Who will win this year’s world cup? This is a difficult question which has raised a lot of debate among football pundits, and rightly so. This year, the FIFA World Cup returns to the “soccer city” of the world: Brazil. It is easy to say that the Seleção are favorites to win because they are hosting the tournament, but the last time they hosted it, in 1950, they did not win—Uruguay took the title. Despite Brazil are five-time winners of the competition, more than any other country in the world, they have won the World Cup only once in South America. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to rule them out.
Across the Atlantic, Spain are the current World Champions and #1 in FIFA national team rankings after consistently positive displays since the last two Confederations Cup games and 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They once again enter the competition as big favorites to join the likes of Brazil and Italy in a back-to-back win championship; however, no European team has ever won the World Cup on South American soil.
Germany are also clear favorites, although in the last two tournaments they have not found that grain of luck to make it to the final. They last won the World Cup in 1990, as West Germany, but in the past two consecutive world cups (2006 and 2010), they have failed to progress past the semifinals. They last made it to the final of the Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup, but was convincingly overcome by Brazil.
Italy have produced quality players over the years and, depending on their experience in this tournament, you can sure bet on them to pull a surprise. They are four-time world champions, but need to again prove themselves worthy of the title in this year’s competition.
Team to watch?
I think the right question to ask is which “teams” to look out for because this World Cup looks set to provide another masterpiece. Belgium are the underdogs because they have a very good squad of young talents. A lot of the Belgian footballers have done good in their respective clubs all over Europe, and it should be exciting to see them play in the competition for the first time.
Players to watch?
Without a doubt, there will be lots of players to watch; but, once again, the stage looks set to watch the world's two best players: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina). Ronaldo was awarded the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or, which annually commemorates the world's best player; Messi placed second. It will be interesting to see both of these great players battle for their respective countries and, of course, claim bragging rights.
However, there are a few other standouts that need mentioning: Luiz Suarez (Uruguay), Mario Balotelli (Italy), and Neymar (Brazil). These players always bring lots of drama and flair to the competition.
In the 2010 World Cup, Suarez prevented Ghana, and Africa, from reaching its first semifinal thanks to a deliberate handball that denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. With criticisms surrounding Suarez’s character on the field since the last World Cup, he has proven himself as one of the best strikers of the game as he leads the goalscoring chart in the English Premier League.
Balotelli requires little explanation, especially with his physical presence and goal-scoring prowess, as well as his signature goal celebrations.
Lastly, Neymar inspired Brazil to victory in the last FIFA Confederations Cup, and currently being at the top of his game, you can fancy him to take his team to World Cup glory.
It is rather unfortunate that some excellent players are going to miss the FIFA World Cup due to confirmed serious injuries; these include: Radamel Falcao (Colombia), Christian Benteke (Belgium), Theo Walcott (England), and Victor Valdes (Spain).
Predictions (Group Stage)
Group A: BRAZIL and MEXICO
- 1st: Brazil
- 2nd: Mexico
- 3rd: Croatia
- 4th: Cameroon
Host nation Brazil should sail through easily by topping Group A. I think Mexico have a decent chance of placing second, just because they do not play Brazil first. A win against Cameroon and a tie with Croatia will be enough for Mexico to make it to the next round.
Group B: SPAIN and CHILE
- 1st: Spain
- 2nd: Chile
- 3rd: Netherlands
- 4th: Australia
As the defending world champions, Spain face a stern test against the Netherlands in the opening game of this group. Chile and Australia thus have a chance to win early 3 points. I think Spain will top the group and, considering Chile beats Australia, then the Chileans will go through as second. Otherwise, the Netherlands can still qualify by winning their next two games. The fitness of striker Robin van Persie will be crucial for the Netherlands.
Group C: COLOMBIA and COTE D’IVOIRE
- 1st: Colombia
- 2nd: Cote D’Ivoire
- 3rd: Japan
- 4th: Greece
I would back Colombia to top the group, but, with their striker Radamel Falcao injured and possibly ruled out of the tournament, I wonder who will score goals for them. Ivory Coast have a solid team with the likes of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, who prove essential in sweeping past their opponents in the qualification stages. Japan are the most underrated, but they demonstrated fearlessness last World Cup as they made it to the Round of 16.
Group D: URUGUAY and ITALY/ENGLAND
- 1st: Uruguay
- 2nd: Italy
- 3rd: England
- 4th: Costa Rica
I think Luis Suarez will win the show in this group. The Uruguayan striker has been prolific all season in front of goal for his club team Liverpool. Since he has stayed out of recent controversy, I back him to perform great. Italy have forward Balotelli and the experienced goalkeeper Buffon, so I fancy them for second place in this group. England have had too many injuries to deal with and their strikers Rooney and Welbeck have been inconsistent. Their undermentioned striker, Rickie Lambert, is the one to watch, but in all honesty this is the second "group of death."
Group E: FRANCE and SWITZERLAND
- 1st: France
- 2nd: Switzerland
- 3rd: Ecuador
- 4th: Honduras
I do not expect any drama in Group E as France are the strongest side. The French should have no problem topping the group. Switzerland should place second.
Group F: ARGENTINA and NIGERIA
- 1st: Argentina
- 2nd: Nigeria
- 3rd: Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 4th: Iran
Messilona! Messi and all of Argentina should smile while looking at this group; they are sure to sweep it. Nigeria, the current African champions, looks set to finish second as it plays an inexperienced Iran on opening day for Group F.
Group G: UNPREDICTABLE
- 1st: Germany
- 2nd: Ghana
- 3rd: Portugal
- 4th: USA
This is the first group of death. It is difficult to predict who will top the group because it is going to depend on a lot of factors, particularly the winner of the first game between Portugal and Germany. Germany have never failed to qualify out of the group stage. Portugal have the world's best player, Ronaldo. The USA have a chance in their German coach, Klinsman, but they have never beaten Ghana in the World Cup, with the latter winning the 2006 and 2010 World Cup matches. Could Ghana make it three wins in a row against the football "superpowers?" Ghana was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the last world cup, after a rather unfortunate and dramatic circumstance, so they look set to fight back. There will be big surprises in this group.
Group H: BELGIUM and RUSSIA
- 1st: Belgium
- 2nd: South Korea
- 3rd: Russia
- 4th: Algeria
Like I said before, Belgium is the dark horse team of this tournament. They have a high-quality team. They have a very promising striker, Romelu Lukaku, and midfielder Eden Hazard; both will be playing in the tournament for the first time. Nicknamed the new “Drogba,” I trust Lukaku to lift his team to finishing first in this group. I think South Korea will place second, above Russia, because they always make it to the Round of 16 in their World Cup participations.
Who will win?
Based on my analysis, I ask again: Who will win the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup? You decide.