With each passing game, this World Cup is becoming more and more unpredictable. Before this World Cup began, almost any analysis on the favorites to win the whole thing would have included Spain, Italy and England when talking about the top 10 favorites. In fact, in most debates before the World Cup began, Spain was considered a top four favorite to take home the Cup, along with Brazil, Argentina and Germany. In stunning fashion, Spain, Italy and England have all been eliminated before even reaching the round of 16. Despite this unpredictability, there are still favorites left in the field, including the one team most likely to win it all.
After a disastrous showing four years ago in South Africa, Didier Deschamps has lit a fire under the French squad as they have put on a quality showing thus far in Brazil. Making matters easier, of course, is that they had to go through the relatively easy Group E. France has cruised thus far scoring eight goals in their first two games. Still, the French have looked the part of a contender so far, and it should be interesting to see whether their strong performances should be chalked up to the fact that Group E is weak, or to a much improved squad.
After a rough outing in their opener, losing 3-1 to Costa Rica, Uruguay bounced back to defeat England and Italy. While their star power in Luis Suarez is one of the primary reasons they are World Cup contenders, that has recently been cast into doubt. In their recent match against Italy, Suarez appeared to clearly bite an Italian defender. FIFA is currently investigating and Suarez is facing a potential ban. If that proves to be the case, then it is difficult to see how Uruguay could be seen as a legitimate favorite any longer moving forward. In any event, Uruguay has advanced through their group and will face Colombia.
Louis van Gaal, the future Manchester United manager, is facing a stiff challenge this World Cup in attempting to replicate the success of the Netherlands four years ago. Still, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie provide formidable offensive weapons, so it will truly be up to the rearguard in all likelihood when determining how far Netherlands can advance. Thus far, the results seem promising as Netherlands only allowed three goals and emphatically powered through Group B. As a result, Netherlands is through to the round of 16 and has a date with Mexico. At this point in the World Cup, it seems that their potential to keep advancing is high.
There is no denying that Belgium received a favorable draw by being placed in Group H. Still, the Belgians have won all of their games and have a comfortable points lead going into the final game. Look for manager Marc Wilmots to keep trying to establish chemistry on this squad that is participating in its first World Cup since 2002. While the talent is undeniably there, the question here is whether the Belgians lack of Cup experience and their lack of extended playing time together will hurt this promising squad. For now, look for this Belgian squad to surprise many that have not been paying attention to the small country’s promising team.
So much of Colombia’s chances begin and end with the dynamic James Rodriguez. His scoring ability allows Colombia to change any match in an instant and is why Colombia was a popular underdog candidate heading into Brazil. Thus far, those predictions are looking wise. Colombia absolutely breezed through the competition in Group C behind Rodriguez, who scored in each of their three games. Next for Colombia is a round of 16 match with Uruguay. Given the likely suspension of Suarez, expect Colombia to continue marching on after that match. Assuming Rodriguez continues to offer match-changing offense, this is an underdog candidate to keep an eye on.
Out of all the European squads coming to Brazil, Germany is the one most likely to walk away with the World Cup. This is especially true considering Spain’s surprise early exit. Physically strong, technically sound and deep, Germany’s style of play is a perfect fit for this World Cup format. Finishing third in 2010, Germany is eager to walk away with the World Cup this time. To do so, it must make its way through Group G, which has not so affectionately been called “the Group of Death.” A match with the United States will decide their fate, as they need only a draw to march on. Should Germany make it through this difficult group, they will be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Any team that can boast the world’s best player in Lionel Messi must be considered a top contender for the World Cup in Brazil. Everything this squad does hinges on his performance, and so far the world superstar has been more than up to the challenge. However, to make it all the way to the end and win the whole thing, Messi will need some help. Fortunately for him, Argentina’s supporting cast is more than capable of providing the help that this squad needs to pull it off. Expect Argentina to make a statement against Nigeria to finish off their Group F matches and be a formidable force going into the round of 16.
Last, but certainly not least, the home soil team of Brazil is realistically the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup. Benefiting from a partial crowd cheering them on, Brazil also is absolutely loaded with talent. Clearly, they have all of the talent to win a sixth World Cup. The question remains whether the pressure of playing in front of a demanding fan base will add pressure to the host nation. So far, the answer seems to be no, as Brazil totaled seven goals and seven points in group play. Look for the host nation to defeat Chile in the round of 16 and make a deep run, likely winning the whole thing.
So, Who Will Win the Cup?
While Argentina has the transcendent superstar and Germany has the technique, depth and toughness, ultimately it will likely be Brazil that claims their sixth World Cup. Ultimately, the fan support will prove advantageous and their extraordinary talent and depth will be enough to make it to the end. After all, there is a reason that this Brazilian squad has been the overwhelming favorite to take home the Cup, and none of the action thus far has done much if anything to disprove that reasoning. So, you hear it here. The not so bold prediction is that Brazil will be claiming the World Cup in 2014.