Now that all 32 participating teams have been drawn into the eight groups for the 2014 World Cup we can begin to engage in the age old tradition of speculating and analyzing the tournament before any games have been played. With that in mind, here is my instant analysis of what I take away from the draw and what this means for a few of the participating teams as we now finally have an idea of who will play who come June 2014 when Brazil gets the tournament started against Croatia.
Beginning in Group A, Brazil will have no trouble advancing and winning this group that includes Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. As for the teams in this group not named Brazil, they will view this as a group that gives them a chance to advance into the Round of 16 given they will view the others as equals. But as of today, I will say Mexico will be favorite to come in second. In the first of several group of deaths, Group B has defending champion Spain, runners-up Netherlands, dark horse Chile, and Australia. Basically, this group will be determined by who amongst the first three do better against each other with the key match being Netherlands vs. Chile as one would assume one of the two will join Spain in the Round of 16.
Group C is a group for seeded Colombia is a very accessible one given who they will be playing with as they are joined by Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. It may not mean much given that in the Round of 16 the two that advance from this group will faceoff against the two that advance from the second group of death in this tournament and that is Group D. In this group, we have Uruguay, Italy, England, and Costa Rica. With all due respect to Costa Rica, this group is about the other three teams who are better. And looking at it at this moment, England fans will feel really somber given that Uruguay and Italy are better and one would reasonably expect them to advance given their squads.
Group E is a weak group on paper given that Switzerland is the seeded team and is joined in the group by Ecuador, France, and Honduras. All four teams in this group will feel like they have a realistic chance of winning or advancing from this group given that Switzerland was the seeded team. In Group F, Argentina will have no troubles winning this group as they will play against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria. This group allows Argentina to find themselves defensively before they face much tougher tests in the knockout rounds.
All the hubris that United States may have had about falling into an easy group were wiped away as they landed in the third group of death for this World Cup as they are in Group G with Germany, Portugal, and their huckleberry better known as Ghana. Aside from facing three very tough opponents, the United States will have to make over 8600 miles in travel for their three group games in a group that right now I favor Germany and Portugal advancing from. Finally in Group H, Belgium find themselves in a very accessible group along with Russia, South Korea, and Algeria.
All in all, the other takeaways from this draw were that Brazil and Argentina can only meet in the final while Brazil will have a tough Round of 16 match given who is in Group B. Also of note, in some ways Italy were done a “favor” by being placed in a group of death as such a group has always benefited Italy in past World Cups while two of the four CONCACAF teams, i.e. those not in group of deaths, fancy their chances of making it to the Round of 16. We now know how will play who and begin looking forward to very intriguing games.