The World Cup Draw is always a spectacle, replete with star players past and present, WAGs, pop stars and befuddled managers and coaches who look uncomfortable with all the pomp.

The world watches on as the lots are cast and groupings defined. It is the last bit of business before June when the first game will be played when Brazil takes on Croatia in Sao Paulo on the 12th.
Let’s break down the groups and predict which two teams from each group will advance.

Group A: Brazil, Mexico, Croatia, Cameroon

Brazil is Brazil and will always be Brazil. They had no need to qualify since their bid was secured once Brazil was selected to host the World Cup. They did, however, win the Confederations Cup, a tournament held this year in Brazil to mark the one year mark before the World Cup. Neymar was a star in 2010 and is poised to stake his claim in the upper echelon of players with his performance here.

Mexico was downright dysfunctional in qualifying but righted the ship in time to book their ticket to the World Cup. They got a favorable draw considering they could have been in the group of death in place of the US had the balls bounced (rolled?) differently.

Croatia is a wild card here and could capitalize if Mexico falters. They fought hard in qualifying and earned their spot in Brazil by defeating Iceland in order to secure their spot in Brazil.
Cameroon is the third lowest ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings that actually qualified for the World Cup. Any result from them would be storybook material.

Prediction: Brazil and Mexico advance.

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Spain-Soccer-World-Cup-2014Tough group.

Spain are the defending World Cup champions and will most likely be bringing back most of the squad that won that title four years ago. They are a little older, but star midfielder Cesc Fabergass is entering his prime at age 26 and so is stud defender Gerard Pique.
Chile also had a draw against Spain in September. It was really Spain's B team without their equivalent of a point guard in Andres Iniesta among others. Regardless, don't sleep on Chile.

The Netherlands are led by their captain Robin Van Persie, who seeks to bring glory to a Dutch side that has historically underachieved. After making it all the way to the final against Spain in 2010, Holland looks to reload. They walked through qualifying with an unblemished record of 9-0.

Despite strides in it's soccer program, Australia is light-years behind the other teams in this group. But Australia will play a crucial role in deciding the fate of the group as goal differential might come in to play, and the team who racks them up against the Aussies might just make it through.

Spain and the Netherlands seem like the obvious choices here, but watch out for Chile, who are playing so close to home.

Prediction: Spain and the Netherlands advance.
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Colombia-Soccer-World-Cup-2014Weak group, bro. Colombia gets a geographic bump, as well as a bump from their star goal scorer Radmael Falcao. That's two bumps for Columbia.

Ivory Coast was first in qualifying in Africa, but it has been a down year for African sides with Ivory Coast being the only African team to be ranked in the top 20 in the FIFA World Rankings.

Japan always has the athletes but seems to lack the skill, at least when they aren't hosting the World Cup. Greece finished eighth in Europe ahead of powerhouses, England and France.

For Greece, Sokratis Papastathopoulos might be their most skilled player. He plies his trade for Broussia Dortmund in the German Bundisliga, where he has earned a reputation as a stout defender. Though they qualified eighth in Europe, this team has a balance that makes them dangerous in tournament play.

Prediction: In the end, I think it will be Columbia and Greece who advance.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

mario-balotelli-of-italy-gestures-during-the-fifa-2014This is an interesting group.

Costa Rica is feisty, but can't seem to put a full match together away from home.
England gave their fans some worries in qualifying with draws against teams they were percieved as being superior to like Poland, Ukraine and Montenegro. England has been less than stellar, but could put it together before July.

Uruguay made noise the last World Cup, and won it two of the last three times it was held in South America (as well as the last time it was held in Brazil in 1950). With Luis Suarez, they are in every match.

Italy has one of the most entertaining players in the world in Mario Balotelli, and a seemingly perennially stiff defense.

Prediction: In the end, I think Uruguay and Italy make it through to the knockout stage.

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, France

franck-ribery-jokes-with-blaisi-matuidi-of-franceWhat the hell? Why couldn't one of these teams been in the group with the USA? More on that later...

After an embarrassing early exit from the 2010 World Cup, France followed it up with horrendous play though the qualifying. They had to score a final home goal against Ukraine in the second leg of their qualifying match just to get into the Final in Brazil.
Despite the lack of respect for CONCACAF teams, Honduras is now a legit soccer playing nation and could be noisy in this group.

Switzerland remains faceless and nameless, but is somehow eighth in the FIFA World Rankings. Ecuador has the best pedigree since the last World Cup, and they're playing close to home.

This could be an interesting group, since it is hard to trust the Swiss with their utter lack of pedigree.

Prediction: In the end, I think Switzerland and Ecuador move on.

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

lionel-messi-of-argentina-reacts-after-scoring-hisPretty straight forward group, as some would say it might even be a cakewalk for Argentina.

Everyone knows about Lionel Messi. Watch him, as he is the game's singular talent at the moment, assuming he fully recovers from injury.

Angel DiMaria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are formidable enough on their own, but you add Messi and this side is more than deserving of it's No. 3 ranking. Though they always come so close to winning, they have fallen short in the World Cup since the days of Diego Maradona.

That all may change this year.

Nigeria always has great youth teams that win tons of hardware in the U-17, U-18, U-20 World Cups. They never seem to translate that talent to the big boy squad.

Striker and Bundesliga standout Vedad Ibisevic leads the squad to it's first appearance in the World Cup as an independent nation. Last month B&H lost to Argentina 2-0 in a friendly match held in St. Louis. Lionel Messi did not play.

Prediction: Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina likely advance, but Nigeria may make a play for the second spot.

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Jozy-Altidore-USA-2014Crap! This is the famed "Group of Death" by a mile. All these teams are good.

Portugal had to play a last chance match and won to make it to the Final in Brazil. Still though, they have Christiano Ronaldo, one of the top players in the world, and that is a nice ace to have up one’s sleeve.

Historically, Portugal comes in with high expectations and underachieves. We might think of them as a world soccer power, but they have never made it to the final match of a World Cup.

Germany is the second-ranked team in the world, and deservedly so. Thomas Muller was World Cup 2010’s Golden Boot winner with five goals in six games. This time around, he was the team's top scorer in qualifying with five goals in six games.

Interestingly, this draw will pit Jerome Boetang against his brother, Kevin-Prince Boetang, who plays for Ghana. Born to Ghanaian parents in Berlin, Kevin-Prince decided to pay for his ancestral homeland while Jerome chose his adopted home. Both players are sensational.

Kevin-Prince Boetang and Ghana took the US out in the knockout stage of the last two World Cups, and has a chance to do it again before the knockout stage this time around.

The American side had a 12-game winning streak earlier this year, which started off with a win against the Germans in a friendly on June 2. The Americans finally have something they had been without for a long time: swagger.

Landon Donovan returned from his sabbatical a new man, and helped the team mightily in qualifying. In his absence, Clint Dempsy stepped up and took over the goal, scoring with eight goals in 14 games.

USA head man Jurgen Klinsman served as head coach for Germany in the 2006 World Cup and won the tournament as captain of the German squad in 1990. Him facing his former team will be a major subplot next summer.

Prediction: My thoroughly opinion, Germany and USA will advance.

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea

Russia-World-Cup-2014If Group G is “The Group of Death”, then Group H is “The Group of Blech”.

Belgium is actually really good right now. They haven’t done anything of note in the World Cup, but they look poised to make push into the knockout phase this time around. Kevin De Bruyne, who had a breakout season in the German Bundisliga last year and earned a loan to Chelsea this year, was Belgium’s leading scorer in qualifying with four goals in 10 games.
South Korea is having a very down year, and looks downright bad. The team had a rough go of it in World Cup qualifying, including losing and drawing against Lebanon. LEBANON!

Algeria is happy to be here, but is not expected to make any noise. That is all I have to say about that.

Russia is an interesting case. They drew with Azerbaijan, beat South Korea 2-1, didn’t win impressively and played nobody of consequence in their qualifying pod. We have yet to see what they can really do, but they have to be better than Korea and Algeria.

Prediction: Belgium and Russia will advance.
2014 World Cup Prediction

lionel-messi-of-argentina-in-action-during-theMy pick for winner of the whole thing? Argentina

See you in Brazil!


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