Here we are, at the final two groups – and at the time of writing this, we are nearly a month away from the first game! As previously mentioned in the past previews, the top two teams from the group stage move on to the bracketed segment of the World Cup called the Knockout Stage. At this point, the teams are seeded to play another group: Winner of A against second in B; Winner of B against second of A; etc. Winners of each match continue to move on from the Round of 16 to the Quarters, Semis, and eventually the Final match. The entire contest lasts a month from start to finish, but then will not happen again for another four years.
Note: At time of writing, rosters are not finalized. Also, the numbers are Vegas odds: a higher number indicates a worse likelihood of winning the World Cup.
Germany (+550), Portugal (+3,300), United States (+15,000), Ghana (+20,000)
Group G represents the Group of Death for the World Cup (a title given to the group with the absolute best teams). Germany has an incredible team with a qualifying campaign that sets the tone for the rest of the world – unbeaten and having scored 36 goals. Mesut Ozil offers the kind of play-making ability that teams dream of having (lucky for Arsenal), while stars in Podolski, Muller, and Schweinsteiger (to name a few) have so much firepower behind them it’s easy to see why they are definite contenders for the World Cup. Vegas only rates Ghana so low because of the group they are in. Essien and Captain Gyan need to show up big time if they want to compete. On to Portugal, where Ronaldo will need to be the Ronaldoist Ronaldo he can be if the team wants to move on against strong competition like the USA. Speaking of, the US has put together its strongest team I have ever seen – packed with athletes who can play their counter-attack style perfectly, especially with Jozy Altidore. Coach Klinsmann will need Altidore in top form in this group to avoid an early exit.
Prediction: I easily predict the Germans to run over the other three teams with tactical precision and discipline that their style is known for. The second spot is a little bit more difficult. While I would love to see an American victory, this group is just too tough to give them the benefit of the doubt. I predict Portugal gets that second spot thanks to a godly performance by Ronaldo.
Belgium (+1,400), Russia (+6,600), South Korea (+45,000), Algeria (+100,000)
In comparison to the Group of Death, this group is certainly the Group of Kindness. None of these teams, including Belgium, has any shot at making it to the finals. Algeria is a relatively unknown team, which is actually their strength. The Algerians are well-known for being underdog upsetters, having beaten Germany in 1982 (Germany won the World Cup though). However, this team may be paving the way for the future with young players like Ghilas, Bougherra, and Slimani. Even in this group, I do not give the team much of a shot. With Belgium, on the other hand, it is hard not want to jump on their bandwagon. The team is packed with talent, depth, and truly dangerous players. It is a golden age in Belgian football and the team really needs to come out strong to take advantage of its talent. South Korea has talent, but not the kind that can compete with top tier players. Keep an eye on Son Heung-Min though – he can be a dangerous X-Factor if he gets the taste for goals early. Russia has Fabio Capello, which cannot be good for the Russians if his tenure with England was any indication. However, he did lead through the qualifiers easily. This time, a defensive-minded team is the core of the strategy. But does it have enough to score against Belgium? (Not likely.)
Prediction: Belgium continues its glory run and dominates the group, and South Korea takes second spot. Too much pressure on Russia causes the team to fold early. Plus, South Korea is great at outperforming its talent in the group stage. (In 2010 it did, and was a semi-finalist in 2002.)
Who do you think will take home the 2014 World Cup? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.