1. Brazil- The host nation and strong favorites to win the World Cup. They are the tournaments most successful team with 5 previous World Cup’s under their belts. They completely dominated during last summer’s Confederations Cup Tournament and dismantled the current World Champions, Spain, during the process. Known for their flair and highly entertaining style of play, they have recently been able to balance that with a defensive stability that makes them a force to be reckoned with. My personal pick for the winners of the tournament.
2. Croatia- Boasts a strong spirited side comprised of many hardworking and talented players. Luka Modric is the marquee player of this team, the midfield maestro looks to bring other players into the game and looks to dictate play from deep.
3. Mexico- This nation breathes soccer, with a highly talented and technical side lead by Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
4. Cameroon- The African giants are led by an aging Samuel Eto’o, and will look to progress as far as they can in the competition.
5. Spain- The current World Champions and strong favorites to lift the trophy come the end of the tournament. The Spanish gave birth to ‘tiki-taka’ soccer, a style characterized by technical, rapid, one-touch passing. They look to monopolize possession of the ball and make the other team run themselves into the ground. They boast the most deep squad, with any given player on the bench capable of making an impact.
6. Netherlands- The previous tournaments runners up, The Dutch have a wealth of world class attacking players but will need to get ego’s and their defense in check in order to have a successful tournament.
7. Chile- One of the smaller teams in the tournament, many have this side picked as their dark horses. An exciting mix of lightning fast counter-attacks and strategic possession, this team has everything needed to be a huge surprise. Lead by Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, they’ll be one of the teams to watch.
8. Australia- Another small team that will be happy just to be present. The Socceroo’s go to Brazil with no pressure or expectations.
9. Colombia- The South American side, led by their talisman Radamel Falcao could pack a surprising punch. I tip South American sides to do well on home soil, fueled by proud supporters and home conditions. The key this side doing well is the support cast around Falcao, simply put- make sure he gets the ball in dangerous areas and he will score.
10. Greece- The 2004 Euro champions are the epitome of a hard working, defensive side. Going to the tournament with no expectations they will look to grind out close games in order to progress. Goal scoring and creativity out of the midfield will be an issue that they should address before heading to Brazil.
11. Ivory Coast- This may be the last chance for Ivory Coast’s ‘golden generation’ to put together a meaningful assault on the World Cup as their leaders Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure are approaching the twilight years of their careers. Key to their campaign will be the form of Kolo Toure’s younger brother, Yaya Toure. Perhaps the most important issue facing this team is mentality, they need to rally together and not choke at crucial moments (As has happened so many times before).
12. Japan- The Blue Samurai are a technically sound team, perfectly comfortable in possession with a wealth of young, home grown talent at the managers disposal. Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa will look to combine in the midfield to unlock teams.
13. Uruguay- Tactically flexible and tough, the Uruguayans will be a tough team to beat. Especially if the enigmatic and controversial Luis Suarez manages to have a decent tournament.
14. Costa Rica- A small, defensive side. The Costa Ricans will be hoping that their star player, Bryan Ruiz is on his best form.
15. England- The key to England’s success at Brazil 2014 will be their ability to remained focus and cope with the pressure of their home media.
16. Italy- The Euro 2012 finalists are regarded as strong favorites for the title. They will be hoping that Andrea Pirlo will be on form and marshaling possession
17. Switzerland- The Swiss national side is ranked 7th in the World and features a tight-knit squad that boasts a large home base of players. This will surely be a huge advantage as these players are used to playing with each other, whereas start studded teams have their key players playing across Europe. Tough from set-pieces, they will look to score many goals through their aerial superiority.
18. Ecuador- The tragic death of Christian Benitez, a regular in the starting line-up has seemed to spur on the South American team. Many have tipped these smaller sides to exceed expectations during this tournament as they will have a large contingency of home support helping them out. Statistically speaking, no one was scored more from headers than the Ecuadorians and one suspects this might be key in their progression.
19. France- The French national team has always been blessed with incredible talent, however this means nothing when the team cannot rally and play together. The team’s shameful showing as well as the subsequent mutiny and removal from last the World Cup will still be on the minds of some player’s . If they can rally together and play for each other, they will be one difficult opponent to match up against.
20. Honduras- A relatively unknown team that boasts lots of homegrown talent. Few expect the team to go far.
21. Argentina- Perhaps the team boasting the best forwards at the tournament, the key for Argentina to do well will be making sure to balance all their attacking talent with defensive discipline. And of course, Lionel Messi might have a word or two to say for himself, with his feet that is.
22. Bosnia & Herzegovina- This will be the first time these nations are represented in the World Cup. Their team has an array of attacking talent, Edin Dzeko in particular, that will likely be undone by the team’s weak defense.
23. Iran- Coach Carlos Quieroz is the star in this team with a wealth of knowledge coming from coaching for years side by side with one of the game’s finest, Sir Alex Ferguson. He has taken this knowledge and constructed a defensively sound team.
24. Nigeria- The super eagles swept aside all competition and were head and shoulders above the rest at the last AFCON tournament. The current African champs have a wide selection of players to choose from with Emmanuel Emenike looking to impress on the world stage.
25. Germany- The German team has impressed and continually improved over the last few years. The core of young players has grown together and will be one of the hardest teams to beat at this year’s tournament. They have a fine blend of team ethic and individual talent. From Mesut Ozil to Toni Kroos to Marco Reus- the attacking talent speaks for itself. Many have the German’s picked as their favorites.
26. Portugal- Led by the current best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal is essentially a one man show. This might be a weakness for most, but when Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form that he has been in over the course of the last few years- then this is simply not an issue. If Ronaldo is playing well, then Portugal has a chance in the tournament.
27. Ghana- Ghana never fails to impress or entertain. The heartbreaking moment when Asamoah Gyan’s last minute penalty struck the crossbar and their subsequent loss to Uruguay in the penalty shoot-out still is fresh in the memory of players and fans. They will look to undo this perceived injustice and accomplish a lot at this tournament.
28. United States- Jurgen Klinsmann’s team is playing some fantastic soccer but disappointing results in friendlies have undercut the American’s confidence. They will be looking to prove the naysayers wrong.
29. Belgium- The Belgian’s are considered by many to be the dark horses of the tournament. With a golden generation of players, the true question remains whether they can play together under pressure. We will find out.
30. Algeria- Considered one of the weakest team’s at the tournament, their presence is an honor.
31. Russia- The squad boasts a defensive solidity that has been missing in recent years. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev’s return to form following a broken leg will be a huge boost.
32. Korea Republic- Coached by legendary former player, Hong Myung-bo the Koreans have got to the tournament by playing soundly defensively and getting goals through direct play. Their star man Song Heung-min will need to be at is best for his nation’s side to progress.