Complete Preview of 2014 World Cup

Grayson Judge, Staff Writer

Group A

Brazil: This is their tournament to win, playing at home in a country with one of the richest soccer histories in the world. With incredible speed and skill, the Brazilian squad can dominate any team they play; however, they could also crack under the pressure.

Croatia: Finished qualifying with poor results against Scotland and Ireland, and with leading scorer Mario Mandžukic questionable to play after a red card, Croatia might not have the goal scoring ability it needs to perform well enough to make it out of group A.

Mexico: With one of the highest amounts of world cup appearances among FIFA nations, it is a wonder how Mexico has never won the world cup. This summer won’t be an exception, with only wins by the US against Panama and Costa Rica to send Mexico to Brazil by goal differential.

Cameroon: Besides Brazil, the three other teams in group A are all somewhat equal and all will have a shot at the knockout stage. If Cameroon can attack quickly on the counter with Samuel Eto’o, and play solid defense against the fast paced offenses of Brazil, Croatia, and Mexico, Cameroon could make group A very interesting.


Group B

Spain: Most likely the best team in the world right now and winners of the 2010 World Cup as well as the 2012 European Championships, Spain enters Brazil as the favorite. However, their possession style of play can be overwhelmed by the fast paced counter style of play that many other world cup teams utilize.

Netherlands: After an extremely poor performance at Euro 2012, the Netherlands is hoping for a much better performance on the international stage. With veterans Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben leading a squad of young talent, the Oranje has what it takes to advance to the finals but there are too many lingering doubts about past performance to be optimistic.

Chile: Chile and key player Alexis Sanchez are definitely intriguing. Their fast and tough play is going to be exciting in a group with the slow Netherlands and boring tiki-taka Spain. And everyone loves the underdog

Australia: Australia doesn’t have a chance at making it out of the group stage, relying too much on veterans like Tim Cahill. Have a nice flight home.


Group C

Colombia: Striker Radamel Falcao must feature prominently for Colombia to have a shot in the tournament. However, Colombia placed second in the South American qualifying tournament, showing that they could be a dark horse in Brazil.

Greece: Greece has nothing to offer the tournament except for dogged defense. But even with stellar defense, they won’t be making it out of the group stage without a miracle.

Ivory Coast: One of the best African teams, Ivory Coast can perform well if Didier Drogba pulls out another 2012 Champion’s League final-like performance. If not, Ivory Coast’s poor defense will crumble and without goals, they will be going home very fast.

Japan: Japan enters the tournament with two solid performances against the highly ranked Netherlands and Belgium and their hot streak could continue in Brazil. However, only three of their players have any real international experience. Look for Japan to be somewhat of a Cinderella story and make it to the top eight.


Group D

Uruguay: People underestimate Uruguay but with incredible forwards Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, and Diego Forlán, Uruguay has the possibility of winning the world cup. With the tournament being held on South American soil, an increased fan presence at games should boost Uruguay’s chances of going all the way.

Costa Rica: Costa Rica is the loser of group D. Unless pura vida flies to Brazil and a miracle happens, Costa Rica is going home very fast.

England: England seems to always fail to accomplish in major tournaments. Wayne Rooney can be unstoppable when he is on but without adequate supporting midfielders, there is not much he can do. And if it goes to penalties England will lose like they always do.

Italy: Italy is one of the strongest world cup teams historically, but they rely too much on the older generation to carry the team. If younger stars Mario Balotelli and Stephan el Shaarawy can perform well, Italy could definitely make a run for the championship.


Group E

Switzerland: The beneficiary of the easiest road to Brazil in which the hardest competition in qualifying was Iceland, Switzerland is somewhat of a mystery going into the world cup without any recent results against harder competition.

Ecuador: Ecuador has little star talent so will rely on team play to be competitive in games. And without much attacking presence after the death of striker Christian Benitez, Ecuador’s trip to Brazil could be over quickly.

France: A team of selfish old stars whose time for world cup glory is long past and without Samir Nasri, France’s fate will be determined by how well they get along. Zinedine Zidane can’t save Les Bleus anymore.

Honduras: Honduras barely qualified with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica to send them to Brazil. But their stay will not be long as they will surely be headed home after the group stage.


Group F

Argentina: Argentina has the best attacking weapons with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Ezequiel Lavezzi and playing near home will be a huge morale boost. Definitely a possibility to win the whole thing.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Fielding their first World Cup squad from this previously war torn country, Bosnia is unlikely to advance past group F powers Argentina and Nigeria.

Iran: Group powers Argentina and Nigeria will roll over Iran, and Bosnia could do the same. Iran will be going home quickly.

Nigeria: Nigeria has the opportunity and coaching to advance out of the group stage but if Bosnia and Iran prove difficult than Nigeria will be crushed early on in the tournament.


Group G

Germany: Germany has qualified for every World Cup and goes into Brazil as a definite favorite. With an impressive lineup that includes Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, and Lukas Podolski, Germany has the talent and depth to go all the way.

Portugal: Anything is possible with Ballon d’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. With solid midfielders to feed him on his long runs, Portugal has a chance at the semis only if the defense and keeper Rui Patricio can stop goals.

Ghana: Cup of Nations champions and always a formidable force in the World Cup, Ghana will look to repeat past success against the US and tally a win against Portugal or Germany. In any other group, Ghana could be a shoo in for the round of 16 but group G is going to be a slog for the Black Stars.

United States of America: American soccer is at a much higher level today than in 2010, with the American Outlaws fan club providing the support necessary to become a competitive international team. The talent is surely there, but with some internal strife between coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his squad, the chemistry won’t be enough to make it out of the group of death.

Group H

Belgium: Although one of the youngest teams heading to Brazil, Belgium’s star Eden Hazard with support from Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, and Marouane Fellaine can definitely make Belgium a force to be reckoned with after the group stage.

Algeria: With a talented squad that includes both veterans like Bougherra, Rafik Djebbour, and Carl Medjani and young talent like Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria is capable of mixing things up in difficult group. But with only three previous world cup appearances, Algeria doesn’t have the experience to make it very far.

Russia: Playmaker Alan Dzagoev can make things happen but he can’t do it all on his own. Russia lacks international experience and because of this, Russia’s chances in Brazil don’t look very bright.

Korea: Asia’s best team still isn’t that good. Unless they can pull out a hard win against Russia and place second in group H, they will be going home quickly.