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The Beautiful Game : PFM’s Guide to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil

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The Beautiful Game : A Guide to the World Cup

In just under a week, the World Cup will kick off on June 12 in the host nation of Brazil, the spiritual home of football. Over the course of a month the 32 best teams from around the globe will compete in one of the world’s biggest sporting spectacles, to be crowned world champions.


The 4 Big Teams to Watch

Brazil

The host and 5-time champions, Brazil, will be the team to beat at this tournament. The last couple of years have marked a resurgence in Brazil’s national team with reappointment of former World Cup winning coach “Big Phil” Scolari. Flare, swagger and all-out attacking football that has defined many Brazilian teams of the past has made way for sheer athleticism, tactical discipline and a strong defensive approach. In 2013, Brazil ended reining World & European Champions, Spain’s, 29-game unbeaten record with a 3-0 win in the Confederations cup. Playing in their home country will be both a blessing and a curse; the support will be massive–Brazilians are known to be the some of most passionate football supporters in the world–but at the same time, the pressure and demand on the team for success will be intense.

Players to Watch : Neymar & Bernard
 


Argentina

The Argentines will have the advantage of not having to travel very far to neighbouring Brazil, as well as having perhaps the most potent attack at this world cup. Arguably, Argentina’s number 10 forward, Leo Messi, is the world’s best player, with lightning fast feet and incredible dribbling skills and an eye for goal. Coming off an incredible season scoring 41 goals for his club team Barcelona, Messi might be primed to make a big impact on these finals. South American football rivalries run deep and there is nothing more Argentine fans would love than to spoil the party for Brazil by defeating them in the final. Assuming both Brazil and Argentina win their respective groups, then there is a very real possibility, and perhaps a dream final.

Players to Watch : Messi & Di María

 


The Beautiful Game : A Guide to the World Cup

Spain

Spain are the reining European & World Champions, with a immensely talented team, yet there seems to be a sentiment that their intricate style of possession football named “Tiki-taka” may not yield results at this tournament, as coaches have started to find tactical ways to counter this style of play. Spain are in a very difficult group facing another Euro giant of football, the Dutch, who will be looking to avenge their 2010 World Cup Final defeat at hands of Spain. The group also includes the Chileans and Aussies who will look to out-muscle the Spaniards. If Spain can retain the World Cup, they will the first team to do so since Brazil did 52 years ago.

Players to Watch : Costa & Xavi

 


Germany

No European team had has ever been able to win the World Cup on South American soil, but if any team can, it will most likely be Germany. Three-time tournament winners, Germany have been perhaps a little unfairly branded with a reputation as being very technical but a bit laborious and safe. However, in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, Germany fielded a youthful, bright, intuitive free-flowing team that, despite not winning the tournament, scored the most goals–16. Their 4-1 demolition of England at the tournament was a master class in counter attacking football. The team from 2010 has matured and built on their successes, they seem to have a momentum that makes them contenders for the title.

Players to watch : Mario Götze & Thomas Müller


The Beautiful Game : A Guide to the World Cup 2014
Best of the Rest

Of course, this is a World Cup final and anything can happen. Belgium, who haven’t featured in the last 3 world cups, are an outside favourite fielding arguably their most talented roster ever, featuring the mercurial Eden Hazard.

Italy always seem to be able to step things up for major tournaments and with world-class playmakers like Virratti and Pirlo in midfield, they can beat anyone on their day. The group opener with England is a potential classic.

England have opted for youth over experience in their squad and don’t have the weight of expectation that has hamstrung so many past campaigns. Wayne Rooney might be England’s best known and most talented player but in form striker, Daniel Sturrage, may provide the goals if England are to progress.

Some of the African nations have been electrifying in recent tournaments and have become fan favourites. The Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast have some big name players including Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré and Gervinho. This team could easily replicate the success of Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal by reaching the quarter final rounds and perhaps they could go one step further and be the first African team to reach the Semifinals.

The Beautiful Game : A Guide to the World Cup

Since the US hosted the world in 1994 and created a domestic professional league, their quality has risen year after year. No longer is just qualifying for the finals the expectation–there is a sophisticated audience for soccer in the US who believe that if the team can emerge from their incredibly tough group phase, they may be able to put together their best ever World Cup run in the modern era. Midfielder Michael Bradley is a genuine talent and will be the key player in Jürgen Klinsmann’s lineup.

If Portugal are to progress, then they will need the world’s best player, Christiano Ronaldo, to be firing on all cylinders and raise the overall level of the Portuguese team. At 29, Ronaldo will never have a better opportunity on the world’s stage to assert his talents and prove he is the number one player over and above Messi. The potential for Ronaldo to showcase his abs for a world wide audience might just provide the motivation he needs to propel is team through the tournament.

The Beautiful Game : A Guide to the World Cup

Last but not least, France‘s national team, Les Bleus, are undoubtedly a world class team, but controversy and infighting has surrounded the them over recent disastrous campaigns. If head coach, Didier Deschamps, can keep his team unified Les Blues can go far, and if not, they may be on the first flight back to France.

All in all, the tournament is set to be entertaining and unpredictable. Good luck to whomever you support. –P.

 


[images : Brita Photography via Entouriste // Irina Shayk and Cristiano Ronaldo by Mario Testino for Vogue Spain June 2014 via Visual Optimism // Daniel Lewsley // Sigfrid López // Diorina // pinterest // Entouriste]

 
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