Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup Preview

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is here...even if Brazil isn't quite ready with the stadiums. For the 2011 Women's World Cup, I correctly predicted Japan would defeat the USA in the final, which I'm sure makes me one of the few. That probably means I am going to get this completely wrong, but I'll try my hand at the 2014 World Cup.

Group A: 1. Brazil, 2. Croatia, 3. Mexico, 4. Cameroon. This is one of those groups where the 2nd place team could really be anyone after Brazil, who are the odds on favorite to win the group at home, and clearly the most talented of the bunch. Mexico have been struggling, Cameroon is hit-or-miss as is Croatia, though Croatia has a slight talent advantage over Cameroon. On top of their lackluster year, Mexico just lost a starter.

Group B: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Netherlands, 4. Australia. This group should feature some great match-ups between four capable teams, and Chile could definitely take out the Netherlands, who will need to be on their A game against Chile. Spain should take it, but we've recently seen previous winners falter in the group stage 4 years later (Italy in 2010, France in 2002 both finished last after winning the previous Cup). Australia is good but probably the odd team out. They can still give teams a tough test.

Group C: 1. Colombia, 2. Japan, 3. Ivory Coast, 4. Greece. This just might be the hardest group to pick. All of these games should be exciting, and you won't have any idea which way they'll go. Japan has the technical ability, and with Honda & Kagawa they can get a needed goal at any moment even if they may be weaker in other areas compared to the other three teams. Will seeing their Women's team win the 2011 Women's World Cup be a boost to Japan? Group C will probably be the closest group, with no team being eliminated before the third round of games. Colombia's star Falcao is still recovering from tearing his ACL, so will he be 100%? Many questions in the most exciting group.

Group D: 1. Italy, 2. England, 3. Uruguay, 4. Costa Rica. What a group, featuring three previous World Cup winners (Just Eight countries have won). I like England coming in with lower expectations to take it. They might finally have an underdog mentality, after their arrogance of 4 years ago led to them finishing 2nd behind the USA. Costa Rica shouldn't pose any threat. Italy, England and Uruguay all have their question marks, so it will be fun to watch it play out.

Group E: 1. France, 2. Switzerland, 3. Ecuador, 4. Honduras. After a disaster in South Africa 2010, France should be able to make their comeback in this group, which may be tougher than it looks thanks to an increasingly improved Switzerland and Ecuador playing close to home.

Group F: 1. Argentina, 2. Nigeria, 3. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 4. Iran. Argentina got quite the gift, and should have little trouble finishing on top of the group. Nigeria vs Bosnia should decide the fate of 2nd place, though Iran won't be an easy opponent for anyone and could play spoiler.

Group G: 1. Germany, 2. USA, 3. Portugal, 4. Ghana. It was agonizing to choose between Portugal & USA for 2nd...USA famously beat favorite Portugal at the 2002 World Cup and Portugal never recovered. Will the Americans be able to do it again? First, they'll have to take on Ghana, who eliminated the US in the 2006 & 2010 World Cups. Never before have they had such an important first game. Cristiano Ronaldo is battling an injury, and though he'll be playing, will he be at his full capacity? Jozy Altidore seems to have fallen out of his slump, and him paired with Clint Dempsey may help with the absence of Landon Donovan and his goal scoring ability.

Group H: 1. Belgium, 2. South Korea, 3. Russia, 4. Algeria. Belgium is my dark horse pick for the whole tournament as a potential semi-finalist. South Korea and Russia should clearly battle for 2nd place, and Russia is likely the better team, and South Korea struggled in qualifying before firing their head coach. But we need upsets at the World Cup, so I'm going with South Korea to get that done.

Round of 16: Brazil over Chile. England over Colombia. France over Nigeria. Germany over South Korea. Spain over Croatia. Japan over Italy. Argentina over Switzerland. Belgium over USA.

Quarterfinals: Brazil over England. Germany over France. Spain over Japan. Belgium over Argentina.

Semifinals: Germany over Brazil. Belgium over Spain.

3rd Place: Brazil over Spain. Final: Germany over Belgium. Belgium has given us awesome waffles and fries, which may or may not be swaying my decision to send them so far, especially past Argentina, who very well could win the Cup. I like Germany though to become the first European country to win the World Cup in South America.

Favorites: Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Spain.
Dark Horses: Belgium, Colombia, Italy, England, Netherlands, Japan.

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