Word Cup 2014: Potential champions
Spain, Brazil & Germany are expected to challenge for the trophy next summer, but who else stands a chance?
The World Cup takes place in Brazil next summer, and as usual the upcoming tournament is highly anticipated. Here's a look at the predictions on which nation will take home the FIFA World Cup Trophy next year.
The current world and European champions are the favourites to repeat the success of 2010. For the likes of Carles Puyol and Xavi (if selected), it could be the last major tournament of their respective careers and you know the Barcelona pair will want to finish their tenure with Spain on a high.
Andres Iniesta will no doubt be La Roja's key player once again with Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba also vital if Spain are to become world champions for the second time in a row. Malaga wonder kid Isco may break into the side by the time the tournament commences while Bayer Leverkusen right-back, Daniel Carvajal is highly rated and could replace Real Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa as the World Cup event draws closer and closer.
Key Player: Andres Iniesta
Prediction: Confidence is sky high in Spain with the country coming out on top in the last three major championships. La Roja will be very hard to knock off their pedestal and it will take a titanic effort from any team to keep Iniesta and co. from lifting the World Cup again.
Germany last tasted World Cup success in 1990 and the nation have been so near and yet so far in three of the last five since then (2002,2006,2010). However, the emerging talent is what have many people backing Joachim Loew's men to go all the way in Brazil.
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze has been hailed as one of Germany's best ever prospects as has team-mate, Marco Reus who has had a number of stellar performances for both club and country since the European Championships last year. The experience of Bayern Munich's Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger is all-important, as is the vision of Real Madrid's No.10, Mesut Ozil.
Key Player: Mesut Ozil
Prediction: If there's one thing Germany lack going into the World Cup next year, it's a natural striker. Miroslav Klose will be approaching his 36th birthday when the tournament begins so it's difficult to suggest how much of an impact he will have, if any. Loew has seemingly lost faith in Bayern's Mario Gomez so whether a striker emerges to lead the line for Germany in Brazil remains to be seen. Will the German head coach finally have a major championship to add to his CV next year? His job depends on it.
The question on many people's lips is what the starting eleven will be for the Selecao when the host nation takes to the field next summer? While there are many young talents available and in contention, there are only a few guarantees. Paris Saint-Germain's captain Thiago Silva will more than likely lead his country during the tournament while Santos superstar Neymar is an absolute certainty.
Brazil will have the home field advantage but also the added pressure of expectation weighing on the shoulders of essentially a very young squad. The spotlight is on Neymar, who will be competing in his first finals and is expected to shine at the tournament and answer many of the critics he has faced since bursting on the scene shortly after the previous World Cup in 2010.
Key Player: Neymar
Prediction: The hosts will have the fans onside, but this advantage may be cancelled out by the weight of expectation falling on such a young team. PSG's Lucas Moura should be a key figure, as should Chelsea playmaker Oscar. If the hosts can create the sort of chemistry that great Brazil teams of the past have done, there is a chance of the hosts lifting the trophy for a sixth time at the Maracana in Rio next year.
A disappointing World Cup campaign in 2010 raised the question of whether or not a team full of talent lacks the substance to produce on the world stage? With Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez all options to lead the line for the South American’s in Brazil, it is a wonder how this array of attacking talent hasn't been able to deliver at football's biggest event.
Messi, although magnificent for his club side Barcelona has had his doubters while playing for his country. With just one goal in the two World Cup tournaments he's played in, many feel the forward is yet to deliver when Argentina needs him most.
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Prediction: With Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria, Aguero and Higuain, Argentina have a plethora of attacking options capable of taking many teams apart. However the country's hopes of glory rely on Messi as his performances will be vital if Argentina are to achieve success next summer. If the Barcelona star leads his country to their third World Cup triumph on enemy territory, he may very well cement himself as football's greatest ever player.
Following a disastrous outing at the previous World Cup, the Azzurri regained their status as an international powerhouse with several highly impressive displays en route to the final of the European Championship last year. Despite a 4-0 loss to Spain, Italy showed they are still a force in football that can claim their fifth World Cup title in 2014.
The back four is very strong with Juventus trio Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini joining A.C. Milan right-back Ignazio Abate in what has always been key to Italy's success, the country's defence. Much like Xavi and Puyol for Spain, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon could be taking part in their last major tournament for the Azzurri. The question the nation is asking, will it be a successful one?
Key Player: Andrea Pirlo
Prediction: As stated previously, the Italian defence is key if the country is to repeat the World Cup triumph achieved in 2006. Danielle De Rossi is a vital part of the midfield alongside Pirlo. Competition to lead the line is at a premium. A.C. Milan's erratic striker Mario Balotelli is expected to start but may be overtaken by Rossoneri teammate Stephan El Shaarawy and/or Napoli youngster, Lorenzo Insigne.
It has been almost 50 years since the Three Lions llifted the major trophy. Media hype and expectation has usually been the country's downfall, particularly at the previous World Cup in South Africa when England squeezed through a group many expected them to top before being outclassed by Germany in the next round.
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is a guarantee to maintain his starting position for the tournament while Everton's Leighton Baines is staking a huge claim to be the starting left back ahead of Ashley Cole, that remains to be seen however. Arsenal's Jack Wilshere is a huge talent and provided he stays fit could help England towards a famous victory. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney remains England's main man, but can he finally deliver on the world stage?
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Prediction: The Three Lions will want to forget the misery of the 2010 World Cup campaign as soon as they step out onto the field for the first time in Brazil. Rooney will be under huge pressure to perform and finally show the class in a major tournament his talent has always deserved. Arsenal pair Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are two of the best emerging English talents. So can a country that has spent so long in the dark finally realise the dream of lifting the World Cup for a second time?
The departure of former manager Bert Van Marwijk following an awful European Championship campaign last year saw the Netherlands appoint the high profile Louis Van Gaal as head coach. The appointment breathed new life into a team full of attacking talent, but very short of ideas.
The Dutch have some of the best forwards in world football including Robin van Persie, Klass Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben as well as midfielders Rafael van der Vaart and captain Wesley Sneijder. The country's best hope of capturing the prestigious trophy for the first time rests on its attacking options, will that be enough in Brazil?
Key Player: Robin Van Persie
Prediction: The Oranje once again enter a tournament with high hopes of going all the way. The Dutch reached the final in South Africa but a good overall campaign was overshadowed by a brutal performance against Spain which ultimately cost the country a chance at glory. Can Van Persie, Sneijder and co. work their magic to bring the Netherlands their first major title since the Euro triumph in 1988?
Les Bleus unceremoniously bowed out of the World Cup in 2010 with just a single point and one goal from the group stage. The country is notorious for creating problems behind the scenes during major tournaments but must put differences aside and play as a team if winning the World Cup in Brazil is a possibility.
France have lacked a creative midfielder since the retirement of Zinedine Zidane in 2006. Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are the country's best hope for success, both of which have under performed at one tournament or another. Les Bleus can certainly go all the way in 2014 given the talent within the squad, but teamwork is the key.
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Prediction: If France are to reassert themselves as a footballing powerhouse, then the whole team has to remain 100% focused for the duration of the tournament. Real Madrid youngster Raphael Varane is tipped to be one of the world's best defenders for years to come and could cement his place at the heart of France's back line next year. The pressure is on Ribery to produce his best as he has received criticism in the past while playing for his country. The World Cup is a golden opportunity for the Bayern Munich winger to silence his doubters by leading France to glory.
Which country do you think will lift the World Cup in Brazil next year?
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