Now that the 2014 World Cup is less than two weeks away, excitement is beginning to reach fever pitch in countries throughout the world.
With tickets booked, squads trimmed and teams in transit to various warm-up locations, the reality of the occasion is beginning to dawn on everyone who hopes to participate and share in the experience.
For those who like to forecast results and predict a likely winner, your World Cup bets are likely to have already been placed. The historical narrative of the World Cup is defined by unpredictable twists and turns, however, as underdogs have succeeded and beaten their more illustrious opponents on numerous occasions.
But which teams are likely to upset the odds in Brazil? Let’s take a look at the most likely candidates:
Every World Cup has a team that can be described as a ‘dark horse’, which has usually qualified impressively and boasts an abundance of emerging talent within its ranks. This year’s example is Belgium, who have emerged from decades of mediocrity and developed a core of strong, quick and diversely skilled players. With their best squad for an entire generation, Belgium appears well placed to upset their relatively modest odds and reach the latter stages of the tournament.
World Cup success is often determined by timing and the Belgian squad has certainly peaked in time for the tournament. This is reflected in both the depth and quality of the squad, and embodied by renowned Premier League performers such as Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas and Christian Benteke. With a particularly quick and powerful front line Belgium should easily progress from their group, but a potential second round clash with Germany or Portugal could provide a stumbling block.
Colombia has never performed particularly well at the World Cup, with many of their previous appearances marred either by farce or tragedy. The sheer weight of this history, alongside the fact that leading goal scorer and Monaco front man Radamel Falcao has been ruled out through injury, would suggest that this trend is unlikely to change in 2014. This may not be the case, however, and the relatively low level of expectation could actually provide the platform for a lengthy tournament run.
To begin with, the Colombian squad is a far stronger collective than it has been at previous tournaments. In addition to this, the team boasts a wealth of young and fearless starlets who are ready to take the World Cup by storm, with the highly coveted F.C.Porto forward Jackson Martinez at the front of this queue. There is also considerable incentive for Colombia to do well, as topping their relatively easy group of Greece, Japan and the Ivory Coast could enable them to face a less daunting second round match and take an easier route to the quarter finals.
England is another proud footballing nation that has endured significant struggles at major tournaments, as considerable and misplaced expectation slowly crumbles into a disappointingly premature exit. They have not progressed beyond the quarter final of World Cup since 1990, which is quite a staggering statistic for a country that can rightfully call itself the home of football.
With expectation levels finally having being lowered and a youthful squad full of rich promise, however, could 2014 finally be the year that England reinstates itself as one of the world’s footballing powers?
They certainly have the right man in charge, as unassuming and experienced coach Roy Hodgson has a wealth of international experience and the trust of his players. If he can harness the current spirit, get the best out of talisman Wayne Rooney and utilise raw talents such as Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkely, he may find himself looking beyond the quarter finals and towards the latter stages of the tournament.
Certainly Uruguay and Costa Rica should hold no fears for Hodgson’s men, while a potential second round encounter with Greece, Japan, Colombia or the Ivory Coast should also be considered as extremely winnable.
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