With less than 30 days to go before the start of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, this might be a good time to take a closer look at the eight groups and share a few thoughts on how far the top teams from each group might reach, if they manage to proceed from the group stage.
Brazil & Croatia to qualify
As the host nation of this year’s tournament and because of the quality of their team, Brazil are not only favourites to win their group but they are also strong candidates to lift the trophy at the end of the competition. The Canarinha have everything working in their favour to win the tournament, a victory that would certainly help to “pacify” the violence crescendo and demonstrations against the government policies that are currently taking place in the country.
The other team that might have a word to say at Group A are Croatia. The Balkan team has an excellent set of players and although they experienced some difficulties during the European qualifying stage, Croatia are probably the only team able to “threaten” Brazil’s dominance in the group.
As for Mexico, the Central American team are far from their best and they experienced several unexpected difficulties to walk through on their CONCACAF group and only granted their place at Brazil after beating New Zealand on the WC Playoff.
The group’s fourth team, Cameroon, are always unpredictable, although it is not likely they manage to walk through the group stage. The Lions’ World Cup participations have been quite modest so far, with the exception of their display at Italia 90, where they grabbed the 8th place of the tournament led by the 38 year old flamboyant forward Roger Milla.
Spain & Holland favourite to qualify for last 16
This group will certainly be one the most complicated situations of the tournament, with three tops teams that will battle each other to walk through the next stage of the competition. Spain and Holland are obviously favourites to win the group, but it is very likely that Chile will have a word to say on the final outcome of the lot. La Roja kept a clean sheet during the qualifying round, but they didn’t seem as strong as in other occasions, as they struggled to defeat considerably inferior teams, such as Belarus and Georgia. Holland, on the other hand, walked easily through (with 9 wins in 10 matches) from what could have been a complicated qualifying stage with teams such as Turkey, Romania and Hungary.
Chile might be seen as the underdog of the group, but the truth is that Jorge Sampaoli’s team plays a very attractive and high pressure football, as one was able to witness from the team’s last year win against England and draw against the all-powerful Spain.
As for Australia, although they are a very hard-working side, the Socceroos will probably not stand a chance in such a complicated group.
Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire are the favourite teams to walk through Group C into the next stage of the competition. Although the South-American team will miss their main centre forward (Radamel Falcao) due to injury, they still have plenty of options capable of maintaining their goal scoring production, as for example Jackson Martinez and Carlos Bacca, and his absence may not deter them from leaving their mark at the this edition of the tournament. As for the African Elephants, they probably have one of the most interesting squads of the competition, with talented footballers such as Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Gervinho, Lacina Traoré, and Wilfried Bony; for this reason alone, Côte d’Ivoire can certainly aim for great deeds in this competition.
Contrasting with Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire‘s firepower and attacking football, there is the skeptical football of Greece. The Hellenic team walked through the European qualifying stage with just 12 goals scored and only 4 conceded. Fernando Santos’ boys are a very conservative side, with excellent defensive positioning and they might constitute a pleasant surprise in the group's final outcome.
As for Japan, although they are a brave and hard working group of players, the Nipponic team will probably not have any chances of king through in such a tight group.
Italy & England are our favourite to go to the next round from this group.
The fourth group of the tournament will probably be dominated by the two European football giants, Italy and England. Italy have completely dominated their group throughout the qualifying stage and completed the ten matches without a single defeat. As for England, they have experienced plenty of difficulties on a group with a similar level of difficulty. No matter what, Italy and England should manage to move forward to the next round of the competition without any major worries; nevertheless, both sides will need to count on the unpredictability of an Uruguayan side that has combined excellent with mediocre performances recently. As for Costa Rica, the Central American team will probably run aside on this group. Their past experiences on World Cups tournaments have been far from brilliant and although the team looks twice as strong as they were eight years ago, they will certainly not stand a chance against such powerful opponents.