The blueprint for what it will take to win the 2014 World Cup is now in place, following Friday's draw.
At this point, the tournament starts coming into focus. Before the draw, you had no idea who would be playing whom. Sure, you could label Germany, Spain, Brazil and Argentina as favorites, but you were doing so based off reputation rather than what their road to the final actually looked like.
Now that all the groups have been drawn, you know what those four teams will need to do in order to be the last country standing.
Here's a look at the draw for the 2014 World Cup.
Below are the matchups to come in the knockout stages.
Considering the overall strength of the field, there aren't any gimmes in this tournament. The team that lifts the trophy will have earned it.
Here's a quick breakdown of the chances for each team.
The hosts will no doubt be one of the favorites going in. They've got an entire country behind them and demonstrated at the 2013 Confederations Cup that the pressure won't be overwhelming. Group A is also very winnable. It will be important for Brazil to start strong and avoid any additional pressure.
A lot of Croatia's hopes at the World Cup will hinge on the availability of Mario Mandzukic. He was sent off in their playoff against Iceland, and should he miss any group-stage matches, Croatia will have a hard time making it out of Group A.
El Tri are a major wild card here. They've got a lot of talent and are more than capable of advancing to the round of 16. Under Miguel Herrera, Mexico have found their form. Now it's only a question of whether they can build on the momentum created by trouncing New Zealand in the World Cup playoff. This is a team capable of making the quarterfinals.
Cameroon haven't advanced past the group stage since 1990. Backroom squabbles have often spilled over on the pitch and affected the team's performance. That will likely be the case in Brazil, and it doesn't help that Cameroon continues relying on an aging Samuel Eto'o.
The reigning champions will have a tough time. Group B is formidable, and a date with England, Uruguay or Italy in the quarterfinal would be difficult. Still, La Roja have won three major international tournaments in a row. Count them out at your own expense.
The Dutch could be in trouble. They've yet to hit their stride under Louis van Gaal, only looking good against a weaker group in qualifying. Plus, the back four is a major question mark. The opening fixture with Spain will reveal a lot about what the Netherlands are made of. A repeat of 2010's run to the final will be near impossible.
Chile play a very attractive style that causes fits for their opposition. The way that they press gives opposing teams no time on the ball. That will be important as Spain and the Netherlands will look to control possession. Chile could be a pleasant surprise in this group and have a run to the quarterfinals or semifinals in them.
The Socceroos will just be happy to be in Brazil. It will take a monumental effort from Australia just to escape from the group stage.
Handed a manageable group, Colombia are in a nice position to make a deep run. Brazil could be tricky opponents in the quarterfinals, but playing a fellow South American team could actually be a boost for the Colombians. Don't be surprised if Radamel Falcao is firing Colombia toward the final.
Greece will be a tough nut to crack. Their defense has long been their best attribute. The Greeks may have also found the target man who can bang in the goals. Konstantinos Mitroglou looked great in qualifying, and he could be the difference between Greece advancing to the knockout stages and exiting the group early.
Ivory Coast have the most talent of any African country. However, they've failed to make the most of that talent, disappointing in both the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations in past years. If Les Elephants can equal the sum of their parts, then they could be a dangerous team.
Of the four teams in Group C, Japan look to be the worst. They don't have a lot of individual talent, and that's something you need when facing off against the best of the best. It's tough to break down the organized defenses that Greece and Colombia have when there isn't a player who can change the game on his own. Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa won't get it done by themselves.
Uruguay didn't have the easiest time in qualifying, but if they can get their stuff together, there's no doubt they're capable of a deep run. One thing they'll have to do is take some of the emphasis off Diego Forlan. He's too old to be the talisman he was in 2010. This tough group will be a great barometer for Uruguay.
Thanks for coming, Costa Rica. They can be a tough team, but so much of their strong form in qualifying stemmed from playing at home. On the road, Costa Rica aren't capable of finishing in the top two in this tough group.
Cue panic in England. The Three Lions were dealt a tough hand in the draw. Their World Cup hopes look to be going up in flames early. As if finishing ahead of either Italy or Uruguay isn't hard enough, England could get Brazil, Spain, Chile or the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
At least this way, they won't be going out at the hands of Italy again in a penalty shootout.
Although the Italians have a tough group, they should be able to advance to the knockout stages. Andrea Pirlo can pull the strings in midfield, and the defense should hold firm. The question mark will be the attack. Mario Balotelli is always unpredictable. If he's at his best, Italy are capable of making a finals run.
Switzerland have been gifted a bit of an easy group. The Swiss did a great job in qualifying, but they were the weakest of the seven seeded teams. Looking at Group E, you could see Switzerland finishing in the top two and advancing, but their time could be up shortly thereafter.
Ecuador could get an advantage by playing in South America. They'll be more used to the climate than their foreign counterparts. They will need to play to this advantage, as they don't have a wealth of talent. They need to get whatever edge they can to make up for the gap between them and the better teams in the field.
France is the biggest winner of the draw. An easy group means that France should be able to put the disappointments of the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro behind them. Les Bleus tick all the requisite boxes for a World Cup winner when it comes to talent and coaching.
Like Costa Rica, Honduras is a different team when they're playing away from home. Even in an easy group, they've got an uphill battle to make the knockout stages.
Lionel Messi got a little help as he looks to win the World Cup and erase one of the biggest criticisms of his legacy. Argentina should make it to the quarterfinals, at the very least. This time around too, Diego Maradona isn't there to screw things up. Alejandro Sabella is a good manager and will have his team ready to play against the best in the world.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina could be in trouble against bigger European and South American sides. But that will only be a problem in the knockout stages. The team has what it takes to finish runners-up to Argentina.
Will Iran finish at the bottom of the group? That seems to be the only question as to their chances. Even with an experienced manager like Carlos Queiroz, the Iranians are the worst team in Group F and one of the weakest teams in the tournament as a whole.
The Super Eagles' win at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations makes you wonder if they're capable of making an impressive run and erasing the disappointment from Nigeria at international tournaments. It will be tough to finish ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina, though.
Although this may be one of the "Groups of Death," Germany should finish at the top. They've got one of the best midfields in the world, and Joachim Low has established himself as a solid tactician. The question isn't whether the Germans will win the group, but rather if they'll win the whole thing.
Did you know Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Portugal? There will be much talk about his legacy as Portugal looks to win the World Cup. Considering how much the team continues to revolve around the star winger, Portugal may have trouble in the knockout stage against the likes of Belgium, Spain, Brazil and Italy. A semifinals run is likely the best that it's going to get for Portugal.
Ghana look to be in a battle with the United States for third. The Black Stars lack chemistry on the pitch and have underwhelmed at international tournaments. It will take a massive effort to overtake either Germany or Portugal in the group.
You had hoped the United States would get an easy draw, but common sense said it was always going to be a big task to make it to the knockout stages. ESPN Stats and Info didn't inspire much confidence, either:
If the U.S. can make it to the round of 16, it's a job well done.
Belgium have been helped a lot by a weak group. It will be a major boost to a side that lacks international experience. Easing through the group stage would make Belgium a major contender in the knockout stage.
Algeria came in as one of the worst teams in the field, and they were given no favors with their draw. There's virtually no chance Algeria will be able to make it past the group stage.
Under Fabio Capello, Russia are capable of doing some damage. While they won't be favorites or likely make a run to the final, they could claim a big scalp or two before getting eliminated. Nobody would want Russia in the knockout stages.
Much like Japan, South Korea lack star power. When you're playing the best teams in the world, you need one or two players who can change a game. Without that, South Korea will be in trouble.
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