With the World Cup beginning on June 12th and squads now finalised, attention can now focus on assessing the prospects of the more favoured teams among the eight groups. Predicted winners are identified below alongside the group name.
Brazil won every match during their victory in last summer’s Confederations Cup and will be using a similar squad. However, it is a potentially difficult group with Croatia boasting some useful players, Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic in particular, while Cameroon may offer a threat but do not appear sufficiently strong in defence. With several home based players, Mexico will be the unknown factor in the group.
Group B – Spain
Spain will be aiming to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup and while the squad may not be as strong as in 2010, they may ease past Netherlands to win the group. On paper the Dutch are a strong squad with a good blend of youth and experience but they are often beset with internal fighting at tournaments. With Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal among their ranks, Chile may pose a threat while Australia may struggle to secure a point.
Group C – Ivory Coast
In one of the most open groups, Ivory Coast may emerge as winners with Yaya Toure leading the midfield and the prolific Wilfried Bony in attack. Colombia may provide the main opposition although the absence of Radamel Falcao in attack will be a blow while the Japan squad contains many decent European based players who have performed creditably in Serie A and Bundesliga.
Group D – Italy
Italy can be winners of this group, but do not discount an improving England team. The Italians possess overall strength in depth whereas Roy Hodgson may rely on several English players with limited international experience. For Uruguay, much will depend upon the fitness of Luis Suarez but they were the lowest placed team from the South American qualification.
Group E – Switzerland
One of the weakest groups in the tournament may become a duel between France and Switzerland. Losing Frank Ribery is a blow for the French team and internal politics often harm their prospects at tournaments while Switzerland could surprise a few people. Unbeaten in qualification and possessing a real mix of players from the Bundesliga, Serie A and the domestic league, they are capable of producing sufficiently consistent form to win the group.
Group F – Argentina
Argentina are serious contenders to win the tournament with a spine of Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Garay among several other talented players. They should win this group with Bosnia-Herzegovina potentially providing the main opposition. Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Vedad Ibisevic should guide them to the knockout stage at the expense of Nigeria.
Group G – Germany
Although Marco Reus will be an absentee, there appear to be few weaknesses in the German pool and they could win all of their group games. Portugal seem too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo while Ghana have retained the some of the experienced players from previous tournaments to add to some interesting newcomers. They could finish second.
Group H – Belgium
Unbeaten during qualifying and with several squad members playing for top Premier League teams, Belgium should win this group and venture much further in the tournament. The Russians often flatter to deceive at tournaments and teams from that country have fared poorly in European competition this season. South Korea may be the surprise package with their non-stop running style.