The Contenders: Laos has restocked its roster after an incredibly close final game in 2012. The addition of Chico makes Laos an early favourite to claim a title it hasn't held since 2010, but has been oh-so-close in the two years since. Still an athletic squad with plenty of above-average skilled players. What's standing in the way of an easy playoff berth? Probably the toughest group of 2013. Jamaica has poached a number of Ireland players for this year's squad and that means a likely trip to the playoffs for the first time since.....? No clue. 2009 at the earliest, but I'm even skeptical of that guess. For sure in 2007. Considering this is Kevin's team and he runs the tournament, you have to think the Ireland players are a desperation grab. If Jamaica improbably wins it all, wouldn't that be the Ray Lewis retirement moment right there? Kinda makes me sick thinking about it.
The Challengers: It seems every year Germany is constantly relegated to a Challenger, despite a solid team with plenty of very good players. Why? Because Germany has a tendency to implode in upon itseld at the worst possible times. I'll also acknowledge a few questionable calls tend to go against Germany, with unfortunate results, but usually it is noticeable team frustration that sinks this ship. I'm not sure who's in charge of the 2013 squad, but rumours abound it has lost some key members. Afghanistan is a team that made noise in 2012 with a big win against Jamaica, but ultimately fell short thanks to tough losses to Laos and to Canada. It will take some fortunate bounces for Afghanistan to advance.
The Pretenders: Northern Ireland nearly had the upset of the tournament in 2012 when it managed to tie Jamaica early in the groups stage. Of course, everyone soon realized that Jamaica was pretty overrated and Northern Ireland was just as bad as everyone expected. That said, I don't think any team can be as bad as South Korea was in 2012. Watching South Korea play was like watching an Under-16 team play. They celebrated like crazy for every goal, even if already down by 7. That means we saw the South Koreans celebrate a TOTAL of 6 times while getting scored on for 35. Yikes. Of course, they did make a 5-3 game of it against Greece....
Predicted Order of Finish
5. Northern Ireland
6. South Korea