2014 World Cup: Ranking the 10 Early Favorites for Glory
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil may still be over a year and a half away, but it is never too early to speculate who the favorites are going into the tournament.
Qualifying for the world's biggest sporting event has already begun in all six confederations with many smaller nations already being eliminated in North America and Asia.
Although the qualifying is still in its earliest steps in Europe, the continent where most of the favorites will come from, there are early indications on who will challenge Spain for the title.
Amongst teams from the other continents, the big names in South America like Argentina and Uruguay will not be able to challenge Brazil in qualifying, since they are already qualified for the tournament as hosts.
In North America, it is expected that the United States and Mexico will make a run into the knockout round and try to play the role of spoiler later on in the tournament.
The most unexpected qualifying results are sure to come from the African continent, as the Ivory Coast are no longer a guarantee to qualify easily, as the other nations have caught up to them.
Here are 10 teams that have placed themselves in the favorites category for Brazil 2014 in the early stages of World Cup qualifying.
After a disappointing finish to Euro 2012, Germany are still looking for their first major title since Euro 1996.
Die Mannschaft has rebuilt themselves once again, as the newest generation of German footballing talent is making its way into the national team.
Of the players on the current roster, forward Miroslav Klose is the only player above the age of 30, at 34 years old.
The recent success of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga has helped manager Joachim Low develop new talent as Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer have all become regulars in the German fold.
As for their qualifying campaign, Germany have two wins in two matches in UEFA Group C.
In the next week we will learn a lot about the Germans as they visit Ireland and then host Sweden, those two nations are Germany's biggest challenge to winning their qualifying group.
The biggest disappointment of Euro 2012 is also a nation that are in the rebuilding process.
The Netherlands fired Bert van Marwijk and brought in Louis van Gaal to bring the Oranje back to the promised land.
Van Gaal has already made drastic changes to the Oranje squad with 10 players on the current roster that have earned less than 10 caps.
The Dutch manager has kept some veterans around like Robin van Persie, Maarten Stekelenburg and Rafael van der Vaart.
It is clear that if the Dutch are going to win the World Cup in Brazil, it will be done by a squad that is chock full of newcomers to the international stage.
With two years of qualifiers to get a chance to adapt to the international stage, the Dutch youngsters should be ready for the bright lights of the World Cup.
Mexico declared themselves as one of the favorites for the 2014 World Cup after their impressive thumping of the United States in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
That status was once again validated in London this summer as the U-23 squad won the Olympic gold medal.
The core of the Mexican squad is as talented as there is in the world.
The true stars for El Tri are in the midfield with Olympic breakout star Marco Fabian, Andres Guardado, Pablo Barrera and Jesus Zavala.
Up front, there is as much talent as there is in the midfield with Giovani dos Santos and Chicharito.
Mexico has already qualified for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying and they should easily advance to the World Cup from that region.
After a long dormant stretch in their footballing history, Uruguay have become one of the world's top footballing nations once again.
The two-time World Cup champions finished in fourth place in the 2010 World Cup and won the Copa America in 2011.
The superstar figure of the Uruguay is the always controversial Luis Suarez.
Besides Suarez, there are plenty of stars with European experience in Oscar Tabarez's lineup.
In CONMEBOL qualifying, Uruguay currently sit in fourth place with 12 points heading into a crucial match with Argentina on Friday.
Portugal have failed to match the success of their Iberian neighbors, Spain, but they have the talent to contend for the World Cup title.
Portugal are also a nation in a transition period with plenty of youth coming into the squad to join veteran players for World Cup qualifying.
We all know about stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Raul Meireles, but the football world is about to find out about the next generation of talent that includes Custodio, Silvestre Varela and Nelson Oliveira.
Paulo Bento's squad are another European side facing their first big test in qualifying on Friday as they travel to Russia in a clash of the titans in UEFA Group F.
The last time we saw the Italians, they were getting blown out by Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
The Azzurri have put that behind them and are focused on the qualifying process for Brazil, but it has not started well.
In a group that contains the Czech Republic and Denmark, the Italians were unable to secure a full three points in Bulgaria on the first day of matches.
Results like the one the suffered in Bulgaria are not what the Azzurri need in a group that could come down to the final day with the Czechs and Danes.
The good news for the Italians is that they are benefiting from the success of Juventus in Serie A as their roster contains eight players from the Italian top flight champions.
This week in qualifying, the Azzurri will visit Armenia on Friday before hosting Denmark on Tuesday at the San Siro in Milan.
Colombia are one of the dark horses to succeed in Brazil in 2014.
The South American nation possess some of the best talents in world football.
The star of the Colombian resurgence is Falcao, who has taken La Liga by storm with Atletico Madrid.
Also on the Colombian roster are Porto's James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez, Milan's defensive duo of Cristian Zapata and Mario Yepes as well as midfield star Fredy Guarin, who plays for Inter Milan.
As of now, Colombia sit in second place in CONMEBOL qualifying behind Argentina as they look for their first World Cup appearance since 1998.
Argentina are looking to put in a better performance in Brazil on their home continent after two straight exits in the quarterfinals in the past two World Cups.
La Albiceleste will have to wait until at least 2014 for a competitive match that matters with the hosts of the next World Cup, as Brazil have already qualified.
In CONMEBOL qualifying, Argentina are having no problem at all as they lead the qualifying group with 14 points after seven matches.
The biggest test for Lionel Messi and company may come on Friday as they host Uruguay in Mendoza.
The hosts of the 2014 World Cup have to be considered as one of the heavy favorites to win it all.
Brazil have plenty of depth on their roster and they have the next big thing in world football in Neymar.
One concern that critics have of Brazil is that they will only be playing friendlies before the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.
Their last few friendlies have not been against the strongest opposition either as China, Iraq and Japan are just a few of their 2012 friendly opponents.
There is no doubt that the Brazilians will be ready for the tournament on their home turf in 2014, but whether they are able to win the title on home soil is a whole different question.
The 2014 World Cup could be the final time we see some of the Spanish golden generation on the international stage.
The winners of the past two European Championships and 2010 World Cup are gearing up for one final major tournament with the likes of Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi in the squad.
But, as we found out at Euro 2012, the next generation of Spanish superstars are ready for their turn to step up and succeed.
Jordi Alba was the best example of that as he impressed in Poland and Ukraine and earned a transfer to Barcelona.
Along with Alba, some players that will have a huge impact on the Spanish side if they are to win their second straight World Cup are Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Isco and Iker Muniain, all players who are able-bodied replacements for the current players on the roster.