World Cup 2014: Group Predictions, Full Schedule and More

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World Cup 2014: Group Predictions, Full Schedule and More
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The group stage of the FIFA 2014 World Cup won't create many surprises, at least not in terms of the winners. But a few smaller nations will be tougher than expected.

Among them, Croatia, in particular, field an interesting squad that should be exciting to watch. Meanwhile, certain touted nations will fail to impress. Expect Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal to be in that bracket.

Here's the full schedule for each group along with predicted final standings and analysis:

Group A Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Final Standings
June 12 Brazil vs. Croatia Brazil
June 13 Mexico vs. Cameroon Croatia
June 17 Brazil vs. Mexico Mexico
June 18 Cameroon vs. Croatia Cameroon
June 23 Cameroon vs. Brazil
June 23 Croatia vs. Mexico

Host nation Brazil will win this group, but they'll make harder work of it than expected. Luiz Felipe Scolari's team is finally balanced, combining power and defensive resolve with ample pace and flair.

Those qualities will prove too much for the competition in Group A. However, Croatia will win plaudits for their intelligence and creativity.

Group B Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 13 Spain vs. Netherlands Spain
June 13 Chile vs. Australia Netherlands
June 18 Spain vs. Chile Chile
June 18 Australia vs. Netherlands Australia
June 23 Australia vs. Spain
June 23 Netherlands vs. Chile

Spain may not look as strong as they were in previous tournaments, but this squad is still brimming with quality. Coach Vicente del Bosque can rely on a plethora of crafty playmakers such as FC Barcelona ace Andres Iniesta and Manchester City schemer David Silva.

Of course, much of Spain's success is likely to depend on their firepower up front. To that end, Del Bosque is banking on Atletico Madrid talisman Diego Costa recovering from injury in time for Brazil, per Daily Mail writer Iain Rogers.

But even if Costa can't win his race to be fit, Del Bosque will scheme ways for Spain's creative talent to flourish. His planning will keep the current champions ahead of Louis van Gaal's plucky Netherlands squad.

Group C Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 14 Colombia vs. Greece Colombia
June 14 Ivory Coast vs. Japan Ivory Coast
June 19 Colombia vs. Ivory Coast Japan
June 19 Japan vs. Greece Greece
June 24 Japan vs. Colombia
June 24 Greece vs. Ivory Coast

Colombia could be scary, provided the squad's wealth of attacking talent delivers. FC Porto's Jackson Martinez and Sevilla hitman Carlos Bacca are capable of exposing any defence.

As if they aren't enough, the Colombians might even be able to call on star striker Radamel Falcao. He has been recovering from a major knee injury but took part in a recent training session, per Daily Mail reporter John Drayton.

If Falcao is ready, Colombia will have too many goals in the ranks for Group C. However, watch out for Ivory Coast as well.

They have their own potent attack, thanks to a forward line boasting Swansea City striker Wilfried Bony and Lille wide forward Salomon Kalou.

Group D Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 14 Uruguay vs. Costa Rica Italy
June 14 England vs. Italy Uruguay
June 19 Uruguay vs. England England
June 20 Italy vs.Costa Rica Costa Rica
June 24 Italy vs. Uruguay
June 24 Costa Rica vs. England

There is a slight change here from previous predictions. The untimely knee injury suffered by striker Luis Suarez naturally reduces the danger Uruguay can pose.

Suarez believes he will be fit in time, at least according to his Liverpool teammate Glen Johnson, per BBC Sport. But if he doesn't make it, the Uruguayans are certain to miss the Liverpool man's mercurial flair and ability to manufacture goals for himself.

That will create an opportunity for Italy to top this tough group. The Italians just have a knack for navigating tournament play and will repeat the trick here.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Veteran Andrea Pirlo is still a key figure for Italy.

Coach Cesare Prandelli's squad features guile in midfield, courtesy of Juventus duo Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. There is also ample power up front, assuming striker Mario Balotelli is in the right mood.

Group E Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 15 Switzerland vs. Ecuador France
June 15 France vs. Honduras Switzerland
June 20 Switzerland vs. France Honduras
June 20 Honduras vs. Ecuador Ecuador
June 25 Honduras vs. Switzerland
June 25 Ecuador vs. France

France can dominate this group, provided there is unity in what has notoriously been a fractured camp during recent tournaments. But things should be different in Brazil, thanks to a squad that features solidity at the back and real power in midfield.

Arsenal defenders Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna make the back four one of the tougher units in the tournament. But the real strength lies in the central midfield partnership between Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi.

Ian Walton/Getty Images
Arsenal defenders Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny will be key for France.

Not many World Cup squads boast a pair of runners as powerful, skilled and creative. If the attack functions above expectations, France will be a strong contender for the trophy.

Switzerland won't find it easy to hold off Ecuador and Honduras. But manager Ottmar Hitzfeld is a shrewd operator who can call on key players such as midfielder Gokhan Inler and striker Josip Drmic.

Group F Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 15 Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Argentina
June 16 Iran vs. Nigeria Nigeria
June 21 Argentina vs. Iran Bosnia and Herzegovina
June 21 Nigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Iran
June 25 Nigeria vs. Argentina
June 25 Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran

Argentina will have too much technical class and scoring power for their Group F opponents. Being able to unleash Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain is a luxury no other team at the tournament possesses.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Gonzalo Higuain is part of a feared strikeforce for Argentina.

Although Nigeria is not as strong as in previous years, the African nation still has enough to sneak into second place.

Group G Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 16 Germany vs. Portugal Germany
June 16 Ghana vs. United States Portugal
June 21 Germany vs. Ghana Ghana
June 22 United States vs. Portugal United States
June 26 United States vs. Germany
June 26 Portugal vs. Ghana

Germany is lacking in some areas, notably defence and central striker. But the squad still features quality attacking options, particularly in midfield.

The likes of Borussia Dortmund's pacey forward Marco Reus and Arsenal schemer Mesut Ozil will ensure the Germans create plenty of chances and stretch defences to breaking point.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Marco Reus will be a major threat in Brazil.

Portugal will scrape their way past Ghana and make it out of this group. But Ronaldo and company won't look at all impressive along the way and will be prime candidates for an early exit from the knockout stage.

Group H Full Schedule and Final Standings
Date Match Standings
June 17 Belgium vs. Algeria Belgium
June 17 Russia vs. Korea Republic Russia
June 22 Belgium vs. Russia Korea Republic
June 22 Korea Republic vs. Algeria Algeria
June 26 Korea Republic vs. Belgium
June 26 Algeria vs. Russia

Belgium won't be the dynamic force many expect. The squad is littered with players who feature in the English Premier League, but not many are of the World Class variety.

Still, this is a favorable group for the Belgians. Russia might cause a problem or two but won't do enough to sneak into top spot.

Teams like Italy, Germany and Brazil will emerge from the group stage the strongest. Italy and Brazil will feel the benefit of tougher-than-expected qualifications.

That will leave them battle-ready for the knockout phase.

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