The groups are out and 32 nations are ready to rumble. Will Spain reign or will there be a new champion?
By Brandon Era
The greatest prize in football history, along with glory, honour and bragging rights – these are but a few of the accolades that 32 of the best teams in the world will vie for come 2014.
With the 2014 World Cup group draw over and nations from around the world raring to go, the world is abuzz with excitement, and armchair managers and critics around the globe are ready to squeeze in their two cents’ worth.
Experts claim this to be the toughest group stage in all the years of the tournament.
Let’s take a look at the groups and possibilities.
Brazil has met Mexico a staggering 38 times, and three times during the World Cup Finals. The boys in yellow have emerged victorious on all three occasions and are looking to extend that streak with Neymar and company.
Croatia and Cameroon will meet for the first time. Will Mandzukic lead the team to reclaim past glory, or will they bomb again?
Group B is touted as one of the groups of death. Not surprising, with former finalists Spain and the Netherlands squaring off again, and in their first game.
The Socceroos may not give opponents an easy time, and a resurgent Chile led by Alexis Sanchez may be reason to be wary.
Japan and the Ivory Coast will look to go through the group stage but Greece is likely to continue its tradition of upsetting the apple cart and stealing a spot in the later stages.
Colombia is an impressive fourth in the FIFA world rankings and has the potential to claim top spot in Group C with Radamel Falcao.
Another exciting group to watch, with the likes of Luis Suarez, Mario Balotelli and Wayne Rooney aiming to bring their countries forward.
The Three Lions (England) will have to find their roar to rise up against group favourites Italy and Uruguay.
Perhaps the easiest group on paper, the French should be able to finish top of the table.
Unless, of course, they capitulate spectacularly as they did when they were defending champions in the 2002 World Cup but failed to even score a goal in the group stage before exiting in shame.
Argentina is the clear favourite to top the table, boasting the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. They will seek to lift the trophy for the first time since 1986.
This would be the perfect time, in the land of their bitter rivals.
If you only have time to follow one group, this would be it. Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, shortlisted for the Ballon D’or, will look to carry his countrymen through, while Mesut Ozil and the German machine, probably the most consistent team in the tournament’s history, look set to destroy.
The dark horse of the tournament, and the team to keep your eyes peeled for, has to be Belgium. With Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, the Red Devils (the Belgians’ nickname) may be a team that no one wants to play against.
The way this World Cup is shaping up, I’ll probably be having more than a few sleepless nights.
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