Canada (Last year: 3rd in Group C) At this point I think we all know what to expect from Canada. They are a team that can compete with any team in the tournament and I would expect that to continue this year. Canada are usually known for their defending but last year they remedied their usual anemic offense, scoring the 5th most goals in the round robin. If Canada can put it all together I see know reason they can't go very deep into this tournament.
Eritrea (Last year: DNP) Another squad that have I no idea about. There seems to be a random African nation that pops up every year (Somalia, Sierra Leone etc.) and then disappears just as quickly. They usually don't offer much in terms of competition, unless its Sudan. I expect Eritrea to be closer to Djibouti than they are to Sudan. Maybe I'm wrong but we will see.
Jamaica (Last year: 3rd Overall) We all know I have a slight biased for Jamaican as I am 50% Jamaican. They finally managed to exceed expectations last year narrowly missing out on the final after losing to Poland in a shoot out. They have added Cesar Santamaria, Adam Rolfe, and Mitch Bauche but lost David Brown, Jonah Gardiokitis, Carson Mcdonald and myself. If they hope to improve on last years placing they will need to find a much more balanced attack and continue the defensive form they were in. Should easily make it into the knockout stages though.
Northern Ireland (Last year: 5th in Group B) Northern Ireland ended up in what was debatably the toughest group last year and as a result posted only 3 point in the form of a win over South Korea. Unfortunately Adding slightly to that point total is about the best Northern Ireland can hope for this year. Unless they have some how picked up some much better players I see no way they get out of this group.
Norway (Last year: 5th in Group C) Despite finishing near the bottom of their group last year Norway actually exceeded my expectations. They kept their games against some of the top very tight and had they had a break or two go their way they easily could have finished higher. Though Norway's wave of confidence from their great win of 2007 may be diminishing they still are a team you have to take seriously. Mark them down as a team I could see throwing a wrench into this group.
Portugal (Tied for 4th in Group D) Finishing 4th in the weakest group last year doesn't vote well for your prospects going into this years tournament. Much like N. Ireland if they haven't made any substantial pickups it will be a short tournament for Portugal.
4. Northern Ireland
We all know Jamaica's kryptonite and that's Canada. I clearly expect that continue. Though I said Norway could throw a wrench into the playoff picture I don't expect it. I do think they are clearly the 3rd best team in the pool. Northern Ireland and Portugal are a toss up for me as I think they are very similar skill-wise. With Eritrea who knows what to expect.... obviously by my prediction I am not expecting much.
4. Northern Ireland
Canada - Canada are always all solid team and are expected to make it to playoffs every year. They are well organized and are a tough team to break down. I think Canada will go through the group stage undefeated.
Jamaica - After playing with them last year these guys have a lot of heart. If they defend how they did last year then I see them getting through this group. With the additions of Cesar and Rolfe I expect Jamaica to be a tough team to play against.
Norway - Norway had a tough year last year but I think they will bounce back this year. Norway are usually well organized and play hard every game. I expect Norway to give Jamaica & Canada tough games but I just don't think they have the goals in them to cause an upset.
Northern Ireland - Having played Northern Ireland last year I don't see them being a factor in this group. Although I think they won't go through to the playoffs I think they will provide a challenge to some of the better teams in the group.
Portugal - An aging team that just won't be able to keep up with the teams in this group.
Eritrea - I know nothing about them but I don't expect much.