With the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil set to begin in just a few weeks, speculation is growing as to which national teams will shine and which will dissappoint. Will Spain’s dominance continue, or are they ready to be knocked off their perch? Surely the host team. Brazil can be expected to perform well on their home turf. But you can never rule out the Germans either… Alright then, here are our picks of the national teams to watch in Brazil this year.
Although Portugal are highly ranked at number 7 in the world, it is hard to picture them with their hands on the World Cup trophy. Even with one of the all-time greats on their side i Ronaldo, the team over-all doesn’t seem to have the depth required to get to the top. In qualifying, their team performance has seemed to rely just a bit too much on their big star. On the other hand, they are not a team that others will look forward to facing, and could easily play the role of spoiler for any of the big teams they meet along the way.
Considering the tiny size of the country, Uruguay has been a major overachiever ever since the very first world cup in 1930, which they won. However their current lineup, even with fantastic goal-scorers Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan who was joint top scorer in 2010, isn’t given much of a chance to get beyond the quarter finals. The online sports oddsmakers at SportsBettingDime.com have them at 1/2 to get past the first round, where they face Italy, England, and Costa Rica in group D.
Belgium has been producing some amazing young players over the past several years. With talent like Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, all of whom are performing well for major Premier League teams, they could prove to be the dark horse contender this time around. They may still be a few years and a few more great players away from their peak, we expect to see some exciting play and positive results from this up and coming team.
The Italian national team has come down in the world just a little since their glory days when they won the 2006 World Cup in Germany. They still seem to have the tough and well organized defensive power, but have not been able to match the attacking force they once had. With Italy’s pedigree, the always amazing Pirlo, and the unpredictable Ballotelli, nobody is counting them out completely. But our prediction is that this year they will only get as far as the quarter finals.
After their embarrassing infighting at the last World Cup in South Africa, you can’t underestimate their ability to implode, but France certainly has the talent to go far in the tournament. With experienced world-class stars like Ribery and Higuain along with brilliant youngsters like Pogba and top-notch goal-keeping they could poetentially beat any team in the world on a given day. Still, their underachievement in recent years, having last won the competition in 1998, leads us to believe that, although they should do quite well, they won’t make it to the final.
5. The Netherlands
At the 2010 World Cup, the Dutch team made it all the way to the final, but then were clearly outclassed by the stylish Spain team. Resorting to less-than-sporting tactics made them look even worse. At the 2012 Euro Championships 2 years later they had a very dissappointing tournament, and now they are clearly looking to get back to their former level. They certainly have the scoring power with the lethal skills of the likes of Van Persie and Robben. The question is whether they have the overall team to make 2014 the year that they finally take the title. Our prediction is – almost, but not quite yet…
Will this be the year that Lionel Messi final gets the kind of results for his national team that he has consistently produced for his Barcelona club team? If he can tie up well with Argentina’s other world stars like Aguero and Di Maria, we’re sure to enjoy some great goals. But without a World Cup win since the days of Maradonna, our guess is that they’ll go far, but they still won’t have quite enough to win it all.
Never rule out ze Germans, as the saying goes. Perpetual contenders and regular winners, Germany is always a force to recon with in international football. They play an agressive and well organized style, and the current team has a great combination of youth and experience. They will certainly make it to the latter stages, but we will stick our virtual necks out to predict that this time around, the semi-finals will be as far as they get.
Spain, as the current title holders have a good combination of experienced international stars and young up and coming players. It will be interesting to see how they fit their new convert Diego Costa (sure the receive a cold welcome from the Brazilian fans) into their trademark passing style. Their current weakness seems to be in defense. It would be great to see them play against Brazil along the way.
Although Brazil are currnetly ranked only 10th in the world, we think they have the best chances of winning. With their excellent all-round team play during qualifying, and the awesome striking power of Neymar and Fred, they should get through the early rounds comfortably, and with a bit of luck and the home crowd advantage, they certainly have the potential to go all the way in 2014 to win their 6th World Cup title.