World Cup 2014: Group by Group Guide, Fixtures, Predictions and Latest Odds

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL - MAY 30: Neymar smiles during a training session of the Brazilian national football team at the squad's Granja Comary training complex, in Teresopolis, 90 km from downtown Rio de Janeiro on May 30, 2014 in Teresopolis, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Thirty-two teams will enter but only 16 will emerge from this summer's World Cup group stage with a hope of going on to win the 2014 title.

Less than two weeks remain until the South American frenzy gets underway, and the eight groups comprising of this year's elite threaten more than the odd shock.

The likes of Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and England all find themselves in tough groups, and here we take a look at each group, considering which two nations look most likely to book qualification.

Via Bleacher Report

Group A

Group A Fixtures and Predictions
June 12Brazil vs. Croatia9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETSao Paulo2-0 Brazil
June 13Mexico vs. Cameroon5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETNatal1-0 Mexico
June 17Brazil vs. Mexico8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETFortaleza3-0 Brazil
June 18Cameroon vs. Croatia8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETManaus2-1 Croatia
June 23Cameroon vs. Brazil9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETBrasilia4-1 Brazil
June 23Croatia vs. Mexico9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETRecife1-1

Hosts Brazil are tipped to become the first team to win a home World Cup since France in 1998, so it's of no surprise that they also sit as favourites to top Group A above Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

Writing in a Guardian column last month, ex-Brazil star Zico backed his nation to ease into the second phase as winners of their pool:

I think the Selecao had a lucky group-stage draw. Both Croatia and Mexico arrived via the play-offs and Cameroon are not as threatening as in previous years. Croatia will play Brazil without Mario Mandzukic, for example, while Mexico were almost edged out by Panama in qualifying. So I think Brazil are in shape to top the group convincingly, which will give the players confidence ahead of the knockout stages.

Croatia came second to Belgium in UEFA qualification's Group A and, as Zico details, Mexico weren't the most confident of qualifiers, relying on an intercontinental play-off against New Zealand to seal their place in Brazil.

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Cameroon will be striving to fight against the African curse of no team from their continent having ever made it past the quarter-final stage of the contest, and after winning just three of their last 10 outings, the Indomitable Lions have slim chances of progressing.

Prediction: Brazil advance in first place, Croatia advance as runners-up.

Group B

Group B Fixtures and Predictions
June 13Spain vs. Netherlands8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETSalvador2-1 Spain
June 13Chile vs. Australia11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETCuiaba3-1 Chile
June 18Spain vs. Chile11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETRio de Janeiro2-1 Spain
June 18Australia vs. Netherlands5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETPorto Alegre2-0 Netherlands
June 23Australia vs. Spain5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETCuritiba5-1 Spain
June 23Netherlands vs. Chile5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETSao Paulo1-0 Chile

Australia have been handed a near-impossible task in this year's most deserving nominee for the "Group of Death," with Spain, Chile and the Netherlands each possessing the capacity to advance.

Title-holders Spain will inevitably be expected to top the group, and while Louis van Gaal's attacking resources are well-backed, it could be Netherlands' defensive shortcomings that prove the Oranje's undoing, as was the case at Euro 2012.

ESPN FC's Sam Kelly supposes that being up against two international powerhouses could eventually work in the Chileans' favour:

Climate will be a massive factor at this summer's event, as has been well discussed in recent months, giving Chile a strong advantage to build off, combined with a squad that's not short of talented figures.

Prediction: Spain advance in first place, Chile advance as runners-up.

Group C

Group C Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 14Colombia vs. Greece5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBelo Horizonte2-0 Colombia
June 14Ivory Coast vs. Japan11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETRecife2-2
June 19Colombia vs. Ivory Coast5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBrasilia3-2 Colombia
June 19Japan vs. Greece11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETNatal1-1
June 24Japan vs. Colombia9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETCuiaba2-0 Colombia
June 24Greece vs. Ivory Coast9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETFortaleza2-1 Ivory Coast

It's not only the most decorated sides that can account for an incredibly tight pool, and the quartet that make up Group C are tough to call.

CONMEBOL's resurgent Colombia finished just two points away from Argentina in qualifying and will be looked upon as favourites to win the pool in South American headquarters, but beIN Sports has suggested Ivory Coast may be a side to watch:

It seems plausible that the Elephants and Japan will be the two outfits duelling for the runners-up spot, but Greece could pose a stumbling block to others, having made a small point of surprising on the international stage since their shock triumph at Euro 2004.

Prediction: Colombia advance in first place, Ivory Coast advance as runners-up.

Group D

Group D Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 14Uruguay vs. Costa Rica8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETFortaleza3-1 Uruguay
June 14England vs. Italy11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETManaus0-0
June 19Uruguay vs. England8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETSao Paulo3-2 Uruguay
June 20Italy vs. Costa Rica5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETRecife2-0 Italy
June 24Italy vs. Uruguay5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETNatal2-2
June 24Costa Rica vs. England5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBelo Horizonte3-1 England

England once again go under the microscope this summer, and it will be far from easy for Roy Hodgson's men to even qualify ahead of Italy and Uruguay, never mind taking first place.

One person not endorsing their bid for the World Cup crown is Azzurri striker Mario Balotelli, who doesn't envision his Group D opponents going all the way, per the Daily Mail's Sam Cunningham:

I don’t look at England as a team that can win the World Cup. They have some good players, but they are no real rivals for Italy. I am not saying that Italy are favourites, but we have the mentality and experienced players to surprise people—I don’t think England have that.

We have players who have won the World Cup, I don’t think England have a player who knows what it is like to play past the quarter-final.

Costa Rica undoubtedly go into the competition as viable whipping boys out of the four, but it will be an extremely close race between the other three inhabitants, each of whom have won the World Cup in the past.

Prediction: Uruguay advance in first place, Italy advance as runners-up.


Group E

Group E Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 15Switzerland vs. Ecuador5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBrasilia2-1 Ecuador
June 15France vs. Honduras8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETPorto Alegre3-0 France
June 20Switzerland vs. France8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETSalvador1-0 France
June 20Honduras vs. Ecuador11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETCuritiba2-0 Ecuador
June 25Honduras vs. Switzerland9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETManaus3-1 Switzerland
June 25Ecuador vs. France9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETRio de Janeiro2-0 France

Having required a play-off against Ukraine to take up their spot at the World Cup, France will have been pleased with the group draw, although Switzerland or Ecuador could spring a surprise under the right circumstances.

Didier Deschamps did have some concerns to think about in regard to Franck Ribery's fitness, but ESPN FC's Jonathan Johnson claims the winger will come through any back woes to feature this summer:

France, at their best, will be extremely tough to combat, but summoning that form is a significant task in itself, while the hunt for second spot between Ecuador and the Swiss could run in the former's favour thanks to climate familiarity.

Prediction: France advance in first place, Ecuador advance as runners-up.

Group F

Group F Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 15Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETRio de Janeiro3-1 Argentina
June 16Iran vs. Nigeria8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETCuritiba2-1 Nigeria
June 21Argentina vs. Iran5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBelo Horizonte2-0 Argentina
June 21Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETCuiaba3-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
June 25Nigeria vs. Argentina5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETPorto Alegre1-1
June 25Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETSalvador1-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Argentina have failed to make it past the first stage of a World Cup once in their last 10 tournaments (2002), leaving one with the impression that Alejandro Sabella should be able to lead his outfit through once more, tipped as second-favourites to win the whole tournament.

Bosnia and Herzegovina scored an impressive 30 goals in UEFA qualifying but have lost four of their last eight matches. It seems likely that they will jostle with Nigeria for second place, with the BBC's Stuart Rowson in agreement that Iran are favourites to finish bottom of Group F:

Prediction: Argentina advance in first place, Bosnia and Herzegovina advance as runners-up.

Group G

Group G Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 16Germany vs. Portugal5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETSalvador3-2 Germany
June 16Ghana vs. United States11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETNatal3-2 Ghana
June 21Germany vs. Ghana8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETFortaleza2-0 Germany
June 22United States vs. Portugal8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ETManaus3-1 Portugal
June 26United States vs. Germany5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETRecife3-1 Germany
June 26Portugal vs. Ghana5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBrasilia3-3

Another potentially tight assembly will see 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana attempt to slay European giants Germany and Portugal in Group G, with the United States looking to make it past the group stage in successive tournaments for the first time in their history.

Joachim Low once again leads Die Mannschaft into a World Cup with high hopes of causing a stir among the favourites, and while one might debate their title credentials, the Germans haven't failed to top their first-round grouping since 1986.

Portugal have talent thriving among their ranks, but they have a certain pressure on their shoulders to surpass Ghana and the U.S.A., something they haven't always dealt with well in the past.

Prediction: Germany advance in first place, Portugal advance as runners-up.

Group H

Group H Fixtures and Predictions
DateMatchTime (ET)VenuePredictions
June 17Belgium vs. Algeria5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETBelo Horizonte3-1 Belgium
June 17Russia vs. South Korea11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETCuiaba1-0 Russia
June 22Belgium vs. Russia11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ETRio de Janeiro2-0 Belgium
June 22South Korea vs. Algeria5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ETPorto Alegre1-0 Algeria
June 26South Korea vs. Belgium9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETSao Paulo3-0 Belgium
June 26Algeria vs. Russia9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ETCuritiba2-1 Russia

Belgium's reputation as being a dark horse to launch a surprise in Brazil is now so well-founded that one could debate as to whether they can even be termed as dark horses any longer.

Marc Wilmots has come upon a generation of genuine stars with the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen just being a few, but Russia will also be a staunch presence in Group H, as supposed by the Mirror's Greg Johnson:

Algeria and South Korea are far from incapable, but each may fall to their European counterparts this summer in what could be a challenge just outside of their reaches.

Prediction: Belgium advance in first place, Russia advance as runners-up.


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