World Cup Fantasy Preview: Group E

World Cup

It’s here; the greatest sporting spectacle the world has to offer (and yes, I’m including the Super Bowl), the pinnacle of the “Beautiful Game”, the World Cup. The time when the finest footballers from 32 different countries descend upon one location to see who, when it’s all said and done, will hoist the coveted hardware and proclaim that they are the best team or country in World football.

And while it will undoubtedly be a team effort that determines every win or loss, often times the game does come down to a few supreme individual efforts. This naturally appeals to the fantasy degenerates in all of us, as we attempt to collate and quantify what each player does and how that leads to his team’s success or lack their of. Which is why, I will primarily be focusing on the individual players to watch as you sit back and enjoy the matches from your couch.

Today we’re taking a look at Group E.

  • Switzerland
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Honduras

 

Probably one of the least talked-about Groups, Group E features three teams that aren’t usually associated with football greatness, and a country with a prolific World Cup history but hasn’t been as successful of late. Perennial powerhouse France snuck in at the last second with a dramatic come from behind win against Ukraine, and while some will say given their history they should be favored, it may indeed be Switzerland’s group to lose. Meanwhile, Ecuador and Honduras will be out to prove that they shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland

 

Switzerland enter the tournament as FIFA’s 8th ranked team, and do so on the backs of their stout defense and youthful core. The quarterfinals is the farthest they’ve been in the World Cup, but haven’t done so since 1954. Perhaps their most impressive international win came in the 2010 Cup, where they, despite not escaping their group, dealt the would be champion Spain a 1-0 loss.

Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg), Roman Buerki (Grasshopper), Yann Sommer (Basel).

Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Michael Lang (Grasshopper), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schaer (Basel), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Reto Ziegler (Sassuolo).

Midfielders:Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Valentin Stocker (Basel),Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach).

Forwards: Josip Drmic (Nuremberg), Mario Gavranovic (Zurich), Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg), Haris Seferovic (Real Sociedad).

Players To Watch

Granit Xhaka/M: Excellent in possession and with his passing as well as a flair for the dramatic with long-distance shots, Xhaka is often compared to Germany’s midfield machine Bastien Schweinsteiger.

Xherdan Shaqiri/M: Shaqiri is equipped with tremendous speed and is very creative on the ball. The Bayern Munich man will play winger next to Xhaka giving the usually defensive Swiss two very good attacking options.

 

Ecuador

Ecuador

A relatively new country to the World Cup, Ecuador made their first appearance back in 2002. In 2006 they escaped the group stages only to bow out to England in the round of 16. Their qualification period was highlighted by a crucial win over rival Uruguay. They have some strong attacking players, but lack depth defensively.

Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona SC), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Adrian Bone (El Nacional).

Defenders: Frickson Erazo (Flamengo), Jorge Guagua, Jhon Narvaez, Oscar Bagui, Gabriel Achilier (all Emelec), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona SC), Cristian Ramirez (Fortuna Duesseldorf).

Midfielders: Segundo Castillo (Al-Hilal), Carlos Gruezo (Stuttgart), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Cristian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow), Pedro Quinonez (Emelec), Luis Saritama (Barcelona SC), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Edison Mendez (Independiente Santa Fe), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA), Michael Arroyo (Atlante),

Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona SC), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Adrian Bone (El Nacional).

Defenders: Frickson Erazo (Flamengo), Jorge Guagua, Jhon Narvaez, Oscar Bagui, Gabriel Achilier (all Emelec), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona SC), Cristian Ramirez (Fortuna Duesseldorf).

Midfielders: Segundo Castillo (Al-Hilal), Carlos Gruezo (Stuttgart), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Cristian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow), Pedro Quinonez (Emelec), Luis Saritama (Barcelona SC), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Edison Mendez (Independiente Santa Fe), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA), Michael Arroyo (Atlante), Jefferson Montero (Monarcas)

Forwards: Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira), Joao Rojas (Cruz Azul), Armando Wila (Universidad Catolica, Ecuador), Jaime Ayovi (Tijuana), Enner Valencia (Pachuca), Cristian Penilla (Barcelona SC), Angel Mena (Emelec).

Players To Watch

Antonio Valencia/M: Valencia brings electric and tireless pace to the right wing, and is adept at getting by his markers and playing crosses into the box. He created 26 chances for Manchester United this year along with notching 2 goals as well.

Jefferson Montero/M: Ecuador’s main goal-scoring threat. Montero possess game-changing ability, and with a strong WC showing is hoping a move to Europe will be in the cards. Ecuador aren’t likely to advance, but Montero could bag an early goal or two for your fantasy team in the group stages.

 

France

France

This summer, “Les Blues” will be out to get the taste of a poor 2010 World Cup showing out of their mouth. They are a team loaded with talent, and could easily see a return to form when they get to Brazil. The team has top class at every position, but their attacking midfielders and forwards will be key in how far the team goes.

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Stephane Ruffier (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia).

Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Lucas Digne (Paris St-Germain) Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna (both Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi (both Paris St-Germain), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (Newastle, on loan from QPR).

Players To Watch

Bacary Sagna/Def: The Arsenal fullback (though not for much longer) is a prototypical Right Back; he’s skilled in both defense and attack. For the gunners this year he created 21 chances which included 2 assists, and he also found the back of the net on one occasion. He was also successful on 45 of 79 tackles (57%), and won 67% of his headed duels.

Paul Pogba/M: This season for Juventus, Pogba finally came into his own and began to fulfill the promise he demonstrated while at Manchester United. He has the size, speed, and overall athleticism to be a dominant midfielder, and this summer the rest of the world will be exposed to the greatness that is Paul Pogba

Franck Ribery/M: Quite simply, Ribery is one of the best dribblers and creators in the world. He’ll feature out on France’s left wing and will be a nightmare all match long for defenders as he’s setting up the team’s dangerous strikers.

Olivier Giroud/F: Giroud netted has netted 26 total goals between club and country this year, and while he may not quite be on the level as some of the other strikers in the tournament, he has the skills and team behind him to possibly be amongst the top goal scorers this summer.

Karim Benzema/F: Everything I said for Giroud goes double for this Real Madrid star. Simply one of the best pure strikers in the world with a real nose for goal.

 

Honduras

Honduras

The 2014 World Cup marks the first time Honduras have qualified for back to back Cups. The team has many talented players, including some on some high profile European clubs, but do to the fact that they’re World Cup stay will likely be short, it’s wise to look elsewhere when picking your squad.

Goalkeepers: Noel Valladares, Donis Escober (both Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana).

Defenders: Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Juan Carlos Garcia (Wigan), Maynor Figueroa (Hull), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Osman Chavez (Qingdao Janoon), Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua).

Midfielders: Edder Delgado (Real Espana), Luis Garrido (Olimpia), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Jorge Claros (Motagua), Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Oscar Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Marvin Chavez (Chivas USA).

Forwards: Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense), Carlo Costly (Real Espana), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad).

Players To Watch

Jerry Bengston/F: If the team is to score, the goals will likely come from this MLS man. He’s a big-bodied striker, and his 6’2″ frame makes him a danger on set pieces or crosses. Since 2010, he’s scored 22 goals for his country in 45 appearances.

 

World Cup posters courtesy of Christiano Siqueria and ESPN

 

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