World Cup 2014 Draw: Ranking the Teams in Pot 1
World Cup 2014 Draw: Ranking the Teams in Pot 1
Friday is a day that soccer fans, players and coaches from around the world have been waiting for, as FIFA will conduct the official draw for the 2014 World Cup. After a long, hard qualifying process, 32 teams will find out who they will battle in the group stages of the world’s most prestigious tournament.
Those teams are divided into four pots made up of 8 teams each. Pot 1 is the highest ranked teams in the world, Pot 2 is the representatives from Africa and South America, Pot 3 includes teams from Asia and North/Central America and Pot 4 includes teams from Europe. The draw is designed so that the best teams in the world will avoid each other until the knockout stages, and so that each group will have diverse geographical representation.
No pot has more intrigue then the first, which includes the most talented teams in the world. Defending champion Spain, host Brazil and top challengers Germany and Argentina are all included in this section. It is a safe bet that most of these teams will advance into the round of 16 and beyond, and there is a very good chance that the champion will emerge from this group.
It will be interesting to see who each of these teams is drawn against, as well if any find themselves in the Group of Death. We will have to wait until Friday to learn their fates, so for now let’s focus on comparing them to each other. These are some of the best sides in the world, and this how the teams in Pot 1 rank.
The inclusion of Switzerland in Pot 1 ahead of more famous sides such as Italy, England and France will surprise some, but the pots are based on FIFA rankings, and the Swiss have earned their spot. They easily qualified out of UEFA Group E, and they are a team that could surprise with a strong showing in Brazil.
The Swiss have a strong midfield that includes Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, and they will look to control games and create scoring opportunities for Haris Seferovic. Diego Benaglio will man the nets, and he will need to be on top of his game for low scoring Switzerland to advance.
Colombia is a team that is known for one man and one man only: Radamel Falcao. Falcao is one of the two or three best strikers in the world, and his presence means that Colombia can beat anyone on any given day. He will need support, however, and that could be a concern.
Winger James Rodriguez will need to have an impact as a playmaker, setting up scoring chances for Falcao. Colombia’s defense was very good in qualifying, and if they can continue to play at that level then the Colombians have to be considered a dark horse team.
No team in the world has a better striking tandem than Uruguay, who feature Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani atop their formation. With dead ball specialist Diego Forlan leading a solid midfield, Uruguay should be one of the highest scoring teams in the tournament.
However, there are some significant concerns about Uruguay’s ability to keep the ball out their own net. The defense will have to play better, because they cannot require Suarez and Cavani to score two or three times to win a game. Those two can win Uruguay some games, but they won’t be enough to win the tournament.
Belgium is the trendy dark horse pick, and for good reason. They are loaded with talent all over the field, beginning up top with strikers Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Miralles. Belgium has an incredibly talented midfield that creates opportunities for those strikers, featuring Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens and Marouane Fellaini, among others.
In the back, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen lead a strong defense, and the Belgians have two outstanding goalkeepers in Simon Mignolet and Thibaut Courtois. Belgium is one of the deepest and most talented teams in the world, and they believe they can play with anyone. Do not be surprised to see this team in the quarters or the semi-finals, and they could shock the world and win the cup.
Argentina is seeking to return to its former glory by winning the World Cup on South American soil, and many believe they have the talent to do. They are led by the man many consider the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. Messi is capable of single handedly winning games, but he has plenty of support with Argentina.
Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Ever Banega make up a world class supporting cast that will have Argentina favored in nearly every game. A defense that features Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta will need to perform well for Argentina to win, but they are more than capable of doing that. Of course, one must always remember one simple fact when playing Argentina: they have Messi, and you don’t.
Brazil face enormous expectations as they host the 2014 World Cup, but they have the talent to meet them. Neymar is the star of the team and one of the world’s elite, and as Brazil’s No. 10 he will be expected to be the best player in the tournament. He and Fred teamed together brilliantly at last summer’s Confederation’s Cup, and they hope to repeat that performance.
Oscar, Paulinho and Hulk are part of a strong supporting cast that is superior to most, and they will all be expected to create and score goals. Defensively, players such as David Luiz and Dani Alves are creative, attacking players, but they will need to be sound in the defense as well. Thiago Silva is the best center back in the world, and he will provide an anchor in front of Julio Cesar, allowing his more aggressive line mates to press forward.
Perhaps Brazil’s greatest challenge will be shutting out the overwhelming pressure and expectations, and it remains to be seen if their young stars will rise to the challenge or crumble under the weight. Even if they perform well, Brazil will still have a huge challenge in overcoming these next two teams, both of whom are deeper and more experienced.
Germany was dominant in qualifying, winning 9 of 10 games (with a draw in the tenth) and recording a +26 goal differential. They have a brilliant midfield that includes some of the world’s best, with names like Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller featuring regularly. The Germans have a very solid defense that is led by the superlative Phillip Lahm, and if they fail, the world’s best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, is protecting the net.
If there is any concern for Germany it is the strikers, where Max Kruse, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez leave something to be desired. Andre Schurrle could play up top as a de facto striker if none of those players can find consistent scoring form. However, the Germans have so many exceptional attacking midfielders that the lack of an elite No. 9 is not particularly concerning.
The Germans have as good a chance as anyone of winning the tournament, and they will be expecting at least an appearance in the semi-finals. This is one of the co-favorites for the World Cup, and no would be surprised if they won.
Despite all the great teams in this pot and in this tournament, the best team in the world and the betting favorites remains Spain, the defending champions. This Spanish side has won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012, and they are seeking to add to their historic dominance.
The Spanish team is renowned for its impeccable control of the midfield, where Andres Inestia, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva head a list of midfielders that has three times more talent than it can fit on the field. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique lead a defense that protects Iker Casillas, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
If there was any weakness for Spain, it was striker, where various players have struggled to nail down the top role. However, Diego Costa chose to play for Spain over his native Brazil, and he could end all of Spain’s striking woes. He is one of the world’s best and has been in incredible form, and his addition makes Spain the clear favorites to win their second straight World Cup.
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