Hang on, this is a long post. But you'll get a decent preview of each team in the group.
Summary: A difficult group? Look no further than Group D. 5 out of 6 teams can easily be considered contenders for the Championship. Canada first. Canada finished 4th last year, but were they really the 4th best team? Canada had arguably one of the easiest groups, with only Ireland as a real challenge. Canada actually managed to tie Botswana, and the best teams should not be tying Botswana. Then they proceeded to tie Ireland, and the best teams SHOULD be able to hang with Ireland. Consider the Botswana game a slip-up. Canada beat Poland in the quarters, and lost the champions, Laos, in the Semi-Finals. Not bad at all. The 3rd place blowout to France meant nothing. So what's in store for Canada this year? They are mostly comprised of players from Enter, the Regina Men's Top Division Winner. Enter has never been known to be a team with lots of skill, yet they consistently win. Canada takes on the same form as Enter. Every player works hard, in always in their position, and does their job. Not flashy, but it gets the job done. Every game involving Canada this year will be close, and will be a good game to watch. There won't be a collapse with this team.
Ukraine is made up of a lot of Yorkton players, a city with a lot of Ukrainian heritage. The Strikers, made up almost entirely of Yorkton players, finished 2nd in the Top Men's Division. They play in much the same way as Enter, not relying on single players to get the job done. In recent years, Ukraine has fallen off in terms of being able to compete with the elite teams, as France and Laos beat them handily in the group stage last year. The younger talent is starting to step up for them, and that could make a difference this year. Germany is the next team in the group, and they should be the main team that others are scared of in this group. Their goal-scoring ability is unmatched by any other team in this group, and maybe the tournament. They can rip goals in from anywhere and everywhere. Teams can't relax on them for a second. Canada and Ukraine specialize in keeping goals to a minimum, and if Germany can score quickly, these teams will be out of their element.
Their issue is getting their players caught up front, leaving them exposed to bad counter-attacks. If they have one weakness, that's it. One thing's for sure, Germany games will not lack excitement. Poland was a surprise team last year, rolling through their group with ease. They'll need to raise their game even more this year, because the group was quite easy last year. Nigeria was their only victory over a legitimately good team. While they've lost a good midfield player, they have gained other players that can pick up the slack and hopefully keep Poland strong. They've got great fan support, and now the big-game experience to go with it. But if one team is going to experience a major drop-off, I'd say it will be Poland. They'll have to bring the intensity every night, and I don't know if they can handle it as well as the previous 3 teams mentioned. Jamaica is often one of the more disappointing teams of the tournament, even though they are exciting and a really good team. Every year we hear about new players that are coming to play with them, and how they'll actually be there this time. I'll believe it when I see it. Having good players show up, without ever practicing with the team, for a couple games is no guarantee of any success. Jamaica does have a solid team, but they need to have a committed and consistent lineup that they can rely on. Teams have to work hard to win these games, and bringing in a couple good players who aren't very interested in it won't help. It's been the same for 3 years, so we'll see. Despite who shows up, Jamaica will have a strong midfield and striking force. They have holes at the back, and the midfield is often stuck hanging back to make sure teams aren't scoring on them, so their scoring potential is never fully realized. Once again, they'll be a very interesting team to follow anyway. Scotland rounds out the group, and they really don't stand a chance. They can't compete on the same level as these other teams. It's just unfortunate for them, this being the second year in a row it's happened. You can completely expect every team in this group to write off the Scotland game. But you know what? Scotland lost to Norway 3-4 last year, in the same type of group. A team tying or losing to Scotland here will be a dagger to any playoff hopes. I'm sure Scotland is praying that teams will take them very lightly, and you can bet they will. Watch for an upset.
Prediction: Who to take here? Canada can handle this tough type of group. So can Germany. Jamaica can, with the right team. It's a toss-up. I don't think any of these teams have improved substantially. I'll say Canada makes it out in first because they've got the players, team chemistry, and experience. They may not be the most talented, but can withstand the punishment of playing 5 tough games. I'll take Germany in second. My decision was really between Canada, Germany and Jamaica. I don't think Ukraine is on the same intensity level as these 3, and I think Poland will have a tough time in this group. It's incredibly tough to predict this group, and every single game will be great to watch. I've probably played against every player in this group, and I know we're in for some great soccer. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it, because it will be awesome.
In Finishing Order: Canada, Germany, Jamaica, Ukraine, Poland, Scotland.