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:
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!
FRISCO - Tomorrow in Lisbon, another UEFA Champions League winner will be crowned and perhaps the biggest Atletico Madrid fan lives right here in Frisco and patrols the midfield for FC Dallas.
Midfielder Peter Luccin, who was back on the bench for FC Dallas in Wednesday's loss in Los Angeles after missing the last six weeks with a leg injury, spent three years with Los Colchoneros from 2004-2007, having played with current Atletico coach Diego "Cholo" Simeone in that first 2004-2005 season.
"I played for years at Atletico Madrid and I can’t explain what is happening over there because they have very, very good players," Luccin said after training a couple weeks ago. "But for me it’s a team thing and a “Simeone” thing, the coach who does a very good job."
Last Saturday at the historic Nou Camp in Barcelona, Atleti won La Liga for the first time since 1996 with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona and Luccin says a third team infringing on the normal big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spanish soccer is definitely a good thing.
"It’s always been just two teams, but it’s good for the champoinship because last year it was so easy. It’s Real Madrid and Barcelona 20 points ahead," said Luccin. "So now we know and understand there’s another team. It’s amazing, but Atletico Madrid is a very good and historic team. Now the thing is changing and it’s good for the championship."
As for Simeone, currently the toast of European soccer, Luccin says that his teammates always knew the man known as "Cholo" would one day be a manager.
"I played one year with him and he was an aggressive player, a very passionate player and of course I could see he would be a coach one day," said Luccin. "Everyone thought he would be a coach. He does a very very good job…we can see 11 players running 90 minutes and it’s not easy. There’s good technique, but the fitness is so important with that team."
Looking ahead to Saturday's UEFA Champions League Final, the man who spent a good portion of his life in Madrid says he's happy that both the city's teams are in the final and, surprisingly said he likes both teams. However, there's no question who Luccin is cheering for on Saturday.
"I’m a big, big, big fan. It’s a little bit strange to say I like both teams, but I’m happy to see both teams in the final," said Luccin. "It’s strange. If you talked to any Atletico fan, it would be hard, but me, I like Madrid. I like the city so I like both teams but I want to see Atletico Madrid win the Champions League
It's a quick turnaround this weekend as FCD plays at RSL on Saturday night. Here's your Toyota Keys to the Match:
Scott & Daniel break down the biggest talking points in tonight's match vs LA Galaxy with our Toyota Keys to the Match: