We take a look at the favourites to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer, including Spain, Brazil and Germany and dark horses Belgium.
Exhilarating, exciting and magical. Just a few of the words that spring to mind when we think of the World Cup. Those adjectives not only describe football’s tournament of tournaments however, as they also apply to the Brazilian teams of old. It is hard to deny the class and originality the Brazilians brought to the field in each of their five World Cup victories, with players such as Pele, Romario and Rivaldo bursting through their ranks to inspire international triumph. One particular player from the Samba stars has even forever cemented his World Cup legacy with his goals, in the form of Ronaldo.
The former Inter Milan and Real Madrid ace is currently the World Cup’s all-time record goalscorer, with 15 goals scored across just three World Cups. Ronaldo has since taken to the poker tables in a bid to replicate the success he saw on the pitch, although it is yet to be seen if the Brazilian hotshot can replicate the cool head he displayed on football’s grandest stage, but he must be doing something right as he has earned himself ambassador status for PokerStars, one of the world’s top poker sites.
Just like every poker player prefers playing at their favourite tables footballing nations feel the same when playing at home and Brazil will no doubt revel in their home support when they host the World Cup this summer. The Samba outfit are often regarded as one of the favourites for any World Cup however and the benefit of having home support has seemingly only raised their chances with the bookies, with many placing them as early favourites to win the tournament. They have momentum as well; as they defeated reigning World Champions Spain a year earlier to win the Confederation Cup, a tournament that was again hosted in Brazil, with the final held in their main stadium, the Maracana.
Star striker Neymar has managed 30 goals in his 47 appearances thus far for Brazil and the young star is sure to fancy his chances of hitting the net at least a few times in front of his own fans when facing group rivals Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. Given the home support, paired with talented youngsters such as Bernard and Oscar spearheading the Samba stars’ attacking line, Brazil are sure to have more than a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to breaking down opponent’s defences.
Reigning Champions Spain can’t be ruled out either however. They may have suffered a 3-0 beating at the hands of the World Cup hosts in 2013, as previously mentioned, but that doesn’t stop them from being a front-running nation to lift the trophy this summer. The Spaniards have since inherited Brazilian-born Diego Costa, who is having a stellar season for current club Atletico Madrid, having scored 25 league goals in just 30 La Liga appearances.
Boss Vicente Del Bosque will also be pleased to see one of his star playmakers in Juan Mata finally see some playing time after he moved to Manchester United from Chelsea in the January transfer window. Having the aforementioned pair at top form could be crucial this summer and when you factor in current stars such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Negredo, it is easy to see why ‘La Roja’ are one of the most feared footballing nations to date.
Another tournament favourite is Germany. The Germans have enjoyed a major overhaul since the 2010 World Cup tournament, with many young starlets not just entering the German ranks, but taking them by storm. Julian Draxler, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus are just a few of the names associated with this new-look German side that is full of flair and attacking prowess. Pair these new and exciting playmakers with the hard-working Germans of old, like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose, who have 234 national appearances between them, and it is far from inconceivable to see a perfect blend of youthfulness and experience drive this side to victory this summer.
While it may be slightly premature to predict World Cup triumph for Belgium, who have an extremely talented and youthful side including Chelsea stars Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku (currently on loan at fellow Premier League side Everton) they are also a side of intrigue as we edge ever closer to the grandest stage in football. South American sides such as Uruguay and Chile also have to be taken into consideration, but given the severity of the groups they have been dealt (the former with Costa Rica, England and Italy, and the latter with Spain, Holland and Australia) it again may be a little too early to see them battling their way through into the knockout stages.
One thing is for sure, however, as this is certainly one of the more open World Cups to date.
With many groups having the potential to eliminate several big-named nations before even reaching the knockout rounds, it could just as easy be an outside shot such as Uruguay or Ivory Coast as it could be a favourite like home-nation Brazil, that lifts the trophy in South America this summer.