2014 FIFA World Cup Preview

May 27th, 2014 by Ed Frost
FIFA World Cup 2014

The 2014 FIFA World Cup starts in Brazil next month and it has all the makings of a great tournament. This is the first time it has been held in South America since 1978, and it has not been held in Brazil since 1950. The bookmakers have the Brazil team as favorites to win the trophy and many experts are predicting a victory for the home side.

In this betting preview I take a look at their chances. I also examine the chances of three other favored teams – Argentina, Germany and Spain – and provide the current best odds for each team to win its group, make the final, and win the tournament.

Betting on soccer is rarely easy and it’s always hard to predict the winner in major tournaments. This preview may help you do just that though, and I share my pick with you too.

Brazil (Group A)

Group Fixtures

Best Odds Available

Croatia, June 12 Group Winners: 1/4
Mexico, June 17 Finalists: 7/4
Cameroon, June 23 Tournament Winners: 3/1

Coach: Luiz Felip Scolari

Key Player: Neymar

When Scolari was appointed as the Brazilian coach for the second time (in 2012) he was given the specific instruction to win the 2014 World Cup. His appointment was met with disapproval and skepticism by some but Scolari is very well-respected for the most part and his experience could be vital to Brazil’s chances this year.

He knows exactly what it takes to win the World Cup as he was in charge of Brazil the last time they won in 2002. Scolari is a master of getting the best out of players and he proved this when he led Brazil to victory in the Confederations Cup last year, beating Spain 3-0 in the final. With home advantage and a talented squad at his disposal it is easy to see why Brazil are the bookmakers’ favorites.

Brazil has the potential for plenty of goals. Their team is likely to include Neymar and Hulk flanking, Fred up front and Oscar in behind. Neymar in particular could be crucial and this could be his opportunity to shine away from the shadow of Messi at Barcelona. The team will press from the front but the defense is solid too.

They should certainly top their group and you have to favor them to at least make the final. The big question is whether their home advantage actually puts them under too much pressure. Tiredness could also be a factor and it will be difficult to maintain their pressing style over several games in a relatively short period.

It is also worth noting that a few of their first choice players ply their trade in the English Premier League. There is no winter break there and this may affect some of them. For example Oscar is an important player to the team but his performances for Chelsea did drop over the second half of the season.

Their squad should have enough to cope though and it is hard to make a strong case against backing them.

Argentina (Group F)

Group Fixtures

Best Odds Available

Bosnia, June 15 Group Winners: 1/4
Iran, June 21 Finalists: 11/4
Nigeria, June 25 Tournament Winners: 5/1

Coach: Alejandro Sabella

Key Player: Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi ArgentinaArgentina must be considered the biggest threat to Brazil. Their front three of Messi, Aguero and Higuain is enough to scare any defense and should have no problem scoring goals in this tournament. The team has only lost twice in the last two and a half years and they will be keen to upset Brazil on their own patch.

Messi in particular will be determined to get his hands on the Jules Rimet trophy. He is widely considered to the best player ever and has broken a string of records during his career. Adding a World Cup to his list of achievements seems almost fitting.

He plays as a false nine for Barcelona and receives the ball from everyone, but Messi plays a deeper role for Argentina. He may not be the main focus in the way he is at his club, but he is still influential and his role allows his fellow forwards to get into the box too. His form will play a big part in how his team does.

The main concern with Argentina is whether their team is cohesive enough. There is a tendency for the defense, midfield, and attack all to play in separate units and this may end up causing them problems. They should still be considered the most likely to spoil the Brazilian party though.

Germany (Group F)

Group Fixtures

Best Odds Available

Portugal, June 16 Group Winners: 4/7
Ghana, June 21 Finalists: 3/1
USA, June 26 Tournament Winners: 6/1

Coach: Joachim Low

Key Player: Per Mertesacker

The Germans are the third favorites in the betting but there is very little between them and the fourth favorites Spain. They have been playing some strong soccer over the last couple of years and seem to be constantly improving. Whether they can improve enough to take the main prize here is a big question though.

They have a midfield full of talent and a solid defense. Center-back Per Mertesacker has been a regular in this side for nearly a decade and is one of the most consistent defenders around. He has just had a solid season for Arsenal and he should help Germany to keep it tight at the back. They have a top class goalkeeper in Neuer too.

The worry here is where the goals will come from. The veteran striker Klose doesn’t play like he is 36 but his age will surely be a factor when his coach decides who is going to lead the line in this year’s tournament.  Podoloski is the only other recognized center-forward, as Gomez is not in the squad following an injury hit season, although Muller and Gotze can both play up front if required.

Even though they are in a tough group featuring Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Germany will be expected to make it through to the next round and beyond. They are going to need to be at their very best to go all the way though, and even that might not be enough.

Spain (Group B)

Group Fixtures

Best Odds Available

Holland, June 13 Group Winners: 8/11
Chile, June 18 Finalists: 10/3
Australia, June 23 Tournament Winners: 13/2

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque

Key Player: Xavi

This Spanish team has their work cut out if they are to continue their winning run in major tournaments. Having won the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup in 2010 they have to be taken seriously though. A lot will depend on how the coach sets them up and whether he plays anyone to lead the line in a traditional sense.

They have had success playing without a recognized striker but there is often a sense that they have plenty of players to create the chances yet no-one to put them away. They may not get away with that in this tournament. The fact that their style is so well-established now could mean their opponents have worked out ways to combat it. The slow pitches in Brazil may not suit their passing style either.

The tough climate will suit them though. They will be able to wear their opponents down if they keep possession as well as they usually do. It will just come down to whether they can do enough with the ball when they have it. If Xavi is at his best and finds his magical passing range then they may well have a shot.

They’re virtual certainties to get out of their group but the real test will come if and when they have to meet Brazil or Argentina.

Conclusion

No team from outside South America has ever won a World Cup on South American soil and it is difficult to see that changing this year. Germany and Spain cannot be ignored and there are other teams who may spring a surprise, but Brazil and Argentina are the two favorites for good reason. The odds are not great for either of these teams to win it but Brazil is the team to back for me.

I’m not really sticking my neck on the line with this pick but the simple fact is I think they will win it. I don’t see the pressure getting to them and they will benefit from the climate and having the crowd behind them. Better odds would be nice but 3/1 is probably about the right price and good enough for me to still want to back Brazil.