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

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 07: Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany and Xavi Hernandez of Spain battle for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Germany and Spain at Durban Stadium on July 7, 2010 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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
PositionPlayerClub
GKIker CasillasReal Madrid
GKPepe ReinaNapoli
GKDavid De GeaManchester United
DFCesar AzpilicuetaChelsea
DFGerard PiqueBarcelona
DFSergio RamosReal Madrid
DFJordi AlbaBarcelona
DFAlberto MorenoSevilla
DFJavi MartinezBayern Munich
DFRaul AlbiolNapoli
DFJuanfranAtletico Madrid
DFDaniel CarvajalReal Madrid
MFSergio BusquetsBarcelona
MFXabi AlonsoReal Madrid
MFKokeAtletico Madrid
MFAnder IturraspeAthletic Bilbao
MFXaviBarcelona
MFThiago AlcantaraBayern Munich
MFPedroBarcelona
MFJesus NavasManchester City
MFDavid SilvaManchester City
MFCesc FabregasBarcelona
MFJuan MataManchester United
MFSanti CazorlaArsenal
MFAndres IniestaBarcelona
ATTDiego CostaAtletico Madrid
ATTDavid VillaAtletico Madrid
ATTFernando TorresChelsea
ATTAlvaro NegredoManchester City
ATTFernando LlorenteJuventus

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.

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

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
PositionPlayerClub
GKManuel NeuerBayern Munich
GKRoman WeidenfellerDortmund
GKRon-Robert ZielerHannover
DEFErik DurmDortmund
DEFJerome BoatengBayern Munich
DEFKevin GrosskreutzDortmund
DEFBenedikt HowedesSchalke
DEFMats HummelsDortmund
DEFMarcell JansenHamburg
DEFPhilipp LahmBayern Munich
DEFPer MertesackerArsenal
DEFShkodran MustafiSampdoria
DEFMarcel SchmelzerDortmund
MIDLars BenderBayer Leverkusen
MIDJulian DraxlerSchalke
MIDMario GoetzeBayern Munich
MIDLeon GoretzkaSchalke
MIDAndre HahnAugsburg
MIDSami KhediraReal Madrid
MIDToni KroosBayern Munich
MIDMax MeyerSchalke
MIDMatthias GinterFreiburg
MIDBastian SchweinsteigerBayern Munich
MIDMesut OzilArsenal
ATTThomas MullerBayern Munich
ATTLukas PodolskiArsenal
ATTMarco ReusDortmund
ATTAndre SchurrleChelsea
ATTKevin VollandHoffenheim
ATTMiroslav KloseLazio

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
PositionPlayerClub
GKSergio Romero AS Monaco
GKMariano Andujar Catania
GKAgustin Orion Boca Juniors
DFEzequiel Garay Benfica
DFFederico Fernandez Napoli
DFPablo Zabaleta Manchester City
DFMarcos Rojo Sporting Lisbon
DFJose Maria Basanta Monterrey
DFHugo Campagnaro Inter Milan
DFNicolas Otamendi Atletico Mineiro
DFMartín Demichelis Manchester City
DFGabriel Mercado River Plate
DFLisandro Lopez Getafe
MFFernando Gago Boca Juniors
MFLucas Biglia Lazio
MFJavier Mascherano FC Barcelona
MFEver Banega Newell's Old Boys
MFAngel Di Maria Real Madrid
MFMaximiliano Rodriguez Newell's Old Boys
MFRicardo Alvarez Inter Milan
MFAugusto Fernandez Celta Vigo
MFEnzo Perez Benfica
MFJose Sosa Atletico Madrid
FWFabian Rinaudo Catania
FWSergio Aguero Manchester City
FWLionel Messi FC Barcelona
FWGonzalo Higuain Napoli
FWEzequiel Lavezzi PSG
FWRodrigo Palacio Inter Milan
FWDi 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
PositionPlayerClub
GKJulio CesarToronto FC (On Loan from QPR)
GKJeffersonBotafogo
GKVictorAtlético Mineiro
DEFDanteBayern Munich
DEFDavid LuizChelsea
DEFThiago SilvaParis St. Germain
DEFHenriqueNapoli
DEFDani AlvesBarcelona
DEFMaiconRoma
DEFMarceloReal Madrid
DEFMaxwellParis St. Germain
MIDFernandinhoManchester City
MIDHernanesInter Milan
MIDLuiz GustavoVfL Wolfsburg
MIDOscarChelsea
MIDPaulinhoTottenham Hotspur
MIDRamiresChelsea
MIDWillianChelsea
MIDBernardShakhtar Donetsk
FWFredFluminense
FWHulkZenit St. Petersburg
FWJoAtlético Mineiro
FWNeymarBarcelona

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.

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

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.