The first stage of the European stage of World Cup 2014 qualifying is over and we now know many of the teams who will be competing in Brazil next summer. So what better time is there to look ahead and to make ridiculously early predictions for Brazil 2014?
First off those teams who are qualified (sorry for the list). From Europe Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England and Spain have already made it through. From the Asian group we have Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea. From North and Central America there’s Costa Rica, the US and Honduras and from South America we have Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile. There certainly is so surprises in there, chief among which are Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is only the 5th time Colombia have ever qualified and the first time we’ll see them at a WC since 1998. With star man Falcao, considered by some the best striker in the world, leading a decent group of players they’ll be extremely tough for any team in the World Cup, and whilst they probably won’t be challenging the big guns, expect them to at least equal their best ever showing and make it out of the group. Bosnia-Herzegovina meanwhile will be something of an unknown quantity for many of these teams as this is their first world cup, so many non European teams won’t have played them before. Many British observers will probably only know Dzeko and Begovic in their squad but they have plenty of other players with decent experience at good European teams.
Obviously the favourites from this group will be Brazil the hosts, Spain the holders, Argentina with all their attacking flair and Germany who always seem to deliver at tournaments and boast a quality young squad. These are the four teams that most people are expecting the winner of the WC to come from. However I would say that it is always an unwise move to completely discount the Italians. As well as them Belgium should also be looked at as potential dark horses with strength in depth in almost every position they shouldn’t be ignored, although I think this WC may be slightly too early for them and it’d be Euro 2016 that they could have a real impact. If I had to put my money down right now I’d go for Brazil, simply for how they tore the Spanish apart at the Confederations cup. Personally I think Argentina and Germany have too many defensive issues to go all the way and win it, so I’d go for Brazil, especially on home soil where they are notoriously strong.
But there are still several places which aren’t confirmed as of yet. We still don’t know which African teams will be there. Ivory Coast and Ghana are almost certainly there, and they are who you’d expect to go the furthest of all the African teams. There are also still close ties between Algeria and Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria & Tunisia and Cameroon. None of these teams are realistic contenders for the WC but it would be nice to see new teams like Burkina Faso or Ethiopia make it there. We’ll definitely be missing a couple of big European teams as there are playoff games between Portugal and Sweden, France and Ukraine, Greece and Romania & Iceland and Croatia. But this makes the WC especially hard to call at the minute as we don’t even know if the likes of France or Portugal will be there yet. There are also two cross continent clashes with Uruguay playing Jordan and Mexico v New Zealand. You’d expect both Uruguay and Mexico to make it and it’d be a huge shock if either missed out, especially Mexico who have been at every world cup since 1990.
As I say it’d be almost impossible to call the outcome of the World Cup at this stage, but I’d expect the winner to come from the four I picked out as favourites. I also think Italy, Belgium, Colombia and, if they make it, Ivory Coast (who have been in very tough groups at the last two world cups) to also put up a very strong showing.