The World Cup. It's the biggest sporting event in the entire world.
If you enjoy extreme intensity, take a liking to precision of the game, and appreciate good ol' fashioned patriotism, then you are going to absolutely be mesmerized by what this mega-mega event has in store.
It's country vs. country, tradition vs. tradition, and good vs., well...whatever the other guys are.
These Spaniards are set to tango on the world's stage. They are ranked second in FIFA’s world rankings and are probably the world’s most complete team. These cuties won Euro 2008 (the very prestigious tournament between all European teams every four years) and have been on a roll lately.
They have one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), a solid defense, a great midfield, and the best striker tandem in the world, Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and David Villa, who recently signed with Barcelona. They are the favorites according to bookmakers at 4/1 odds.
Not just known for its fabulous glitter, costumes, or carnival anymore. The Samba Kings have won more World Cups than any other country and are one of the favorites every World Cup. This team is no exception, as they are the No. 1-ranked team in FIFA’s world rankings.
As usual, this Brazilian team features a relentless offensive attack that is capable of scoring a lot of goals. Just ask the U.S. team, who saw their 2-0 lead against Brazil at last summer’s Confederations Cup evaporate under a three-goal onslaught in the second half.
They are led by star midfielder Kaka (Real Madrid), one of the world’s best players and winner of the 2007 Ballon D’Or, the very prestigious award given to the top player in Europe every year. They are strong everywhere and are loaded with goal-scoring threats.
Did we start by saying this team is filled to the brim with gorgeousness? Because...it is. Sorry, we'd be remiss not to mention it first and foremost!
Argentina is home to the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona, and several players that are coming off fantastic seasons for their club teams—Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Diego Milito (Inter Milan), and Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid). However, despite all that talent, they struggled in qualifying and for a moment looked like they might not even make it to the World Cup.
They are coached by the greatest Argentine soccer player of all time, the legendary Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title as a player but so far has had his struggles as a coach. Maradona’s ability (or lack thereof) to coach this ultra-talented squad will be one of the most interesting storylines of this World Cup.
Cheerio! It has been a long time since English fans were this excited about their team heading into a World Cup. The country that invented “football” has only won the World Cup once, and that was way back in 1966. They rolled through the qualifying campaign, going 9-1 and outscoring their opponents 34-6, and are one of the world’s hottest teams.
They have gone through several scandals, including their former captain John Terry being stripped of the coveted captain’s armband after it was revealed he had an affair with the WAG (the name given to soccer players' wives and girlfriends) of his then Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge.
They have perhaps the best midfield tandem in the world in Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Frank Lampard (Chelsea). The health of their top goal-scoring threat Wayne Rooney, who has recently suffered hamstring, groin, and ankle injuries, will be an important factor in how far they go.
They open their World Cup with a highly anticipated matchup with the United States on Saturday, June 12. Be sure they'll be ready for high tea!
Those fabulous little wooden shoes are not included this go-round, but high intensity is what's in store. Is this the year the always underachieving Dutch make a serious run at the World Cup? They most certainly have the talent and were unbeatable in qualifying with an 8-0 record. They have recently had little trouble defeating World Cup participants the United States, Mexico, and Ghana in “friendlies.”
They feature several of the world’s current top players in midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who is coming off a great season with Inter Milan, and prolific strikers Robin van Persie (Arsenal) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich). Keep an eye on the Dutch—you can’t miss them in their bright orange uniforms.
The Dark Horses
Keepin' it absolutely beautiful, in scenery and in game play. It's their continent! They might be the best team an African nation has ever fielded, featuring many players that play in the top soccer leagues in Europe.
Many soccer observers thought they had the best chance of any African team to make a big splash in the first ever major sporting event hosted on the continent of African. Then on Dec. 2, the World Cup draw took place, and the Ivory Coast drew the “group of death” with major soccer powers Brazil and Portugal (the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the latest FIFA world rankings), along with North Korea.
Only two of these teams will advance through this group, and the team that finishes in second place will likely have Spain waiting for them in the first knockout round.
Ciao bella! They come into this World Cup as the defending champions, yet not much is expected of this team. Only six players from the 2006 championship squad are on this team, and they did not make a good showing at the Confederations Cup last summer.
Like most Italian teams of the past, this team features a stout defense, and that defense will have to carry them. They should have no problem getting through a group that includes New Zealand, Paraguay, and Slovakia. They aren’t expected to go much further than that, but you can never count out the defending champs.
Like the Ivory Coast, they should get an emotional boost from playing on African soil for the first time in World Cup history. They are the highest-ranked African team in the latest FIFA rankings at No. 19.
They are led by their captain Samuel Eto’o, a three-time winner of the African footballer of the year award. Eto’o helped lead Inter Milan to the biggest prize in European soccer, the UEFA Champions League title, after winning the Champions League last year with Barcelona.