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World Cup 2014: Predicting the Semifinalists

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 17, 2016

World Cup 2014: Predicting the Semifinalists

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    In a little under two years, 32 nations will compete for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For some, the roles are already set.

    Brazil, of course, will host the tournament. But will they be the favorites?

    Spain will enter as defending champions. But will they be able to win a fourth straight major tournament?

    Germany will again be strong, Portugal will have an in-his-prime Cristiano Ronaldo, and Argentina will have home-continent advantage along with the genius of Lionel Messi.

    But will all of those teams make the semifinals? And what about the upstarts and underdogs?

    Read on for our predictions for the four World Cup 2014 semifinalists.

The Hosts Under Pressure: Brazil

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    Why They'll Make It

    Neymar. Oscar. Hulk. Leandro Damião. Lucas Moura. Do we need to go on?

    Brazil will bring a fearsome attacking lineup to World Cup 2014, which they will play on home soil. Neymar will be 22 by then, and he might even have a season or more of European experience under his belt.

    Meanwhile, supporting players like Oscar, Hulk and Lucas Moura will have loads of European experience on their resumes. What's not to like?

     

    Why They Won't

    Well, the defense, for one thing. At the Olympic tournament this past summer, Brazil scored more goals than any other team—but conceded seven times, second only to Egypt.

    Also, the Brazilians will have to overcome intense pressure as hosts. The country will expect a world title, and anything less will be considered a major disappointment.

The Defending Champs: Spain

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    Why They'll Make It

    They're Spain, which is to say, not the old, underperforming Spain, but rather the cold, calculating, all-conquering, pass-you-into-submission Spain.

    Before Euro 2012, no international team had ever won three consecutive major tournaments (for instance, any combination of World Cups and European Championships). Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas and company took care of that streak.

     

    Why They Won't

    Well, now no international team has ever won four straight major tournaments. And by the time this one rolls around, some of Spain's key players might need to get around with a walker.

    Xavi will be 34 (but then again, Thiago Alcantara might be ready, and anyway, Andres Iniesta was probably more important to the team at Euro 2012 anyway). Casillas will be 33 (but then again, that's not that old for a keeper).

    OK, so it's a long shot. Spain should reach at least the semifinals yet again. But by 2014, maybe someone will have figured out how to conquer tiki-taka.

The Superstar with the Supporting Cast: Argentina

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    Why They'll Make It

    Lionel Messi. Seventy-three goals? In one season? Come on.

    But let's not forget about the supporting cast.

    Up top, the Albiceleste also have Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. On the wing, there's Angel Di Maria. By 2014, midfielders like Javier Pastore, Nicolas Gaitan and Erik Lamela could be world-class (or maybe they already are).

    Also, while it's not their country, Brazil is pretty close to home. Argentina should expect at least a little "home" advantage.

     

    Why They Won't

    Messi didn't score at the last World Cup. Argentina's roster, formation and approach aren't quite as tailor-made for Messi the way Barcelona's are.

The Make-or-Break European Giants: Germany

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    Why They'll Make It

    There's just too much talent for Germany not to make it this far, right?

    Well, let's just say this. With such an impressive mix of youthful and experienced talent—just a quick list includes Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Lukas Podolski, Mats Hummels, Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer—this team will either finally make its breakthrough or cause a collective nervous breakdown at DFB headquarters.

     

    Why They Won't

    They should have done more already. Coach Joachim Low has worked wonders with the team, but it's already past time for results.

    The Germans suffered a disappointing semifinal exit against Italy at Euro 2012, and by 2014, another generation of talent will be on the way out.

Other Potential Candidates

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    Portugal

    They have Cristiano Ronaldo, but beyond their superstar captain, the roster is spotty.

    Pepe, Joao Moutinho and Fabio Coentrao are among the team's other top-tier players, but there are too many questions elsewhere to confidently predict a semifinal berth.

    Still, Ronaldo will be 29 and in his prime, and Portugal will be playing in a country that shares a language with them. Those factors must count for something.

     

    Mexico

    El Tri shocked the world by winning gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Young, exciting stars like Marco Fabian and Hector Herrera are coming of age and could form a potent combination with established stars like Javier Hernandez, Carlos Salcido, Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos.

    Problem is, that gold medal will have alerted the world to the danger Mexico can pose. El Tri will not surprise anyone in 2014, but they still might be good enough to reach the final four.

     

    Belgium

    This team is looking scary, and in 2014, it might be world-class.

    Check out the names: Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembele. That's a strong core for what could be an excellent team from front to back.

     

    Netherlands

    It can never be as bad as Euro 2012 again, right? With these guys, it's always all or nothing. In 2010, they so very nearly won it all.

     

    Zambia

    One of these years, an African will finally win a World Cup. Ghana nearly reached the semifinals two years ago in South Africa, and in another non-European setting for the 2014 Cup, an African team might benefit.

    Zambia surprisingly won the African Nations Cup in 2012, and the Chipolopolo currently lead Ghana in their second-round African qualifying group (only the group winners advance to the third and final round).

    So, hey, why not Zambia? Every World Cup needs a loveable underdog.

     

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