World Cup 2014 Predictions: Final Group Stage Projections and Picks

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 29:  Cesc Fabregas (L) and Gerard Pique of Spain look on during a training session ahead of their international friendly match against Bolivia at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on May 29, 2014 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Once you make your predictions for the group phase at the World Cup, there's no going back. Those selections affect your entire view of the bracket, so if a few teams you thought would advance fail to do so, the entire tournament is suddenly morphed into an all new beast in your eyes.

But make predictions we must, because that is what the people want. Few events in sport seem more predictable but are actually less predictable than the World Cup group stage. Just ask the 2010 versions of Italy and France.

Below, you'll find the predicted order of finish for every group, along with a few more pieces of opinion to guide you in your own projections. Good luck—you'll need it.

Note: All odds via Oddsshark.

Group A
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish

Why Brazil will win the group: Oh, let's see. They have the most talent, the most exciting player in this group, Neymar, the most balanced starting 11, a history to uphold and, of course, their countrymen in the stands willing them to victory. If they don't dominate this group, it would be a surprise. Nay, a shock.

Sleeper: Cameroon. Croatia and Mexico wouldn't surprise anyone if they advanced out of this group, but Cameroon would, especially with Samuel Eto'o past his prime. This isn't a great team, no, but they are no pushovers, either, and could sneak into the knockout phase.

Most Important Player: Luka Modric. Croatia's excellent midfielder pulls all the strings for this Croatian side. A brilliant facilitator, he must be at his best for Croatia to advance. Without him, this team lacks any real punch going forward.

Key Match: Croatia versus Mexico. The winner likely advances out of this group alongside Brazil. If they draw, then each team's matches against Cameroon will be the difference.

Group B
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish

Why Spain will win the group: They may have been humbled at the 2013 Confederations Cup by Brazil, but this team is still stacked. There are question marks, yes, but there is also Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva. How many teams in the world have half of that talent in the midfield?

Sleeper: Chile. Since most folks will likely assume Spain and the Netherlands will advance, Chile gets the sleeper designation by default, even if they are very talented. Folks are going to be surprised by the Chileans in Brazil. They have star power (Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez). They have depth. They're versatile. They're battle-tested in South America's unforgiving qualifying. Don't sleep on Chile.

Most Important Player: Wesley Sneijder. With Rafael van der Vaart and Kevin Strootman out of the World Cup due to injury, Sneijder becomes the key figure in the Dutch midfield. Likely already the starer in the No. 10 role, he now won't have his natural replacement, Van Der Vaart, to give him any respite if he tires. The Dutch are a thin squad with major questions in the midfield and defense. If Sneijder isn't at his best and can't quickly fuel the Dutch attack, this will be a very short World Cup for them.

Key Match: Chile versus the Netherlands. Spain will win this group and Australia won't win a game. The second-place spot in the knockout phase will be between these teams.

Group C
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish
Ivory Coast+4002

Why Colombia will win the group: Even without Radamel Falcao, they are an aggressive, attacking side fueled by the brilliant and creative James Rodriguez. It helps that they are pretty stacked with quality options at forward, including Jackson Martinez. Playing Colombia is like trying to stay dry in a hurricane with an umbrella—eventually, your defense will break.

Sleeper: Japan and Greece. Take your pick—Colombia and Ivory Coast will be favored to advance out of this group, but both Japan and Greece could spoil the party. If Japan can defend, they play a fluid and positive enough style to cause teams problems. If Greece can score a goal or two, they are dogged enough in defense to stifle their opponents. Big ifs, of course, but not impossible ifs.

Most Important Player: Yaya Toure. Ivory Coast's dynamo in the midfield is the link between the team's shaky defense and excellent attack, so his ability to support the back line and make his signature driving runs forward to facilitate the offense will be key. He's at the peak of his powers and this year's World Cup could solidify his superstar status.

Key Match: All of them. This group feels wide open. Ivory Coast versus Japan could very likely decide which team will join Colombia in the next round, however.

Group D
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish
Costa Rica+50004

Why Uruguay will win the group: Good luck figuring out this group. A healthy Luis Suarez makes Uruguay the most dangerous team in Group D, and even if he misses a match, it will be against overmatched Costa Rica. With he and Edinson Cavani in attack, the Uruguayans will be tough to contain. Of course, Italy's always rugged defense might have something to say about that, but South American teams are always tough to beat on South American soil at a World Cup, even if the country isn't their own.

Sleeper: There aren't any. Uruguay, Italy and England are all capable of winning this group, and Costa Rica doesn't stand a chance.

Most Important Player: Suarez is the logical choice, but his status is uncertain, so Mario Balotelli gets the nod. If he's dynamic, Italy will win this group. If he's inconsistent and undisciplined, Italy will struggle to find goals and could fail to advance. In Balotelli they must trust, as much as that probably frightens most Italians.

Key Match: All three of the matches between Uruguay, Italy and England. No other group has three teams this talented and this evenly matched, though Group B comes close.

Group E
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish

Why France will win the group: They have the most talent and it isn't close. France couldn't have drawn up a better group for themselves if they tried. 

Sleeper: Ecuador. Switzerland will be favored to join France in the knockout phase, but Ecuador will have something to say about that. The only major issue for Ecuador is that they are unbeatable in their home country and mediocre everywhere else. If they don't change that trend, they'll be heading home early.

Most Important Player: Antonio Valencia. In a stronger group where France were more threatened, Antoine Griezmann—the logical replacement for the injured Franck Ribery—would be the choice, but barring a meltdown, something we've seen those before from France, the French will advance without incident. The same cannot be guaranteed for Ecuador, so dangerous winger and Manchester United man Valencia must come up huge in Brazil. His pace and playmaking ability make him fun to watch.

Key Match: Switzerland versus Ecuador. A place in the knockout phase will essentially be on the line.

Group F
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish

Why Argentina will win the group: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria, that's why.

Sleeper: Nigeria. The Super Eagles won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and have a talented roster led by Vincent Enyeama, John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, among others. When they play up to their potential, they can give any team in the world headaches.

Most Important Player: Messi. Obviously. When he's playing, is there anyone else worth watching? Not only that, but he's Argentina's top facilitator on the attack, so folks only familiar with his goalscoring prowess will get to see a slightly different side to his game in Brazil.

Key Match: Bosnia-Herzegovina versus Nigeria. Edin Dzeko and company will be favored, but Nigeria won't be intimidated. What a contest that should be.

Group G
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish
United States+10003

Why Germany will win the group: They have more depth and less question marks than any other team in this group (or arguably in the world). Their attacking force—Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos and Miroslav Klose, among others—is absurdly deep and talented. 

Sleeper: Ghana and the United States. Both could advance out of this group, but both are facing pretty long odds to do so. A tough draw for each. Ghana seems the more likely to advance of the two, but both are dangerous.

Most Important Player: Cristiano Ronaldo. Arguably the world's best player, Ronaldo will be the key man for Portugal in this group. Duh. The LeBron James of the soccer pitch, his combination of speed, power, footwork, intensity and a booming right foot make him the ultimate weapon. 

Key Match: All of them. Honestly, this group should feature tremendous football, and there shouldn't be a dud among the six matches played.

Group H
CountryOdds of Winning GroupProjected Group Finish
South Korea+7503

Why Belgium will win the group: They have the most talent, and it isn't close. They aren't without their question marks—Can they live up to the hype? Can they overcome a lack of true fullbacks?—but they are so loaded those questions shouldn't matter much, at least not in the group phase.

Sleeper: South Korea. It seems highly unlikely that South Korea will advance, even with a favorable draw. But if one team can get past either Belgium or Russia, South Korea certainly has a better shot than Algeria.

Most Important Player: Eden Hazard. Chelsea's brilliant winger is also Belgium's most threatening player (though Vincent Kompany is their best player). He's fast becoming one of the top left wingers in the world, and he's a true match-winner for Belgium. This year's World Cup could be his coronation.

Key Match: Russia versus Belgium. Top billing for the group will be decided when these teams face off.

Follow TRappaRT on Twitter


    Lukaku's Got to Be Golden Boot Favourite

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Lukaku's Got to Be Golden Boot Favourite

    Gianni Verschueren
    via Bleacher Report

    Viral Ronaldo Bust Replaced — Sculptor Devastated

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Viral Ronaldo Bust Replaced — Sculptor Devastated

    Kelly Naqi
    via Bleacher Report

    Lukaku's Epic Struggle — 'We Were Broke. Not Just Poor'

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Lukaku's Epic Struggle — 'We Were Broke. Not Just Poor'

    The Players' Tribune
    via The Players' Tribune