There are 21 days before the first group match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off. That's when host nation Brazil begin their bid to capture a sixth World Cup trophy.
But Brazil won't be the only fancied nation hoping to meet expectations and ascend to the summit of their respective groups. Nations such as Argentina, Spain, Germany and Italy will be under pressure to meet that minimum requirement.
Here's a reminder of how each group looks ahead of the big tournament:
With the tournament fast approaching and anticipation building, here is a breakdown of every group, including the date for each game, the predicted winners and a projection of the final standings.
How the Groups Will Play out
|Group A Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 12||Brazil vs. Croatia||Draw||Brazil|
|June 13||Mexico vs. Cameroon||Mexico||Croatia|
|June 17||Brazil vs. Mexico||Brazil||Mexico|
|June 18||Cameroon vs. Croatia||Croatia||Cameroon|
|June 23||Cameroon vs. Brazil||Brazil|
|June 23||Croatia vs. Mexico||Draw|
Group A will be tougher than many expect for favorites Brazil. Croatia will pose more than a few problems, thanks to a deceptively talented squad, brimming with creativity in midfield and power up front.
Part of their threat in the middle will come from Luka Modric. Writing for USA Today Sports blog thebiglead.com, Mike Cardillo correctly dubs Modric "one of the world's most complete midfielders."
But despite Croatia's quality, a nervy Brazil will eventually outlast the competition. They will notably brush aside Cameroon, who will sadly play the role of group whipping boys.
|Group B Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 13||Spain vs. Nethelands||Spain||Spain|
|June 13||Chile vs. Australia||Chile||Netherlands|
|June 18||Spain vs. Chile||Spain||Chile|
|June 18||Australia vs. Netherlands||Netherlands||Australia|
|June 23||Australia vs. Spain||Spain|
|June 23||Netherlands vs. Chile||Netherlands|
Group B will belong to current World Cup holders, Spain. Not as fancied as in previous tournaments, Vicente del Bosque's squad will send out an emphatic early reminder of their ample quality.
The Netherlands won't wow their fans immediately but will steadily build up to some stylish football. Meanwhile, Chile will suffer from being placed in the same group as a pair of international heavyweights.
|Group C Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 14||Colombia vs. Greece||Colombia||Colombia|
|June 14||Ivory Coast vs. Japan||Draw||Ivory Coast|
|June 19||Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||Draw||Japan|
|June 19||Japan vs. Greece||Draw||Greece|
|June 24||Japan vs. Colombia||Colombia|
|June 24||Greece vs. Ivory Coast||Ivory Coast|
Group C will be defined by its stalemates. There isn't much to separate the squads after Colombia, who should be group leaders by virtue of their firepower up front.
Japan and Greece will be plucky but won't match the quality of an Ivory Coast squad, featuring English Premier League stars like Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony.
|Group D Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 14||Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||Uruguay||Uruguay|
|June 14||England vs. Italy||Draw||Italy|
|June 19||Uruguay vs. England||Uruguay||England|
|June 20||Italy vs. Costa Rica||Italy||Costa Rica|
|June 24||Italy vs. Uruguay||Draw|
|June 24||Costa Rica vs. England||England|
Group D will belong to an impressive Uruguay team that will let star striker Edinson Cavani run riot. BBC Sport South American football writer Tim Vickery highlights how the attack will need to carry Uruguay in Brazil:
The defensive unit and the holding midfielders have been together since the Copa America of 2007. There are some ageing limbs in there, owned by players now too slow to be caught in open space.
This, though, does not apply to the front pair. If Diego Forlan has declined to the point where he is now an option on the bench, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are bang in the middle of their footballing prime.
But as good as they will be, the South Americans will need some luck to get past a resilient, but limited England squad.
Italy will follow a time-honored pattern of doing just enough to navigate the group stages, while saving their best for the later rounds.
|Group E Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 15||Switzerland vs. Ecuador||Switzerland||France|
|June 15||France vs. Honduras||France||Switzerland|
|June 20||Switzerland vs. France||Draw||Honduras|
|June 20||Honduras vs. Ecuador||Draw||Ecuador|
|June 25||Honduras vs. Switzerland||Draw|
|June 25||Ecuador vs. France||France|
This group will be the home of a few surprise packages. Players such as France schemer Clement Grenier will raise a few eyebrows, as will Switzerland striker Josip Drmic.
Ultimately, those nations will be too strong for Ecuador and a game Honduras squad. France will have just enough to see off Switzerland in the group's marquee tie.
|Group F Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 15||Argentina vs. Bosnia And Herzegovina||Argentina||Argentina|
|June 16||Iran vs. Nigeria||Nigeria||Nigeria|
|June 21||Argentina vs. Iran||Argentina||Bosnia And Herzegovina|
|June 21||Nigeria vs. Bosnia And Herzegovina||Draw||Iran|
|June 25||Nigeria vs. Argentina||Argentina|
|June 25||Bosnia And Herzegovina vs. Iran||Draw|
Perhaps predictably, Argentina will dominate Group F. The South American nation just has too much talent in attack.
Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria simply won't be able to corral Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. Argentina have flattered to deceive in recent tournaments, but while a comfortable group won't necessarily change that, it will help build momentum before the knockout phase.
|Group G Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 16||Germany vs. Portugal||Germany||Germany|
|June 16||Ghana vs. United States||Ghana||Portugal|
|June 21||Germany vs. Ghana||Germany||Ghana|
|June 22||United States vs. Portugal||Portugal||United States|
|June 26||United States vs. Germany||Germany|
|June 26||Portugal vs. Ghana||Draw|
Germany will roar in front early in the so-called "Group of Death." Despite tough opposition, the Germans still have enough quality in midfield and attack to overwhelm.
Players such as Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller will punish any defensive lapses. Being able to also call on midfielders as talented as Toni Kroos and Julian Draxler is a boost most squads can only dream of.
Portugal will edge Ghana on tiebreakers, while the United States will suffer from deterioration among former key stars like Landon Donovan.
|Group H Full Schedule, Picks and Final Standings|
|June 17||Belgium vs. Algeria||Belgium||Belgium|
|June 17||Russia vs. Korea Republic||Russia||Russia|
|June 22||Belgium vs. Russia||Draw||Korea Republic|
|June 22||Korea Republic vs. Algeria||Korea Republic||Algeria|
|June 26||Korea Republic vs. Belgium||Belgium|
|June 26||Algeria vs. Russia||Russia|
Belgium won't quite be the force they are considered in many circles. Many of their players have name recognition without the actual talent to match it: centre-backs Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen are prime examples.
However, the Belgians will still have enough to just shave the group lead ahead of an exciting Russia squad. The Russians will offer plenty in attack but suffer from a fragility in defence.
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