2014 World Cup Teams: Squads That Have Proven to Be Legitimate Title Contenders

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2014 World Cup Teams: Squads That Have Proven to Be Legitimate Title Contenders
Vinicius Costa/Getty Images

With one full week of 2014 World Cup action out of the way, there have been a few teams to have emerged as legitimate championship contenders.

On the other hand, one favorite entering the tournament proved to be a big disappointment: Spain.

After winning the World Cup in 2010, Spain lost their two opening games against Netherlands and Chile, which means that they will not be heading to the knockout stage.

Let's take a look at those teams that look like they could make a run at this year's title, and break down what they've done so far.

Note: All ratings and advanced statistics provided by WhoScored.com

 

Germany

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In one game, Germany were able to prove why they were one of the favorites heading into the World Cup, completely demolishing Portugal with a 4-0 win. 

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Thomas Mueller, the Golden Boot winner back in 2010, continued his dominance in World Cup play with an impressive hat-trick in the team's opener. He now has eight career goals in the tournament, and German legend Gerd Mueller is confident that he'll break the all-time record of 15 goals.

“I’m sure that Thomas Mueller will surpass the World Cup scoring record because he still has another one or two World Cups ahead of him,” Mueller said according to Robin Bairner of Goal.com“He will defend his Golden Boot title."

Despite playing in the "Group of Death," the Germans are now in great shape to advance to the knockout stage. According to FiveThirtyEight, the team has a 98.4 percent chance of advancing, and with Die Mannschaft almost a lock to get at least get a point against Ghana, it would be a huge upset if they didn't make it out of group play.

With a ton of talent and even more depth, the Germans looked almost unbeatable in their opener. After the collapse from Spain, it's clear at this point that Germany are the team to beat.

 

Netherlands

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Their match against Australia may have been a little closer than they were hoping for, but with two wins from two, Netherlands have gone from a team that was a mystery to a squad that looks like they've figured it all out and are ready to make a run to the finals.

After Wednesday's action, Netherlands have officially locked up a spot in the round of 16 along with Chile. While their upcoming matchup would seem pointless now that both are advancing, the loser will actually have a pretty good chance of playing Brazil, according to Andrew Das from the New York Times.

Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie have been a great goal-scoring combination so far, with each player picking up three goals through the first two games. Meanwhile, Daley Blind has helped set up his teammates and leads the team with three assists.

Surprisingly, the Netherlands haven't dominated possession, controlling the ball only 43 percent of the time during their first two games. However, they still have the second-highest rating in the tournament at 7.24, behind only Germany. Their defense hasn't been afraid to get physical either, putting up 21.5 fouls per game, but their strategy has worked so far.

This team has been inconsistent in the past, but with two wins already, Netherlands have a great chance to make a deep run in this year's World Cup.

 

Argentina

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With Spain already eliminated and Brazil so far not looking like the team everyone was expecting to see, Argentina have a chance to prove themselves as one of the clear favorites against Nigeria in their next match.

Their 2-1 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina could have gone better, especially considering their opponent had six more shots on goal, but Lionel Messi's impressive goal in the 65th minute to put his team 2-0 before a late goal from Vedad Ibisevic was the deciding factor. 

The goal was just the second one in World Cup play for Messi. Argentina will need a few more from him before the tournament is over if they are to challenge for the trophy, but it was a strong start. Still, Messi isn't satisfied and thinks that his team could do better.

"It's important that we started off on the right foot with the three points, but we do have things we must improve," Messi told Martin Ziegler of the Press Association via The Daily Mail. "It's not easy with all the anxiety and the nerves, but the important thing is the result. We had a great second half. We had the ball much more, created several opportunities and that's what we have to continue to do."

But Messi isn't the only option Argentina have. Other names including Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain will be looking to get on the scoreboard soon. The back line is shaky, but with so many offensive weapons, teams will have a hard time keeping up.

In order for Argentina to keep putting up goals, they'll need to keep passing at an efficient rate. They had a 90.8 pass success percentage in their first game, and as long as that number stays around that area, they'll have plenty of shots and more than a few goals to show for them.

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