Potential Shootout: Our Picks For The 2014 FIFA World Cup
With the FIFA World Cup now just around the corner, the time has come for us to put our necks on the line and predict the teams who will lift the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy. The eyes of the world will be on Brazil as the most famous soccer nation in the world hosts the greatest spectacle the sport has to offer.
It promises to be one for the history books.
So without further adieu, here are our picks for the teams who can potentially win the World Cup. Starting with the favorites, we’ll also list the Dark Horses who can go the Distance.
The masters of Tiki-Taka and reigning World and European champions, Spain will enter the World Cup as favorites once again. The La Roja qualified for the World Cup at a canter after remaining unbeaten throughout the qualification campaign. They’ve lost only one game on their way to winning two European Championships and one World Cup. That one blemish on their otherwise perfect record came against Switzerland on June 16, 2010, in their opening game in the last World Cup. It is an astonishing record whichever way you look at it.
Since the World Cup began in 1930, Spain is the only team to have won three back to back international titles (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012). They are now coached by Vicente del Bosque, the only manager in history to win the FIFA World Cup, the European Championship and the UEFA Champions League. The Spaniards have an 81.18% winning percentage since he took over. With a record as imperious as this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if the World Cup returns to Spain once again.
Key Factors: The Spaniards have always controlled the game through their maestros in the midfield. The likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, David Silva, Jesus Navas, Cesc Fabregas and Javi Martinez combine to form what is the best midfield in the world. The strength in depth is scary, it really is.
“Os ingleses o inventaram, os brasileiros o aperfeiçoaram“. “The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it.” This is one of the most legendary statements of all time and it goes a long way in summing up the magic of Brazilian soccer.
Five time world champions and the most famous soccer nation in the world, the Samba Boys from Brazil have a golden opportunity to win the World Cup in their own backyard. As the host nation, Brazil automatically qualified for the World Cup and will be gunning for their sixth title on home turf.
Brazil’s last outing was in the 2013 Confederations Cup which was also held in Brazil. They defeated the likes of Spain, Italy, Uruguay and Mexico to lift the title. The Brazilians are coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, the same man who led them to World Cup glory in 2002 in South Korea and Japan. The Seleção have an added advantage in this year’s edition because they will have the backing of their home crowd and will be acclimatized to the playing conditions better than any other team in the tournament. They are coming into their element at the right time and Scolari’s tactical nous has once again made them a real threat for any team that comes up against them.
Key Factors: When in the groove, there isn’t a country on the planet that can dazzle on a soccer pitch like Brazil. Scolari has complimented the brilliance of players like Neymar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Ramires, Oscar, Paulinho and Hulk with shrewd tactical prowess which is why Brazil are being ranked among the favorites to lift the biggest prize of them all, yet again.
Germany are being considered by many as the ones to beat in Brazil this year; and a look at their squad tells us why. This is a team full of world class players and most of them ply their trade in the Bundesliga, Germany’s soccer league. Those who are not, are playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe. What Germans have done differently from the rest is that they have used their league as the conveyer belt for talent.
The clubs have all chipped in to produce players of high caliber and all that effort has paid off. They have made it to the semifinal of the last four major tournaments that they have played in (FIFA World Cup 2006, UEFA Euro, 2008, FIFA World Cup 2010 and UEFA Euro 2012).They qualified for the World Cup quite comfortably and no one will be surprised if they win the World Cup without breaking a sweat.
Key Factors: Under Joachim Low, Germany have always been there and thereabout in major tournaments. What makes them different this time around is the fact that a lot of their young players have matured and now have plenty of experience to fall back on. The Germans are arguably the best counterattacking team in the world today with plenty of pace to trouble the opposition.
Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Mesut Ozil, Per Metersacker, Jerome Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus and Mario Gomez combine to form the spine of arguably the most complete team in the world today.
The second most successful soccer nation in history, the Italians have won the World Cup four times, the last of which came in 2006. They topped their World Cup qualifying group, which boasted the likes of Denmark and the Czech Republic and qualified directly.
Apart from their four World Cup triumphs, the Italians have also been runners up twice and have finished third once. The Azzuri have also won one Euro title and have been runners up twice in the Euro championships. The team made it to the final of Euro 2012 but lost to World Champions Spain.
Since Cesare Prandelli took over in 2010 after the disastrous World Cup in South Africa, the Italians have made a strong comeback. They have once again become compact and very hard to beat, a trait that is as Italian as a pizza. It has served them well over the years and there is no reason to think why it will not work for them in this World Cup.
Key Factors: The Italian national squad has an almost perfect balance between experience and youth. Players like Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon have wealth of experience to match the ambitious zeal of players like Mario Balotelli. On top of all that, they are a big tournament team, you just cannot rule out the Italians. They perform when the chips are down, when no one expects them to. Their post Calciopoli World Cup triumph in 2006 being a prime example of that.
Argentina are two time World Cup winners and the nation that produced arguably the greatest player in soccer history, Diego Maradona. They will be one of the teams to beat in this year’s edition of the World Cup. The Argentinean’s will have the added benefit of playing in familiar conditions and most of their group games will be played in close proximity, removing the problem of constant travelling.
Since Alejandro Sabella took over as national team coach in 2011, the Argentinians have lost only four competitive games and won an impressive nineteen. The national team boasts a squad that most countries would be envious of. The likes of four time Ballon D’Or winner, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano will be a handful for any team in the tournament, especially in conditions they are used to.
Key Factors: Argentina have a strike force that can do serious damage to any team in the world. You just cannot look past the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain when comparing the fiercest attacking trio in the World Cup. They have the talent to change any game on its head on their own and teams will be wary coming up against them, that is for sure.
The Dark Horses
The greatest team to have never won the world cup, Netherlands will come to this year’s world cup hoping to finally break that jinx. The Dutch have been runners up three times in the tournament, with their last World Cup final appearance coming in 2010. They have once again qualified for the World Cup without any problems. Under the tutelage of their legendary coach, Luis Van Gaal, the Dutch have lost only two games in the last two years.
The fact that Netherlands has never lifted the World Cup is one of soccer’s greatest mysteries. They reach the business end of big tournaments on a regular basis but somehow fail to deliver on the potential they have always had. Every record, every jinx has to end one day and who is to say the Netherlands will not end their hoodoo this year?
Key Factors: Netherlands are the inventors of “Total Football.” They have always produced players with incredible technical abilities and that is what gives them a good chance to go all the way this time around. Players like Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Maarten Stekelenburg are good enough to play for any team in the world. They were only beaten by an extra time Andres Iniesta goal in the last World Cup final so who knows they might just go all the way this time and hold the Holy Grail. They certainly have the squad to do that.
Led by the current Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese will come to the World Cup with high hopes. They recently made it to the semi finals of Euro 2012 in their last appearance in a big tournament. Since 2004, they have seen a meteoric rise in performances. They made it to the final of Euro 2004, the semi final of the 2006 World Cup, the quarter finals of Euro 2008 and the semi finals of Euro 2012. The team’s only disappointing campaign was the 2010 World Cup, where they came up short against eventual champions, Spain.
Portugal have an uncanny knack of saving their best form for big tournaments. Despite putting up good performances, they have been unable to go all the way and have crashed out in the later stages. But this generation of highly talented soccer players has the potential to change history and finally achieve World Cup glory; but that depends on whether their talismanic captain and his star cast bring their A game to the tournament.
Key Factors: The mercurial talents of Cristiano Ronaldo. He is not only their star performer but also the team’s captain who delivers when his country needs him the most. His sublime hat trick against Sweden in the playoffs is the reason why Portugal will be participating in the World Cup again. Ronaldo will be playing alongside the likes of Nani, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, and Raul Meireles, immensely gifted players in their own right. There is plenty of pace and talent in the line-up and that bodes well for the Portuguese as they head to the biggest soccer tournament in the world.
Any team that consists of players like Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Cristian Rodriguez have to be considered as a team to look out for; especially when they are playing in conditions they are used to. Uruguay made it to the semi finals of the 2010 World Cup and lifted their record breaking fifteenth Copa America title in the year 2011.
The champions of South America knocked powerhouses Brazil off their perch and once again staked their claim as a true South American Giant. They have, perhaps, the most lethal striking partnership in the world and with so much explosive power up front it will take a very brave man to bet against the Uruguayans’ potential of going all the way to lift the title. This is the second time Brazil will be hosting the World Cup and interestingly, the first time when they hosted in 1950, Uruguay were crowned champions.
Key Factors: Uruguay know the conditions better than most going into the tournament. They are one of the three South American teams who are being tipped by many to win the World Cup. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, they have two of the most complete strikers in the world. The Uruguayans know their strengths and if they fire, then it won’t be easy for the others to stop them.
So these are our predictions on how the World Cup will pan out in 2014. Feel free to comment what you think about the predictions.