The 2014 World Cup should be an extremely entertaining tournament in large part because there isn't a clear favorite. There are three or four top contenders followed by a strong pack of secondary title hopefuls capable of making deep runs if everything falls perfectly.
Although some teams are obviously in better shape than others heading into the event, the task for all 32 teams is the same at the outset: Survive the group stage. Three tension-filled matches that decide which squads head to the knockout rounds.
With that in mind, let's check out the favorites to win each of the eight four-team groups, along with their odds to secure the top spot in their pool. The list is followed by a breakdown of the top contenders to win the entire tournament.
|2014 World Cup - Group Favorites|
|Odds via Odds Shark|
Ranking Top Contenders
After three straight trips to the final, including two titles, Brazil has been eliminated in the quarterfinals in each of the past two World Cups. The Selecao will attempt to get back to the championship match with some added support as the host of this year's event.
They established themselves as the favorite by winning the Confederations Cup last year, highlighted by a 3-0 win over Spain in the title game. Given that performance, it's no surprise head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is confident, as illustrated in comments passed along by Luke Sheehan of Goal.com:
We are playing at home, something that makes the difference. We have a squad that is competitive and of a high quality.
And having this together with the fans means we can always be the best. Because of this, I'm completely confident that we can get to the final and become champions.
Brazil certainly features no shortage of depth or high-end talent. That said, a lot depends on the success of Neymar. He was terrific in the Confederations Cup, but went through some dips in form during the club campaign with Barcelona. He can't afford that during the World Cup.
Another reason Brazil is the top choice heading into the event is the draw. It enjoyed more luck than its fellow top contenders, which means the journey to the knockout stages should be easier, leaving more in the tank for the knockout rounds.
Based purely on talent, Germany is probably the best overall team in the tournament. The Mannschaft have a very impressive squad featuring every type of player from battle-tested veterans like Bastian Schweinsteiger to rising stars such as Mario Gotze and everything in between.
That said, talent isn't the only factor in play, of course. Germany is also forced to deal with the "Group of Death" alongside Portugal, Ghana and the United States as well as having to play the tournament on Brazil's home soil.
The good news for the Mannschaft is that few teams have been able to match their consistent World Cup success. Ian Darke of ESPN provided some interesting stats about their run of strong results, but also noted what could hold them back this time around:
Germany opens the tournament against Portugal. It's a tough early test. If the Germans are able to put together a strong showing and earn all three points, it will be a clear sign they are ready to make a deep run, potentially all the way to the title.
Spain had never finished better than fourth in a World Cup before 2010. Then a star-studded squad with elite ability and awe-inspiring chemistry came together to blow past the competition. Now the side will attempt to match that title-winning effort.
The team features many of the same players who worked so well together four years ago. But with other sides now more competitive, the question is whether La Roja will be able to raise their game one more time to repeat as champions.
Diego Costa's arrival brings another dynamic weapon to the attack—if he can stay healthy. The foundation of the team's success is still in the midfield, though. Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Co. must once again lead the way by making sure Spain holds a clear advantage in the middle of the pitch.
Spain, like Germany, also has a tough group to navigate with Chile and the Netherlands also strong contenders to advance. Assuming they are able to get through, they will be a very tough out and are definitely capable of winning the championship again.