All eyes will be on Brazil this summer for the FIFA World Cup — as the biggest soccer tournament takes place once again. The competition begins with host Brazil facing Croatia on June 12 and ending with the final in Rio De Janeiro on July 13. Here are some quick thoughts and predictions for the upcoming group stage games.
Group A — Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico
Unlike South Africa in 2010, the host Brazil have high expectations to meet. Led by young star Neymar, the Brazilians will have enormous pressure to win it all on home soil. Mexico barely squeaked through qualifying but has shown improvement as of late. It is yet to be seen if it will be enough to get past Croatia and Cameroon who both participated in 2010. Prediction: Brazil and Croatia advance.
Group B — Australia, Chile, The Netherlands, Spain
This is one of the deadliest groups in the tournament, and it will start off with a bang as the first game from the group is a rematch of the 2010 final between Spain and The Netherlands. Chile would be a strong pick to go through in most other groups but La Roja will have a tall task to get past the two finalists from South Africa. Prediction: Spain and The Netherlands advance.
Group C — Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Colombia is making its first appearance since 1998 and is the favorite heading into this group. Greece has been a team that seems to outperform expectations on the world and European level as of late. Ivory Coast will be led by star striker Didier Drogba and Japan is no easy out. Prediction: Colombia and Greece advance.
Group D — Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay
The second “Group of Death,” Group D features three traditional world powers in England, Italy and Uruguay. It is crazy to think that one of these three teams will not advance past the group stage. The wild card is England as the Three Lions are immensely talented but always seem to underperform at the World Cup. Costa Rica is clearly in the role of spoiler. Prediction: Italy and Uruguay advance.
Group E — Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland
After an embarrassing performance in South Africa, France was luckily rewarded with one of the easier groups in Brazil. Ecuador is making its first appearance since 2006 while Switzerland is making its third consecutive appearance. Honduras is making its third World Cup appearance in team history but is still searching for its first win. Prediction: France and Ecuador advance.
Group F — Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
Argentina is easily the favorite in Group F, and will be expected to waltz into the knockout stage with limited resistance. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the surprise teams to qualify for Brazil and this will be their first World Cup appearance as an independent nation. Nigeria is a strong African side with two knockout stage appearances in its history. Prediction: Argentina and Nigeria advance.
Group G — Germany, Ghana, Portugal, United States
The United States had a wonderful World Cup qualification to get here, but all of that momentum seemed to disappear after the U.S. learned it was drawn into the third “Group of Death.” Germany is a clear favorite, so the Americans best chance is to beat a Ghana side that has eliminated them in each of the past two years and to then get past a Portugal side led by the reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. It will be a major triumph to make it to the knockout stage for the U.S., but hopefully the Yanks will be up to the task. Prediction: Germany and Portugal advance.
Group H — Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea
The uniqueness of Group H is in the fact that the two favorites from Europe — Belgium and Russia — are lacking in World Cup experience as neither has participated since 2002. South Korea brings the most experience with an appearance in the knockout stage in 2010 and 2002. Algeria will be looking for their first World Cup win since 1986. Prediction: Belgium and South Korea advance.
Glory and honor will be on the line for all 32 countries participating this summer, but with it comes immense pressure. Everything is on the line, and each team only gets a chance once every four years. Can Spain defend their title? Can Brazil defend their home soil? Can the U.S. make a run out of a deadly group? The answers await in Brazil.