With less than a week to the first game of the 2014 FIFA world cup in Brazil, here is an attempt at providing the ultimate guide to the competition. Groups, Star Players and predictions. It has it all.
What chance do England have? Here is a prediction of how the tournament may unfold…
Group A: Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico
Group B: Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain
Group C: Colombia, Cóte d’Ivoire, Greece, Japan
Group D: Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay
Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
Group G: Germany, Ghana, Portugal, USA
Group H: Algeria, Belgium, Korea Republic, Russia
Group A winners: Brazil and Cameroon
Group B winners: Spain and Netherlands
Group C winners: Colombia and Cóte d’Ivoire
Group D winners: Uruguay and England (a hopeful supporter)
Group E winners: France and Switzerland
Group F winners: Argentina and Nigeria
Group G winners: Germany and Portugal
Group H winners: Belgium and Russia
Likely Stand out players/ones to watch:
Brazil’s captain and talisman, I certainly expect him to carry on the outstanding form he has been in for Paris Saint Germain this season. Everyone always quotes the phrase ‘its just like watching Brazil’ in an attacking sense, however, I think defensively Brazil will be the stand out team this World Cup and this quality is the one that makes them favourites for me. (Just think of their back four: Alves, Silva, Dante and Marcelo!)
A reasonably unknown figure here in England, Perisic has been in solid form for his club Wolfsburg this season. Playing as a winger Perisic provides pace, assists and goals and I am backing him to shine for Croatia this World Cup. (Of course Luka Modric will be a key member of the Croatia team too).
Again a reasonably unknown figure here in England, but he is a regular for his side Espanyol and for the Mexican national team. Playing at Centre-Back he is a player who is starting to reach his potential coming into his prime age. One to watch for me.
The 20 year old striker has been on fine form since his move to Lorient this season, with 15 goals and 2 assists in all competitions. He may not necessarily be a starter with the likes of Samuel Eto’o in front of him, but certainly an impact players with pace and goals.
A player who has caused much controversy in international football -switching his allegiance from Brazil to Spain- but nevertheless, Costa has been in fine form for Athletico Madrid this season. His 36 goals in all competitions this season have helped Athletico achieve their first La Liga title in 18 years and reach the final of the Champions League. With the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva behind him he is likely to have plenty of chances, my prediction for the golden boot this World Cup.
Deemed the ‘dutch Xavi’ by many Clasie is likely to attract plenty of scouts for this upcoming tournament. Again like Aboubakar he is not guaranteed a place in the starting line up for Holland with the likes of Sneijder and Van der Vaart in front of him, but if he gets his chance I expect him to shine.
A forgotten figure for some at Barcelona, I expect Sanchez to answer a few critics at this upcoming world cup, being the leading front man for the Chile XI.
As a Swindon Town fan I have to give a shout out to Swindon’s midfield general. He provides pace and power from the heart of midfield, he is still very young so if he has a good tournament I am sure a few top-flight clubs may come knocking on the County Ground’s door!
I’m backing Colombia to be my surprise package for this World Cup. A lot of their squad has bags of potential and quality, with James Rodriguez epitomising this. With the ability to play anywhere in midfield Rodriguez has flair, pace and a good cross to feed the goal machines that are Falcao and Jacksom Martinez. With 9 goals and 12 assists for Monaco this season I expect him to carry on this form and shine.
The Dortmund man has been on excellent form this season for the German club, being very much at the heart of their defence. Expect good things to come from him.
The Man City man has quite simply been phenomenal for his club this season, scoring 20 goals for them in all competitions from midfield. If he stays fit and on form, Toure could quite easily drag this experienced Cóte d’Ivoire team to the quarter finals if not further.
Kagawa has been a forgotten or misused man at Manchester United this season, and with Louis Van Gaal now at the helm Kagawa will be wanting to use the world cup as an audition to show that he is the man for the job in the no.10 role at Manchester United.
Who else could I possibly pick? The Uruguayan has been in sublime form for his club Liverpool, scoring nearly 40 goals in all competitions this season and picking up a couple of PFA awards on the way. Another contender for golden boot at this World Cup.
After a successful loan period at Olympiakos, the Arsenal forward will be hoping to use the world cup as either a way of proving to Arsene Wenger he deserves his place in the Arsenal squad or showing potential buyers what he is capable of.
The Southampton midfielder has been on fine form this season, leading to huge interest from many of the top Premier League clubs. I expect Lallana to continue this fine form into the world cup and provide England with plenty of opportunities. He provides a threat that England haven’t had in a long time; a winger who has the ability to drift in between the lines and pick a pass.
Big fan of the Azzuri forward, has pace, power and skill and I expect that unlike a lot of Italy players over the years he will go on to reach his potential if he stays fit. Expect him to score plenty of goals for Italy at this world cup, just hopefully not in the opening match against England!
Has been a key figure for the re-emergence of Napoli under Rafa Benitez this season. Is an excellent all-round midfielder who has reached his peak age, expect him to be a shining light in the time Switzerland have at this World Cup.
Felipe Caicedo/Antonio Valencia:
Couldn’t decide between these two, both provide plenty of power and pace to the Ecuador cause. I don’t expect big things from Ecuador this world cup, however, I do expect these two will give the sides that they face plenty of problems.
Has been the spearhead of Real Madrid’s attack this season, scoring 24 goals this season. If France play a similar system to Real Madrid, playing Ribery and Pogba or Griezmann either side of him, I expect him to score plenty of goals for France at this world cup. Arguably another contender for the golden boot.
Has been one of the outstanding players at Celtic for the last few seasons. A marauding left back who is good both in defence and attack. Expect him to use the world cup as a ‘come and get me plea’ to Premier League clubs.
Yes, some may be shocked that I haven’t picked a player from the array of talent that Argentina have in their forward line (Messi, Di Maria, Lavezzi, Aguero… the list goes on). But I really think that Argentina will be stars defensively too, and I believe this man will be very much at the heart of it. I watched him in the Benfica vs Tottenham games and he was fantastic. Strong, powerful, but can also play the ball too- he’s not afraid to try a 30 yard pass. This fact means that Argentina have players who can pass in every areas of the pitch, a reason I believe that makes them my second favourites.
An extremely talented playmaker who is coming to his peak age, if he has a good world cup I would expect the top sides in Europe to come and knock on Roma’s door.
If his record for the Iran Under 20s is anything to go by then he could be a hit! The striker (who only just turned 19 in January) has scored 19 goals in just 17 appearances. The striker is owned by Rubin Kazan and has already attracted interest from many top-flight clubs such as AC Milan, Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal- who were rumoured to have put down a £2 million bid for him in March earlier this year.
Ahmed Musa/ Emmanuel Emenike:
Many of you true FIFA fans may recognise these two players. Both have lots and lots of pace and an eye for goal. If either of these two hit form for the World Cup then Nigeria could go a long way in the tournament.
This is the 35-year olds third world cup and once again he comes into the tournament as his country’s leading front man. Can he deliver those vital goals for Germany yet again?
Portugal/AKA team Ronaldo:
Ronaldo/ William Carvalho:
Ronaldo has scored an average 50 goals in 46 appearances for Real Madrid this season. I don’t really need to say much more on him. On a less obvious front this may be the chance that William Carvalho is looking for to impress potential buyers. The midfielder has been linked strongly with a move to Manchester United.
The world cup could be the perfect platform for Atsu to show Chelsea Coach Jose Mourinho that he is ready to be involved in the main squad and not go back on loan next season.
The veteran striker is the leading front man for the U.S.A, a natural and proven goal scorer who has been impressive in the group stages. However, despite being 31 this is Wondolowski’s first ever world cup and it is yet to be seen wether he can deliver on the big stage.
With no guarantee of where he will be playing his football next season, this is an interesting World Cup for Lukaku as it could be his chance to show manager Jose Mourinho that he can be Chelsea’s answer for a striker as he looks to impress on the World stage. However, on the flip-side it could also be the chance for Lukaku to further show potential buyers what he is capable of.
A midfielder who Tim Sherwood had a lot of faith in during his spell in charge of Tottenham this year, often selecting him for the big matches. I certainly was impressed by him, a calm figure in the centre of midfield who plays positively but is also willing to put a shift in.
The Russian striker has been in good form this year for his loan side Rostov, scoring 19 goals in 31 appearances. If the Spartak Moscow forward impresses at the World Cup I would think a few top sides would be interested in him.
The South Korean midfielder has been on the fringes of being one of the best upcoming players in the Bundesliga the last few years but has never been quite there. He has been in decent form for his team Bayer Leverkusen this season, helping them to finish fourth.