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|
Bosnia and Herzegovina
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.
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.
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.
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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