Sunday, June 8, 2014

World Cup Preview

2014 World Cup Predictions

The favorite for this World Cup due to being selected as the host nation, Brazil has the squad to win it all.  It has superstars (Neymar, Hulk, Thiago Silva) and it has depth at every position.  Anything less than a finals appearance would be a huge disappointment for Brazil.

Player to watch: Neymar
Arguably the 3rd most talented player in the world behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar is incredibly fun to watch because of his speed, foot skills, and ability to score fantastic goals.  But he has gained a reputation for diving, which has caused him to draw the ire of many fans across the world.  Will he draw more penalties or yellow cards in this year's World Cup?

The winner of the past World Cup and the past 2 Euro Cups seems to not be getting much respect this time around.  They seem to be flying under the radar as most people are picking Brazil or Argentina to win it all.  This Spain team hasn't gotten any younger but it has tons of experience and quality and is led by superstars Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Cesc Fabregas.  No European team has ever won a World Cup in South America before.  Can Spain be the first?

Player to watch: Diego Costa
If Diego Costa is fit enough to play in the World Cup, which would be amazing considering he had a torn hamstring just a few weeks ago, Spain will likely be seeing Brazil in the final.  The only thing Spain seems to be lacking is a consistent goalscorer at striker.  Fernando Torres has shown flashes of brilliance, as has David Villa, but both players are likely past their primes.  With a strong defense and the best midfield in the world, Spain would be very dangerous if Costa can play like he did this past season with Atletico Madrid.

Germany certainly has the talent to win it all, but its weakness is defense, which was exposed by Mario Balotelli and Italy in the 2012 Euro Cup.  Brazil has much more depth and speed up top than Italy does, so I see Germany having problems with Brazil's top line featuring Neymar, Hulk, and Fred.  A 3rd place finish for Germany seems likely.

Player to watch: Miroslav Klose
Klose is currently 2nd all-time on the World Cup goal-scoring list, needing 1 goal to tie Brazil's Ronaldo for the lead and 2 goals to become the all-time leading scorer in World Cup history.  Klose is 36 and has said that this will be his last World Cup, so it will be worth watching to see if he makes history.

My dark horse candidate for the World Cup is Belgium, which has a plethora of young talent.  However, the large majority of Belgium's players have not played in a major international tournament, having failed to qualify for the last 2 World Cups and the last 3 Euro Cups.  Belgium will be in every game it plays due to its strong defense and world-class keeper Thibaut Courtois, so if it doesn't let its inexperience become a factor, Belgium could make a deep run.

Players to watch: Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard
Belgium got goals in qualifying from a variety of sources, but if it is going to make it past the Round of 16, it will need consistent goalscoring from its stars.  Lukaku and Hazard both had outstanding seasons this year in the English Premier League, and if they can continue to find the back of the net, Belgium should go far.

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