Can my team win the World Cup? How likely is my team to win the World Cup? Do they have any chance at all? What are the odds?
These are questions that have been asked in 32 different countries, in multiple languages. Some countries ask them almost ironically, already knowing the answer. Some countries are legitimately confounded by their team and how they might perform. Some ask them despite knowing they have no hope.
But all of them ask.
So what are the odds? Who are the favorites in this tournament, and who are the underdogs?
Well, let's find out. In this article, we'll take a look at the most recent odds for each team to win the World Cup and also break these teams into different tiers which represent their chances in Brazil.
First, the odds:
A couple of notes before we begin putting these countries into tiers:
First of all, yes, the teams in this article are listed in the order of the likelihood I give them to win this year's World Cup. No, it doesn't match up with the oddsmakers, because I'm my own man, darn it (and betting habits have a way of influencing odds as much as a team's actual talent does—I'm looking at you, England).
Outside factors have been considered when putting these teams into tiers as well, such as potential injuries or the difficulty of the draw for individual countries. In an easier World Cup, the United States would probably be a tier higher, but that Group G is a doozy.
Finally, it should be noted that the underdogs in this year's tournament—namely in the group stage—begin with the "We Can Make Noise But Can't Win It All" tier. Yes, these tiers got really specific.
But enough chit-chat, let's organize these teams into easy-to-digest groupings.
The Favorites Tier: (1) Argentina, (2) Germany, (3) Brazil, (4) Spain
There isn't much to say here, as these four are pretty widely considered to be the top contenders in this year's tournament, whatever order you may happen to value them.
Argentina has the best attacking force in the world, led by Lionel Messi; Germany has incredible depth—which they'll need now that Marco Reus is out for the tournament—and very few weaknesses; Brazil might be the most balanced team at this year's tournament, at least in the starting 11; and Spain has won the last two Euro tournaments as well as the 2010 World Cup and is still rife with technically sound stars.
It would be very surprising if this year's World Cup wasn't won by one of these four teams. But hey, that's why we play the games.
The Legitimate Contenders Tier: (5) Italy, (6) Portugal
These teams have enough question marks to keep them out of the favorites tier, but both teams are very capable of winning this tournament. Italy is sturdy in their spine, but will they go with a three-man back line or utilize four? If they go with a back four, will the fullbacks hold up? And where will the goals come from? Will Mario Balotelli be dominant or non-existent?
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is worth a few wins alone for Portugal. Group G is a nightmare, of course, but Portugal is superior to both Ghana and the United States. The Portuguese can become a bit Ronaldo-reliant at times, and the lack of a top-of-the-line centre-forward is troubling, but this is a disciplined team that isn't easy to score on.
Plus, much like Messi, the only thing missing from Ronaldo's resume is a World Cup title. You can bet he'll be a force trying to rectify that in Brazil, no matter what hexes any witch doctors send his way.
The Talented But Unpredictable Tier: (7) France, (8) Uruguay, (9) Netherlands
I had literally no idea where to put these teams. Take the Dutch, for instance. Such is their attacking force that they could win this tournament. I have to keep that in mind. But I'm not entirely convinced they'll even escape Group B. In fact, I think Spain and Chile will advance out of that group.
The Dutch have huge questions in the midfield and defense, but goodness, that attacking group is nasty, led by Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
On their best day, the Dutch are better than Chile. But we didn't see the Dutch at their best at the 2012 Euros—will we see them at their best this time around?
Such are the questions for Uruguay and France as well. Uruguay with a healthy Luis Suarez has one of the most dangerous attacks in the world, but its midfield is not a strength. France has the easiest path of these three teams and arguably the most overall talent, but they have a history of being a temperamental, unpredictable side. Also, not having Franck Ribery really hurts, though the French have the attacking depth to overcome that loss.
So much talent. So many questions. Good luck figuring out these teams.
The Trendy Picks Tier: (10) Colombia, (11) Belgium
Colombia would be higher than this if they weren't going to be without Radamel Falcao. And Belgium would be higher if they consistently played up to their talent.
But make no mistake, both of these teams are very, very good.
James Rodriguez is a star for Colombia, and Jackson Martinez might have the opportunity to open some eyes around the world in Falcao's stead. Colombia is a fun team to watch, as they attack with no mercy, so they could simply blitzkrieg their opponents into submission.
Anyone familiar with the Premier League, meanwhile, knows how dangerous the Belgians could be. They have talent across the roster and true superstars in Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, but consistency and a lack of true fullbacks are major question marks.
The talent is there for either team to win the whole thing, but can such an inexperienced side at the World Cup stage pull off the feat?
The Less Talented, More Predictable Tier: (12) England, (13) Chile
I actually think Chile will advance out of Group B ahead of the Dutch, but I have the Netherlands two tiers higher because footy is often illogical and I reserve the right to be so as well. Well, that and the fact that the Dutch have a higher ceiling than Chile. What I'll call a nuanced argument, you might call illogical. Oh well.
It's a weird opinion to hold—that Chile will advance at the Dutch's expense but the Dutch have a better chance of winning the World Cup if they happen to advance, which they very well could. I'm only about 55 percent sure Chile will beat the Netherlands, but I'm very sure the Dutch are a more dangerous side if they reach the knockout phase. That makes sense, right?
Both England and Chile are both very good teams, but neither seems quite capable of being great. Which isn't to say that neither is incapable of winning the World Cup this year—they are—but it seems incredibly unlikely.
Still, if either escapes from their group, they could be dangerous. Nobody will be pleased to face either in Brazil.
The " We Can Make Noise But Can't Win It All" Tier: (14) Russia, (15) Bosnia-Herzegovina, (16) Ivory Coast, (17) Switzerland, (18) Croatia, (19) Mexico
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone capable of making a strong case for why one of these teams could win the World Cup, outside of the always annoying "anything can happen" argument (on the list of annoying cliche arguments, that one is perhaps only surpassed by the meaningless "it is what it is").
All of these teams are very talented, and all will expect to advance out of the group phase. But all have pretty major weakness, too.
The Ivory Coast is flimsy in the back. Russia is solid but doesn't have the star power of other squads. Switzerland benefited from an easy qualifying campaign. Croatia is overly reliant on Luka Modric to create, as good as he is. And so on and so forth.
Good teams, yes. Great teams on certain afternoons? Perhaps. But teams capable of winning this year's World Cup?
The "Happy and Surprised if We Survive the Group" Tier: (20) Ghana, (21) United States, (22) Japan, (23) Ecuador, (24) Nigeria, (25), Greece (26) Cameroon, (27) South Korea
In a different year, with a different draw, some of these teams might be ranked ahead of teams a tier above them. But life isn't fair, so these teams are stuck knowing that they'll almost assuredly be three-and-done in Brazil this year.
Ghana and the United States are the poster children for this tier. In most other groups, they'd have an excellent shot of advancing; each of them did just that in 2010. But paired together in a group with Germany and Portugal, neither has a great chance of moving on.
Japan and Nigeria have better draws, meanwhile, but they both have enough question marks to make them unlikely to advance. Ecuador can't win away from home. Greece have scored just two goals in their last four matches. Cameroon's best player, Samuel Eto'o, is past his prime. South Korea wouldn't even make this tier if they weren't in such a favorable group.
Will it be a huge shocker if these teams advance to the knockout phase? No, not a huge one. But the odds are heavily stacked against them.
The "No Chance of Advancing But We're Glad We Made It" Tier: (28) Costa Rica, (29) Algeria, (30) Honduras, (31) Australia, (32) Iran
Anything can happen, blah, blah, blah. Except when it can't, and it seems very likely these five teams can't advance to the knockout phase, not with their lack of talent compared to the other teams in this tournament.
If one of them does advance, I'll eat my words, I promise. Publicly. But don't start cooking that crow just yet.