World Cup Groups, Forecast and Analysis
Posted on December 9, 2013 12:22 pm
Obviously I have limited space so I won’t be able to analyze every team in detailed fashion but I’ll try to give at least a couple of lines to every one.
Needless to say that Brazil are the absolute favorites. Although the South Americans don’t have the most spectacular team they do have a very strong squad and home field advantage will play an important role. Looking at the quality of the opposition, I don’t see how they could to leave even a point in the three games. The second place, in my opinion, will be fought between Croatia and Mexico. The Balkan side was far from impressive in its last qualifying matches but there it has some good players and two elite ones in Modric and Mandzukic (suspended at least for the first game). In the match between the two sides, I think El Tri will have a few off the field advantages (weather, less travel time, crowd) but Mandzukic will definitely be back from his ban, so that might even it out. Of course, Mexico will have to recover from their dismal qualifying campaign, but they have quality players to do so. Cameroon seem to me the weakest of the four, and it remains to be seen if Eto’o actually plays the World Cup or falls out with the coach and players at the first possible chance.
Forecast: 1.- Brazil, 2.- Mexico, 3.- Croatia, 4.- Cameroon
In my opinion, this is the “Group of Death”. In my ranking prior to the draw, Spain, the Netherlands and Chile were all in the Top 6. The matches between them will be very tough and there will be the added pressure of trying to avoid finishing second as that would very well mean play against the hosts in the Round of 16. Spain seem to be on the decline lately and their top players lack high-profile match form as their friendlies have been ridiculous and Barça and Madrid are so dominant that they are hardly challenged, but they should be considered clear favorites anyway. Chile and the Netherlands, however, seem to me on the same level and the fact of playing in South America could spring the surprise. A long tournament beckons for Australia.
Forecast: 1.- Spain 2.- Chile 3.- Netherlands, 4.- Australia
This group will play two teams with two of the nicest styles in international football. Colombia and Japan should be considered heavy favorites in this group, and their matches will be very entertaining. The South Americans have a great generation of attackers and will be very dangerous in the knockout rounds after easily navigating through this group. The Japanese are fast, dynamic and have a top quality players in Honda, Kagawa and Hasebe. Ivory Coast, who endured two “Groups of Death” in their previous World Cups, will now have the best chance of advancing in their history, but their squad is far from the one that nearly shock Portugal four years ago. Greece have been the luckiest team in Europe in the last years, in which kind draws have allowed them to qualify despite a sub-standard squad. They don’t seem to have the quality to compete this time.
Forecast: 1.- Colombia, 2.- Japan, 3.- Ivory Coast , 4.- Greece
There is much talk of the three world champions in this group, but the truth is that neither Uruguay nor England are worthy to be compared with their illustrious predecessors. Anyway, they are good teams and the matches between them and Italy are going to be very interesting. I think the English have more talent throughout, but La Celeste will play at home and boasts the best players in the group in Suárez and Cavani. Italy, meanwhile, should be considered favorites in the group, and should finish first, but not they will have to work hard. Poor Costa Rica, they have one of the best generations in their history, but their rivals are still miles ahead.
Forecast: 1.- Italy, 2.- England, 3.- Uruguay, 4.- Costa Rica
It seemed to be the weakest group in the World Cup until France was drawn to restore some order. Les Blues have a talented generation, and if you analyze the team player by player, they have a lot of talent in the likes of Lloris, Sakho, Ribéry, Benzema, Giroud and co. However, as in the past, quality won’t be a problem but rather how will they try to sabotage themselves as they have so many times in the recent past. They now have a golden opportunity, not because their rivals in the group are nowhere near them but because their Round of 16 rival should be ridiculously easy as well. Switzerland, which was by far the weakest seeded tea, should be considered clear favorite to take second place. Losing Christian Benítez was huge for Ecuador, and the team is clearly not as good away from Quito’s 2,800 metres of altitude. Honduras won’t be whipping boys but I don’t see them winning a match.
Forecast : 1.- France, 2.- Switzerland, 3.- Ecuador, 4.- Honduras
Argentines have to put an shrine to St. Jerome Valcke. They had never had a draw as easy as this in their history. Their three opponents are among the weakest of the World Cup and their potential Round of 16 rivals don’t seem to be much of a treat for a team of that quality. To make things worse (or better), their possible opponent in the quarterfinals would be Portugal which, despite Ronaldo, are not in the same league as other potential teams in that round. Sabella and his boys could have their first real test in the semifinals. Of the other three teams of the group, I think Bosnia will take second place, but only because they have more players with international experience, as Dzeko, Pjanic and Ibisevic. Nigeria is nowhere near their flashy 94-98 versions and Iran is perhaps the weakest team in the World Cup.
Forecast: 1.- Argentina 2.- Bosnia , 3.- Nigeria , 4.- Iran
This one is also a perfect candidate for the “Group of Death” label. Although every team in the group can believe in their qualifying chances, Germany looks like the best of the bunch by some distance. The Mannschaft should win all their three games, but they will have to sweat. I think Cristiano Ronaldo will be the difference between the other three teams in the group, which look very even. Ghana and the United States are solid teams, the best in their confederations at the moment, but they don’t have a player who can make a difference like CR7 and they will suffer the consequences. Anyway, the matches between them are going to be very interesting.
Forecast: 1.- Germany, 2.- Portugal , 3.- Ghana , 4.- United States
Belgium have enormous talent, with many players in the best clubs in the world, but they are also of a very young team, so it’s impossible to know how will they react under the pressure of the most important competition in the world. Luckily for them, their draw allows them to warm up in the tournament without them facing too difficult of a challenge until the second round. The second place will be fought between Russia and Korea in my opinion. I think the Asians have better squad but Capello will balance things. In the end, the World Cup experience of the Koreans will give them the edge. Algeria will try to spring a surprise and, given the lack of competitiveness of its rivals, they can’t be ruled out.
Forecast : 1.- Belgium , 2.- Korea , 3.- Russia , 4.- Algeria.
(I published a shorter, Mexican-oriented version of this piece in mediotiempo.com)