With the July recruiting period over, shoe tournaments and camps concluded, and players returning with gold medals across USA basketball, it is a good time for GTSABR’s basketball talent evaluators to make a 2017 recruiting ranking. The 2017 class is one of the deepest classes we have seen in a while, led by strong, athletic, and polished players at the top. There’s a lot of debate as to who the No. 1 player in 2017 is, but for us it is Michael Porter Jr. Porter’s freaky athleticism, coupled with his ability to drain threes and throw down monster jams propelled him to the top spot in our rankings. Porter was able to accumulate an impressive 22.8 PPG on 59% shooting and 10.9 RPG during the most recent EYBL circuit. He also led his team to a Peach Jam Title, obliterating the competition along the way. Coming in at number 2 in the rankings is DeAndre Ayton. Ayton is a versatile 7-footer who can score inside, run the floor, block shots, and much more. In addition, he has a solid mid-range game, with the ability to shoot the occasional 3-pointer. During the EYBL season, DeAndre averaged 19.5PPG on 60% shooting and 11.5RPG. During Peach Jam, he was able to lead California Supreme to the semifinals without 5-star teammate Brandon McCoy. Number 3 in our rankings is Atlanta’s own, Wendell Carter. Carter has a very polished game, where he excels at post-play, positioning, mid-range, and rebounding. During this past EYBL season, Carter was able to post 16.8PPG on 70% shooting and 10.2RPG. The big man was able to dominate fellow 5-stars DeAndre Ayton and Brandon McCoy during their regular season matchup, finishing with 30pts, 16 rebounds, and 6 blocks.
As Georgia Tech fans and with the Jackets in the mix for some high level players, we have bolded GT’s current targets in our Top 100. Georgia Tech’s new head coach, Josh Pastner, is hot on the trail and is currently involved with 10 players that made our rankings, including the top three players in the state: Wendell Carter, Collin Sexton, and MJ Walker.
Wendell is Georgia Tech’s top target and as stated above, excels at post-play, positioning, mid-range, and rebounding. Wendell cut his list to 8 this summer, and Georgia Tech made the cut. GT seems to be in a three-horse race with Duke and Harvard, with Duke the favorite.
Collin Sexton, another Atlanta native, absolutely blew up this season in both high school and AAU. The priority combo guard target averaged an EYBL record 31.7PPG and was able to absolutely take over games. Collin is easily the best scorer in the nation and is also an underrated defender. He would be a perfect fit in Pastner’s uptempo offense and would be a program changer for GT. Collin cut his list to 10 in July and is said to be heavily considering Alabama, Kansas, Arizona, UF, and GT. The prolific guard visited GT a second time on August 27th with fellow Georgia 5-star, MJ Walker.
MJ Walker: MJ Walker is a strong, athletic guard from Jonesboro, GA. On the Under Armour circuit this summer, MJ led the league in points per game with 20.7 on 47% shooting. Georgia Tech faces stiff competition from Maryland, but hopefully Walker was able to hit it off with 5-star Collin Sexton this past weekend. Those two committing to each other and GT would certainly bring the Jackets back to the level it once was.
Rayshaun Hammonds: Rayshaun Hammonds is an athletic forward that is a priority recruit for the Jackets. He can beat you off the dribble or from the outside. The Norcross native is an excellent rebounder and can finish well in transition. Rayshaun had an impressive summer in the EYBL averaging 18.1PPG on 55% shooting and 7.9RPG. GT recently made the cut for his Top 9 schools and has hosted him for two unofficial visits, but did not receive an official visit.
Ikechukwu Obiagu: Ikey Obiagu is a highly rated prospect with elite shot blocking skills and excellent defense. Obiagu’s offensive game is continually improving, and if his offensive game can catch up to his defensive game, he will become a very special player. Unfortunately, Ikey was dealing with injuries this summer, thus missing a lot of the EYBL season. Obiagu visited Georgia Tech unofficially in early August and has recently set an official visit for August 30th to September 1st. The Jackets are also in his Top 6 of GT, Maryland, Arizona, Baylor, FSU, and Cal.
Jose Alvarado: Jose Alvarado is a key part of Pastner’s plan. The 5’10” point guard from New York looks to be the next great Georgia Tech point guard from New York after Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson. Jose is a winner and a competitor that will be a success wherever he goes. This summer, he averaged 11PPG on 40% shooting, 4.5RPG, and 5.2APG in the EYBL. Jose was able to drain some threes as well, shooting 38%. Georgia Tech, Seton Hall, and Rutgers seem to be after Alvarado the hardest, but hopefully he can be the first chip to fall in the Pastner era.
Jordan Nwora is a 6’8 wing that can drain the three at will. Jordan is an important recruit for the Jackets and EYBL teammate Jose Alvarado could play a big role in convincing the sharpshooter to come to Atlanta. This summer Nwora 14.6PPG on 45% shooting and 40% from downtown.
For several years now, there have been a clear, elite group at the top of men’s tennis: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. They have dominated the game in every fashion with Roger Federer being at the top of list for a long time. As a huge Federer fan, I’m certainly not one to discount him. But with his age and the current slump he has been in, he may finally be on the down end of his career. This leaves a void in the “Big 4” that tennis fans have come to know and love. Who are the most likely candidates to take that spot? Below, I assess the futures of several names that I could see winning Grand Slams, a few years down the road.
Once upon a time, Juan Martin del Potro was a grand slam champion. The Argentine was just 20 years of age, when he put an exclamation point on a breakout year by defeating a still-in-his-prime Roger Federer who was looking for his sixth straight US Open title. Usually when this happens in tennis, it isn’t a fluke. But four years have passed and del Potro has yet to capture another major title, or even return to a final. This in large part has not been by his own fault, however. The year following his US Open win, del Potro was forced to take a step back due to a persistent wrist injury. So instead of being able to capitalize on his big accomplishment from the year prior, 2010 became a lost season for Delpo, in which he gave back all that he had gained and then some. By the early part of 2011, he had fallen in the rankings all the way to no. 485, due to the lingering effects of the injury. It has been a long road for del Potro since then, but he has slowly risen back to the top of the game, most recently achieving a Wimbledon semifinal berth and reaching the number 7 ranking in the world. Del Potro is trending upward and with age catching up to Federer as well as the ever-present injury concerns to Rafael Nadal, there is reason to believe that he can cement himself within the current group of greats in men’s tennis. He possesses one of the most powerful forehands in the game and plays well on every surface, reaching the semifinals on both the Wimbledon grass and French Open clay in addition to his US Open title on hard court. And at 24 years old, he still has time to improve and take his game to the next level. Del Potro has been through a lot since he won the US Open four years ago. But with the final grand slam of the year set to begin again in just a week’s time, it would be a special occasion to see him hoist the championship trophy for a second time. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.
The Big Servers:
There are other players however, who are already taking the game by storm and could find themselves breaking the mold of the Big 4 in due time. Men’s tennis is filled with big players who possess powerful serves. Many consider it to be the biggest weapon in the game because of the fact that your opponent has basically no control over it. The challenge for these types of players though, is the ability to develop an all-around game. There are two specifically in today’s game that are honing the skills necessary to become elite players. Meet Milos Raonic and Jerzy Janozicz. Both have seen recent spikes in their world rankings, with Janowicz making his big breakthrough in last month’s Wimbledon where he also reached the semifinals, and Raonic just recently emerging into the top 10. Separating them from other big servers is their strong movement around the court. Janowicz also has a very effective drop shot in his arsenal, which he displayed throughout his tough four set loss to Andy Murray in that semifinal. But it really is about the serve for these guys, which can dominate opponents and win them so many free points. To give a sense of how overpowering their serves are, last year, Raonic held 93% of his service games and consistently ranks at the top of the ATP in that stat. Raonic and Janowicz also have two of the three fastest average serves on the tour, at 233 and 230 km/h, respectively. Time will tell if either of these young guns can join the elite group, but either way, most would agree that they are pretty exciting to watch.
The Dark Horse:
In every sport, there are players who possess supreme ability, but never are able to live up to expectations. The so-called “bust” if you will. In the NBA we think of Darko Milicic as one of the all time big busts. In the NFL there’s quarterbacks Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell. For tennis fans, the hope is that Bernard Tomic doesn’t become just another one of these disappointments. Tomic has tremendous talent especially considering that he only 20 years old. In an era of power tennis, the Aussie and former world Junior no. 2, possesses great feel and touch around the court with a shot selection that can only be properly expressed through this video. So what’s all this concern about? One thing many people forget is that tennis is an equally physical and mental game. So far in his career, Tomic hasn’t shown the ability to handle the mental aspect of the game. Between off the court issues and his lack of work ethic in practice and games, there’s no telling if Tomic will ever develop the killer instinct to be a winner. The truth is, it would be a crying shame to watch a player with his skill set, go up in flames because of his inability to get out of his own way. The saving grace is that he’s only 20 and with age he should gain the maturity to help him overcome the mental roadblocks that have plagued his career thus far. Based on his age and his current ranking of #42 in the world, it’s worth reevaluating Tomic in a few years. By that time we should see what kind of player he will become: a star in the making or just another name.
In the 2012-2013 season, the Warriors emerged as a playoff-caliber team, finishing 47-35, and had their first winning season since the 2007-2008 campaign. Steph Curry shot the lights out and finished the season leading the team in points (22.9), assists (6.9), and steals (1.6). Steph Curry’s development into a premiere scorer and sharpshooter helped the Warriors finish 7th in the league in points per game (101.2) and 3rd in rebounds per game (45). David Lee and Andrew Bogut lead the way in rebounding with 11.2 and 7.7 respectively. Bogut dramatically improved his rebounding to 10.9 in the playoffs, but that may have been due to the injury of David Lee. The Warriors leave much room for improvement however, finishing 11th in the league in offensive rating (determined by points produced per 100 possessions), and 14th in defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions). In addition, they were 15th in the league in assists and 19th in points allowed.
In order to find out what the Warriors specifically need in order to improve, Table 1 was created. This summarizes the data from all of last season’s box scores, including the playoffs. In the “Prediction %” column, every time the Warriors performance in a certain statistical category matched the game’s outcome, I considered the statistic predictive of the game’s outcome. For example, if the Warriors score more field goals than the Los Angeles Clippers during a game and ultimately win, this yields a correct prediction. Conversely, if the Warriors had scored more field goals and lost the game instead, this prediction would be incorrect. The “Winning %” column displays the results of similar analysis, but ignores any game where the Warriors lost. The purpose of throwing out the losses is to see which statistics, if won, most directly lead to a win in the game.
Table 1. Prediction/Winning Percentage of Box Score Statistics
Box Score Stats
Field Goals Made
Field Goal %
3-point Field Goal %
3-point Field Goals Made
Free Throws Made
Free Throw %
Field Goals Attempted
Field goals made and field goal percentage are widely accepted as accurate indicators of game outcomes and key in securing high winning percentages, but defensive rebounding, assists, total rebounds, and 3-point field goals made also proved to be important to winning. Rebounding and 3-point shooting are particularly relevant considering the Warriors’ standing as one of the best squads in the league in those categories. It is also fitting that assists are near the top on both lists. This is a statistic that the Warriors struggled in last season, finishing 15th. Clearly, when the Warriors rebound well and win the assist battle, they have a high probability of winning.
After the Spurs defeated the Warriors 4-2 in the Western Conference semifinals and seemingly found a way to slow down Steph Curry, the Warriors knew they needed to make some offseason moves to remain competitive in the Western Conference and have another shot at winning the finals. However, in order to make cap space for an elite player and Steph Curry’s expiring rookie contract, the Warriors would have to get rid of some role players. The Warriors’ offseason was newsworthy to say the least. They signed four new players (including Andre Iguodala), drafted a new pick, and saw eight players leave (most notably Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry). Table 2 shows the notable new and old players with their corresponding offensive rating, defensive rating, player efficiency, and win shares. The player efficiency rating (PER) essentially adds the positive accomplishments of a player and subtracts the negative, returning a per-minute player production. This per-minute player production statistic is normalized so that the league average is 15. Win shares estimate the total number of wins to which a player contributes, and is derived from points produced and total offensive possessions.
Table 2. Advanced Statistics of Notable Incoming/Departing Players
*Brandon Rush’s numbers are from the 2011-2012 season since he was injured last season.
Jarrett Jack was a huge player for the Warriors last season, finishing 3rd in the “6th Man of the Year” vote. Jack averaged 12.9 points per game and was one of the sharpshooters on the team, averaging a .404 3-point field goal percentage. In addition Jack contributed 5.6 assists per game and assisted on 29.9% of his teammates’ field goals while on the floor. The former Georgia Tech star was a veteran presence in the locker room and proved capable to step in as a starter when Curry was not 100%. Jarrett Jack had an offensive rating of 110 and defensive rating at 108, meaning he was a net positive player per 100 possessions. In addition, he had a player efficiency rating of 15.9, which is above the league average of 15. Jack used to have a usage percentage of 21, which means he used 21% of his team’s plays while on the floor. In addition, Jack made many clutch shots, especially in the playoffs. Having to lose Jack causes the Warriors to lose not only a role player, but also depth and a solid 3-point shooter.
Carl Landry was another player with a crucial role in the Warriors’ success. The 6’9” forward was a key role player coming off the bench that played 23.2 minutes per game. Landry was a pretty efficient shooter, making 54% of all field goals attempted. During Andrew Bogut’s injury early in the season, Landry was able to give them great depth at the forward position, softening the blow of losing their center. Landry contributed 6.2 win shares, which is an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to. He was third on the team in that category behind Steph Curry and David Lee. In addition, Landry was a very efficient player, with a PER of 17.5. His offensive rating and defensive rating were 116 and 106 respectively. The differential between the two ratings, 10, is the largest on the team. Clearly Landry was one of the top contributors for the Warriors and will be deeply missed next season.
Biedrins was an absolute disaster for the Warriors this season. The Warrior center played 9.3 minutes per game and only managed to score 0.5 points per game. His PER was an appalling 7.7. The only stats that look decent on paper are his offensive rating and defensive rating, which were 102 and 98 respectively. However, these numbers are likely because his usage percentage was a measly 3.7%. When a player uses so little of his team’s possessions, it allows for a spike in offensive rating because usage percentage and offensive rating are inversely proportional. If Biedrins had used even 10% of his team’s possessions while he was on the floor, there is no doubt that he would be a net negative player in terms of these ratings. Biedrins failed to assert himself during the season and lost playing time with the return of Andrew Bogut. One might go as far as to say that the Warriors may be better off without him next year.
The biggest piece of the Warriors’ salary dump on the Utah Jazz, was Brandon Rush. Acquired two years ago in a trade with the Indiana Pacers for Lou Amundson (what a steal!), Rush established himself as a key player off the bench, proving to be an effective offensive weapon during the 2011-12 season. He notched far and away the best shooting percentages of his career: 50 % from the field, 45% from three-point range and 79% from the free throw line. His offensive value can also be seen in his career-high, 2.9 offensive win shares. Rush looked to build on this career season, but tore his ACL in the second game of the 2012-13 season, and never returned to action. While the Warriors are certainly losing a great role player, their multitude of scoring options and depth at shooting guard (Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson) puts them in a position in which they would be underutilizing Rush if they were to keep him. Rush has proven that he can do some good things on the court, but the Bay Area is no longer the right place for him.
Departures as a Whole
In summary, while the Warriors 2013 offseason didn’t feature the departure of a major player, it saw them lose almost their entire existing bench to different teams. Most attention should be focused on the losses of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Their significance to the Warriors this past season was two-fold. Both Jack and Landry provided depth at positions of injury concern. Landry was able to provide valuable frontcourt minutes when Andrew Bogut was injured during the regular season as well as when David Lee went down in the playoffs. Jack, meanwhile, gave the Warriors another viable option to run the point should anything happen to the oft-injured Stephen Curry. However, these two didn’t just provide depth at key spots, they provided quality depth. Jack was a member of six of the team’s 10 best regular season lineup combinations, while Landry was part of four. They also played together on three of these top 10 lineups, illustrating the chemistry they had with each other and the rest of the team. As you can see, Landry and Jack played a large part in the success enjoyed by the Warriors last season. While their presence along with that of Brandon Rush will be missed, good health for what now can be considered an elite starting lineup, should go a long way to determining the success of this team and would certainly cushion the blow of losing the aforementioned players.
Toney Douglas was acquired as a suitable replacement for Jarrett Jack, although it is not expected for him to completely fill the shoes of Jack. Douglas is a decent 3-point shooter, hitting from behind the arc 38% of the time last season. He chipped in 7.5 PPG and a .905 free throw percentage. Douglas is averaging 15.2 points per 36 minutes for his career. In addition, Toney Douglas is a solid defender, which will help reduce their points allowed next season. After being traded from the Rockets to the Kings during last season, Douglas’s offensive rating and defensive rating became 111 and 108 respectively, which is actually better than Jack’s during that time (refer to Table 2). However, I am by no means saying that Douglas is better, or even close. Toney Douglas was a decent replacement for Jack, but the Warriors did lose point guard depth with this move. Douglas probably will not be able to produce as much offensively, nor as clutch as Jack. He provided key minutes when Curry needed rest and even could work in tandem with Curry.
The acquisition of Andre Iguodala was the marquee move of the offseason for the Warriors. This was an interesting move because of the amount they gave up, but it may pay dividends. The Warriors traded Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, two first-round, and two second-round picks to the Jazz, in order to receive Kevin Murphy. The Warriors obviously weren’t making this trade because of their need for Kevin Murphy; it was just to clear cap space to make the Iguodala signing. Iguodala is a top three wing defender that certainly improves their perimeter defense. The Warriors struggled in points allowed last season, finishing 19th, so Iggy should bring the Warriors in the top half of the league in that statistic. Iguodala had a defensive rating of 105 last season for the Denver Nuggets. I feel that Iguodala can do better than a 105 rating and that number could be explained by the style of play implemented by Denver. Denver’s now ex-coach, George Karl, is known for playing an up-tempo offense, which could lead to broken down transition plays that could hurt Iguodala’s defensive stats. Although Iguodala is known for his defense, he is not exactly talentless offensively. He has the ability to create his own shot due to his incredible athleticism and length for a listed shooting guard. Iguodala’s offensive rating last year was only 105, which is not indicative of his 109 rating for his career. Iguodala proved in the playoffs that he is capable of putting up high offensive numbers by having an offensive rating of 116. His PER was just above average last season, 15.2, and has achieved a career player efficiency rating of 16.9. Iguodala assisted on 22.4% of his team’s baskets while he was on the floor. The Warriors could definitely use another distributor on their team. Iguodala averages about 13 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 5.3 RPG. Andre was one of the best players on a 57 win Denver team last season and is an elite defender, so there is no doubt that having him in the lineup improves the Warriors. Despite the amount they gave up to sign him, this will prove to be a great signing.
Jermaine O’Neal had a surprisingly productive season last year for the Phoenix Suns. He played 18.7 minutes per game, and scored 8.3 points per game. In addition, O’Neal reeled in 5.3 boards per game. His stats per 36 minutes were even better considering his average performance the two seasons prior. He averaged 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes. O’Neal’s PER was 16.7, and had 2.0 win shares. O’Neal was able to pull down 23.8% of his team’s defensive rebounds as well. This was a solid acquisition for the Warriors and gives them even more depth at center/foward. With David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, and now Jermaine O’Neal, coach Mark Jackson has a lot of options at his disposal for those positions.
The Warriors move to sign Marreese Speights was for the sole purpose of replacing Carl Landry. Speights is a quality player, but is just not the same caliber player as Landry. He averaged 8.3 PPG and 4.9 rebounds during his tenure at Memphis and Cleveland last season. Speights had 2.8 win shares, with 1.7 of them coming on the defensive end. This, along with his defensive rating of 98 while at Memphis shows that he is a valuable defensive player. Last season Speights had a usage rate of 25.8%, which will definitely be lower next season. As a result of this expected decline in usage rate, this should make him an even more efficient player and improve his offensive rating.
A Look Inside the 2013-2014 Season
Before last season, the Warriors were just the team with incredible fans that were extremely supportive, even when the team played poorly. The Warriors have now solidified a lethal starting five, with the projected starters being Andrew Bogut – C, David Lee – PF, Andre Iguodala – SF, Klay Thompson – SG, and Steph Curry – PG. These starters make the Warriors strong in every aspect of the game. I would even go as far as to say they have one of the best, if not the best, all-around starting five in the NBA. The Warriors were already third in rebounding, and their two leading rebounders are on the starting five. In addition to rebounding, the Warriors have a multitude of height with four legitimate players above 6’10”. On the defensive end, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut combine for a lethal starting defensive duo, with Harrison Barnes and Marreese Speights coming off the bench. Barnes, Iguodala, and Toney Douglas can hold down the perimeter defense, while Bogut and Speights can control the paint and inside the 3-point arc. With several great defenders at their disposal, they will certainly improve on last season’s 100.3 points allowed per game (19th in the league). Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are still improving players that make up an incredible backcourt that will remain very potent. The Warriors still have tremendous depth with the majority of the roster being capable of stepping in and giving productive minutes. Although the bench this year does not contain the quality of players like Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (with the exception of Harrison Barnes), their talented starting five and deep bench will definitely make up for it. That is a plethora of talented bodies for a coach to choose from, and that is never a bad thing. The Warriors have set themselves up for immediate and long-term success through this offseason. The 2013-2014 season will bring fans in the Bay Area much to cheer about with such a talented young team. Not only have the Warriors improved their squad, but also have made themselves a very real threat to win the West.
With the Confederations Cup now over and World Cup qualifiers in full swing, many people are wondering who’s the favorite to win the World Cup. Brazil took the Confederations Cup by storm and posted an impressive 3-0 result against the defending World Cup champions, Spain. The Spanish have had a disappointing year, with FC Barcelona being dominated in the Champions League by the German side, Bayern Munich, and watching the Brazilians dismantle them in the Confederations Cup final. Does this signal the fall of the Spanish as the elite club and national team? In my opinion the door has not closed on the Spanish national team’s dynasty. As it stands, it’s just one loss. Just as I think that Brazil’s win, as dominant as it was, does not make them the favorite either. Winning teams find it difficult to change, while losing teams have the extra motivation and incentive. Will Brazil be able to handle adversity in the World Cup? This leads us to the focus of this article: who is the favorite to win the World Cup?
Italy 2010 World Cup: Lost in Group Stage
Key Players: Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini Prediction: 4th
The Italians had a disappointing World Cup in 2010, losing in the group stage. However, with many players in their prime of their careers, they look set to make another deep run in the World Cup. The Azzurri had an impressive tournament, placing 3rd without Mario Balotelli, Ignazio Abate, and an injured Andrea Pirlo. The Italians limped into the semi-final but certainly came to play, by taking Spain to a penalty shoot out. Many would also say that they outplayed Spain the first 90 minutes. Italy puts their mark on the game with their stout defense led by Giorgio Chiellini. Italy is accustomed to not scoring goals and relying on their defense to win the game. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. However, the Italians were broken down several times during the tournament, allowing 10 goals in 5 games. This team is evolving and is relying on their counter attacks controlled by the ageless Andrea Pirlo. They also have a stout offense with Daniel De Rossi, Alessandro Diamanti, Mario Balotelli, and emerging star, El Shaarawy. Italy has proved that when they are at their best, they are very difficult to beat. However, it’s difficult to see them beating the Spanish, Brazilians, or Germans.
Brazil 2010 World Cup: Lost in the Quarterfinal
Key Players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Oscar, Fred
Before this year’s Confederations Cup, the Brazilian national team had plummeted to 22nd in the FIFA world rankings. This is a staggering number with all the talent on their roster and the expectations of the Brazilian fans. However, Brazil certainly silenced all the doubters this summer by waltzing through the Confederations Cup with virtually unscathed. Brazil was only scored on in 2 of the 5 games and proved that they had a highly potent offense by outscoring opponents by 11 goals throughout the tournament. The captain, Thiago Silva, and veteran Barcelona defender Dani Alves championed Brazil’s defense, while Neymar orchestrated the offense. As a result of their dominant performance in this tournament, Brazil shot up in the FIFA rankings all the way to 9th place. Brazil is a hot team and will feed off the energy of the crowd, since they are the host nation. Shouldn’t all of this make them World Cup favorites? No team that has won the Confederations Cup has ever gone on to win the World Cup. Brazil won the 2009 Confederations Cup, only to lose in the quarterfinal of the World Cup the next summer. Regardless of their disappointment in 2010, I feel that the Brazilian side is capable of breaking the aforementioned statistic. Brazil faced no adversity in their most recent tournament, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it next summer. With the nation behind them, you can expect many goals from this team and a deep run in the World Cup.
Spain 2010 World Cup: 1st
Key Players: Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas
Spain is always a safe pick and it definitely would not be a surprise to watch them hoist the trophy next year. Along with being the defending World Cup and EURO champions, the Spanish have six starters who play at the same club, 9 total players from Barcelona, and 65% of the team playing club football in Spain. There is no doubt that this team has familiarity and chemistry. Throughout the 2010 World Cup, 2012 EURO Cup, and this year’s Confederations Cup, Spain has allowed only 7 goals in 18 games. That’s a mere .39 goals a game. In addition, Spain outscored their opponents by 28 goals during those same three tournaments. Spain establishes their style of play early in the match with quick passes, constant possession, and creative midfield play. It’s a rare occasion that Spain gets out-possessed, and many times they will have possession more than two-thirds of a game. When a team has possession of the ball for that much time, it’s difficult to score on them and develop an offensive rhythm. The 3-0 loss to Brazil will rally the Spanish and result in a more motivated team that will be ready for next summer’s World Cup. You can definitely, baring any injuries, expect the Spanish to be in the final.
Germany 2010 World Cup: 3rd
Key Players: Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger
The 2010 World Cup saw an extremely young German squad that resulted in a trial-and-error tournament for coach Joachim Low. Shockingly enough, they managed to salvage 3rd place and re-establish themselves as an elite national team. The Germans were able to evade the pressure from the opposing teams and respond with a deadly counter attack. They are very disciplined with their formations and play a hard-working style that proves to be very successful in international tournaments. Now this young German squad has had four years to mature and have become a very powerful force, as evidenced by the Bundesliga’s performance in the Champions League. The ‘cream of the crop’ of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are coming off European dominance as we saw an all-German final in the Champions League. It is hard to see a 7-0 aggregate thumping of Barcelona and a 4-1 victory over Real Madrid as a fluke. Bayern Munich dominated Barcelona in every aspect of the game besides possession, and made it an absolute blitzkrieg. They dismantled Barcelona by executing German football to perfection, scoring on multiple counter attacks, winning aerial battles, and using their size to keep Barcelona from stealing the ball. The German squad is likely to be comprised of many players from Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. The team has nine players from Bayern, six of whom are starters, and approximately 75% of players on the national team play club ball in Germany. Germany has a solid defense led by Phillip Lahm, and various attacking threats such as Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mario Gomez. You can anticipate this team to net an enormous amount of goals and exert their dominance like they did in this year’s Champions League. You can also expect the Germans to lift the 2014 FIFA World Cup trophy!
Dark Horse: Belgium 2010 World Cup: Didn’t Qualify
Key Players: Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini
Belgium is full of emerging stars, with Eden Hazard just to name one. All of the starters on Belgium are well under 30 and certainly quality talent. They are capable of doing great things now and in the future. I’d even go as far as to say that this team is similar to the quality, age, and capability of the German side in the 2010 World Cup. It would not be surprising to see Belgium make an impressive push in the 2014 World Cup.
Germany and Spain have clearly been a dominant force in both international and club football. In the last three years, these two countries have had a combined 10 clubs reach the semi-final and 4 final appearances in the Champions League. These two countries undoubtedly have the most talented players and will be favored to reach the World Cup final. Next summer will bring much excitement, many goals, and one of the best tournaments in recent memory.
Prediction of the Top 8 Teams