Brazil no longer possesses the world class players of yesteryear.
Following the World Cup 2014 draw in December 2013, the coaches of each participating nation now have the unenviable task of deciding which players will make the cut.
It is a tough call for a lot of the teams, and players will be scrutinised until June 2, when the final 23 man squads will be announced.
The 2014 World Cup is drawing close by, but which teams and players are likely to make it to Brazil? We’ve conducted a mini survey to see who our readers will be following. Let’s take a closer look at the popular choices of this year’s World Cup.
Roy Hodgson’s men head to Brazil after an unbeaten run in the qualifiers and topping the group, 6 wins and 4 draws from the 10 games played. Goals from Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard against a resilient Poland side in their final match secured their golden ticket to the finals, but the nation was put through a nervy and tense 90 minutes at Wembley stadium.
What looked to have been a relatively easy passage with Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Montenegro and San Marino in the group was made difficult as England struggled. Four draws left them needing positive results in the penultimate and final group matches to qualify.
Since qualifying, England has come crashing back to earth in the two friendlies that followed with defeats in lacklustre performances against Chile and Germany. There’s still plenty of work for Hodgson to do between now and the opening match in Brazil, the draw throwing up a group that includes Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy.
Key Players: Wayne Rooney is in his third World Cup and a player who will be looking to better his previous tournament disappointments. He is a potential match winner who will be aiming to beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record of 49 goals.
Also in the running are Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Hart and a surprising contender in Andros Townsend who was a star performer against Montenegro.
Prediction: England fans expect at least the semi-finals, but this time around morale and expectations are not so high. If England get through the group stage then the quarter finals looks like it’s as good as it will get.
Reigning World Champions Spain head to Brazil having won the last three major tournaments they have entered.
Six wins from their last eight qualifiers saw them edge past France in qualifying with the latter having to come through the dreaded play offs to secure qualification.
Coach Vicente Del Bosque probably has the easiest job in the world with so many talented individuals at his disposal. The only question is whether he sticks with the old guard or does he mix the squad with some talented new kids on the block.
Spain will face Netherlands, Chile and Australia in the group games.
Key Players: Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Xabi Alonso, Isco, Thiago Alcântara, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, Pedro and Diego Costa who has chosen his adopted country over Brazil.
Prediction: With the crop of players and strength in depth it is hard to imagine anything but a place in the final.
Germany breezed their way into the finals by finishing 8 points clear in the qualifying group. They won nine and drew one and scored 36 goals along the way.
With the Bundesliga producing some of the finest footballing talent at the moment, Joachim Löw will be confident that his side will have a successful tournament and continue to play some sublime football. The German’s are always regarded as strong contenders for any tournament and no doubt will be one of Europe’s best hopes in lifting the trophy.
Germany’s line up includes games against Portugal, Ghana and USA.
Key Players: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, Thomas Müller, Julian Draxler, Mario Götze, Toni Kroos, and Miroslav Klose who is only one goal away from Ronaldo’s all time World Cup goal scoring record of 15.
Prediction: With the quality of players in the squad, a semi-final spot must be in the minds of the German fans.
Argentina finished two points clear of Colombia to top South American qualifying. They won nine, drew five and lost only two against Venezuela and Uruguay.
Head coach Alejandro Sabella has many wonderful players to choose from and has the mesmerizing talent and genius that is Lionel Messi. Argentina are a side that are always fancied to do well in tournaments but don’t necessarily fulfil their ambition – individual players being more prominent rather than playing as a team.
Key Players: Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Ángel di María, Carlos Tévez, Javier Mascherano and of course, Lionel Messi.
Prediction: If they fulfil their potential Argentina could well go onto win the trophy but a semi-final spot is a must.
Brazil is a team that has entertained and thrilled football fans around the world for many years with flair, class, skill and individual brilliance.
As the host nation, Brazil automatically qualified and will be looking to maintain the fabulous work rate and ethics they portrayed on the way to lifting the Confederations Cup in 2013.
Brazil no longer possesses the world class players of yesteryear but this is a hungry young squad who will want to entertain at home. They also have the 2002 World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to guide them.
Key Players: Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Luiz Gustavo, Oscar, Hulk, Lucas Moura, Fred. Is it also time to believe the hype about Neymar? One name to watch out for is Bernard who is described as being full of energy, direct and quick.
Prediction: The pressure will be on Brazil to win the World Cup and if everything goes to plan, a place in the final looks inevitable. If they can reach the final then they should go on to lift the trophy.
Other teams to look out for will be Uruguay with Luis Suárez in sublime form, Colombia (Radamel Falcao), Italy (Mario Balotelli), Netherlands (Arjen Robben), Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo) and one team to watch out for is the very talented Belgium, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Romelu Lukaku.
So there we have the teams in contention for the prestigious Jules Rimet World Cup trophy. Statistics say that one in three hosts win the World Cup. Will it be Brazil? Roll on June 12, 2014 and let the battle commence.