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World Cup 2014: Who will get beyond the group stages?

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Following last week’s draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Will Cafferky looks at each of the eight groups that were announced and offers his predictions as to which teams will progress.

Will Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic make an impression on the world stage? Photo: sloanecroatia.com
Will Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic make an impression on the world stage? Photo: sloanecroatia.com

Group A 

It’s hard to see anyone other than the hosts triumphing in this one, with Croatia probably presenting the toughest challenge. Mexico will be hoping their current transition phase is before the tournament starts, whilst Cameroon need to ensure that they correct the divisions starting to form within the squad if either hope to challenge for the second spot up for grabs.

Prediction: Brazil and Croatia to progress

Key Players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Kaka, David Luiz, Oscar (Brazil), Mario Mandzukic, Luka Modric (Croatia), Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Samuel Eto’o, Alexander Song (Cameroon)

Group B

This proves much less straight forward than Group A; without wishing to use the label “group of death”, there’s no doubting this is a strong group. 2010’s finalists Spain and the Netherlands speak for themselves. However, as I recently discussed for Exeposé, Chile go into the tournament looking very strong and could upset the Dutch. Meanwhile, spare a thought for Australia.

Prediction: Spain and Chile to progress

Key Players: Jordi Alba, Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Wesley Snjeider, Robin Van Persie (Netherlands), Miles Jedinak, Tim Cahill (Australia)

Group C

One of the weaker groups of the cup, Group C is without any of the main big hitters. Columbia undoubtedly boast the strongest squad and will look to capitalise on a favourable draw. Ivory Coast will be thankful to finally get a bit of luck with a World Cup group, and this arguably presents their best opportunity to progress to the next round with Japan and Greece likely to prove little more than cannon fodder.

Prediction: Colombia and Ivory Coast to progress

Key Players: Rademel Falcao, Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez, Fredy Guarin (Colombia) Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Wilfried Bony, Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Kesuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa (Japan), Sokratis, Kostas Mitroglou (Greece)

Could Southampton star Adam Lallana ruffle a few feathers against Italy and Uruguay? Photo: telegraph.co.uk
Could Southampton star Adam Lallana ruffle a few feathers against Italy and Uruguay? Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Group D

There were few draws that could have been harsher to England – whilst they did avoid Spain and Germany, they did manage to get the next best thing. Italy are a team in the ascendency under manager Cesare Prandelli, whilst few teams in world football can claim to have two better strikers than Uruguay. It’s hard to see England escaping alive, with the only respite coming in the quivering shape of Costa Rica.

Prediction: Italy and Uruguay to progress

Key Players: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli (Italy) Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart (England), Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica)

Group E

The unseeded France will be rather happy with the result of the draw, as they look favourites to redeem their disastrous 2010 campaign. Honduras will likely prove to be the proverbial doormat, whilst Ecuador and Switzerland will battle for second place, with the latter coming out on top.

Prediction: France and Switzerland to progress

Key Players: Hugo Lloris, Mamadou Sakho, Frank Ribery, Paul Pogba, Samir Nasri (France), Stephan Liechtensteiner, Valon Behrami, Xerdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Antonio Valencia, Felipe Caicedo (Ecuador), Wilson Palacios (Honduras)

It's time Leo Messi made an international tournament his own. Photo: empireofsoccer.com
It’s time Leo Messi made an international tournament his own. Photo: empireofsoccer.com

Group F

This group seems fairly straightforward; Argentina’s overwhelming attacking talent will probably send shivers down the spines of Iranian defenders. Meanwhile, Bosnia-Herzegovina will likely be satisfied with the draw, especially following Nigeria’s fairly woeful display at the Confederations Cup earlier this year.

Prediction: Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina to progress

Key Players: Javier Mascherano, Pablo Zabaleta, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina), Asmir Begovic, Miralem Pjanic, Zvjezdan Misimovic, Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina), John Obi-Mikel, Victor Moses, Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran)

Group G

Germany are the favourites of many a pundit for Brazil 2014. Whilst Portugal, Ghana and USA present tough opposition, it’s hard to imagine anything other than an efficient group stage from the Germans. Portugal endured a hairy play-off tie with Sweden to earn their place, and whilst USA and Ghana enjoyed more relaxed campaigns, it’s hard to picture either coping with the superhuman ability of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Prediction: Germany and Portugal to progress

Key Players: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze (Germany), Pepe, Joao Moutinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani (Portugal), Sulli Muntari, Kwandwo Assamoah, Asamoah Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana), Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan (United States)

Group H

Belgium couldn’t have wished for a better group as they look to capitalise upon their impressive qualifying campaign. Labelled a “golden generation,” the team is littered with Premier League superstars. Meanwhile, Fabio Capello’s Russia will face stiff competition from a promising Algeria side for the second spot in the round of 16, with South Korea also destined for an early exit.

Prediction: Belgium and Russia to progress

Key Players: Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Alex Witsel, Moussa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Igor Akinfeev, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Yuri Zhirkov, Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Ryad Boudebouz, Sofiane Ferghouli (Algeria), Ki Sueng-Yueng, Kim Bo-Kyung, Lee Chung-Yong, Ji Dong-Wong, Park Chu-Young (South Korea)

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