Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who Will Lift 2014 FIFA World Cup? - Latest Pros & Cons of 10 Likely Winners

By Pete Jaison:

The final countdown has begun for one of this planet’s most watched sporting events. From here to June 12th, fans of each of the 32 teams will be waiting with bated breath to know whether their hopes will hold, when their teams start testing their strengths against equally powerful foes. Seasonal Magazine investigates the latest pros and cons of each major team in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.


The reigning champions are one of the favourites to lift the World Cup for a second and consecutive time. The #1 ranked team is currently in sublime form as they have only a single loss in the past year and a half. Their tiki-taka style of football play is not only captivating but has been very instrumental in the country's amazing run. Many experts have stated that this team is one of the best football teams of all time. The core of the team is formed by mainly players from FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two major powerhouses in Spanish football. Led by the young Real Madrid captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Spain has all the chances of retaining the crown. Other key players are Andres Iniesta and Diego Costa. The manager Vicente del Bosque has a wealth of talent at his disposal and his job of choosing the team will be far from easy. La Roja is a side which is sure to set the stadiums burning in Brazil.


The host country is another team which look like the favourites to lift the trophy. The golden era of Brazilian football may have passed but this side is more than capable of repeating their glorious history. They handed a 3-0 thrashing to Spain when both the teams locked horns at the Confederations Cup finals last year and to date remains the only team to beat Spain last year. The Coach has omitted former stars like Kaka, Robinho and Ronaldinho from the squad, but the younger players are expected to come good in their own den with all guns blazing. Neymar and Oscar, who are both in prime form are expected to lead this glorious team back to their long forgotten glory days. Brazil’s Manager is Luiz Felipe Scolari and another key player to watch out for is Dani Alves. The most experienced player for them is their 34-year old goalkeeper Julio Cesar. All eyes will be on the hosts as they look in good form and have been winning matches effortlessly. Any football analyst will be viewing the Brazilians as one of the major title contenders for next month's World Cup.


La Albicelestes too, is a team  in the good books of the analysts as well as bet-makers. They can in no way be written off especially while playing in their continent. The highly talented team might not have the best position in the latest FIFA rankings but they sure have all the ammunition they need to win this World Cup. The iconic Lionel Messi who has broken and re-broken every major record for his club Barcelona, is yet to win a crown for his country and this World Cup looks like the perfect chance for him to break that jinx. Plagued by injuries this season, Messi may have lost his 'Player of the Year' title to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo but is still considered to be the best by many football pundits. The manager must build the squad in a manner that makes Messi the axis around which the whole team must turn. Argentina’s Manager is Alejandro Sabella, and other important players are Sergio Aguero, and Angel di Maria. The team have been smacked right in the head with some injury concerns as instrumental players like Higuain and Tevez are likely to be sitting out on the trip to Brazil. However, the fellow South Americans are expected to give the hosts a good run for their money.


This World Cup provides a wonderful opportunity for Joachim Low's brigade to redeem the losses of their previous generations. The main bulk of the squad comprises of star players from the German giants - Bayern Munchen and Borussia Dortmund. The intelligent Germans have the grit as well as the composure to light up Brazil. They will also look to make amends for their last World Cup loss to champions Spain after a magnificent tournament in which they knocked out old foes England and the favourites Argentina. Known for their ultra-quick counter attacks, the Germans look like a team on a mission and one cannot be surprised if they take home the crown. However, they would really have to sweat it out to make it past the group stages with Cristiano Ronaldo's Porugal and Loew's old friend Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA  team, both in the same group. Germany can boast of a highly talented squad and they have a  cool headed captain in Philipp Lahm making them a team to watch out for. Other significant players are Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, and Manuel Neuer.


The last World Cup's finalists will be looking to put their 1-0 loss to Spain behind them as they take on the same opponents in their opener. Strong on the offensive, this team will be itching to get back at La Roja with brutal attacking plays. The Dutch team has been having a downfall post the World Cup in Africa but have regained their golden touch under the reign of new coach, Louis van Gaal. They have lost only two of their matches (friendlies) under him. Their captain, Robin van Persie might not have had the best of seasons with Manchester United but he has unearthed his talent in the last couple of games for them. The strike force comprises of another lethal force in Bayern Munchen star, Arjen Robben. He is a player who on a particular day can destroy and rip apart any defence but can also let his team down in crunch situations. Wesley Sneijder is another player who can make a key difference. The orange brigade has always been a formidable team in the previous World Cups and a goal fest is expected from them.


The Azzurri has undergone a revolution under Cesare Prandelli and he is the driving force behind their performance in the qualifiers. Italy is a team known for over-achieving in major tournaments by bringing out the best in their players. The legendary Andrea Pirlo still remains their wrecker-in-chief and although his legs might be aging he still has the spark in him making him a class act. Italy also has a mean goal-scoring machine in Mario Balotelli and this team might be the team to beat this time around. Another player to keep a close watch on is Lorenzo Insigne. They have plenty of flair in their well-disciplined set up. The midfield is the only area which makes the team look a bit jagged but in overall they are a team which has what it takes to climb the pinnacle of football, once again. Write them off if you want, but only at your own peril.


La Celeste boasts of a team loaded with high talent and it might not come as a surprise for many if they manage to blank highly reputed teams. The team has two sharpshooters in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and this team might stir up the stadiums in Brazil with their killer football. Expect a goal flow from them as they will be looking to add a third World Cup to their kitty. This team is viewed as a massive threat and any opposition who faces them must be wary of their main fireband - Suarez, who is experiencing rich form for his club Liverpool. Suarez is expected to be highly instrumental and will be holding the key for his side's good fortunes. The Uruguay team also has a well set defence led by Martin Caceres and Diego Godin. They finished fourth in the last World Cup after a controversial win against Ghana which made them highly unpopular in Africa. Look out for them as they will be looking to create a big mark in Brazil next month, especially as a host continent team. Uruguay’s manager is former player Oscar Tabarez.


Playing their first World Cup after 2002, the Belgium team looks well set to cause upsets this time. They have to be mentally prepared not to be bothered by the underdog tag and must perform to their maximum potential. They have a star studded team with Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, and Vincent Kompany. All four of these players had excellent seasons for their respected clubs and they emerge as one of the dark horses in this tournament. They are unbeaten in their qualifying matches (8 wins and 2 draws) . This team also has the option of including the talented Manchester United youngster, Adnan Januzaj who burst into limelight this season with strong performances for his club. They will be keen to make a strong impression in this year's World Cup. The expectations of the supporters will be on the shoulders of their captain, Vincent Kompany as he has recently led his club Manchester City to their 2nd Premier League championship in 3 years. Belgium will easily come out of the group stages with flying colours and it will be very interesting to see if they have the potential to mess with the big boys of football. Belgium’s strategies will be decided by its manager, Marc Wilmots.


The English team which comprises of a right blend of youth and experience are the main chokers of football. Although they have experienced players in Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, they are not expected to reach the knock-out stage from what seems like a very tough group given the presence of Uruguay and Italy. However their striker Raheem Sterling has had a truly outstanding season with his club Liverpool and he will have to partner Manchester United star, Wayne Rooney if England is to surprise everyone by qualifying the group stages. Jack Wilshere is another English player who can outperform. Roy Hodgson must pull out every single trick from his sleeve to ensure England a decent run in the World Cup. But the ugly truth remains that England despite their star-studded squad is not a force capable of lifting the trophy this time, despite the inevitable hype from the British media. Hence they are likely to be one of the potential flops this tournament will witness.


The #3 side is the team with the most inflated reputation and many football analysts are not expecting them to fare well in the South American continent. The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was adjudged as the best player in the world after dethroning Lionel Messi will surely lift up the team's spirits. Ronaldo almost single-handedly steered his team through the qualifiers and is already the country's top goal scorer of all time. Portugal also has a good defence led by Ronaldo's Real Madrid team-mates - Pepe and Fabio Coentrao. Raul Meireles is another player who can make a major difference. But the main man is Ronaldo and once the opposition locks him then half the game is won for them. The team is over-dependent on the player and that exactly is the team's problem. Coach Paulo Bento should take notice of this major concern and ensure that the team puts up a noticeable performance in the World Cup. Portugal will have to be at their best if they want to live up to their No. 3 rank.

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