2014 World Cup Preview and Predictions
With the World Cup starting Thursday, it’s time to study up on the big names and teams that will dominate headlines for the next month. Here is my preview and predictions for the 2014 World Cup
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Group A is headed by the host nation and favorites Brazil, who are coming off a Confederations Cup victory over Spain in 2013. The main threat in the group for the Brazilians will come in their very first match against Croatia, led by Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic. Mexico and Cameroon are not slouches by any means, but I cannot see them really posing a major threat to either Brazil or Croatia. I expect Brazil to advance easily in this group, and Croatia to edge out Mexico to claim the 2nd spot and also advance on to the knockout stage.
Advancing: Brazil, Croatia
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Group B is led by the finalists of the 2010 World Cup, which was won by Spain. However, being overlooked here is Chile, who are led by Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez and Juventus superstar midfielder Arturo Vidal, who is one of the top players in the World Cup. The Aussies will pose no major threat and will likely not even earn a point in this group. I expect Spain to advance and the 2nd spot coming down to the final game in group play between the Chileans and the Dutch, with Chile pulling the minor upset and advancing over Robin Van Persie and the Netherlands.
Advancing: Spain, Chile
Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Greece
Colombia was dealt a massive blow a few months ago with the loss of their best player Radamel Falcao, who is one of the best strikers in the world. Colombia may struggle to score, but an easier group does ease the blow a little bit. Ivory Coast is a potential sleeper in this World Cup, led by former Chelsea star Didier Drogba and Manchester City star Yaya Toure. Japan could really make some noise in the tournament, especially if Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United and Keisuke Honda of AC Milan can get some goals in key spots. Also, watch out for Greek superstar Giorgos Samaras, who has shown he can compete with the best while playing for Celtic in the UEFA Champions League. I see Colombia and Ivory Coast coming out of this group, but this will be a very close group to call
Advancing: Colombia, Ivory Coast
Group D: Italy, England, Uruguay, Costa Rica
Italy have to be the favorites in a group that is one of the hardest of the entire World Cup. Italy is led up front by Mario Balotelli, who is pretty fun to watch even when the game is not going on, and Italian legends Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon, who will likely be competing in their last World Cup. England has not looked very impressive in friendlies leading up to the World Cup, recently drawing against Honduras. They will depend on young strikers Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge to complement Wayne Rooney up front. Uruguay, who finished 4th in 2010, received great news when Luis Suarez was deemed healthy enough to play and will give them a massive boost on offense. With Suarez healthy, I like them to grab the 2nd spot in the group, with Italy winning.
Advancing: Italy, Uruguay
Group E: Switzerland, France, Ecuador, Honduras
The Swiss were the top seed in this group, but I do not buy into this team at all. They are a young bunch, led by promising young star Xherden Shaqiri of Bayern Munich. I feel that France is the class of this group, and are proving so by looking nothing short of dominant in their friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Although France lost their best player in Franck Ribery, they still have enough firepower up front, led by Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, and young star Paul Pogba, who will turn heads this summer, to win the group. Ecuador is a team that I really think can surprise some people, led by Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia. Honduras does not pose much of a threat, grabbing maybe a point against someone. France wins this group with Ecuador surprising the Swiss and also advancing.
Advancing: France, Ecuador
Group F: Argentina. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
This group is one of the easier groups to predict. Argentina is led by arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, who needs a great performance in the World Cup to really solidify his legacy after struggling in recent years with the national team. Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi, along with Messi, will provide perhaps the strongest attack in the entire tournament. Bosnia is debuting in the World Cup, but you wouldn’t know it by their performances over the past few years of qualification. They are led by Manchester City star striker Edin Dzeko, who is one of the most underrated players in the world. Nigeria could potentially pose a threat, but I do not seeing them having the firepower to compete with the top 2, same goes for Iran.
Advancing: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Group G: Germany, Portugal, United States, Ghana
This years “Group of Death”. Germany is clearly the class of this group, but after them is a complete tossup. The Germans were dealt a massive loss with Marco Reus going down in a friendly last week. Luckily for the Germans, they are a very deep squad, and Reus will be replaced by Arsenal star Lukas Podolski. Portugal is led by Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been dealing with fitness issues over the past few weeks. Ronaldo will be joined by Real Madrid teammates Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, both of whom will lead the defense. I can see this team really struggling to score if someone besides Ronaldo does not step up. The USA are an interesting case, playing the team who eliminated them the last two World Cup’s right off the bat. One thing that will benefit the Americans is that they have the benefit of playing Germany last, when the Germans will likely have the group clinched. If the USA can beat Ghana, which will be no easy task, upset Portugal, and draw the Germans, who could be resting many starters, they will advance. This is the hardest group to predict of any group in the World Cup.
Advancing: Germany, United States
Group H: Belgium, Russia, Algeria, South Korea
Belgium is a very scary team that many casual soccer fans do not know about. Even with the loss of Christian Benteke, the Belgians have plenty of firepower up front, led by Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. I love Belgium to win this group and go deep in this tournament. Russia was dealt a big blow, losing captain Roman Shirokov to injury. If the Russians are to advance, they will need Aleksandr Kerzhakov to be at his best and their defense to be as good as they are known to be. South Korea could potentially make some noise, but I cannot see that happening and Algeria poses no threat. Easy group here.
Advancing: Belgium. Russia
Brazil vs Chile=Brazil
Spain vs Croatia=Spain
Colombia vs Uruguay=Uruguay
Italy vs Ivory Coast=Italy
France vs Bosnia & Herzegovina=France
Argentina vs Ecuador=Argentina
Germany vs Russia=Germany
Belgium vs United States=Belgium
Brazil vs Uruguay=Brazil
Spain vs Italy=Spain
France vs Germany=Germany
Argentina vs Belgium=Belgium
Brazil vs Germany=Brazil
Spain vs Belgium=Spain
Finals/Third Place Match
Brazil vs Spain=Brazil
Belgium vs Germany=Germany
Golden Boot Winner(Most Goals)=Neymar-Brazil