Today is the day for the beginning of the Brazil 2014 World Cup – Here is my rundown of the teams and their chances…:
Chances: The bookies favourites to win the World Cup on home soil and did their chances no harm by winning the Confederations Cup last summer and every World Cup on South American soil has been won by a South American nation. Will have the backing of a passionate home crowd, although they have the potential to turn on their side when things aren’t going well. Perhaps not the greatest Brazilian side ever but the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Fred and Hulk going forward have the potential to win them games, while David Luiz and Thiago Silva have formed a formidable partnership at the back.
Verdict: As good as the Brazilians are there are too many weak points in their squad for them to be the winners.
Chances: Not helped by a dispute over bonus payments that delayed their arrival for a day but in reality, is not going to affect their chances of success in Brazil. A squad that is lacking in much creativity going forward and one that has failed to qualify for the last two African Cup of Nations. Have the tendency to self-destruct at any moment as well.
Verdict: The Indomitable Lions will be instead by pussycats as they finish bottom of Group A
Chances: On paper have a decent squad with the likes of Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitic, Dejan Loveren and Mario Mandzukic as part of the travelling 23, although Mandzukic’s suspension for the opening fixture will hurt their chances. On paper they look quite strong but have just one draw from their last four competitive fixtures, including a home and away loss to Scotland.
Verdict: Will be edged out by Mexico and will not progress out of the group stages
Chances: Qualifying for the tournament was a disaster for the Mexicans, winning just two of ten fixtures, but snuck through when Panama conceded late goals against the USA. Beat New Zealand in a play-off to qualify but recent results, including losses to Bosnia and Portugal do not inspire confidence. A lot of pressure will be placed on Javier Hernandez and Giovanni Dos Santos as the creative talents to score the goals as an ageing defense of Carlos Salcido and Rafael Marquez will lack pace. As Olympic champions though, they have talent.
Verdict: Always seem to get out of the group stage of the World Cup and despite a ropey build up, have enough quality to reach the last 16, but no more.
Chances: Not quite the same side who won the title in South Africa four years ago but still should be right up there in contention for the title. The heat in Brazil should favour their possession based football while they have experience throughout the side of winning big matches and haven’t conceded a goal in knock out football in the last three major championships. Might be a little suspect at the back, but they will rely on the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in midfield to keep the ball and not allow opponents a threat on goal.
Verdict: Will become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the title. In the absence of any truly outstanding sides, the depth of quality in the Spanish squad, combined with their big game experience, will see them over the line.
Chances: Hampered by being in a group with Spain but also Chile and a look at their squad reveals a surprising lack of depth with names such as Leroy Fer being surprise inclusions. Have a great front three on paper in Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, but all three look as if they are coming towards the back end of their careers. Manager Louis Van Gaal may have half an eye on the Manchester United job he is due to take up, while memories of a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign remain.
Verdict: Tough to predict but won’t get out of the group as Chile edge them out for the runners up spot.
Chances: Do lack a little bit in terms of overall depth for the side but have a strong first eleven including Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. Are fun to watch and great going forward and seem able to compensate for not being particularly solid at the back. Have a good recent record as well with victories over England and a draw with Spain.
Verdict: In a tough group but have the talent to get out of it ahead of the Netherlands. But Brazil in the last 16 will be a step too far.
Chances: On paper, one of the weakest squads in Brazil as evidenced by Bailey Wright and Massimo Luongo being called up from League One. Recent results are poor and are the lowest ranked side in the competition and being stuck in Group B will not help their chances of progress. Star man is still Tim Cahill and only four players have more than 30 caps hinting at a lack of experience.
Verdict: Will do well if they secure a single point. Bottom of Group B.
Chances: Will miss the injured Rademal Falcao hugely but are a still a genuine threat and an emergency nation. Still have attacking talent with the likes of James Rodriguez to threaten any defense and the conditions still suit them with them being used to the heat of Brazil. Have not got the best record in tournaments recently but are in a group that looks as if it they should be able to progress from it.
Verdict: Will progress to the last 16 but the loss of Falcao might stop them from going any further
Chances: Never progressed beyond the group stages of a World Cup but did reach the last eight of Euro 2012. Defensively very solid with only Spain conceding fewer goals in qualifying but lack much of a spark going forward. Not known as one of the most watchable sides, will be quietly pleased and finding themselves in group C and have a chance of moving into the last 16.
Verdict: Defensive solidarity might not be enough to see them through to the next stage – out in the groups
Chances: A talented but ageing squad with the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora probably entering their last World Cup. Have flattered to deceive in tournaments in the past; group stages of the last two tournaments and no African Cup of Nations title, and while they are not in with any heavyweights, this is an evenly matched group. Defensively might not be good enough
Verdict: Another disappointment for the Africans as they go out in the group stages.
Chances: An emerging nation of the World scene with a squad of talented and technically gifted players, but again, might be a little bit suspect at the back and failed badly at the Confederations Cup last summer. Definitely the best chance of an Asian side doing well at the World Cup but arguably Russia in 2018 provides their best chance.
Verdict: Last 16 is an far as they can go, but will manage to get out of the group again here in second place
Chances: May depend on Luis Suarez’s fitness. The Liverpool man is a key part in what is an ageing and declining side and a repeat of the semi-final of four years ago would be a massive shock. Suarez though despite having 38 international goals has only scored three times against major nations and will have to improve on that record if they are to repeat the triumph in Brazil of 1950.
Verdict: Group stage exit as Italy and England prove too strong. Uruguay’s chance was 4 year ago
Chances: Rank outsiders with the bookies tells its own tale but are not the worst side in the competition. Being drawn with England, Italy and Uruguay has damaged their chances while Bryan Oviedo’s injury is a significant blow. Will rely on the creative talents of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell to score them the goals and Keylor Navas in goal is coming off the back of an excellent season with Levante.
Verdict: Might have had a chance of progress with a different draw but will finish bottom of the group
Chances: Seem to range from no hopers to outside bets on a daily basis. A squad that perhaps is more likely to come into their own in Euro 2016 but is full of attacking talent such as Ross Barkley and Raheem Stirling to go alongside the experience of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. But failure to beat either Honduras or Ecuador in warm-up matches has quelled the optimism with poor performances not helping the confidence of Roy Hodgson’s men.
Verdict: Have the ability to reach the last eight but no more. Probably will do just that although will need to win the group to avoid the dangerous Columbians.
Chances: Runners-up at Euro 2012 but come into the tournament in terrible form having not won a fixture since September last year and recently drew with Luxembourg. But they seem to thrive when under the cosh and treated as outsiders and the talent of Andrea Pirlo will be crucial for a side that looks a little bit side on genuinely top quality and names. Probably cannot win the title but capable of reaching the last eight.
Verdict: Will look to and should progress from the group and maybe the last 16, but that is as far as they can go.
Chances: Defensively solid but have developed a bit more of a creative and attacking intent in recent years with the emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri as their talented playmaker while young Josep Dmric has come into the fray in the past few months and might be the striker who they need. At the back they are a little bit suspect, especially against pace, but did well in qualifying as they kept seven clean sheets. Are the top seeds in theory in this weak group and thus could progress to the last 16.
Verdict: An emerging side who are definitely capable of winning the group and have an outside chance of reaching the quarter finals but that is likely to be their limit
Chances: Their style relies a lot of old-fashioned wing play with Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero offering width and attacking intent, but the sad death of Christian Benitez last summer has left a hole in the side upfront with no replacement for him having yet been found. Dominant at home where they only dropped two points in qualifying, they found life on the road a lot tougher without a victory and thus that record must concern their backers.
Verdict: Could get through the group stage but are likely to have to rely failures of others rather than their own ability.
Chances: One of the most unpredictable sides in the tournament. Have the potential to be exhilarating but at the same time can implode like they did in South Africa and only scraped into the tournament by the skin of their teeth. Have attacking talent like Karin Benzema who can score the goals but the loss of Franck Ribery to injury is a crucial blow to their chances. Might be better equipped to win Euro 2016 on home soil than in Brazil
Verdict: Quarter finals is probably the limit of the ability but will need to win the group to do so.
Chances: With Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria as a front four, they arguably have the best attacking line-up of any nation, but all the attacking talent does leave them a little bit suspect at the back without a real top class centre half to help bail them out. Have the benefit of being in a weak section of the draw that should see them reach the quarter finals with ease and have the talent to go further but will rely on outscoring opponents.
Verdict: Probable semi-finalists but the further they go, the more their defense will be exposed, and the Spanish will probably end their hopes.
Chances: With fancy their chances of reaching the last 16 on debut after this draw. Have the attacking talent to go far with plenty of playmakers and creative ability while in Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic they have a front line who will score goals. Their defense doesn’t look great but they have the firepower to counteract that.
Verdict: They may be debutants but could well reach the last 16 and even the last 8 is within reach
Chances: A young squad that won the African Cup of Nations last time out and are arguably the pick of the African teams, especially with the group that they have ended up in. Rely on the likes of Victor Moses to provide the attacking threat while John Obi Mikel plays a vital role in the middle of midfielder. Potentially a little bit inexperienced and might be more of a threat in four years time but will hope to edge out Bosnia for second place.
Verdict: Will probably fall in the group stages with Bosnia just being that little bit better than them
Chances: Seen as amongst the outsiders by the bookies and a squad that consists of a lot of domestic based players could be seen as a weakness with them lacking the necessary top level experience. Are not a great side to watch – they kept more clean sheets than any other side in qualifying but struggle to find the back of the net. Carlos Queiroz’s tactical acumen as manager will help but cannot solve all of their problems.
Verdict: Unless they find a goalscoring threat are likely to finish bottom of the group.
Chances: Full of attacking talent and have a surplus of attacking and creative midfields. Only selected one out and out striker in the squad, but that man is Miroslav Klose who needs just one goal to equal Ronaldo’s all time World Cup goalscoring record. Might not be as great at the back and as organized as German teams of the past and have been disadvantaged arguably more than any other side by the fixture schedule, with lots of travelling and lunchtime fixtures that will not help their high pressing style, but never count out the Germans
Verdict: Destined to be the nearly men again. A tough group means that there can be no slip ups at any stage but will probably find better sides around the semi-finals
Chances: With Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad they can never be discounted but still have the same problem that they have had for years in not having a top quality out-and-out forward. Always struggle in qualifying but tend to improve in tournaments, they have been knocked out by Spain in the last two tournaments and despite the matches being close, never looked like winning them. Tend to be a bit too negative and rely too heavily on Ronaldo and normally run into someone better.
Verdict: A tough group but can progress from it and if they do, could well go as far as the semi-finals even but that is their ceiling
Chances: Were within a penalty kick from reaching the last four in South Africa and the majority of that squad is still around and still at their peak. But have found their chances diminished heavily by being drawn with Germany and Portugal and the USA and might find that for however good their attacking talent is on paper, the back line looks weak and will be exposed in the group stages. Thrashed a strong Egypt side in qualifying though
Verdict: The draw has not been kind to them and will struggle to get out of the group
Chances: Another who would have hoped for the draw to be a lot kinder than it turned out to be. Were potential outside bets for a quarter final spot but the draw has handicapped them badly and are the outsiders in the group. Have a good mix of experience and youth and coach Jurgen Klinsmann will hope to lead his side into the last 16 again but the lack of a top class centre forward could well be costly.
Verdict: Won’t get out of the group stage with the other nations too strong for them.
Chances: Considered dark horses by many to go far and have a very talented and promising squad that is full of players who play in the Premier League. The likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku give them attacking power and flair, they are very solid in the middle of the park, and Thibaut Courtois in goal could win them games on his own. However a lack of tournament experience might be costly while they will face tough matches throughout the knockout stage.
Verdict: Will get out of the group with ease as winners but might find their tournament goes no further. Ones to watch in 2016 though.
Chances: Outsiders with the bookies but have the look of an emerging team and with them being drawn in this group, have a much better chance of progression that could have otherwise been the case. Can be dogged defensively and Diego Maradona and Rivaldo, as well as Javier Zanetti, have all talked up their chances of progressing to the second round for the first time.
Verdict: Could make the last 16 but perhaps are going to fall just a little bit short
Chances: With Fabio Capello in charge, he will be hoping to make up for the disaster he suffered while in charge of England four years ago. With a squad that is mostly made up of domestic based players that know each other well they are well drilled and have a strong midfield but will miss injured captain Roman Shirokov. Opening fixture against South Korea will be crucial to their chances and it is must not lose fixture
Verdict: By no means that strongest side but have a good chance of reaching the last 16
Chances: Have in recent years done well in world cups and have a young-ish squad with just one player over the age of 30. Took a bronze medal in London 2012 and will be looking to build on that and reach the last 16 again. Twenty-one-year-old Son Heung Min upfront will be needed to provide the goals while they will provide a lot of energy throughout the side
Verdict: Last 16 is possible but clash with Russia is crucial to their chances.