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World Cup 2014 – The Preview.

World Cup 2014 – The Preview.
After over three years of qualification across six football continents, thousands of games featuring nations ranging from the Republic of Ireland to American Samoa; after all the blood, sweat and tears, we are now just one month and 64 games away from crowning the 2014 FIFA World Cup champions.

Brazil is welcoming a much different world than the last time it hosted a World Cup. In 1950 only 13 countries attended the fourth ever World Cup, without any African or Oceanic representation, while only India played on behalf of Asia. Back then would have predicted that 64 years later the likes of Iran, Algeria, South Korea and Japan would be competing on Brazilian soil in hope and anticipation of causing an upset, perhaps going deep into the knockout stages or maybe going all the way to the final?

On the field we’re in a summer football spectacle that will unite the world. A Selecao have a mountain of expectation on their shoulders from home fans and the onus will be on Felipe Scolari and star striker Neymar to deliver the nation’s sixth world championship. The reigning champions Spain bring a squad that conquered in South Africa and will be aiming to defend their crown, creating a dynasty unlike football has ever seen. Argentina and Germany have the attacking fire power to topple any team in the tournament. Then there’s ‘the others’, the France’s and Colombia’s who will have their say as the tournament goes on.

There’ll be crazy and memorable moments and all the ingredients for a World Cup to remember.

Contenders & Dark Horses

Brazil are favourites to triumph on home soil - and rightly so. They have a strong defence that makes up for a lack of attacking star power, but that attack is spearheaded by Neymar, a hero to millions in Brazil. In Felipe Scolari they have a coach with winning pedigree in the World Cup having won it with Brazil back in 2002. Everything points towards Brazil being victorious this summer – the home advantage, the experienced coach who has done it before and the tremendously balanced starting eleven, but their destiny may fall short if Argentina, Germany or Spain have anything to do about it.

Spain’s squad is loaded with players that went all the way in 2010 and is boosted by the addition of Diego Costa, who would love nothing more than to take the World Cup from the grasp of his former countrymen. A fourth consecutive international tournament is unprecedented and would cement this squad of players as perhaps the greatest of all time.

Many however see Argentina as the strongest challengers to Brazil. They are familiar to the climate in Brazil, will have a huge support of their own and would love nothing more than to succeed on their rival’s soil. Lionel Messi has only scored one World Cup goal but if he struggles to find the net Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero should have more luck – especially with Angel Di Maria providing from midfield. There is less pressure on Argentina to succeed, but Messi will know that a World Cup winner’s medal would support his argument as the greatest footballer of all time.

Belgium have long been cast as a dark horse for the tournament and have a relatively easy passage into the knockout stage, but their run could be cut short by the possibility of Germany or Portugal in the last sixteen. France, on the other hand, goes into the World Cup with little expectations and an exciting young side with potentially a comfortable schedule into the final eight. Samir Nasri was left at home to the surprise of many and the injury to Ribery is damaging, but with Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud in top form they have enough quality to cause a stir.

Germany were amazing in qualification, finishing fourteen points ahead of Ireland, and are, out of the European contenders, the bookies favourites. They may not have an out- and-out goalscorer but Miroslav Klose will be trying his hardest to find the two goals he needs to beat Ronaldo’s all- time goalscoring record. Germany have the quality all over the field necessary to win, with tremendous attacking options and a wealth of experience at club and international level, but face a certain amount of pressure to add a trophy to their generation.

Italy will always be Italy but they’ve had a difficult time in World Cup warm-ups and will find difficulty in a group shared with England and Uruguay. Mario Balotelli will want to add a World Cup medal to his recent engagement but Italy may not have the quality this time around. England have moderate expectations which may suit Roy Hodgson and the talented group of players he has at his disposal. Progression through the group stage would be seen as a success, anything further may hinge on whether they’ve practiced their penalties…

Then there’s the rest; the likes of Colombia, Portugal, Uruguay, Holland and Chile will all have hopes of going long into the summer and causing an upset or two along the way. They may not have their names engraved on the trophy, but they all have the potential to topple one of the favourites.

Group by Group Predictions

Group A | Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico

Brazil qualifying from Group A is a foregone conclusion, but the rest make up an interesting battle for second place. Cameroon has an aging squad but will look to cause an upset against Mexico and Croatia. Mexico’s familiarity with the climate and strong attacking options should trump Croatia’s weak defence should see them narrowly go through.

Watch out for: Neymar, of course, and Mexico’s Miguel Herrera who has been prolific in their domestic league.

Group B | Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain

2010’s finalists meet in Group B, but only Spain will get out of the group this time as Holland’s young squad and weak defence are too susceptible to both Spain and Chile. This puts the fast- paced attack of Chile into the knockout round, while Australia go winless.

Watch out for: Chile talisman Alexis Sanchez could be in store for a fantastic World Cup. Australia ‘keeper Mat Ryan is extremely talented and will have a lot of airtime.

Group C | Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Arguably the most interesting of the groups as any of the four teams have a shot of progressing. Even without Falcao, Colombia have exceptional talent in attack and this should see them progress, while Ivory Coast’s quality across the field helps it past a young Japanese team and a Greek side past its best.

Watch out for: The World Cup won’t be the same without Falcao but Colombia’s Teofilo Gutierrez will go a long way to replacing him. Japan will need Shinji Okazaki’s goals if they want to go though, while Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier could be on his way to the Premier League soon.

Group D | Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay

All eyes will be on England to see if they can progress, and despite question marks over their manager and tactical system just pip Italy to second place, while Uruguay – the reigning Copa America champions – qualify, and comfortably so if Luis Suarez is 100% fit.

Watch out for: If he gets his chance for England, Raheem Sterling, while it’s impossible not to sit back and enjoy Italy’s Mario Balotelli.

Group E | Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland

France have been scintillating in the friendlies and go through to the knockouts with little doubt, while Switzerland with a midfield packed with talent and strong experienced defence sees it progress ahead of an unlucky Ecuador side and poor Honduras team.

Watch out for: Antoine Griezmann can star in the absence of Ribery. Paul Pogba has an opportunity to make himself a household name in the middle of the park for France, as does Xherdan Shaqiri for Switzerland.

Group F | Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Bosnia & Herzegovina, propped with Man City striker Edin Dzeko, could be the surprise team of the tournament and should qualify along with Argentina for the last sixteen. The stage will prove too big for Iran while Nigeria simply lack the quality to put up much of a fight.

Watch out for: Angel Di Maria was Real Madrid’s star in the Champions League final and Argentina will look to him for creativity from wide areas. Bosnia will do the same with Miralem Pjanic.

Group G| Germany, Ghana, Portugal, USA

The ‘Group of Death’ is unlucky on an improving USA team, but Germany are in hot form going into the tournament and should qualify with a game to spare. Portugal are very reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo but even so should have enough to squeak narrowly past Ghana who were excellent in their final friendly against South Korea.

Watch out for: Germany’s Mario Gotze will need a big World Cup on the back of Marco Reus’ injury. Michael Bradley is a star in this United States team.

Group H | Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea

Belgium, everybody’s dark horses for the tournament, are becoming mainstream with the amount of quality they possess across the field. Romelu Lukaku should shine as they progress into the last sixteen. The final spot is hard to call, but I foresee the feisty Algeria side to cause the shock of the group stage and qualify ahead of Russia.

Watch out for: Romelu Lukaku is a world class striker in the making , while Granada’s Yacine Brahimi can make himself a star for Algeria.

Final Prediction

Brazil are the natural favourites, but I see more quality in this Spanish side and an experience in tournaments nobody can match. A lot of their players have had a long and arduous season campaign, many of which going competitively up until a few weeks ago, but if they can remain fresh through the group stage then they are the masters when it comes to the knockout stage and can do the impossible – win a second consecutive World Cup.

Kit Wear

This time for the first time countries have been ordered to wear one-colour kits so everyone is on an even par – so Spain will have to leave behind their navy shorts in favour of an all red look, while England will be all in white.

The most eye- catching of the World Cup jerseys comes from Cameroon who will be decorated in all- green tribal patterning. Nike’s deal with the French football association is allegedly the most expensive in football and the French team got their money’s worth with a classy home shirt. Argentina’s familiar light blue and white stripes home jersey is as always a fantastic kit.

For the trendy fans who want something different, you’ll stand out in Joma’s Honduras home kit, with it’s fantastic crest – a big ‘H’ for Honduras.

Article By:

Kevin Coleman: www. backpagefootball. com

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