World Cup Favorites 2014: Breaking Down Top Squads for FIFA Tournament

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World Cup Favorites 2014: Breaking Down Top Squads for FIFA Tournament
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The leading favorites to win the FIFA 2014 World Cup are headlined by host nation Brazil. South American rival Argentina are just behind, according to Oddschecker.com.

The same site lists current holders Spain as fourth favorites, with Germany just ahead.

Here's a breakdown of this fancied quartet of top squads ahead of the big tournament.

 

Spain

Spain World Cup Squad
Position Player Club
GK Iker Casillas Real Madrid
GK Pepe Reina Napoli
GK David De Gea Manchester United
DF Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea
DF Gerard Pique Barcelona
DF Sergio Ramos Real Madrid
DF Jordi Alba Barcelona
DF Alberto Moreno Sevilla
DF Javi Martinez Bayern Munich
DF Raul Albiol Napoli
DF Juanfran Atletico Madrid
DF Daniel Carvajal Real Madrid
MF Sergio Busquets Barcelona
MF Xabi Alonso Real Madrid
MF Koke Atletico Madrid
MF Ander Iturraspe Athletic Bilbao
MF Xavi Barcelona
MF Thiago Alcantara Bayern Munich
MF Pedro Barcelona
MF Jesus Navas Manchester City
MF David Silva Manchester City
MF Cesc Fabregas Barcelona
MF Juan Mata Manchester United
MF Santi Cazorla Arsenal
MF Andres Iniesta Barcelona
ATT Diego Costa Atletico Madrid
ATT David Villa Atletico Madrid
ATT Fernando Torres Chelsea
ATT Alvaro Negredo Manchester City
ATT Fernando Llorente Juventus

Roster info courtesy of The Telegraph

 

Spain's preparations could be derailed by the recent hamstring injury suffered by assimilated Atletico Madrid star Diego Costa. The free-scoring ace would solve Spain's most obvious weakness, notably striker.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Diego Costa's injury is a bitter blow for Spain.

If Costa misses out, the Spaniards will have to pin their hopes on misfiring English Premier League quartet Fernando Torres, Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo and Michu.

Perhaps manager Vicente del Bosque will trust veteran David Villa one more time. At least del Bosque can continue picking from the tournament's deepest pool of midfield talent.

It will be interesting to see what decision del Bosque makes over ageing FC Barcelona pair Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez in midfield. They have been mainstays in their country's recent dominance on the international stage, but both have stumbled through indifferent seasons in La Liga.

It may be time to let players like Manchester City creative ace David Silva and Atletico Madrid's Koke have their day. However, del Bosque will have to do without young Bayern Munich schemer Thiago Alcantara, who has been ruled out of the tournament after suffering a knee-ligament injury.

The team is strong defensively with full-backs like Juanfran and Cesar Azpilicueta joining centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique.

In all honesty, it's surprising this squad is not generating a little more trophy-winning buzz.

 

Germany

Germany World Cup Roster
Position Player Club
GK Manuel Neuer Bayern Munich
GK Roman Weidenfeller Dortmund
GK Ron-Robert Zieler Hannover
DEF Erik Durm Dortmund
DEF Jerome Boateng Bayern Munich
DEF Kevin Grosskreutz Dortmund
DEF Benedikt Howedes Schalke
DEF Mats Hummels Dortmund
DEF Marcell Jansen Hamburg
DEF Philipp Lahm Bayern Munich
DEF Per Mertesacker Arsenal
DEF Shkodran Mustafi Sampdoria
DEF Marcel Schmelzer Dortmund
MID Lars Bender Bayer Leverkusen
MID Julian Draxler Schalke
MID Mario Goetze Bayern Munich
MID Leon Goretzka Schalke
MID Andre Hahn Augsburg
MID Sami Khedira Real Madrid
MID Toni Kroos Bayern Munich
MID Max Meyer Schalke
MID Matthias Ginter Freiburg
MID Bastian Schweinsteiger Bayern Munich
MID Mesut Ozil Arsenal
ATT Thomas Muller Bayern Munich
ATT Lukas Podolski Arsenal
ATT Marco Reus Dortmund
ATT Andre Schurrle Chelsea
ATT Kevin Volland Hoffenheim
ATT Miroslav Klose Lazio

Roster info courtesy of The Telegraph

 

The nation Spain bested at the semi-final stage in 2010 enters this tournament with a few question marks. The obvious one is in attack where ageing Miroslav Klose and inexperienced Kevin Volland are the only natural centre-forwards.

The German defence could also be stronger, particularly in the middle. Borussia Dortmund linchpin Mats Hummels and Arsenal ace Per Mertesacker make a savvy but slow pairing.

At least the full-back position is strong, thanks to Bayern Munich stalwart Philipp Lahm. He won't have to endure Bayern boss Josep Guardiola trying to make him a central midifielder.

Speaking of midfield, the Germans are possibly as strong as the Spanish in this area. Munich playmakers like Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are sure to dominate the ball in Brazil.

So will Arsenal's mercurial schemer Mesut Ozil. He will be the key part of a supply line required to set fleet-footed forwards like Marco Reus and Thomas Muller free.

 

Argentina

Argentina 2014 World Cup Roster
Position Player Club
GK Sergio Romero  AS Monaco
GK Mariano Andujar  Catania
GK Agustin Orion  Boca Juniors
DF Ezequiel Garay  Benfica
DF Federico Fernandez  Napoli
DF Pablo Zabaleta  Manchester City
DF Marcos Rojo  Sporting Lisbon
DF Jose Maria Basanta  Monterrey
DF Hugo Campagnaro  Inter Milan
DF Nicolas Otamendi  Atletico Mineiro
DF Martín Demichelis  Manchester City
DF Gabriel Mercado  River Plate
DF Lisandro Lopez  Getafe
MF Fernando Gago  Boca Juniors
MF Lucas Biglia  Lazio
MF Javier Mascherano  FC Barcelona
MF Ever Banega  Newell's Old Boys
MF Angel Di Maria  Real Madrid
MF Maximiliano Rodriguez  Newell's Old Boys
MF Ricardo Alvarez  Inter Milan
MF Augusto Fernandez  Celta Vigo
MF Enzo Perez  Benfica
MF Jose Sosa  Atletico Madrid
FW Fabian Rinaudo  Catania
FW Sergio Aguero  Manchester City
FW Lionel Messi  FC Barcelona
FW Gonzalo Higuain  Napoli
FW Ezequiel Lavezzi  PSG
FW Rodrigo Palacio  Inter Milan
FW Di Santo  

Roster info courtesy of The Telegraph

 

The hopes of Argentina will be pinned on the health and mood of the most enviable attacking talent in the competition. That means Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero must stay healthy, after a season blighted by a consistent run of ailments.

It will also mean prolific FC Barcelona trickster Lionel Messi must rediscover his swagger. Messi has gone missing in a number of big games for Barca this season, notably during UEFA Champions League and La Liga clashes with Atletico Madrid.

In fact, the Catalan club's fans have even reportedly jeered their superstar, according to Marca, reported by the Spanish newspaper's English website.

Messi has yet to truly dazzle at a World Cup, or even come close. But Argentina may not need him to, considering they can also call on Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain and Paris Saint-Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Whoever plays up front will rely on supply from current Real Madrid assist king Angel di Maria. The converted winger has played 22 assists since moving into a more central position, per WhoScored.com.

If their stars actually manage to combine effectively and consistently, Argentina will be a major threat.

 

Brazil

Brazil World Cup Roster
Position Player Club
GK Julio Cesar Toronto FC (On Loan from QPR)
GK Jefferson Botafogo
GK Victor Atlético Mineiro
DEF Dante Bayern Munich
DEF David Luiz Chelsea
DEF Thiago Silva Paris St. Germain
DEF Henrique Napoli
DEF Dani Alves Barcelona
DEF Maicon Roma
DEF Marcelo Real Madrid
DEF Maxwell Paris St. Germain
MID Fernandinho Manchester City
MID Hernanes Inter Milan
MID Luiz Gustavo VfL Wolfsburg
MID Oscar Chelsea
MID Paulinho Tottenham Hotspur
MID Ramires Chelsea
MID Willian Chelsea
MID Bernard Shakhtar Donetsk
FW Fred Fluminense
FW Hulk Zenit St. Petersburg
FW Jo Atlético Mineiro
FW Neymar Barcelona

Roster info courtesy of The Telegraph

 

The curious thing about the 2014 Brazilian squad is how un-Brazilian-like it seems: There is an absence of the usual flair and attacking verve.

Instead, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has opted for greater physicality. This is most obvious in midfield, where EPL bruisers Fernandinho and Paulinho patrol the middle.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Fernandinho and Ramires will anchor an unfashionable Brazil midfield.

There is also room for VfL Wolfsburg enforcer Luiz Gustavo and Chelsea's tough runner Ramires. The makeup of this midfield isn't really that big of a surprise.

After all, when Scolari won this tournament with Brazil in 2002, functional types like Gilberto Silva and Kleberson were as important as maestros like Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.

The theme of power over guile is just as obvious up front. Scolari has opted for tall target-men like Zenit St Petersburg powerhouse Hulk and Fluminense centre-forward and ex-Lyon man Fred.

Scolari will expect them to act as foils for fleet-footed roving forwards like Neymar. He will be under increased pressure to deliver, after failing to live up to his inflated reputation during his first season with FC Barcelona.

As hard as it is to fathom why Spain are so overlooked, it's equally difficult to guess why Brazil are such clear favorites. Home advantage won't mask the holes in this squad, namely its lack of elite strikers and ageing defence.

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