The 2014 FIFA World Cup is just over a week away. Final squads are being set into place, teams are making the trip to Brazil and we are getting a better idea of who may win the trophy in this years tournament. Here is a breakdown of each group, who we expect to advance and the teams with the best odds to win it all.
Group A is headlined by the home team from Brazil, who are ranked #4 by FIFA. The Brazilians are no strangers to World Cup wins, but their last was in 2002 in Japan. All eyes will be on Brazil every time they take the pitch, but we don’t expect them to have too much of a problem advancing from group play. The Brazilians are also 11/4 favorites, making them a top pick to choose before the tournament begins. While we do expect Brazil to advance, it could be any of the other three teams (Mexico, Croatia or Cameroon) to get the second spot. Players to watch out for include Brazil’s Neymar, Javier Hernandez from Mexico and Samuel Eto’o from Cameroon.
Spain won the World Cup in 2010 after defeating the Netherlands in the final game. This year, both of those teams will be in the same group, which will make it difficult for Chile or Australia to try and advance. Spain is also currently ranked #1 by FIFA and they sit at 6/1 odds. Chile is #13 in the rankings, but the Netherlands have slightly better odds at 28/1. This may not be the group of death, but it could have some of the more interesting matchups in the first few days of the tournament. Andres Iniesta is the star for Spain and Robin van Persie will lead Holland as the two top players in this group.
Group C offers a variety of teams, none of which have ever made it past the Round Of 16. This is Colombia’s first World Cup appearance since 1998, though they are ranked #5 by FIFA. They also have 33/1 odds, making them the favorite in the group. Greece is also ranked highly at #10, but they failed to advance from group play in 2010 in South America. The team that you may want to watch out for is Japan. They may have the lowest ranking in the group, at #47, but they do have the most World Cup experience over the last 16 years. Radamel Falcao may be the top player on the best team in this group, but we also like Yaya Toure and what he means to Ivory Cost.
Ivory Coast: 150/1
Group D was hailed as the Group Of Death II, as it has the second strongest FIFA rankings when you look at all of the teams in it. Uruguay currently has a world ranking of #4, Costa Rica is at #34, England is #11 and Italy is #9. It is hard to imagine a tournament where we won’t see two of these four powerhouses in the Group of 16. Uruguay, England and Italy all have odds that put them right in the mix of things for potential winners of this tournament. However, keep in mind that Italy had a meltdown in 2010, after winning the tournament in 2006. We’ll have to see how much, if any, that affects this years squad. All of these teams are litter with stars, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on Wayne Rooney of England, Edison Cavani of Uruguay, Mario Balotelli of Italy and Bryan Ruiz from Costa Rica. Be sure to check back with sportspicks.com handicappers for insight into this grouping, as well as all of the others during the entire World Cup tournament.
Costa Rica: 2500/1
With all of the power in some of the groups, it’s a bit disappointing when you see weaker pairings like that in Group E. The top-ranked team is Switzerland, who have a FIFA ranking of #8. However, at just 100/1 odds, they are certainly a long shot to make much damage if they get out of group play. Instead, France, who has a FIFA ranking of #16 could be worth keeping an eye on, as they have 22/1 odds and have the most experience in this pairing. They won the World Cup in 1998 when the tournament was held in their country. If the French could have a strong showing in group play, that could give them some momentum moving forward. Xherdan Shaqiri is the top player for Switzerland, but Ecuador has an emerging star in Antonio Valencia who is worth keeping an eye out for.
Group F is another week pairing, aside from #7 Argentina. Lionel Messi will be the one to watch in this group, especially considering that it’s unlikely that any of the other teams will make too much of an impact. Argentina has made the quarterfinals in three of the last four tournaments, a streak they’ll hope to advance past this year. It’ll also be the first showing for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as just the second showing for Iran. We expect Argentina to advance, but who goes with them is up in the air. Aside from Messi, Edin Dzeko will lead Bosnia & Herzegovina, Javad Nekounam is the top player for Iran and Victor Moses is a young stud for Nigeria.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 150/1
Group G was hailed as the Group Of Death when the drawings were picked for the World Cup groupings, as they have the highest average FIFA rankings between the four teams. Germany is currently ranked #2 and Portugal is #3, while the USA is #14 and Ghana is #38. There are tons of stars in this group, including Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal, Mesut Ozil for Germany and Clint Dempsey for the USA. All four of these teams advanced from group play in 2010, though that won’t be the case here. Every match in this group is going to get tons of viewers, and it’ll be an epic story if either the USA or Ghana can advance past Portugal or Germany. The Germans placed 3rd in the last two World Cups, and also have the groups best odds at 11/2.
From one of the strongest groups to one of the weakest, Group H does not even have a team in the top-ten for FIFA rankings. The best team is Belgium, who are ranked #12, though the most experienced team is South Korea, who are the only team to make each of the last four tournaments. However, South Korea is also ranked the lowest at #55, as Russia and Algeria are also in the mix at #25 and #18, respectively. Belgium could be on the rise, though they haven’t played in a World Cup since 2002 and that could hinder their ability to advance. South Korea has Son Heung-Min, who has been the captain of this team for years, while Russia will hope that 22-year-old Alexander Kokorin can add energy and youth to their squad. Great things will also be expected from Algeria’s Madjid Bougherra and Eden Hazard of Belgium.
South Korea: 250/1