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World Cup 2014: The Favourites

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2014 is shaping up to be a great year for football. With exciting finishes ahead in the Premier League and La Liga, both of whom are currently topped by pre-season outsiders with only a few games to go, and a couple of exciting ties remaining in the Champions League, it will be a year to remember. There is, of course, a World Cup coming straight after the end of the club season, so quality football will continue well into the middle of the summer. Here, in the first of a two part special, we will examine the favourites for the competition, who look set to take Brazil 2014 by storm.

The Favourites: 

Brazil

Brazil must be considered the leading contender ahead of the tournament, after beating Spain 3-0 in the final of last year’s Confederations Cup, not to mention that they are the host nation. They have ditched the more disciplined team of 2010 under Dunga, and have adopted more flair under Luiz Felipe Scolari. They boast great attacking full-backs in Dani Alves and Marcelo, who compensate for the lack of natural width that comes from further ahead, with Hulk and Neymar nominally down as wide-men. The sheer number of options available to Scolari is staggering, with Premier League stars like Philippe Coutinho and Fernandinho not even having been in the squad last summer, although the Man City midfielder did earn a recall in recent friendlies and will likely make the squad this time around. Luiz Gustavo will anchor in front of the back four, while Paulinho and Fernandinho will likely compete for the box to box role alongside him. The trouble for the team seems to revolve around the centre forward, Fred. Although he scored five goals for the team last summer, a more dynamic option has been sought. It was a big disappointment for Brazil, therefore, to lose Diego Costa to Spain. They have potentially an awkward group to negotiate, with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. Yet the Mexicans struggled badly in qualifying, and Brazil should be able to negotiate their way through easily enough, although Croatia may have something to say about that.

Spain

As the winners of the last three major international tournaments, Spain have a classy team filled to the brim with experience and know-how. The aforementioned Diego Costa should add fresh impetus up front, as David Villa gets older and Fernando Torres has become an anomaly. Yet Costa struggled on his one outing for Spain so far, and will do well to work up a rapport with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Having spent the year fighting Barca and Real, the Atletico Madrid forward has fired his team to the top of the league, as more younger players like Koke have thrown their hands up for selection, yet the older Barcelona heads are likely to hang on to their places. Age is certainly a concern for the Spanish side, as the downside of winning tournaments for six years is that key players are coming to the end of the line. They are another side to find themselves in a tough group, with their opposition coming from the Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. Assuming the Dutch don’t self-implode once again, they will give a stern test to Spain’s defence, which could be an area of concern, while Chile will have some talented and familiar faces in their ranks, as Alexis Sanchez will be hoping to spring a surprise against some of his club mates. There has only been one time when a European team won a World Cup when it was played outside of Europe, but of course that was Spain’s win in South Africa four years ago, and they’ll fancy their chances in Brazil.

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Argentina

Lionel Messi will lead his Argentina side into the World Cup, hoping to check the final major title off his career’s list. The Barcelona star has won everything there is to win in football, except of course for a World Cup. The side is full of attacking flair, boasting the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi, to complement their superstar captain. There will be serious concerns about the team defensively, as there is a serious lack of pace at the heart of their defence , while there are question marks remaining over the left-back position. With Angel Di Maria playing a deeper role for Real Madrid this season, he should be able to offer more protection in around midfield, while also offering quality going forward. For Argentina, the difficulty may well come in striking the right balance between defence and attack. When a side has as many attacking stars as this one, it may be tempting to throw a lot of them on to the field together. It is the Argentinian way to attack. But careful deployment of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago, should he recover from injury, along with the hard-working Di Maria, should give them enough protection. They appear to have been fortunate in the draw for the group stage, with games against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria lined up. That group should prove relatively straight-forward, allowing them to look forward to a second round tie, presumably against either France or Ecuador as they hope to win the Jules Rimet trophy in the homeland of their fierce South American rivals.

Germany

Germany are perennial contenders when it comes to major tournaments, and finished third at the 2010 World Cup. Jogi Low is still head coach of the side, who in South Africa were very young and raw. The likes of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were thriving in the team, but both have had struggles at club level this season. Yet the conveyor-belt of talent coming through in Germany means that there are no shortage of top players to surround those two. The immense Bayern Munich side provides a number of key players in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philip Lahm and Mario Gotze, while the re-emergence of Borussia Dortmund as a major European force has helped to swell the numbers of talented players available to Die Mannschaft. Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, along with Ozil and Gotze, should be able to keep good control of possession for the Germans, while creating enough chances for the team to go all the way. With Schweinsteiger protecting them in midfield, it will just be a case of getting someone to put away enough chances for the Germans to succeed. The young team who emerged in 2010 will be looking to blossom in Brazil, and their path involves group games against Ghana, Portugal and the United States. There’s no easy games there, but it would be quite an upset if Germany didn’t top it in the end and go on to have a say at the defining moment of the tournament.

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  1. April 23rd, 2014
  2. April 25th, 2014

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