FIFA World Cup Draw Leaves Hard Challenges for Many Top Soccer Nations
Now that the 2014 World Cup draw has been completed, each of the 32 teams involved in the tournament know who they will play in the opening group stages of the event.
While major powerhouse teams like Brazil and Germany will favor their odds against anyone, many teams rely on the fate of a draw to ensure that they can have a successful World Cup.
For many teams, this tournament will be a true test of their capabilities, and this will simply make it all the more enjoyable for the fans. Here is a breakdown of each of the 8 groups at the event.
Group A - Brazil, Mexico, Cameroon, Croatia
Brazil almost certainly wins this group. Playing at home and with several young stars growing and ready to blossom, Neymar, David Luiz, and Oscar will be running riot in the group stage. Expect them to take 3 wins and emerge with 9 points.
For the other teams, they will surely battle it out for second place, and each team has a chance to emerge from the group. Mexico is historically a strong team, and usually finds a way to progress. However, their play this past year has been abysmal and I think they may struggle mightily.
Cameroon will be led by legendary striker Samuel Eto'o and other European based African stars.
Group B - Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
On first glance one would assume this group would be between Spain and the Netherlands, who were finalists in South Africa 2010. Needless to say, their rematch of the 2010 World Cup final will be dramatic and exciting. Reigning champions Spain still have arguably the best players worldwide, while the Netherlands are also strong with superstars like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, though they will certainly face problems defensively with a largely inexperienced backline.
But the dark horse in this group is Chile. Playing on their home continent, they will have the desire, and with star striker Alexis Sanchez up front anything is possible. Chile might just ruin the hopes of a major European side, though I feel that Spain and the Netherlands will succeed with the superior talent. Australia is simply happy to be here.
Group C - Greece, Colombia, Japan, Ivory Coast
While many will take a quick glance at this group and label it weak, this actually figures to be the most competitive group of the lot. Every team could conceivably finish in first or fourth. The Ivory Coast (Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Emmanuel Eboue) and Colombia (Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez) have the more talented squads, though Greece and Japan have had more recent success as international teams winning continental trophies and have good players too. Each game will be closely contested, but I foresee Colombia and the Ivory Coast eventually winning out, though it will certainly not be easy.
Group D - England, Uruguay, Italy, Costa Rica
This is one of the frightening groups of death at the 2014 World Cup. England find themselves in a treacherous position with their first two matches against Italy and Uruguay. Should they stutter, the team could be eliminated before their final group stage match versus Costa Rica.
Italy is a powerful soccer team that recently defeated English on penalties in the 2012 Euro tournament and reached the final match in that event. Meanwhile, Uruguay reached the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America. They boast a forward line of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlan, making them one of the most potent offenses in the world.
Italy features an incredible playmaker in Andrea Pirlo and a deadly striker in Mario Balotelli, meaning defensive solidity will be a tall order for the England team. While England has recently struggled in major international tournaments, Italy and Uruguay have done well. Nevertheless, one of these 3 nations will leave the 2014 World Cup early and disappointed. I feel England will be that team. Poor Costa Rica has no chance.
Group E - Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland
On paper this looks to be France’s group, as they have world class players like Frank Ribery, Olivier Giroud, and Karim Benzema. However, until they succeed at a tournament they will continue to hear criticisms over their failure to come together internationally since the days of Zinedine Zidane. But with this rather soft group they should figure at least to emerge to the knockout phase. Between the remaining three teams it will be tight as each have some good players. I would give the edge to Ecuador based on their home continent appeal, and I would not make a France success a foregone conclusion based on their tendency to implode as a group. Remember the 2010 World Cup team mutiny for example.
Group F - Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Argentina will no doubt lead this group under the prowess of Lionel Messi and other stars coming into their own such as Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. They will be hoping to lift the cup and may just well do it. Meanwhile, Iran is likely to be embarrassed while Nigeria and Bosnia battle it out for second. Both nations have good talent and will be competitive no matter who they face. I give the edge to Bosnia with star striker Edin Dzeko now in his prime.
Group G - United States, Germany, Ghana, Portugal
Germany is the big favorite and will hope to win no matter who their opposition is. The remaining three countries have it all to play for. Cristiano Ronaldo leads a Portugal team that often reaches the latter stages of tournaments, while Ghana plays with excitement and flair, and recently eliminated the United States in both 2006 and 2010. One must fear that there is little chance for the Americans.
But as an American myself, I must search for some hope. The main thing that can help this team forward is that they play Germany in the third game. There is a chance (if Germany beats both Portugal and Ghana) that Germany has already won the group before that final game, and they may play a weaker team to give their starters a rest. Fans of the United States will fondly remember a match last June where they beat a similar German B team 4-3. Especially with the American head coach being the former German superstar Jurgen Klinsmann, his home country may give him an easy match, so long as they have already progressed. Regardless, America must somehow draw or beat Portugal and Ghana to earn an opportunity to progress in that final game. It will be a tough challenge, but not entirely impossible.
Group H - Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria
This is another relatively soft group, but the Belgians are the heavy favorites due to their immensely talented crop of young players. Budding superstars include Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, and Marouane Fellaini. Meanwhile, a mature defense includes solid players like Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen. The one problem I foresee with this team is their inexperience. Having not reached the World Cup since Korea/Japan 2002, most of the players have yet to experience games of this magnitude. They will be facing Russian and South Korean teams that do have big tournament experience. We will see if the talent disparity proves too great. Many people have chosen Belgium as potential contenders in the tournament. Between Russia and South Korea, I feel that South Korea will emerge as the second place team. Algeria should be the whipping boys of the group.
Clearly this World Cup features to be one of the best ever with all the talented nations involved. However, while the group stage will certainly be a challenge for many of these teams stuck with a tough draw, the cream will always rise to the top. While these matchups will be analyzed to death, it will be the knockout phase that determines the champions and provides the most excitement. However, the group stage is always a thrill to kick off a World Cup with so many teams and games being played. June is just six months away, and fans will be eagerly awaiting the matches ahead in Brazil!
© Nicholas Spiller & Soccerphile.com