After a four-year long wait, the 2014 World Cup is finally underway, with 32 teams spread over eight groups all vying for one of 16 tickets to the knockout stages.
Hosts Brazil are joined by Spain, Germany and Argentina as favourites to lift the World Cup trophy when all is said and done, and oddsmakers have taken notice.
Surviving the group stages will be priority No. 1 for these four teams, so let's have a look at the full group schedule as well as the odds for all the team favoured to progress to the next round.
|Group A Fixtures|
|June 12||Brazil vs. Croatia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo||Brazil|
|June 13||Mexico vs. Cameroon||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Natal||Mexico|
|June 17||Brazil vs. Mexico||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Brazil|
|June 18||Cameroon vs. Croatia||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Manaus||Croatia|
|June 23||Cameroon vs. Brazil||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Brasilia||Brazil|
|June 23||Croatia vs. Mexico||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Recife||Croatia|
|Group A Odds|
Brazil and Mexico have already started their World Cup bid in the best way possible, recording wins over Croatia and Cameroon, respectively. With every team playing just three matches in the group stages, both already look like strong bets to make it through to the round of 16.
A saving grace for both Cameroon and Croatia is that the winners of the first matches will face each other next, and if the oddsmakers are right, Brazil should win that match comfortably.
Croatia put together a strong showing against Brazil and were unlucky not to escape with at least a point, so if they can overcome the Indomitable Lions, it could set up a winner-takes-all match on the final matchday of Group A.
Favourites: Brazil, Mexico
|Group B Fixtures|
|June 13||Spain vs. Netherlands||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Salvador||Spain|
|June 13||Chile vs. Australia||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba||Chile|
|June 18||Spain vs. Chile||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro||Spain|
|June 18||Australia vs. Netherlands||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre||Netherlands|
|June 23||Australia vs. Spain||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Curitiba||Spain|
|June 23||Netherlands vs. Chile||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo||Netherlands|
|Group B Odds|
None of the matches in Group B had finished at the time of writing, so Spain, Chile, the Netherlands and Australia are on even terms in this article.
The defending champions looked solid in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and boast one of the deepest squads in world football, but they will be challenged by both the Dutch and Chilean team.
Holland were disastrous at Euro 2012 and have since overhauled their squad, and while the loss of Rafael van der Vaart and Kevin Strootman will hurt, the team is facing very little pressure coming into the tournament due to low expectations.
Chile are a powerful, counter-attacking side playing close to home, and led by the mercurial Alexis Sanchez, they are a threat to score at any given moment.
The health of Arturo Vidal will go a long way in deciding whether or not the Chileans can hang with the two European powerhouses, but even without King Arturo, Chile will be a formidable foe.
Australia haven't won an official match since 2012 and have no momentum coming into the tournament. The Socceroos may be able to play spoilers for one of the three favourites in their group, but they'll do little more than that.
Favourites: Spain, Netherlands
|Group C Fixtures|
|June 14||Colombia vs. Greece||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Colombia|
|June 14||Ivory Coast vs. Japan||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Recife||Ivory Coast|
|June 19||Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia||Colombia|
|June 19||Japan vs. Greece||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Natal||Japan|
|June 24||Japan vs. Colombia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Cuiaba||Colombia|
|June 24||Greece vs. Ivory Coast||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Ivory Coast|
|Group C Odds|
Playing close to home will be an advantage for Colombia, but this is a formidable team regardless of where the matches are played. A powerful attacking unit led by Carlos Bacca and Jackson Martinez will put pressure on any defence, and the Colombians are dark horses to make a deep run in this tournament.
Japan are similar to Colombia in that they like to attack first and ask questions later, and while the Samurai Blue may field a starting XI with slightly less star quality, the team has looked confident preparing for the tournament.
Quick, incisive passing and marauding runs from the team's wingers only work if Japan can hold possession of the ball for much of the match, and against the likes of Colombia and Ivory Coast, that may prove difficult.
Greece are more than willing to give up the ball, knowing their organised brand of defensive football can usually hold its own against any attacking unit. The Greeks haven't looked formidable in the past few weeks, but over the course of 270 minutes, anything can happen.
Ivory Coast are the most battle-tested squad of the bunch, and their dominance in the centre of the pitch could take away some of the pressure Colombia and Japan are looking to put on their defence. The Ivorians might have the most complete team in Group C, and those teams usually do well.
Favourites: Colombia, Ivory Coast
|Group D Fixtures|
|June 14||Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Uruguay|
|June 14||England vs. Italy||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Manaus||Italy|
|June 19||Uruguay vs. England||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo||Uruguay|
|June 20||Italy vs. Costa Rica||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Recife||Italy|
|June 24||Italy vs. Uruguay||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Natal||Italy|
|June 24||Costa Rica vs. England||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||England|
|Group D Odds|
Italy have a history of starting slow in the group stages, and that is something the Azzurri can't afford in Group E. The Italians have a nice blend of veteran leadership and raw talent in their squad, and few teams in football are more proud of wearing their colours than the Squadra.
The Three Lions are young, hungry and looking to make a name for themselves, but the team's attacking enthusiasm has led to the defence looking shaky at times.
Against an organised Italian squad and one of the best attacking sides in the world in Uruguay, England can't afford to make any mistakes at the back.
Uruguay have a history of performing well in the World Cup and made it all the way to the semi-finals in 2010. Group E will be one of the toughest tests La Celeste have faced in recent years.
The Uruguayans are more than just Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but their two biggest stars will have to be at their best to get past Italy and England.
Costa Rica aren't a bad team, but they're too reliant on Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell to make things happen on their own. In CONMEBOL, teams might get away with that. Against Italy, England and Uruguay, Costa Rica won't be so lucky.
Favourites: Italy, Uruguay
|Group E Fixtures|
|June 15||Switzerland vs. Ecuador||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia||Switzerland|
|June 15||France vs. Honduras||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre||France|
|June 20||Switzerland vs. France||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Salvador||France|
|June 20||Honduras vs. Ecuador||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Curitiba||Ecuador|
|June 25||Honduras vs. Switzerland||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Manaus||Switzerland|
|June 25||Ecuador vs. France||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro||France|
|Group E Odds|
France were flying under the radar just a few weeks ago, but an 8-0 demolition of Jamaica caught everyone's attention. Antoine Griezmann is a capable replacement for the injured Franck Ribery, and with an extremely talented starting XI, Les Bleus may have to be counted amongst the favourites to win the tournament.
Switzerland are often overlooked by casual fans because their results never really stand out, but the team has consistently performed in the last few years. Big-tournament experience is a question mark, and the young Josip Drmic will have to grow up fast to give the Swiss a class option in front of goal.
Ecuador will either be really good or really bad in the group stages—they showed signs of being both in their 2-2 draw against England. Talent isn't a concern, but consistency is, and against teams like France and Switzerland, any loss of concentration can be lethal.
Honduras aren't very popular with oddsmakers, and little is expected from the team. A 4-2 loss against Israel was followed up by a solid performance against England, and if young talent Andy Najar finds his best form at the right time, Honduras might just have a chance at upsetting one of the favourites in this group.
Favourites: France, Switzerland
|Group F Fixtures|
|June 15||Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro||Argentina|
|June 16||Iran vs. Nigeria||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Curitiba||Nigeria|
|June 21||Argentina vs. Iran||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Argentina|
|June 21||Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba||B&H|
|June 25||Nigeria vs. Argentina||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre||Argentina|
|June 25||Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Salvador||B&H|
|Group F Odds|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||6/1|
No one is doubting Argentina will progress from Group F, fielding the world's best attacking group in Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero and playing close to home.
The Argentines haven't won this tournament sice the golden days of Diego Maradona, and 2014 could be the year the Albiceleste finally return to the very top of the football pyramid.
Bosnia and Herzegovina may be playing in just their first World Cup, but the young nation aren't in Brazil just to gain experience. Asmir Begovic, Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic are star players who have had to wait for their chance to shine on this stage, and all three are coming into the tournament with momentum on their side.
The Nigerians don't have momentum, having played subpar football in the last few weeks, but the Super Eagles have a lot more experience in dealing with the pressure of the World Cup than Bosnia do.
Emmanuel Emenike was great in Turkey last season, and a good World Cup will only boost his transfer value.
Iran are being criminally underrated going into the tournament, and this team primarily consisting of players playing their trade close to home simply doesn't concede many goals.
Largely untested against top-quality sides, Iran are another team with a good chance of surprising one of the favourites in the group stages.
Favourites: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
|Group G Fixtures|
|June 16||Germany vs. Portugal||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Salvador||Germany|
|June 16||Ghana vs. United States||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Natal||USA|
|June 21||Germany vs. Ghana||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Germany|
|June 22||United States vs. Portugal||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Manaus||Portugal|
|June 26||United States vs. Germany||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Recife||Germany|
|June 26||Portugal vs. Ghana||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia||Portugal|
|Group F Odds|
Group G is the group of death, and favourites Germany have had about the worst preparations for the tournament of any team. Injuries and fitness have ravaged the team, but Die Mannschaft are still high on talent and experience.
Portugal looked like a different team in the absence of star winger Cristiano Ronaldo, and when he finally made his return against Ireland, the Portuguese went right back to dominating. Without their superstar, this is still a good team, but no single player in the entire tournament is as pivotal to his team's success as Ronaldo.
Ghana's preparations for the World Cup didn't go smoothly, but the Black Stars have experience on their side and didn't go into the 2010 tournament with a whole lot of momentum either. That team made all of Africa proud, and the group that will be playing in Brazil is even better than the one we saw four years ago.
The USA's slate of friendly matches was a rousing success, and the team looks ready to make a splash at the World Cup. A difficult draw in Group G will complicate matters, but confidence is at an all-time high. If Michael Bradley can keep a grip on the proceedings in midfield, this team could go a long way.
Favourites: Germany, Portugal
|Group H Fixtures|
|June 17||Belgium vs. Algeria||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Belgium|
|June 17||Russia vs. South Korea||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba||Russia|
|June 22||Belgium vs. Russia||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro||Belgium|
|June 22||South Korea vs. Algeria||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre||South Korea|
|June 26||South Korea vs. Belgium||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo||Belgium|
|June 26||Algeria vs. Russia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Curitiba||Russia|
|Group H Odds|
Belgium are the odds-on favourites in Group H—and for good reason. A talented group of youngsters seems to have matured at just the right time, and if Vincent Kompany can remain healthy throughout the tournament, the Red Devils' return to the World Cup could last well beyond the group stages.
Algeria are firing on all cylinders coming into the tournament, and it's hard to see why oddsmakers are so down on the Desert Warriors. Any team that feels comfortable travelling to Brazil without Ishak Belfodil in their squad is a team that beliefs in itself, and if their last few matches are any indication, the Algerians should.
Russia may have lost captain Roman Shirokov to injury just a week before the start of the tournament, but there's plenty of talent to make up for his loss. Igor Denisov will take over the captaincy, while star striker Aleksandr Kherzakov will get a chance to prove his worth against some of the tournament's weaker defences.
South Korea didn't look great during qualifiers, and things have only gotten worse over the course of the last few months. This team is clearly talented but very inexperienced, and Brazil 2014 will serve as a learning experience for this squad.
Favourites: Belgium, Russia
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