FIFA World Cup

World Cup 2014: National Sides the Power Teams Fear

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 30:  Thiago Silva of Brazil celebrates with trophy alongside team mates after victory in the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Alex RichardsContributor INovember 29, 2013

With all qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup completed, we now know the 32 sides who will be heading to Brazil next summer.

And we also know how the 32 sides have been split into four different pots, with five-time winners and hosts Brazil joined in Pot 1 by (unsurprisingly) Spain, Germany, Uruguay and Argentina as well as (more surprisingly) Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland.

The three other pots have been determined by region, rather than by some more formulaic design.

World Cup 2014 Draw Qualifying Pots

 POT 1 POT 2 POT 3 POT 4
Brazil (Hosts)JapanIvory CoastNetherlands
SpainIranGhanaItaly
GermanyKorea RepublicAlgeriaEngland
ArgentinaAustraliaNigeriaPortugal
ColombiaUnited StatesCameroonGreece
BelgiumMexicoChileBosnia-Herzegovina
UruguayCosta RicaEcuadorCroatia
SwitzerlandHondurasFrance*Russia

*Lowest-ranked UEFA qualifier 

As such, if we assume that the seeded sides are the "Power Teams" here is a look at four sides that the top seedsthose in Pot 1should fear being paired with in the draw on December 6.

 

Italy (Pot 4)

In 2006 under Marcelo Lippi a largely unheralded Azzurri side came together on the back of Calciopoli and claimed the World Cup for their own.

In 2010, backed under the stewardship of Lippi, they failed miserably in South Africa, failing to qualify through the group stage.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Italy Cesare Prandelli prior to the international friendly match between Italy and Nigeria at Craven Cottage on November 18, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

However, with Cesare Prandelli at the helm since, Italy have grown into a team that, (largely) when necessary, finds performances and results—that 4-0 defeat by Spain in the final of Euro 2012 the notable exception.

In recent competitions they have held Spain to two draws, beaten Germany with a certain degree of comfort in a semi-final and have asked questions of Brazil both in a friendly and at the Confederations Cup (albeit without finding a required result).

Friendlies under Prandelli have been used to tinker and modify, with results hardly given a second thought. As such, they have proven an intelligent outfit, tactically flexible, capable of asking questions of some of the best sides around.

Their starting XI, with a focused Mario Balotelli leading the line, Andrea Pirlo dictating from deep, Daniele De Rossi putting out fires whether in defence or midfield and a fully-fit Giorgio Chiellini dominating opposing strikers, is full of quality and can ask questions of the world's best.

As for the rest of their squad, it boasts plenty of tournament experience and boasts a potential wild card in Giuseppe Rossi, provided the Fiorentina man has put his injury-hell behind him.

Team that won't want to see them: Germany.

 

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 11:  Arjen Robben of Holland during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifing match between Holland and Hungary at Amsterdam Arena on October 11, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Netherlands (Pot 4)

Euro 2012 was a complete and utter mess as far as Netherlands were concerned with three group games, three defeats and some truly dreadful performances.

Since Louis van Gaal's return to the Oranje helm however, the national side is revitalised with youth having been given its head, World Cup qualification having been secured at a canter and the return of total football.

Gone are the pragmatism of van Gaal's predecessor Bert van Marwijk, his 4-2-3-1 formation with a double-pivot and two midfield destroyers having largely been ditched for the 4-3-3 formationlong a staple of Dutch footballand an adherence to possession and technical dominance.

And so far it is all running rather smoothly, with a side that haven't tasted defeat since van Gaal's opening game, some 17 matches ago.

Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie continue to give the side a tremendous cutting edge in attack, while a group of gifted young players, led by Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, play uninhibited by past failings.

Having won nine of ten qualifiers, the young Dutch are full of confidence and they look to stamp their authority on each match.

Perhaps that want could be pointed towards as a kind of naivety, but it makes them particularly dangerous heading towards the finals.

Team that won't want to see them: Belgium

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Alexis Sanchez of Chile in action during the international friendly match between England and Chile at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chile (Pot 3)

Under Marcelo Bielsa at the 2010 World Cup Chile came to international attention with a hard-running, high-pressing yet technical style that his since become a staple of some of Europe's very best club sides.

After Bielsa's departure Claudio Borghi took charge but struggled and in 2012 Universidad de Chile boss Jorge Sampaolia man with similar managerial principles to Bielsatook charge of the national side having led La U to the 2011 Copa Sudamericana with some outstanding attacking displays.

And at the international level, Sampaoli has done a similar job, building his Chilean XI in similar fashion to his former club side. Whether playing a 4-3-3 (utilising the recalled Jorge Valdivia as a false nine) or starting with a back three, La Roja have bought into Sampaoli's methods.

Since Sampaoli's arrival at the beginning of 2013, Chile have embarked on a sterling run of just two defeats in 14 matches during which time they fired their way to third in CONMEBOL qualifying, having looked in real danger of not progressing under Borghi.

And as the tide has turned on the national XI as a whole, individuals have grown also: Arturo Vidal, arguably club football's premier box-to-box midfielder, has shone with a number of all-action showings, Marcelo Diaz has been excellent as a deep-lying playmaker, while wide-forwards Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas have found both form and confidence.

La Roja have a system in place in which any player can slot in and perform a job—there are very few international sides who can say something similar.

With their ability to dictate matches when in possessionwitness the 2-0 win over Englandcapabilities in attacksee the three goals scored in October's qualifier against Colombia or the two goals netted in September's friendly against Spainand hard-working style off-the-ball, they aren't a side that the top seeds will want to see placed in their group.

Team who won't want to see them: Spain

 

Ivory Coast (Pot 3)

African qualifying for the World Cup is one of the harshest methods around; ten groups with the group winners all filtering into a two-legged play-off to decide the five finals berths. However, by some anomaly, the same five sides who qualified for the 2010 finals (aside hosts South Africa) will make their way to Brazil next summer.

And though arguably it is Ghana who are the continent's best national team, perhaps the side that the big guns most won't want to face next summer are Ivory Coast.

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - NOVEMBER 16:  Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast battles with Kara Mbodji of Senegal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off Second Leg between Senegal and Ivory Coast at Stade Mohammed V on November 16, 2013 in Casablanca, Moroc
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Over the course of the past decade, Les Elephants have been great underachievers. A side packed full of talent, led by midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure and talismanic striker Didier Drogba, they've failed to produce any kind of title—something which had been expected of this golden generation.

Much of their hopes will once again rest on the shoulders of Drogba, who throughout his career at Chelsea frequently made his presence known on the biggest of matches. At international level it hasn't quite worked out that way for the 35-year-old, but if he can bring his best to Brazil next summer, then few will fancy coming up against Sabri Lamouchi's well-organised side.

In an attacking sense, much will depend on Drogba, Yaya Toure's ability to dominate midfield and the unpredictability from wide of Gervinho to fashion openings. Defensively, Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora will need to be at their best to protect Boubacar Barry, the goalkeeper who has long been a weakness.

Now, with many of the star names in the last chance saloon as far as making an impact on the biggest international stage—having failed to pass the group stage at either of the last two World Cup's—there is perhaps a school of thought that the wounded elephant may at last stamp their authority on a showpiece event.

They've proven their ability to compete against illustrious opponents in the past. However, in their final tournament together, could they find the kind of magic to down them?

Team who won't want to see them: Uruguay

 

Talk more on Twitter: @AA_Richards

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