It's still a matter of months until the 2014 World Cup is upon us, but it's never too early to discuss the big question everybody wants to know the answer to; just who is going to win the World Cup?

Here, GMS Academy member Lachie Panetta takes a look at all the big names as well as a few dark horses who may take Brazil by storm.

Brazil

The tournament favourites and for good reason. They have an obvious advantage in being the host nation, they're led by a man who knows how to win a World Cup and they are coming into the World Cup off the back of a very impressive Confederations Cup campaign.

But in spite of these factors, many Brazilians will tell you that this is the worst Selecao side in recent years, possibly the worst ever. No doubt that Brazil will go very far in the World Cup, but the brilliance of Neymar will not be enough for them to claim their sixth World Cup.

Verdict: Runners-up

Germany

Could it be? Could this finally be the year that Germany perform in the crucial stage of the competition? Bayern's triumph in the Champions League will be a big boost, and undoubtedly helped many of their players overcome the 'big game mentality'.

Germany are sure to excite many through their attacking football, however their defensive fragility will be a constant worry. Mesut Ozil's move to Arsenal will be of great benefit to the German national team as he will be playing regular 90 minutes in the Premier League, and when Ozil is on form Germany will be an extremely hard team to defend against.

A mixture of youth and experience will prove vital in Brazil and Germany look like a team ready to perform.

Verdict: Winners

Spain

Following Barcelona's 7-0 defeat to Bayern Munich and Spain's 3-0 defeat to Brazil, many people began to wonder whether it was the end of tiki-taka. Whilst it isn't the end of tiki-taka as we know it, it looks like the end of Spain's dominance on the World stage.

Iker Casillas, who isn't starting for Real Madrid, is still Spain's no.1, while a defensively vulnerable Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa, who offer little going forward, are both still starting for Spain.

Needless to say, an improvement in their defence is needed if they are to stand a chance against world football's elite.

At the other end of the field there are more concerns as Spain are struggling to break down teams, failing to score against Brazil and in 120 minutes against an injury-plagued Italy.

They still have the quality to go far, but another international trophy is just out of their reach.

Verdict: 4th place

Italy

Gli Azzurri cruised through qualification undefeated and they are looking as strong as ever.

Veterans Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon are still producing the goods for Italy, while many youngsters such as Marco Verratti, Mattia De Sciglio, Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne could all have a part to play in the World Cup.

One player that Italy will need to perform (besides Pirlo of course) is Daniele de Rossi. De Rossi, who can play a holding midfield role or slot in comfortably as a centre-back, is vital to Italy through his ability to break down opposition attacks as well as burst forward and contribute to the attack.

Prandelli has Italy playing wonderful, free-flowing football and they will continue to impress at the World Cup.

Verdict: 3rd place

England

Things aren't looking good for England and as long as they are managed by Roy Hodgson they will never be able to make a serious push for international success.

They are defensively sound, but when coming up against a strong team they are far too cautious and offer next to nothing going forward. It's not like England can force a draw against a better team and beat them on penalties anyway, as history will tell.

A manager afraid of defeat will not be able to lead England to any kind of success.

Verdict: Round of 16

Argentina

Argentina are comfortably at the top of the South American qualification table and they will be desperate to beat their fierce rivals, Brazil, on their own turf.

Argentina fell out of the last World Cup via a thumping of 4-0 by the Germans, but they are much improved since then.

They have a wealth of attacking options that leaves every other country in envy, but will the main man perform?

Lionel Messi has been relatively poor in all international tournaments at senior level to date, but even if there is more to Argentina than Messi, the team is built around him so if he doesn't perform it's hard to see Argentina being successful in Brazil.

Verdict: Quarter-finals

Netherlands

Arguably the greatest nation that has never won the World Cup, they came mightily close to securing their first last time round in South Africa, but a lot has changed since then, including their coach.

Bert van Marwijk was sacked after losing all three games in the EURO 2012 group stage, but Netherlands are looking at their superb best under Louis van Gaal as they eased through qualifications.

The Oranje have the potential to do very well next year, but they will simply be outclassed by the world's best...

Verdict: Quarter-finals

France

No prizes for guessing that France will do much better than the last World Cup.

2010 was a pure disaster for Raymond Domenech's men, but they will not make the same mistakes this time around and France will have their sights set on the ultimate prize, not that they will be able to achieve that.

They certainly have the quality in their squad to make a real push for the cup, but a squad that lacks cohesion and is often plagued by injuries will not be anything special next year.

Verdict: Quarter-finals

Belgium

It’s rare that a squad is so often touted as dark horses that they actually become favourites.

Belgium is a very exciting prospect with a plethora of young talent, but they are a prospect, nothing more.

None of Belgium’s players have any experience at an international tournament and a lack of experience will be their downfall.

They may not be ready to advance into the later stages of the 2014 World Cup, but keep an eye out for them at EURO 2016.

Verdict: Round of 16

Colombia

Colombia boasts some of the finest attacking talents in Europe through the likes of Monaco duo Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, as well as Inter's powerhouse midfielder Fredy Guarin and Porto striker Jackson Martinez.

They have the international experience that the Belgian squad does not and have done extremely well to finish second in a qualification group with Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.

Falcao will be the main man for Colombia and you can expect to see plenty of goals from the South Americans.

Verdict: Quarter-finals

The 2014 World Cup looks an extremely tough one to call, leaving us with no doubt that it could be one of the most exciting World Cups in history. Who do you think will come out on top? Have your say in the comments box below...

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#Internationals
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