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World Cup 2014 predictions

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

The World Cup draw is often greeted with even more anticipation than the tournament itself – and Friday showed exactly why.

Between Groups of Death, Groups of Life, intriguing matchups and even a head-to-head showdown between the 2010 finalists, the draw had pretty much everything. For some teams, the balls fell kindly and the dream of a deep World Cup is still very much in play. For others, the reality of seeing their hopes already on life support is slowly kicking in.

Here we take a look at each group and embark upon the foolhardy process of trying to pick a winner for a tournament that is still more than six months away.

GROUP A (4th toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Brazil
2. Croatia
3. Mexico
4 Cameroon

The host nation will be quite happy with itself and should have no trouble in negotiating a path through in first place. Croatia emerged from the UEFA playoffs but was far from convincing, Cameroon has struggled for the past year and well, we know all about Mexico's trials and tribulations just to get here. Don't expect much drama, just enjoy the show.

GROUP B (Toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Spain
2. Netherlands
3. Chile
4. Australia

It doesn't get much better than the two finalists from 2010 battling it out in the opening game of the group. From the moment the Netherlands was positioned here, this immediately became the ultimate Group of Death. Don't sleep on Chile, who placed third in the tricky South American region and have a chance of scraping through. Unlike Australia.

GROUP C (5th toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Colombia
2. Japan
3. Ivory Coast
4. Greece

Sooner or later an African team is going to break through at a World Cup and the talented Ivory Coast is often touted as that continent's best bet. However, Colombia will be a strong force on South American soil and Japan is a much-improved team far more rugged than most expect. Greece may lack the firepower needed to go through.

GROUP D (3rd toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Italy
2. Uruguay
3. England
4. Costa Rica

Uruguay was the unlucky seed that got an extra European team dumped into its lap, and not just any European team either. The 2006 champion Italy is keen to atone for a dismal showing four years ago, while England has failed to impress over the course of qualifying. Costa Rica is weak on the road and is out-matched here.

GROUP E (6th toughest)
Predicted order:
1. France
2. Ecuador
3. Switzerland
4. Honduras

France hit the jackpot with the draw again, getting the easiest seed in Switzerland and a cushy time all around. Ecuador is tough enough to make life tough for the European side and even Honduras will like its chances of springing a couple of shocks. Hardly the most intriguing group of all, but could feature some quality play.

GROUP F (7th toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Argentina
2. Nigeria
3. Bosnia-Herzegovina
4. Iran

Call this group what you like but Argentina is calling it a walk in the park. Lionel Messi and company somehow landed arguably the weakest team from each pot and is faced with nothing that should give it any real concerns. Each of the remaining three teams has a shot at going through, although Nigeria's young squad might be the pick.

GROUP G (2nd toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Germany
2. United States
3. Portugal
4. Ghana

OK, so hang on a minute, I haven't completely taken leave of my senses. The order of the schedule is the only saving grace for the U.S., with its most winnable game (Ghana) up first and a German team that may already have one foot in the second round as the last game of group play. If Germany runs the table, four points could be enough to qualify. The U.S. faces a tall task though in finding a way to curb the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and earn a draw against Portugal. And don't forget: internationally, this is seen as one of the toughest groups in part because of the U.S. team's presence in it.

GROUP H (8th toughest)
Predicted finishing order:
1. Russia
2. Belgium
3. South Korea
4. Algeria

Last time the champion (Spain) emerged from Group H. This time…that won't happen. One of the easiest groups should be a fight between European mid-majors Russia and Belgium, though don't discount South Korea, whose physical stamina could be a factor in the heat of Cuiaba. Algeria is decent defensively but unlikely to threaten.

PROJECTED KNOCKOUT STAGE:
Brazil beats Netherlands
Spain beats Croatia
Colombia beats Uruguay
Italy beats Japan
France beats Nigeria
Argentina beats Ecuador
Germany beats Belgium
United States beats Russia

Brazil atones for its quarterfinal defeat in 2010, while six former winners cruise through to the last eight.

QUARTERFINALS
Brazil beats Colombia
Germany beats France
Spain beats Italy
Argentina beats United States

No major shocks here as the plucky run of the U.S. comes to a sudden halt against a rampant Argentina.

SEMIFINALS
Brazil beats Germany
Argentina beats Spain

Spain's incredible run in major tournaments eventually comes to an end as Messi and his cohorts find a way through that machine-like midfield. Brazil keeps on rolling.

FINAL
Brazil beats Argentina

Brazil has never forgotten its failure to win the World Cup the only previous time it hosted in 1950. This time around it will finally put those demons to rest and send an entire country into rapture.

 

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