2014 World Cup Favorites
The 2014 World Cup isn't far off, which means that soccer fans and bettors alike are in a frenzy. The World Cup offers more lines and live wagering opportunities than any single sporting event in the world. Assuming you're thinking of placing some bets on this soccer extravaganza, then you should definitely look at our take on the favorites this year.
1. Germany (Made Semifinals in 2010 World Cup, Current FIFA Ranking: 2nd)
After making the semifinals four years ago, we think that Germany is a virtual lock to do so again, if not win the entire Cup in 2014. The primary reason why we see German dominance is their incredible scoring depth. Not only do they have elite players in Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil, but also strikers like Mario Goetze, Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose.
As if having a loaded offense isn't enough, Germany also boasts a guy whom many think is the world's best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer. So are there any downsides to this German team coming into the 2014 World Cup? The biggest problems are Sami Khedira's torn knee ligament and Mats Hummels' ankle injury. The Cup is still months away, so fans will be interested to see if these guys can make it back in time.
2. Spain (Won 2010 World Cup, Current FIFA Ranking: 1st)
Aside from a loss to Switzerland in group play, Spain was perfect in the 2010 World Cup. Their defense and goalkeeping was especially dominant as they didn't allow a goal from the Round of 16 onward. Fast-forward four years later and little has changed. Spain has won the last two Euro championships and their core group is playing very well, despite getting older. They boast a dangerous scoring lineup that consists of Diego Costa, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa. And even when the Spaniards aren't scoring, they are good enough at maintaining possessions for so long that they limit their opponents' chances of scoring.
So why isn't Spain number one on our list of 2014 World Cup favorites? Well, their ranking mainly comes from the fact that World Cup champs rarely repeat. In fact, not since Brazil did it in 1958 and '62 has a team won two straight Cups. The only other team in history to do so was Italy, which happened in 1934 and '38. Whether it be pressure or complacency, World Cup champions have a tough task in trying to win it all again.
3. Argentina (Made Quarterfinals in 2010 World Cup, Current FIFA Ranking: 3rd)
Nearly every discussion about Argentina's national team begins with Lionel Messi. From the Spanish League to international play, Messi absolutely obliterates his competition and scores goals with ease. At 26 years old, the FC Barcelona star could further his legacy and possibly be known as the greatest footballer ever by winning a Cup this year.
Other stars who'll be helping Messi on his quest to greatness include Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano. Make no doubt about it: this team can definitely win the 2014 World Cup! The key, though, will be avoiding any major stumbling blocks along the way. They looked like a serious contender last year, right up until Germany blew them out in the Quarterfinals by a score of 4-0.
4. Portugal (Made Round of 16 in 2010 World Cup, Current FIFA Ranking: 5th)
Portugal's road to the title begins in this year's "Group of Death," which includes Germany, USA and Ghana. Along with Germany, Portugal is expected to make it out of this extremely tough group, led by their star Cristiano Ronaldo. If not for Ronaldo's hat-trick in a playoff game against Sweden, Portugal wouldn't even be in the 2014 World Cup.
And this brings us to the biggest problem plaguing this team going into the tournament. They didn't look much like a dominant team during Cup qualifying matches, with a loss to Russia and draws to Israel (twice) and Northern Ireland. This is the main reason why they needed Ronaldo's heroics against Sweden in a playoff game to make the 32-team World Cup field. They're certainly capable of much better things, so this will just be a matter of if Portugal is playing up to their potential.
5. Brazil (Made Quarterfinals in 2010 World Cup, Current FIFA Ranking: 10th)
Brazil may not come into this year's World Cup with as much hype as in the past. However, you can never count out a Brazilian team, especially when they're at home! This is definitely one of the most exciting squads when you consider how Neymar da Silva Santos is playing in his first Cup. Many see the 21-year-old Neymar as the future of Brazilian soccer and somebody who will terrorize goalies for years to come.
Other big-time players for Brazil include the veteran striker Fred, midfielder star Oscar, and backliners Thiago Silva and David Luiz. There are a lot of questions for Brazil to answer at the 2014 Cup. They have the talent to make a run to the World Cup Finals, but also the uncertainty that could see them flame out in group play.