World Cup 2014: Latest Squad News and Predictions for Top Countries

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World Cup 2014: Latest Squad News and Predictions for Top Countries
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Only 66 days until the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.

World Cup 2014 is just 66 days away. Slightly over two months remain before the football tournament that unites the world gets into full swing in Brazil.

A gruelling 2013/14 football season is beginning to take its toll, as players begin to succumb to injury. In many cases, the world's best would benefit from a rest period, but they are just too important for their clubs to allow the same.

This will be the third tournament in three consecutive summers for the Spanish: European Championship, Confederations Cup and now the World Cup. Gruelling summers yet again for the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta et al.

One player who won't make the journey is Barcelona's Victor Valdes. After rupturing his cruciate knee ligaments whilst playing against Celta Vigo, the keeper has been ruled out of action for seven months, per BBC Sport.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Is David De Gea the man to replace Victor Valdes in the Spanish squad?

Despite only playing a back-up role to Diego Lopez at Real Madrid, it's unlikely that Vicente Del Bosque will plump for anyone other than Iker Casillas as his main man between the sticks, but the reserve spot is very much up for grabs.

The most sensible recipient would appear to be Manchester United's David De Gea, despite not having a single national call-up to his name to this point.

In a season full of woe for United, De Gea has still maintained a high level of consistency, and with one eye on the future, Del Bosque should look to the younger man rather than the more experienced, but ageing, Pepe Reina.

Belgium's hopes of progression in the tournament suffered a hammer blow with news of Christian Benteke's torn Achilles, an injury that occurred during a routine training session with Aston Villa.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Christian Benteke's World Cup is over after suffering an Achilles problem.

Per Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail, the severity of the injury means it's likely that the robust front-man is likely to be sidelined for around eight months.

Villa manager Paul Lambert said of the injury:

It’s a terrible blow both for Christian and for the club. He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup.

But he’ll work hard because that’s what he does and he’ll come back for us stronger than ever next season.

England manager Roy Hodgson was at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to run the rule over a number of players. Southampton's Jay Rodriguez was a fringe player said to be in serious contention for a place in Hodgson's squad, per Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail.

However, his dream of a place on the plane to Brazil looks to be all but over after he suffered a serious knee injury whilst trying to control an innocuous-looking high ball.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Jay Rodriguez was carried off in tears against Manchester City.

Play was stopped for four minutes before the player was carried off on a stretcher in tears. 

 

Predictions for Top Countries

Elsa/Getty Images
Brazil certainly have the squad to make it all the way to the final.

Brazil have to be considered amongst the favourites for the tournament, and not just because of home advantage.

They are well-organised, and in Luis Felipe Scolari they have a manager who has been there and done it all before, after leading the Canarinho triumph in 2002.

A star-studded squad they may be, but they work hard in all areas of the pitch, and as long as they take that work ethic into the tournament, then reaching the latter stages is certainly not beyond them.

Prediction: Runners-up

 

If there is anyone to threaten a home win, it is Brazil's South American neighbours Argentina.

In Lionel Messi, they have arguably the world's best player. The game-changer. Brazil will be only too aware of what the diminutive striker brings to the table, too:

Although the focus of Argentina's play is likely to surround Messi, it is his team-mates who should help bring him the glory which many believe he needs to define himself as the best to have ever played the game.

Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano. The list goes on. One of the strongest squads in the tournament need to step up to ensure success in the backyard of their fiercest rivals.

Prediction: Winners

Fernando Bustamante
Can Spain retain the trophy?

Spain come into the tournament as titleholders and seek to retain the trophy. During qualification, in which they remained unbeaten, they did not trail at any stage of any match, per BBC Sport.

Vicente Del Bosque is likely to stick with many of the players who have got them so far in the last few tournaments, with a sprinkling of new faces.

Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa is likely to be one of those after the Brazilian opted to play for his adopted country rather than the country of his birth.

His presence at the head of a 4-3-3 can cause any defence problems, and Spain should still be in the shake-up come the business end of the tournament.

Prediction: Third

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