With the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicking off Thursday in Brazil, TSN. Ronald Leary Jersey
.cas panel of experts is here to provide you with sage advice, or at
least best guesses.
We asked TSNs team of soccer analysts to provide their picks for the
group stage. Read on to find out who is in contention and who might be
looking at an early exit.
The panel consists of TSN Soccer Analysts Jason deVos, Luke Wileman and
Kristian Jack, TSN Radio 1050 Toronto host Gareth Wheeler, TSN Radio 690
Montreals Noel Butler and TSN.ca soccer editors Shane McNeil and Ken
Group A: 1. Brazil, 2. Croatia 3. Cameroon, 4. Mexico.
No one seems to have much doubt that the hosts are advancing to the
second round and they have been chosen unanimously as group winners by
TSNs experts. While Neymars training scare did sound a few alarms, it
was pretty clear that Brazil was the team to back in Group A, and for
several of our analysts, the team to take it all.
Second place is a bit more of a toss-up with three perennially
competitive teams rounding out the group, but Croatia got solid backing
from more than half the TSN team. The likes of Mario Mandzukic and Luka
Modric make them an offensive force and will likely provide the offence
they need to make the Round of 16.
Mexico has advanced to the Round of 16 in each of the last five World
Cups, but their appalling qualifying performance has them on the outside
looking in. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have only once advanced
out of the group stage but still got some second-place consideration.
Picks - deVos: Brazil, Croatia. Jack: Brazil, Mexico. Wileman: Brazil,
Cameroon. Wheeler: Brazil, Croatia. Butler: Brazil, Croatia. McNeil:
Brazil, Croatia. Rodney: Brazil, Croatia.
Group B: 1. Spain, 2. Netherlands, 3. Chile, 4. Australia.
One of the more stacked groups in the competition, Group B was a
divisive force amongst the TSN soccer team with the two reigning
finalists pulling first- and second-place votes away from one another.
The Champs, though, did prevail, and Spain is the consensus pick to top
the group. Theyve won three straight tournaments dating back to Euro
2008 and theres not much to suggest they arent going to be competitive
Dont underestimate the importance of group play here, because whoever
finishes second will in all likelihood draw Brazil in the Round of 16.
While Chile was picked as a second-place finisher on more than one
ballot (and first by Kristian Jack!), the Netherlands took the second
spot in the group. And why not? With the likes of Robin van Persie and
Arjen Robben, the Dutch are wired to score in droves.
The Australians will have to settle for a participation ribbon in this
Picks - deVos: Spain, Chile. Jack: Chile, Netherlands. Wileman: Spain,
Netherlands . Wheeler: Spain, Netherlands. Butler: Spain, Chile. McNeil:
Netherlands, Spain. Rodney: Spain, Netherlands.
Group C: 1. Ivory Coast, 2. Colombia, 3. Japan, 4. Greece.
This is another balanced group that prompted a wide variety of scenarios
from our analysts.
In the end, though, two teams emerged well ahead as the cream of the
group. Unfortunately, those two teams wound up in a dead heat in terms
of votes received. Were giving Ivory Coast the nod by virtue of having
more first-place votes, so watch out for Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and
the rest of the Elephants to step up amid fierce competition.
Colombia was the easy choice for second place and may well have been the
favourite here if Radamel Falcao were fit enough to play. We still like
their chances to advance and make a serious run at topping the group.
Japans Samurai seem to succeed at the World Cup every other tournament
(they made the Round of 16 in South Africa), but they are up against
some serious competition in this group that doesnt really have a minnow.
Greece is a team that can usually lull its way into the playoffs with
staunch defence, but they were unable to convince our analysts that they
will silence Colombia or the Ivorians.
Picks - deVos: Colombia, Ivory Coast. Jack: Colombia, Japan. Wileman:
Colombia, Ivory Coast. Wheeler: Ivory Coast, Colombia. Butler: Ivory
Coast, Colombia. McNeil: Ivory Coast, Greece. Rodney: Ivory Coast,
Group D: 1. Uruguay, 2. Italy, 3. England, 4. Costa Rica.
Yes, we know, you probably disagree.
As you can see below, the vote was razor thin with little wiggle room
between the reigning the perennial picks from England and Italy and the
reigning bronze medalists from Uruguay.
Heres the logic: Luis Suarez is not 100 per cent, but he is still
probably the breakout player of the group. The Uruguayans will be buoyed
by the fact that they won the World Cup last time it was held in Brazil
and were the top-ranked team in the group at the time of the draw. They
received the most first-place votes of any team in the group from our
The margin between England and Italy is harder to discern. All our
analysts conceded that both have the talent to go through but both are
facing obstacles. England has the tougher games to start their group
play, while Italys travel schedule works against them.
Theres no easy way to pick this group, since its one of several Groups
of Death in this competition. If you dont like our picks, change them.
The vote was so split in this group that its hard to call this a true
Picks - deVos: Italy, Uruguay. Jack: Uruguay, Italy. Wileman: Italy,
England. Wheeler: England, Italy. Butler: England, Italy. McNeil:
Uruguay, England. Rodney: Uruguay, Italy.
Group E: 1. France, 2. Ecuador, 3. Switzerland, 4. Honduras.
In the second unanimous decision, France emerged as the clear favourite
from Group E. Theyve alternated between sublime and ugly at each World
Cup since hosting in 1998. The 2010 effort in South Africa could not
have been uglier, so that leaves nothing but room for improvement.
Losing Franck Ribery stings, but Les Bleus have the depth to at least
top this quartet.
The race for second was tight. Ecuadors Antonio Valencia showed hes in
full compete mode by getting a red in a recent friendly against England,
so if he comes out and plays at the top of his game, it should propel
yet another South American team into the playoffs.
The Swiss were one of the surprise teams in the top seeding pot for the
2014 draw and as such should also be considered a serious threat to
No one seems to be a believer in Honduras.
Picks - deVos: France, Ecuador. Jack: France, Switzerland. Wileman:
France, Ecuador. Wheeler: France, Switzerland. Butler: France,
Switzerland. McNeil: France, Ecuador. Rodney: France, Ecuador.
Group F: 1. Argentina, 2. Nigeria, 3. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 4. Iran.
To the surprise of few, were picking Lionel Messi, Kun Aguero and the
rest of Argentinas potent attack to easily run this group and – like
their rivals from Brazil – theyre a popular pick to take the entire
Nigerias Super Eagles are our pick to take second in the group behind
some English Premier League talent in their midfield in the forms of
John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses.
Some of our resident internet nerds from TSN.ca really like Bosnia and
Herzegovinas chances and the team did score a heap of goals in
qualifying, but Edin Dzeko and co. came up short in the vote and may
have to settle for thrilling their fans simply by making their
Iran has won just one game in three previous trips to the World Cup.
Picks - deVos: Argentina, Bosnia/Herzegovina. Jack: Argentina, Nigeria.
Wileman: Argentina, Nigeria. Wheeler: Argentina, Nigeria. Butler:
Argentina, Nigeria. McNeil: Argentina, Bosnia/Herzegovina. Rodney:
Group G: 1. Germany, 2. Portugal, 3. USA, 4. Ghana.
The deepest of the groups from top to bottom, the only thing everyone
could agree on was that the Germans are going through. They dont tend to
leave the group stage to chance and have finished in the top eight at
every World Cup since being banned from the 1950 World Cup (also in
Brazil). They will get through and in all likelihood as group-winners.
Portugal gets the second-place vote here but it wasnt a unanimous
decision. Cristiano Ronaldo will carry the Portuguese, the only question
is: how far? He out-willed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to get his team here.
Does he have it in him to carry the team deep?
The U.S. got some love as potential spoilers, so keep an eye on them.
They surprised a lot of people in South Africa and Jurgen Klinsmann has
been busy sowing the seeds of doubt around his team before the
tournament. Is he just trying to get other teams to let their guards
Ghana is a strong team and would be a threat to advance in most other
groups... just not this one.
Picks - deVos: Germany, Portugal. Jack: Portugal, Germany. Wileman:
Germany, Portugal. Wheeler: Germany, USA. Butler: Portugal, Germany.
McNeil: Germany, USA. Rodney: Germany, Portugal.
Group H: 1. Belgium, 2. Russia, 3. Korea Republic, 4. Algeria.
A chic underdog pick in this competition, Belgium is the team to beat in
Group H according to everyone here at TSN. They boast a superb balance
of attack and defend with some reliable and smart talent all through
their line-up. How frightening is it that if teams are able to
neutralize Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku that they might still see Adnan
Januzaj coming off the bench?
Russia are back at the World Cup for the first time in over a decade and
we like their odds to get out of the group due to their ability to
score in droves. Theyve struggled in big tournaments since the fall of
the Soviet Union, but they did manage to finish third at Euro 2008.
Korea Republic have already continued their streak of eight straight
trips to the World Cup, but we believe thats where the dream ends. As
for Algeria, English and American fans will be able to tell you that
they are capable of causing trouble. We just dont see them as a threat
Picks - deVos: Belgium, Russia. Jack: Belgium, Russia. Wileman: Belgium,
Russia. Wheeler: Belgium, Korea. Butler: Belgium, Russia. McNeil:
Belgium, Russia. Rodney: Belgium, Russia.
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Chandler Stephenson added a pair of goals and Connor Gay chipped in with
a single for Regina (21-17-5), which stayed in control with the first
six goals of the game.CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs say they have agreed
to minor league contracts with pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and
Tsuyoshi Wada and invited them to spring training.
Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter for San Francisco in 2009, struggled in
five appearances with Pittsburgh last season, finishing with an 11.85
ERA with eight walks in 13 2-3 innings.
Wada played nine years with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese
Pacific League before signing an $8. Bob Lilly Cowboys Jersey. 15 million, two-year contract with Baltimore before the 2012 season. He
developed elbow soreness that spring and had elbow-ligament
reconstruction surgery after a tear was discovered following a
rehabilitation outing for Triple-A Norfolk. He made 19 starts for
Norfolk last season.
The Cubs also agreed to minor league deals with pitcher Tommy Hottovy
and outfielder Mitch Maier.
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