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Ranking the 8 Teams in World Cup Draw Pot 3

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

Ranking the 8 Teams in World Cup Draw Pot 3

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The World Cup draw pots were announced on Tuesday, ahead of the main event itself scheduled for three days later. A quick scan of the names in each seeding group already throws up some tantalising possibilities for the first round of Brazil 2014. 

    With most of the groups decided by geography, Pot 3 covers two continents: North America and Asia.

    Neither region has yet yielded a World Cup winner, but they are two areas of the globe where football has seen huge gains in popularity over the last 20 years. 

    So who are the big names to watch out for and who represents a slightly easier match-up? Here, the eight competitors from Pot 3 are introduced and ranked by their ability to cause an upset in Brazil. 

Iran

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    Iran were one of the surprise sides in qualifying. The Middle East nation turned heads by qualifying in first place, beating out continental giants South Korea for the honour as they beat them home and away.

    The World Cup, however, could prove a different prospect altogether. 

    The Irani squad go in to Brazil 2014 as one of the most inexperienced sides in Pot 3 in terms of previous World Cups. Only a handful of current stars, among them 141-cap veteran Javad Nekounam, remain from the 2006 campaign in Germany, and the fact that the majority of the squad are based in Iran could also count against the nation. 

Honduras

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    Entering the World Cup automatically over Mexico was a major coup for Honduras. The Central American nation competes in their third tournament and, after taking a place at 2010, will be representing the nation at football's most important event for the second consecutive edition. 

    The Catrachos did not turn many heads three years ago in South Africa, bowing out with just one point. But conceding only three goals in a group that contained Spain, Chile and Switzerland was a testament to a tenacious, aggressive defence that gave little up. 

    We can expect more of the same in Brazil, as veterans such as Maynor Figueroa, Victor Bernardez and Oscar Garcia pose a formidable challenge to almost any forward line. 

Australia

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    Matt King/Getty Images

    Australian football was reborn with the contentious decision to switch affiliation from the Oceania governing body to Asia's AFC.

    While prior to 2010, qualification hinged on a tough play-off clash usually against a South American giant, now the Socceroos enjoy an automatic place and the chance to develop playing against more competitive opposition. 

    This has been reflected by an ever-improving squad in a nation where traditionally football has been confined as a sport amongst Southern European immigrant communities. A team that mixes experience with youthful enthusiasm should hold its own in Brazil. 

Costa Rica

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    Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    Central America's most accomplished side rejoin the World Cup after missing out in 2010 and they will be desperate to make up for lost time.

    Victories over both the United States and Mexico in this year's final qualifiers showed that the Tricolor should not be underestimated. 

    Strike duo Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell are both mobile and know where the goal is; although veteran hitman Alvaro Saborio, of Real Salt Lake, outshone them both with a brilliant eight-goal haul during the qualifiers.

    Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto also has a long, trophy-laden history in the game and he will hope to use his nous to guide the Central Americans out of the group stage. 

South Korea

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    A ferocious work ethic and untiring pressing have been the key to South Korea's proud football history.

    The most successful team in Asia remain the continent's only semi-final participants, in 2002, and have qualified for every tournament since 1986. 

    Bayer Leverkusen wonderkid Son Heung-Min, 21, will carry the hopes of his country on his back, while the core of the side is made up of tough competitors from the K League. If results go their way, a last 16 or quarter-final berth is a definite possibility for the South Koreans. 

United States

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    Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

    The 2014 World Cup brings the event back to the American continent for the first time in 20 years. It was that event, hosted in the US, that sparked interest in the "other" kind of football for the nation and set them on the path to an impressive improvement over the next two decades. 

    With seven wins out of 10 during the last round of qualifying, the United States waltzed into the World Cup and finished above bitter rivals Mexico for the third successive campaign.

    Veteran strike duo Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan will be the key men for the nation, who have so far failed to turn strong qualifying performances for the World Cup into success at the tournament itself; a solitary quarter-final appearance, in 2002, as good as it gets so far for the USMNT. 

Japan

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    The Samurai are arguably stronger now than at any point in their football history. A large percentage of the squad is active in European football's top leagues, most notably the Bundesliga, and this experience could help Japan switch from Asian heavyweights to a force on the world stage. 

    Qualifying was, if not massively impressive, a formality for Japan, and stars such as Inter's Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki of Mainz and midfield duo Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda represent a rock-solid base for the island nation. 

Mexico

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    Let us not pull punches: Mexico's World Cup qualifying campaign was a fiasco. Deep into the final game, the Tricolor did not know if they would be going to a play-off or dumped out altogether in an unimaginable turn of events. 

    It was rivals the United States who ended up sealing their place against New Zealand, a fact that many north of the border gleefully rubbed home. 

    That is not to say, however, that Mexico should be written off. Their squad oozes quality, with the likes of Chicharito Hernandez, Jesus Zavala, Marco Fabian and Giovanni dos Santos top-class footballers. As the reigning Olympic champions, the next generation could also play a big part. 

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