The 2014 football World Cup starts at 4am, this Friday (Singapore time) in Brazil. And after one month of excitement but also tension and heartaches, one nation will be crowned the Champion of the World.
In this post, I will look at the World Cup groupings and take a stab at which two, out of the four teams in each group, are going to qualify to the knockout stages.
Eliminated: Mexico, Cameroon
The Brazilians and their samba football definitely should be a shoo-in for the knockout stages. I think that they will not want to fail in front of their home fans, so they will do well, as a result. After all, Brazil is one of the world’s most football-mad nations and the sport means absolutely everything to them.
Joining the Brazilians in the next round may be Croatia. They have top-class talent in the likes of players such as Luka Modric and Mario Manzukic and this may see them through in second spot. As for the Mexicans, they are a strong team, but are still under transition. So they will just miss out and be sent back home on an early flight.
Eliminated: Chile, Australia
The Spanish are definitely the favourites in this apparent Group of Death. The team still remains pretty much similar to the time they won the World Cup four years ago. At the same time, there are young legs in the Spanish squad – such as Diego Costa, who may be able to add more fuel to the old and experienced Spanish players – including Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
However, second place is going to be a very close toss-up between Chile and the Netherlands. But I think that the Oranje will just edge it. They had a superb qualifying campaign for this tournament – with a massive 34 goals scored but only five entered the back of their own net.
As well, many of their players, such as Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben are in the prime of their footballing careers – and they will want to avenge their 2010 tournament, where they came so near, yet so far.
Australia, while a very strong side, have been very unfortunate to get drawn into this group, so I don’t see much hope for them, in progressing beyond this stage.
2nd: Ivory Coast
Eliminated: Greece, Japan
This is a very hard group to predict. All four teams are very evenly matched, but if I were to choose two teams, they would probably be Columbia and Ivory Coast.
The Columbian team is very strong with great attacking power and they should win this very finely balanced group, while Ivory Coast has some dangerous players such as Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure. So this would probably see the Ivory Coast team through in second position, ahead of their rivals.
Eliminated: Uruguay, Costa Rica
This one is not an easy group either, but I see the Italians as emerging in top position. The Italians had a rather smooth time in qualifying for the World Cup and they have a strong manager in Cesare Prandelli.
The English will squeeze through in second position. While they won’t stand much chance of winning the World Cup, I see them as having enough firepower to get into the knockout round. Wayne Rooney will definitely be an instrumental part of England’s qualifying campaign. He is a gifted player who can do well in more than one attacking position – be it the main striker or the left-winger. He will propel England through the group and help them squeeze in ahead of Uruguay.
While Uruguay is definitely not a team to be messed around with, due to their star players, such as Luis Suarez, I think that they will just fall short.
Eliminated: Ecuador, Honduras
This too, is a tight group. But the French may come out on top of it. Players who have the tendency to explode, such as Samir Nasri and Nicholas Anelka are not in the squad, so this may add some harmony in the French dressing room.
In second place will be the Swiss because they have a very strong defence and are very tough to penetrate. This is a key aspect of their play – courtesy of their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld.
Eliminated: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran
An Argentina side, led by Lionel Messi, should be able to progress from this group as the winners. Though he may not have had such a good season with his club, he may seek out his revenge by doing well at the World Cup, and even wining it for his country. After all, the World Cup is the only barrier that stands in the way of him being counted as a true footballing legend – and he will want to prove to his critics that he is just as good on the international stage, as he is on the club stage.
African side, Nigeria, is likely to finish in second position. They have plenty of strength in attack and a rock-solid defence that doesn’t leak in goals easily. This should see them through this group.
Eliminated: USA, Ghana
Germany is one of the strongest teams in the competition and finishing top of this group should not trouble them as much. I am sure that Mesut Oezil, despite his disappointing club season, will shine for the Germans and Miroslav Klose is even being tipped to break Ronaldo’s goal record at this tournament.
The Portuguese should get through in second position and they do have the world’s best player, in Cristiano Ronaldo, who is unfortunately fighting a battle with a knee injury – to be fit for the tournament. But even without him, Portugal still has enough firepower to progress.
Eliminated: South Korea, Algeria
This should be a rather straightforward group, with both Russia and Belgium going through. I think the Russians will win, as Fabio Capello has made them into a well-oiled machine – strong in defence.
As for Belgium, they eased through the qualifying and they seem to have everything going for them at the moment – good, talented players and a strong attacking force as well as defence. So they should get through too.