Whilst some teams will not have stopped complaining about their World Cup draw since it was made in December, others were handed relatively easy tasks at the Group Stage.
The groups were drawn based on FIFA World Ranking, and whilst that is an impartial system, there were always going to be some draws tougher than others. Group B, containing Spain, Netherlands and Chile could easily be labelled the Group of Death. Although fans of Uruguay, Italy and England, all in Group D, would probably disagree.
However, some teams seem certainties to stroll through to the Round of 16 as group winners. Here are three that will not be on the wrong end of an upset early on in Brazil.
The tournament hosts and favourites do not have any walkovers ahead of them in Group A, but at the same time, they do not have any stern tests in front of them either.
Alongside Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side are Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia. These are all nations that have been beyond the Group Stages in the past, but their current lineups do not look likely to challenge the Brazilians.
Mexico may have triumphed over Brazil at the Olympics in 2012, but the men in yellow and green have improved since then, whilst the Mexicans have stagnated somewhat. Brazil showed their superiority as they swatted Mexico aside 2-0 in last year’s Confederations Cup.
That tournament really demonstrated the Brazilians’ ability as they also beat Japan, Italy, Uruguay and Spain en route to lifting the trophy. It was a warning shot to the rest of the world and showed they are unlikely to be troubled by the teams they meet in Group A.
As for Croatia and Cameroon, neither team are at their peak at the moment. The Africans have been beaten by Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo in the last year, whilst in a recent friendly against Portugal they were battered 5-1. Croatia were unconvincing in qualification as they lost twice to Scotland and only narrowly came through a playoff against Iceland.
It would result in a huge surprise if Brazil were to drop any points in Group A, never mind fail to qualify.
The French were handed a tricky qualification group, which included world champions Spain, but they have redressed the karma by scoring a pretty straightforward looking group at the finals. Seen as they were seeded second for the Group Stages, they could not have asked for much better than Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras; nations which do not have rich World Cup histories.
The Swiss have manoeuvred their way up the FIFA World Rankings to eighth, but they are certainly not the eighth-best team on the planet. Their qualifying campaign included draws with Norway, Iceland and Cyprus. However, they did reach the finals without losing. Whilst they are uninspiring they can be difficult to beat.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld agrees that France should top the group, although he hopes to change that scenario, per RMC Radio, h/t Jerome Pugmire for Yahoo Sports.
We have a mature team now. I can say that it's become 'adult,' it's grown up. We had a superb qualifying campaign, we didn't lose a single game and we've developed a great team spirit.
I hope to beat France so that we can finish first. But beating France will be an enormous surprise because, for me, France remains the group favorite.
Honduras enjoyed an impressive qualification process, which included wins over USA, Costa Rica and Mexico. They can certainly compete at that level, but against the top sides, they are still left well short, as their 5-0 loss to Brazil last November showed.
Ecuador are on a similar level to Honduras these days, as the sides played out a 2-2 draw in November. They picked up some impressive results in qualifying, including a win over Uruguay and a draw with Argentina, but they lack any real star quality and have only advanced beyond the Group Stages once before.
The French are unpredictable at World Cups, but if they are playing anywhere near their best, then they should cruise into the Round of 16 this summer.
Argentina have the most feared forward line in the 2014 World Cup, and it should put the trio of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran to the sword in Group F. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria would scare the life out of the best defences on the planet, and they should rip to shreds those in front of them at the earliest stage in Brazil.
As Glenn Moore writes in The Independent, the Argentinians are used to success on their own continent:
Argentina won the last two World Cups in South and Central America and are strong candidates to make it a treble across the River Uruguay after tango-ing through qualifying.
To put into context the level of the other teams in Group F, Scotland are ahead of all of them in the current FIFA World Rankings, as are Denmark and Egypt who also failed to make it to Brazil.
Ironically, Argentina took on Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly shortly before the World Cup draw was made. Aguero scored twice in a 2-0 win for the Argentines, and that was without the services of Messi, the best player on the planet. The fact that, per Oddschecker.com, Bosnia-Herzegovina are the most likely to beat Argentina of their three opponents, then there is not much hope for any of them.
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