World Cup Predictions 2014: Underdogs That Will Sneak into Knockout Stage

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World Cup Predictions 2014: Underdogs That Will Sneak into Knockout Stage
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

A number of powerhouse teams will play in the 2014 World Cup, but a few underdogs should advance to the knockout stage.

The big story coming out of Friday's World Cup draw was Group G, or the Group of Death. The United States will take on both Germany and Portugal during group play, making their chances of advancing to the next stage unlikely. Meanwhile, Group B has three great teams in Spain, the Netherlands and Chile. Australia rounds out the group.

With some interesting groups and a lot of strong teams, let's take a look at a few teams flying a bit under the radar right now that could advance to the knockout stage.

 

Chile

In terms of FIFA rankings, the two top teams in Group B are Spain and the Netherlands. But don't sleep on Chile, because they are an intriguing team to watch.

La Roja finished third in the South American qualifiers, in large part because of their high-powered offense. The team scored 29 goals during those 16 matches, with only Argentina scoring more in their group.

Matias Fernandez and Alexis Sanchez will be the keys to Chile's advancing. While Fernandez can help set up the offense as a very talented midfielder, Sanchez does a great job staying aggressive and finding opportunities, scoring four goals during qualifiers.

While La Roja struggle defensively, their offense can blow up in any game, and that's the kind of threat that makes this team so much fun to watch.  If their defense can step up even a little bit, they should be able to advance out of Group B.

 

England

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It's been an incredibly strange run for England.  It has top-tier talent at almost every position, but at the same time they've struggled to translate that into success.

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The good news for the Three Lions is that they crushed the competition for most of the qualifiers, even if it was against weaker competition.  They scored 31 goals and allowed just four, staying on top of their group to head to Brazil.

Players like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge highlight this roster, with Rooney scoring seven goals in the six qualifying matches he played.  Most of this team has played on big stages, and there are very few teams that match up well with them in this regard.

The problem with England is that their players haven't meshed well together. Without a consistent midfield or top-tier defense, this team has gone off track at times. They need to establish an identity together and focus on working more effectively as a team before they can make a serious run.

Fortunately for them, they have half of a year to work on things. Expect them to be ready in June and push past teams like Uruguay and Italy in Group D.

 

Ivory Coast

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While they've struggled to make a deep run in the World Cup, based on what this team has done recently,  Ivory Coast has a serious shot at getting into the knockout stage coming out of Group C.

The Elephants have two interesting strikers in Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, although the two are heading in opposite directions.  Drogba isn't the same superstar talent that he once was, although he can still play at a pretty high level. On the other hand, Kalou is a real emerging talent, and he just seems to keep getting better.

These two players help give the Elephants a real identity, with the team focusing on solid ball-handling and an up-tempo mentality that helps them score plenty of goals with great forwards and midfielders.  Yaya Toure will be important for the Ivory Coast to run its offense effectively, using his terrific passing to set up his teammates.

This team has crumbled on the big stage before, but I really like the level of play from this team recently. They can keep up with a number of great teams, and that's what makes them a legitimate contender coming out of their group.

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