Counting Down the 10 Early Favorites to Win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Brazil are the current favorites to win the World Cup in 2014 having decimated Spain in the Confederations Cup final.
However, Vicente del Bosque's team, Joachim Low's Germany, Lionel Messi's Argentina and a few others will all have their say in where that famous 11-pound hunk of malachite and gold goes for the next four years.
Here, Bleacher Report looks at the 10 early favorites to win the World Cup in 2014.
(Recent Form is since August 2012)
10. France, 40-1
France will head to Brazil as complete outsiders to win the competition.
This will be a far cry from their sojourn in South Africa, where they were highly rated but expected to flop because of Raymond Domenech's erratic management style. And flop they did.
This time around they are in the safe hands of Didier Deschamps. The "Water-Carrier" has come a long way during his superb career, and he will lead a team capable of progressing far in the tournament.
France have a highly talented squad, but have fallen at the final hurdle in recent years. They are blessed with the likes of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery, Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and Tottenham Hotspur's Hugo Lloris.
They will beat the lower ranked teams handsomely but lack the courage, nous and tactical know-how to trouble the leading sides.
Recent Form: W-4 D-2 L-5
9. Colombia, 28-1
Colombia are in the middle of the marathon South American qualification system. With no Brazil to contend with, and with qualification guaranteed if the team has quality, they will stroll to the World Cup in 2014.
Jose Pekerman has built a side with experience and flair in equal measure.
Nice's David Ospina has finally taken over the duties between the posts from 42-year-old Faryd Mondragon. However, Mondragon is an important part of the squad and provides great leadership and experience. It would not be a surprise to see him play some part next year.
That all leads to the front line of Radamel Falcao, newly signed by Monaco, and FC Porto's Jackson Martinez, not to mention Teofilo Gutierrez of Cruz Azul fame. This trio of strikers scores pretty much all of Colombia's goals and are capable of opening any team up.
The biggest negative against them is their midfield, which can be bypassed in numerous ways. They are capable of going far, though.
Recent Form: W-7 L-2 D-1
8. England, 22-1
England will always be taken seriously as a Round of 16 team or potential quarterfinalists, but not as potential winners.
That credo will not change in 2014.
Individually, England have some of the world's best players. Ashley Cole has been one of the best left-backs on the planet for over a decade. Wayne Rooney has the skill, tenacity and football intelligence to match the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi—but only if everything is perfect.
The Three Lions are still in some difficulty regarding qualification, but that has not stopped the bookmakers making them the eighth favorites to win the World Cup.
They will bring a vastly experienced Premier League-centered team. However, when it comes to international football, they never seem to learn from their mistakes.
Their Fabio Capello-led campaign in South Africa was embarrassing, to say the least, and they were eventually humiliated by Germany, 4-1, in the Round of 16.
Importantly, this was the first time England were ever eliminated at this stage and they will expect to progress in 2014—but not go any further.
Recent Form: W-5 L-5 D-1
7. Holland, 20-1
Holland, the 1974, 1978 and 2010 runners-up, are currently ranked as the seventh favorites to lift the trophy next year.
All of Holland's best traits are in going forward, and for that reason they are very attack-minded.
Galatasaray's Wesley Sneijder continues to orchestrate midfield as Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben, Ajax's Siem De Jong, Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart and Barcelona's Ibrahim Afellay bomb on. PSV's Kevin Strootman is now of age and is regarded as the key midfielder in Louis van Gaal's massive squad.
In South Africa, Holland showed a lot of steel and perhaps a little too much in what turned out to be an ugly final. That approach caused a huge rethink in the Dutch footballing philosophy, and they will not make the same mistakes in Brazil.
Recent Form: W-8 L-2 D-1
6. Italy, 20-1
Italy, led by Andrea Pirlo, have been one of the world's best teams over the past two years. The Azzurri were superb in Euro 2012 and have continued that fine form.
As always, they are tough, resilient and unafraid to use the dark arts of the game to help their cause.
Cesare Prandelli has assembled an excellent team who are incredibly tough to break down across midfield and defense. Their one failing is consistency in attack, and for this they really need Mario Balotelli to step up.
The AC Milan centre-forward has almost limitless potential, but he has been too easily distracted in his career thus far. When the World Cup rolls around next year, Balotelli will be almost 24 and will be nearing the peak of his powers. If he progresses, as many hope, Italy will do very well. However, if he continues to play in the same vein, as many expect, Italy will crash in the latter stages.
Italy are super experienced and capable of changing systems and formations from game to game, which is quite unusual in international football. This gives them a great advantage over other nations, as they are always well drilled and well prepared for any occasion.
Recent Form: W-7 L-7 D-3
5. Belgium, 16-1
Belgium are the surprise fifth favorites to win the World Cup next year.
Boasting one of the most exciting and youngest squads in world football, Belgium are capable of giving any team a match.
Led by the legendary Marc Wilmots, Belgium have a squad packed with world-class potential.
From Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool's Simon Mignolet in goal to Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen and Bayern Munich's Daniel van Buyten—not to mention Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen—Belgium are formidable across the back.
Midfield is as equally impressive, with Zenit St. Petersburg's Axel Witsel, Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Everton's Marouane Fellaini calling the shots. From there, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke and Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku lead the front line.
Wilmots likes to see his team play attacking football. They play in a controlled English manner and have the potential to go very far in Brazil.
Recent Form: W-9 L-1 D-1
4. Spain, 6-1
What can be said about Spain that has not been said before?
The Spanish will head back to Brazil in 2014 in search of an astonishing fourth major international trophy in a row. The Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and 2010 World Cup champions will not be put off by their humiliating 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup final.
One must remember that the Spanish were well beaten by the United States in the South African Confederations Cup semifinals in 2009. That did not stop them coming back one year later to beat all and sundry.
It is true that Spain looked tired and a shadow of their former selves in their last match. However, deep down they will all know that that is no excuse for their poor performance.
Next year's World Cup will almost definitely be the last time we get to see the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Iker Casillas, David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres on the world stage.
For that reason, combined with their astonishing recent history, they are a very, very dangerous team to write off.
Recent Form: W-12 L-3 D-1
2. Germany, 5-1
Germany will head to Brazil as many people's favorites to lift the trophy in 2014.
German football is now the centre of attention in Europe following Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund's recent successes in the Champions League.
Die Mannschaft have built an incredibly formidable team physically, technically and mentally.
Not only will Germany arrive in Brazil with a variety of riches on the playing field, they will also come as one of the best-prepared nations in the tournament.
Germany has qualified for every World Cup since 1934, with the exception of 1950 after World War II. They have only finished outside the top eight once, and that was in 1938.
They have won the World Cup three times, finished as runners-up four times, and finished third four times.
In short, Germany know how to prepare for, and then play in and win, the World Cup.
Recent Form: W-7 L-2 D-2
2. Argentina, 5-1
While Spain are the current World Cup-holders, Argentina are the unofficial champions of the football world.
That is hardly surprising, because for many they are also the people's champions. Led by the irrepressible Lionel Messi, Argentina have only lost three times from 26 matches since September 2011.
They are tough at the back, creative in midfield and superb up front.
Newcastle United's Fabricio Coloccini could break in and become their main leader at the back and could do the bulk of the defensive organization at the World Cup, although the importance of Benfica's Ezequiel Garay increases with every game and cannot be discounted. They are aided by Barcelona's Javier Mascherano and Valencia's Ever Banega in midfield.
That leaves the most formidable strike force in world football.
Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and even Carlos Tevez, who has not been called up since 2011 by Alejandro Sabella, are all good enough to command a place in any team in world football.
They have the attacking riches to obliterate any oppostion. But can they keep clean sheets against top teams? That is the question they will have to answer next year.
Recent Form: W-8 L-5 D-1
1. Brazil, 3-1
Brazil were favorites to win the World Cup before their Confederations Cup triumph. Now they are overwhelming favorites.
It is worth noting that according to the current FIFA ranking system, Brazil are ranked as the 22nd-best team in world football. In his six matches in charge prior to the Confederations Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari's record reads as W-1 D-4 L-1. Now it reads as W-7 D-4 L-1.
The balance sheet, from a point of dispiritment and doom and gloom, now looks toward the future with great optimism.
Neymar, after years of being compared to the likes of Pele and Lionel Messi, finally showed his potential and turned on the style during the Confederations Cup. Corinthians' Paulinho, Bayern Munich's Luiz Gustavo and Atletico Mineiro's Bernard all burst onto the international scene and look like world-class players.
From a point where Brazil lacked a cohesive defensive unit, a midfield that lacked experience, and a front line that lacked a focal point, without Fred, they now look a formidable team.
The Confederations Cup has been a massive success for Scolari and his team. It gave the ex-Chelsea boss an entire month to work on his team, and now as 2014 approaches, he only needs to tweak it.
Brazil, in front of their home crowd, will take some beating.
Recent Form: W-13 L-5 D-2
Statistics provided by FIFA and UEFA
Betting Odds provided by Oddschecker
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