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2014 World Cup Draw: Sleepers with Favorable Chances to Advance Past Group Stage

ST LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 18:  Edin Dzeko #11 of Bosnia-Herzegovina controls the ball during the international friendly match between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina at Busch Stadium on November 18, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Steven CookContributor IIIJune 18, 2016

The World Cup draw can be brutal for some—but awfully rewarding for others.

This year was no exception. If anything, we saw more than ever in recent history that an unfavorable draw can doom some nations' chances at advancing past the group stage. But just as well, it can set up well for sleeper teams that aren't expected to make much noise going in.

While teams like the United States and England will have to get past treacherous groups to even make it to the knockout stage, these unheralded nations stroll into a group that could open up right before their eyes.

Here's a look at the most likely sleeper teams of the 2014 World Cup. 

2014 World Cup Draw
Group A
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
BrazilCONMEBOL/Hosts10
CroatiaUEFA16
MexicoCONCACAF20
CameroonCAF51
Group B
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
SpainUEFA1
NetherlandsUEFA9
ChileCONMEBOL15
AustraliaAFC59
Group C
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
ColombiaCONMEBOL4
GreeceUEFA12
Ivory CoastCAF17
JapanAFC48
Group D
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
UruguayCONMEBOL6
Costa RicaCONCACAF31
EnglandUEFA13
ItalyUEFA7
Group E
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
SwitzerlandUEFA8
EcuadorCONMEBOL23
FranceUEFA19
HondurasCONCACAF41
Group F
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
ArgentinaCONMEBOL3
Bosnia-HerzegovinaUEFA21
IranAFC45
NigeriaCAF36
Group G
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
GermanyUEFA2
PortugalUEFA5
GhanaCAF24
United StatesCONCACAF14
Group H
TeamConfederationFIFA Ranking
BelgiumUEFA11
AlgeriaCAF26
RussiaUEFA22
South KoreaAFC54
FIFA

Bosnia and Herzegovina

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 31: Edin Dzeko #11 of Bosnia-Herzegovina tries to knock the ball away from Pablo Barrera #7 of Mexico during an international friendly at Soldier Field on May 31, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Mexico defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1. (Photo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This year will be Bosnia's first appearance in the World Cup, but don't let that fool you—the young nation reached a playoff in 2010 and is ranked 21st in the FIFA rankings

But that's not what makes this team dangerous to advance past the group stage. Instead, it drew the easiest group in the field: Group F.

Argentina lead the group as the obvious favorite, but other than that, Bosnia will have to play against Nigeria and Iran. The Balkan squad opens with the Argentinians, so if it can rebound from that and pick up a win and a draw in the next two contests, that should set the Bosnians up nicely to advance.

Bosnia disposed of their competition in the qualifying stage with many lopsided wins and have competed well in close losses to both Argentina and the U.S. in recent friendlies. 

But nobody plays well in the World Cup without star power, and Bosnia certainly have that. Manchester City's Edin Dzeko will man the striker slot while Miralem Pjanic of AS Roma will be feeding him scoring chances from the midfield. If they play at their peak, Bosnia will advance.

 

Croatia

ZAGREB, CROATIA - NOVEMBER 19:  Mario Mandzukic of Croatia celebrates his team's first goal with team mates during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier play-off second leg match between Croatia and Iceland at Maksimir Stadium on November 19, 2013 in Zagreb,
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

This team has all of the pieces on offense to threaten, and given the fact that Croatia received one of the easiest draws, they're a big sleeper to make it to the next round. 

Slotted in Group A, joining Croatia are Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon. Facing the World Cup hosts is far from ideal, but just like Bosnia, plenty of promise lies in those other two tilts.

There's no doubt that Mexico come in to the World Cup sporting a noticeable limp. Although they'll be picked by many to advance along with Brazil in this group, that's thanks to their name more than anything. If it weren't for a late U.S. comeback in the World Cup qualifying, Mexico wouldn't even be in the running.

Cameroon feature one of the best players in the tournament in Samuel Eto'o but not much else. Facing them second after Brazil, Croatia can count on Mario Mandzukic to propel them to a win there and head into a finale against Mexico with mounds of confidence.

 

Colombia

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 19:  Falcao Garcia of Colombia runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and Colombia at Amsterdam ArenA on November 19, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Ima
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Columbia went into the draw as a team with an outside shot at advancing. But spectacularly enough, they may end up being the best squad in Group C.

The group features Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece, and as you can tell just by reading those four teams, nobody really jumps off the page as a favorite. 

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  Group C containing Colombia, Greece, Cote d'Ivoire and Japan is displayed on the big screen on stage behind the draw assistants, Fernanda Lima and FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke during the Final Draw for the 2
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Greece and Japan have both made some noise in recent history, but neither is strong enough to compete with Colombia for 90 minutes. The same could be said for Ivory Coast, whose best player—Didier Drogba—is 35 years old. 

Radamel Falcao is at his peak right now. The 27-year-old Colombian striker is proving to be one of the best attackers in the world for Monaco, which is spurring talk of a deal in excess of £50 million to join Chelsea, per The Mirror

If Falcao plays at his peak level and the talented roster around him steps up to the challenge, Colombia could win Group C rather easily. 

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