This month, the year’s biggest sporting event will commence in the lush, exotic nation of Brazil. The world will unite in the spirit of competition on June 12 to fight for soccer’s biggest award, and Spain will face many trying tests defending their title. Before the festivities begin, let us examine the different groups and take a crack at who will be the last nation standing!
Mexico will need the ingenuity of their Europeans to excel, but should reach the knockout stage.
As for Croatia, if Mario Mandzukic’s red card against Iceland takes him out for more than a game, this team’s chances are ice cold.
Cameroon has a tough defense, but their reliance on awesome player Samuel Eto’o is their biggest weakness, so they will face a quick exit.
Brazil, fielding their weakest national team in 60 years, is still a lock to make the semifinals.
Spain has a poor defense, but their smarts and athleticism make them a lock for the semis.
Netherlands may reach knockout stage, but their inexperience prevents them from a deep run.
Australia’s best and only noteworthy player, 33-year old Tim Cahill, is over the hill, so the “Land Down Under” will quickly be six feet under.
Chile’s weak defense just gives them a 50/50 shot of making the knockout stage, so if they pass the group stage then do not expect much.
Colombia has the world’s best striker in Radamel Falcao and his supporting cast is not too bad, but Colombia’s talented teams of the 1990s always disappointed, and everyone expects the same this time around.
Cote d’Ivoire has a more complete team than Colombia, but their best and most experienced player Didier Drogba is declining, which could spell a quick elimination.
Greece is the equivalent to the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs since they are defensive, fundamental and sleep-inducing sans the talent, so they will exit before their viewers are hospitalized from intense boredom.
Japan is not all that talented, but they do have a few elite guys like Keisuke Honda who should help get them into the knockout stage, but not much further.
From England, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney should help them reach the knockout stage, but there is only so much one man can do.
Uruguay has an exceptional frontline thanks to Luis Suarez, but their relative weakness everywhere else on the field will not get them much further once they pass the group stage.
Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz is a great scorer, but his midfield will generate few scoring opportunities, so they will be ousted quickly.
Italy’s Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo generate buzz around this team, but they need more experience before they can match the caliber of the champion 2006 Italian squad.
Ecuador has enough stars to get them to the knockout stage, despite Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia’s huge scoring threat.
Although blessed with intelligent offensive facilitator Roger Espinoza, Honduras just does not have any other players who offer enough to get this nation past the group stage.
France is riddled with questions about age, chemistry, and inexperience, so Franck Ribery’s heroics will not be enough to help them get past the quarterfinals…and that is if they even pass the group stage.
The strongest team Switzerland faced was Iceland on their path to the big dance, so their #8 seed in world rankings and undefeated conference record is misleading, and that will be evident when they fail to pass the group stage.
Argentina is loaded with top-level defenders and midfielders, and considering that Lionel Messi is leading the charge, one has to think this stacked team is a near-lock for the semis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a first-time World Cup visiting nation, which certainly makes all their citizens proud and creates a sense of unity, but the lack of great scorers will not be enough to help their forward Edin Dzeko save them from group stage elimination.
Iran’s midfielder Ashkan Dejagah is a smart player with a degree of ingenuity to his game, but his game (and the team) still has some maturing to do, so anything other than a group stage elimination is out of the question.
Nigeria is good enough to pass the group stage thanks to great teamwork and chemistry, but the lack of elite talent dooms them to an early exit afterward.
The tough opponent group will likely finish team USA despite having the talent to advance (Clint Dempsey/Michael Bradley).
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo leads a team that has all the tools to finish strong, but questions about depth and goalkeeping could push them out early in the knockout stage.
Germany has the most talented team in the tourney with depth that can beat most nations’ starters. Simply put, they are the favorite to hoist the cup!
Ghana’s core players might be aging, but they still have speed no other nation can match, which alone should help them reach the knockout round, but with no guarantees.
One would think that Russia would have some legit soccer talent due to its size, but its lack of international talent makes an early exit probable.
Algeria kept their best players from last time and brought in great youth to build a future, so this dark horse squad can actually reach the knockout stage in a weak group.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leads Belgium’s young, very talented group, and the only thing separating this team from title contention is inexperience, so a top-eight finish is expected.
Average at best, South Korea will not compare to their 2002 incarnation, so they are almost guaranteed an early exit, but phenom Son Heung-Min should be fun to watch.
My finals prediction: Germany defeats Spain 3-2 in extra time.
Jonathan Ebanks is an avid sports fan who loves to work as a freelance writer/editor in his spare time. Contact Jonathan at [email protected].