World Cup 2014: Power Ranking the Top 10 Favorites One Year Out
Ladies and gentlemen, we are exactly one year away from the 2014 World Cup kickoff in Brazil.
Who currently stand as favourites to win the competition? Who's in the running? Who's sneaking into the limelight at the right time?
Here, we rank the top 10 favourites to win the greatest competition in world football—what would your top 10 be?
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Croatia are currently second in their group, but they stand an excellent chance of winning their playoff should it fall to a tiebreaker.
They've dominated most sides in the competition—just as group leader Belgium have—and played extremely well during Euro 2012. (They may have been knocked out early, but they had the two finalists in their group.)
Igor Stimac is building an excellent side that uses its midfield strengths extremely well. The depth is also impressive, and when you're debuting a 16-year-old Alen Halilovic against Portugal, you know you've got options.
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Japan qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with more than one year to go, drawing 1-1 with Australia to rubber-stamp their presence.
They're an attacking force to be reckoned with, boasting the talents of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki in their forward line. In full-backs Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida, they boast top-level Serie A and Bundesliga talent.
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni has them playing the right way, and the large majority of his charges have European experience to aid their quest next year.
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Belgium are dominating Europe's Group A at this point, with 13 goals scored and only two allowed. They have a deluxe squad packed with talent, and for many, they will enter the 2014 FIFA World Cup as "the one to watch."
Eden Hazard, Christian Benteke, Dries Mertens, Marouane Fellaini...the list goes on. It's a 30-man squad the likes of England could only hope to accrue at this point.
The only question mark—other than which of these three excellent players coach Marc Wilmots should use per position—is in the full-back region.
Spruce up the left- and right-back slots and this team is golden.
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The Netherlands were absolutely abysmal in Euro 2012, but they've bounced back in fine style. They top their qualifying group by seven clear points and have allowed 18 fewer goals than their 20 scored. They seem a lock to make the tournament proper.
In the process, Coach Louis van Gaal has blooded plenty of young prospects, such as Siem de Jong and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
With Arjen Robben back in top form, Robin van Persie fit and the defensive line solid for once, these guys have a serious shot at consecutive finals.
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Colombia are receiving a lot of love after a fantastic CONMEBOL qualifying campaign (second in the group), so much so that they're on the verge of being overhyped.
With talismanic striker Radamel Falcao leading the line and searing wide threats in James Rodriguez, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and Pablo Armero, they are indeed not to be taken lightly.
A lot of lesser-known Colombians will be using this chance to gain big moves in the same way many of their colleagues have, thereby upping the level of the entire team's performance.
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Italy performed admirably in reaching the Euro 2012 final and were only undone by a record-breaking Spanish side.
Cesare Prandelli is a tactically astute manager with a deep, familiar squad at his fingertips, and he's already shown he's willing to chop and change formation to suit his preferred XI. And he's done so comfortably, as they currently sit atop their group.
For a lot of his cast, this is the final chance: Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Andrea Barzagli and Alessandro Diamanti are all 30-plus years of age.
Renewed determination and hunger abounds for the Azzurri.
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Brazil are out of shape right now, but they rank quite high on these rankings due to the serious home advantage they will enjoy.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's reign has been a nightmare so far, but he is making progress, dragging his nation out from under the dark times of the clueless Mano Menezes and taking tentative steps toward the light.
The upcoming Confederations Cup will serve as a valuable dry run for the 2014 World Cup, helping to work out all the kinks and errors in front of a demanding Brazilian support.
They have the talent to sort it out—what with top-level talent like Barcelona's Neymar, Chelsea's David Luiz and Oscar and others from all over Europe—and the cauldron of noise in every game could push them over the line.
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Argentina are top of South American qualifying and have outscored everyone in the region.
Removed from their usual tussle with Brazil for top spot, they're battling the aforementioned Colombians for the right to go into the 2014 World Cup as top dogs on the continent.
Alejandro Sabella has devised a formation in which Lionel Messi can finally prosper, and the Albiceleste have conceded just nine goals despite the age-old defensive issues lurking once more. To boot, they boast a world-class crop of midfielders and forwards.
With climate advantage, Argentina will be a truly dangerous prospect in Brazil.
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Germany's youth plans were accelerated in 2010 when injuries forced their hand in trying out fresh blood in South Africa.
The experiment worked, and now the likes of Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are seasoned professionals and domestic champions.
They will carry a huge amount of expectation into the tournament—a load Oliver Bierhoff has tried to ease—following the continental triumph of Bundesliga sides Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Anything less than the semifinals will be seen as a dramatic failure.
The German public will be hoping the team don't crack under the pressure, with Euro 2012 disappointments still ringing loudly in their ears.
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Spain break records. Spain buck trends.
Though they have the slightest group advantage of any of this list's other selections (one point above France), they're sure to be around during next year's competition. And from there, it will be business as usual.
As much as everyone is a little bored of La Furia Roja's international dominance (barring the Spaniards, of course), we have to accept that they are the favourites heading into the competition.
If Brazil were ship-shape, this wouldn't be the case, but Vicente del Bosque's charges will be aiming for a fourth consecutive major trophy and a second consecutive FIFA World Cup. That sort of pedigree speaks for itself.
Pretty impressive stuff.