAST

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.

JAPAN

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.

PREDICTION

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.

07 June 11:45 pm

Hear from Oscar Pareja, Fabian Castillo and Zach Loyd after FC Dallas' 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids.