World Cup Groups 2014: Breaking Down Every Squad

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World Cup Groups 2014: Breaking Down Every Squad
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It's all over except for the shouting—and the football—now. The final stage of the buildup to the 2014 World Cup was completed when all 32 teams were drawn into their groups on Friday.

There is no sporting event that galvanizes the sporting public quite like the World Cup. Despite the growth of club football and elevation of the Champions League, the World Cup remains the crown jewel. It's often thought of as the top priority when judging the status of a generation's most talented players.

Just ask Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although there's a select few countries likely talented enough to qualify for the final, the World Cup remains open. The gulf between the haves and have-nots continues to dwindle.

Here's a quick breakdown of each team in the tournament.

via Bleacher Report

Looking ahead, here's the bracket for the knockout stages.

via Bleacher Report

 

Group A

Brazil

Many people were worried that Brazil might wilt under the weight of expectations at home. Following that demolition of Spain at the Confederations Cup, people are worried no more.

Although it's easy to dismiss that tournament, the Confederations Cup was an invaluable experience for the Brazilian team. They got a taste of what the home atmosphere will be like and, more importantly, learned how to win a knockout tournament as a team.

Plus, Neymar has been playing wonderfully for Barcelona. With a year in La Liga under his belt, the star forward will be prepared to take center stage.

 

Croatia

The fate of Croatia may be tied to whether or not it has Mario Mandzukic, who was sent off in the second leg of their playoff against Iceland. As a result, Mandzukic could miss critical group matches. Without a player of his quality, Croatia could be in trouble.

 

Mexico

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

American supporters may not want to admit it, but of all the CONCACAF teams in the World Cup, Mexico are most likely to have the best showing. El Tri have more pure talent than any other North/Central American side.

Under Miguel Herrera, things are starting to come together. Mexico are playing with confidence and aren't afraid to take some chances on the pitch, a far cry from the rigid, timid sides of Jose Manuel de la Torre.

 

Cameroon

Cameroon are consistently good enough to qualify for the World Cup, and that's about it. Each of their last four trips to the competition have ended in the group stage.

Relying on Samuel Eto'o, who will be 33 when the tournament begins, isn't a strategy for success, either.

Much like many other African countries, Cameroon's biggest struggles often come off the pitch. The disorganized Cameroon football federation has time and again thwarted the team's progress on the pitch.

There's no reason to expect things to change in Brazil.

 

Group B

Spain

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

What more needs to be said about Spain, really? They're the reigning World Cup champions and have won the last two Euros.

Between complacency and the bull's-eye on their backs, it will be hard for La Roja to make it four major tournament titles in a row. Vicente Del Bosque can only do so much before the uphill battle becomes too much.

Then again, weren't we saying the same things before Euro 2012?

 

Netherlands

That car crash at Euro 2012 seems like so long ago. Louis van Gaal has done a lot right since taking over as manager and has an opportunity to really redeem himself after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup under his watch.

As it is at every international tournament, the defense is a major concern. The back line is still young and relatively inexperienced at the international level.

 

Chile

If you're going to watch one of the lesser-known teams in Brazil, make it Chile. Under Marcelo Bielsa in 2010, La Roja played a thrilling attacking style that saw players pressing hard when not on the ball. That style has been brought back under Jorge Sampaoli.

Watching Arturo Vidal in midfield and Gary Medel in midfield or defense together on the same team will also be a joy for supporters.

And don't forget about their attack, which has Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo and David Pizarro.

 

Australia

The Socceroos have made it past the group stage just once in three tries.

Australia were once the big bullies of the Oceania region but have since moved to the Asian confederation. It's a switch that should help them down the line in terms of having competitive matches in qualification.

For now, Australia remain on the periphery of world football.

 

Group C

Colombia

Along with Belgium, Colombia have most football fans intrigued. Following a great qualification campaign, there are plenty of reasons to get behind this side. Columbia have a skilled attack to go along with an organized defense.

You can't go wrong backing the team with the best finisher in the world—Radamel Falcao—either.

 

Greece

You know Greece will defend well. It's been their calling card for the past decade or so. Nobody wants to draw this team in the group stage.

With Kostas Mitroglou, the Greeks may have the right kind of striker who can finish off moves and score goals. Should that attack be effective, Greece may be a dark horse to make a deep run.

 

Ivory Coast

Can this golden generation of the Ivory Coast finally capitalize at an international tournament? Their previous record is littered with disappointment after disappointment.

No matter what your opinion of Didier Drogba is, he deserves to have a moment in the sun with Les Éléphants. He's been the talisman of that side for so long and done so much to give back to his home country.

 

Japan

Japan can be a sneaky side. They have a great midfield and are always well-drilled tactically. Alberto Zaccheroni is also a good coach who has had a wealth of experience.

Even he can't overcome what is a dearth of talent, though, especially in the attack. Shinji Okazaki is a quality player, but we're talking about the World Cup, featuring the best of the best.

An exit in the early rounds of the knockout stage is the best Japan can hope for.

 

Group D

Uruguay

Uruguay have yet to figure out how to take the emphasis off Diego Forlan, who's 34 years old. While he's capable of a moment of brilliance, he can't be relied upon to be the driving force of the team like he was three years ago.

Although La Celeste may be able to get to the knockout stage, don't expect anything close to the team that made the semifinals of the World Cup in 2010 and won the 2011 Copa America.

 

Costa Rica

When playing at home, Costa Rica can be an extremely difficult side to break down. Away from home, not so much.

Costa Rica might be able to spring a surprise or two, but they don't have enough of an attack to consider them any sort of threat to make it out of the group.

 

England

Let's just go ahead and get this one out of the way. England will advance to the round of 16 or quarterfinals and get knocked out on penalties.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There's nothing about this Three Lions side that makes you think it will do anything to break that cycle of futility.

 

Italy

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Italian midfield and defense aren't going to be the question marks in Brazil. As long as the Juventus defenders remain on form and the combination of Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi are prowling the midfield, there's nothing to worry about on either end.

Italy's attack is where the unpredictability springs. Mario Balotelli has always played well in a national team shirt, but he's one blowup away from hurting the team. Stephan El Shaarawy has also had a season to forget.

Perhaps it's time for Giuseppe Rossi to make his presence felt for the national team. It seems like a lifetime ago, he tore apart the United States at the 2009 Confederations Cup. His performance at Fiorentina this year has warranted a starting place in the Azzurri.

 

Group E

Switzerland

Switzerland topped what was a relatively easy qualifying group. Their toughest competition was Iceland, which would have become the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup if they would have beaten Croatia in the playoff.

The Swiss have a good core of young players, featuring Xherdan Shaqiri, Valentin Stocker and Pajtim Kasami.

The overall quality of Switzerland is a bit low, though, so should they reach the knockout stages, they may not last long.

 

Ecuador

Ecuador did a great job of finishing fourth in CONMEBOL and qualifying for the World Cup. With slim chances of advancing, a trip to Brazil at least gave their fans something to cheer about after they missed out on the 2010 World Cup.

 

France

Harry Engels/Getty Images

Your guess is as good as anyone's when it comes to France. The 2010 World Cup was a disaster, and the 2012 Euros didn't represent much progress. There isn't a team that does less with more than Les Bleus.

They needed an historic turnaround in their second leg of the qualification playoff against Ukraine just to get to Brazil.

With the talent they possess and a coach who has won the competition as a player, maybe, just maybe, France can put it all together and actually give their fans something to cheer about again.

 

Honduras

No offense to Honduras, but their destiny is surely a quick exit from Brazil. They simply don't have the talent necessary to stage any sort or shocking result.

 

Group F

Argentina

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Two things are better for Argentina this time around at the World Cup.

The first is the fact that Diego Maradona isn't the coach. Maradona was such a terrible tactical coach, even by national team standards. Now, Alejandro Sabella is in charge, and he has Argentina looking organized on the pitch.

The other key is Lionel Messi doesn't have to shoulder as much of the load. Although he's the captain, Argentina have more of a team dynamic, whereas in 2010 everything mostly revolved around Messi. It's impossible to win at the World Cup when you rely heavily on one player.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina, winners of their group in UEFA qualifying, have a big variance for where their fortunes may lie. They could easily get to the knockout stages and make noise just as easily as they could finish third or fourth in their group.

Bosnia and Herzegovina could come undone in the midfield against strong attacking teams. If Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic can get service, though, the goals will flow.

 

Iran

Certainly one of the worst sides at the World Cup, the best thing Iran have going for themselves is coach Carlos Queiroz. He has some experience at international tournaments and has redeemed himself from that poor reign as Portugal manager.

 

Nigeria

Take a lot of what was written about France and apply it to Nigeria. The Super Eagles are the perpetual disappointment of the African region. They always have a lot of talent, but then backbiting and poor organization behind the scenes is always their undoing.

Perhaps Nigeria turned a corner after winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

 

Group G

Germany

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Is this finally when Germany reclaim the throne? Die Mannschaft will have gone 24 years without a World Cup title when play begins in Brazil. For a team that won so mechanically in the 1980s and '90s, it's amazing it has been that long since a World Cup win.

Germany have arguably what is the best midfield in the world, so long as the balance doesn't get tipped too far forward, as it did at Euro 2012.

The problem could be scoring goals. Joachim Low needs to bury the hatchet with Stefan Kiessling so that Germany can include one of their best forwards in the team.

 

Portugal

How far can Cristiano Ronaldo take Portugal?

Paulo Bento's side is defensively organized, but they've yet to get consistent play at striker. It's been an Achilles heel at previous tournaments.

As demonstrated by that 4-2 aggregate win against Sweden in the qualification playoff, when Ronaldo is at his best, Portugal can do almost anything. When playing tougher teams, Ronaldo may be nullified by a tough defense and midfield.

 

Ghana

Relative to their size, Ghana have a great midfield. Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah and Anthony Annan could get into a lot of good national teams.

However, Ghana have rarely equaled the sum of their parts, and there isn't much of a chemistry between the players on the team.

Look at Boateng. He "retires" from the national team after the 2010 World Cup and then un-retires as Ghana get closer to Brazil. That's commitment to the cause.

This is a country with group-stage flameout written all over it.

 

United States

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The United States topped the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying. Although they started qualification slowly, the Yanks came on strong late with a string of great results.

You have to wonder what the Americans' potential is in Brazil.

That back line still has big question marks, especially when DaMarcus Beasley continues to get starts at left-back. When you're going against the best teams in the world, Beasley will get exposed in a big way.

2014 was always going to be a transition year. Guys like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard are all in their 30s, with Jurgen Klinsmann needing to bed younger players into the squad.

If the U.S. can repeat 2010's round-of-16 finish, that would be a big surprise.

 

Group H

Belgium

Belgium are no doubt one of the most intriguing teams to watch in Brazil. They have a golden generation of players coming along that's about as good as any other in the world.

The question is whether or not Belgium are ready for prime time. Rarely does such a small country spend a decade or more in the dark and then emerge at an international tournament and win.

Denmark had the 1986 World Cup and the '84 and '88 European Championships before it won the 1992 Euros. On the other hand, Greece won the 2004 Euros, despite their last international appearance being a decade earlier.

Still, the Red Devils may need to experience some failure at an international tournament before they taste success.

 

Algeria

Algeria are among the weakest sides at the World Cup. They simply don't have a deep pool of talent from which they can call upon.

With the way Algeria play, they may be able to sneak a draw against a bigger side, but they'll be unable to get the necessary results from the other two matches in the group stage.

It's not what fans will want to hear, but this is a team that should be happy just to have qualified for the World Cup.

 

Russia

Russia have been a sleeping bear since Euro 2012. You haven't heard too much about them or their big stars like Alan Dzagoev, Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Igor Denisov.

With an emphasis on defense and Fabio Capello on the touchline, you know that Russia will be a tough side to break down in Brazil.

 

South Korea

South Korea have one of the more underrated forwards in the world with Heung-Min Son. There isn't much else around him.

You can easily see Son getting marked out of games because the opposition doesn't have to fear too many of South Korea's other better players.

 

Follow @JosephZucker on Twitter.

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