The World Cup Preview continues with Groups E & F. These groups should bring some exciting match-ups. Here are links to Groups A & B and Groups C & D, if you need to catch-up or want a recap.
Netherlands - World Ranking: #4. Oranje has been my adopted World Cup team for the past few tournaments after the USA blows it and I'm not exactly sure why. Regardless, these guys are good. Some say the best national team to never have won the World Cup. They should finish first in this group and be a hassle for everyone in the knock-out stages. They are loaded with overlooked players from the world's best leagues like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Robin van Persie (assuming he can stay healthy long enough).
Cameroon - World Ranking: #19. This team has every reason to be excited. They're in a competitive, but manageable group. It's easy to see how Cameroon makes it to the knock-out round; however, it's also easy to see how they won't. Samuel Eto'o leads this team in scoring and is a force at Inter Milan.
Japan - World Ranking: #45. They finished 2nd in the Asian Football Confederation's Group 1 behind Australia, but these guys will have an uphill battle the entire group stage. Team captain Yuji Nakazawa will have his hands full on the back line with the strikers in this group.
Denmark - World Ranking: #36. The Danish have high hopes, and for good reason. They finished 1st in the UEFA Group 1 World Cup Qualification above powerhouse Portugal. This team will need to rely on Arsenal striker, Nicklas Bendtner, for success. Hopefully that is a good thing.
PICKS: The Netherlands are money and they should be able to take the #1 spot here. Cameroon will have the "home continent" support, but I'm taking Denmark to finish 2nd. Netherlands #1, Denmark #2.
Italy - World Ranking: #5. Come on, its Italy. They're the defending World Cup champions. If you're going to watch any World Cup, it'll probably include these guys or Brazil at some point. They're good and they've got 4 World Cup Titles. Gianluigi Buffon between the sticks is a great place to start with these stars.
New Zealand - World Ranking: #78. I came across an interesting article on ESPN Soccernet, which discusses New Zealand's links to US collegiate and MLS teams. It was mentioned that the New Zealand squad could feature more MLS players than the US team, which makes me think watching New Zealand will be a great way to see how far the MLS has grown. The player to watch has to be Ryan Nelson, who played for my hometown DC United before jumping to the EPL.
Paraguay - World Ranking: #31. This national team is looking young and confident, which is a scary combination. There will be huge disappointment if Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo can't figure out how to get this team to the knock-out round.
Slovakia - World Ranking: #34. Slovakia won their group coming out of UEFA. This team will probably fly under the radar. Their best player is midfielder Marek Hamsik, who has been described as one of the better young attacking midfielders in the game.
PICKS: The first pick is pretty simple. Yeah, Italy. They'll take 1st in this group. The two-spot is a bit trickier, but with all that youth in Paraguay and Slovakia qualifying out of UEFA, I'm going to lean on Slovakia as the #2 into the knock-out round. Italy #1, Slovakia #2.
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