World Cup Favorites 2014: Predictions for This Year's Top FIFA Contenders

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World Cup Favorites 2014: Predictions for This Year's Top FIFA Contenders
Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

The four-year wait is almost over for football fans around the globe. The 2014 World Cup is set to start in less than a month's time when hosts Brazil take on Croatia in Sao Paulo.

The hosts, Argentina, Germany and defending champions Spain are the favourites to win the 2014 World Cup, with the four teams seemingly a step above the rest of the pack when it comes to overall talent and squad depth.

In this article we'll look at each team and predict how the favourites will fare when the World Cup gets underway.

 

Germany

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Die Mannschaft are always a dangerous team to face in a tournament, as evidenced by the fact they've medaled in the last three editions.

Manager Joachim Low has the luxury of working with somewhat of a "Golden Generation," with mercurial stars like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm in the prime of their careers.

One source for concern is the team's depth in defensive midfield, where a number of injuries have turned a position of strength into a question mark. Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney gives an overview of the situation:

Sami Khedira struggled with the pace of the UEFA Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, and his form going into the World Cup will be spotty at best.

Schweinsteiger's injuries limited his effectiveness for Bayern Munich in the last two months of the season, and they were big factor in the team's Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

Germany have talent to spare, but their lack of an enforcer in the centre of the park could cost them against teams using a possession-heavy approach, such as Spain and Brazil, or teams who can be deadly on the counter, such as Portugal and Ghana.

There's also the lack of a true top striker, unless you want to count Miroslav Klose, who didn't enjoy a wildly successful season playing for Lazio.

Never bet against the Germans, but in a tournament as stacked with good teams as this one, a world title might be too much to ask of them.

Prediction: Semi-final

 

Brazil

Gallo Images/Getty Images

Of the four favourites for the title, Brazil look to be the most cohesive unit. The defensive pairing of Thiago Silva and David Luiz is one of the strongest in world football, while the team is as deep as any both in midfield and up front.

The pressure of hosting the World Cup could weigh heavy on Brazil, however, and star striker Neymar's first season playing for Barcelona didn't go as planned.

Bleacher Report's Christopher Atkins thinks concerns about the forward's form were blown massively out of proportion, however:

Anyone who says Neymar has played badly this season is considerably overstating the Brazilian's lack of form. He may not have set La Liga alight after his long-anticipated transfer, but he has not been terrible, either.

To most players, a return of 13 goals and 11 assists from 36 games in a season where he has had injury concerns would be regarded as decent enough. However, Neymar is not most players, and Barcelona have been no average club in recent years.

Neymar stole the show at the Confederations Cup and will carry the hopes of the nation, and he wouldn't be the first young star to crumble under such pressure.

Should the 22-year-old not be able to deal with that pressure, a strike force of Fred and Hulk would be a solid fall-back option, but little more. Both players are supremely talented and well suited for Felipe Scolari's system, but they are not world-class players.

Prediction: Semi-final

 

Argentina

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Brazil's absence may have had something to do with it, but the ease with which the Albiceleste breezed through the qualifiers was impressive to say the least. Argentina haven't medaled at a World Cup since 1990, and the team is hungry for silverware.

The front line is packed with talent, and an attacking unit boasting the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuian and Sergio Aguero would haunt the nightmares of the most battle-tested defenders.

Argentina's biggest issues lie at the back. The casual football fan wouldn't be able to name who started in goal for the squad (Monaco's Sergio Romero), and for all of their obvious talent, Marcos Rojo and Ezequiel Garay lack the experience most top defenders at this level will have.

ESPN FC's Michael Cox thinks Di Maria will be the team's most important player at the World Cup following his sensational season at Real Madrid:

But an even bigger role could be in store for Javier Mascherano, whose presence in front of a defense that went largely untested during qualifiers will be very important when Argentina run into a strong counter-attacking unit.

For all of their talent, Argentina are not a complete team, and it could cost them in Brazil.

Prediction: Runners-up

 

Spain

Fernando Bustamante/Associated Press

At this moment, Spanish teams hold the World Cup, European Championship, UEFA Champions League and Europa League, as shared by Jan Aage Fjortoft. Let that sink in for a moment.

La Roja have won three consecutive final tournaments (discounting the Confederations Cup), host the world's strongest club league and have a squad packed with talent from top to bottom.

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No European team has ever won the World title on South American soil, but this isn't 1982. Teams will travel to Brazil well prepared for the humidity, difficult conditions and the fiery crowds. South American teams may have a slight advantage, but it won't be anything like as much as some people are expecting.

More importantly, Spain are the undisputed champions, and the team has shown very little signs of weakness. Until someone steps up and actually beats them at a World Cup or European Championship, there's no reason why they wouldn't be the favourites going into any tournament.

Prediction: Champions

 


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