With the exciting end of this year’s soccer leagues around the globe, the football world is all set to have an exhilarating World Cup 2014. After the fairly uneventful and not-so-exciting World Cup of 2010 that took place in South Africa, the enthusiasm for international football continued to diminish in the world and notably in Europe, the shift of football fanaticism moved to the league football.

However, FIFA World Cup 2014 promises to be a treat and the sport in general can benefit a lot from a tremendous World Cup this summer. There are numerous reasons that make this competition irresistible; some of them are as follows.

• Strong squads of all major teams
All the major nations contending for the title are star studded and have superstars playing for them for almost all positions. The only exception here is that of the Netherlands as Arjen Robben, Van Persie, and to some extent Wesley Sneijder remain the only high profile players for them.

• More teams threatening for the latter stages
Spain, Germany and Brazil are amongst the primary title contenders, but there are a lot of teams which have the knack to go into the quarter and semi-finals of the tournament. Teams like Belgium, Uruguay, Argentina, Croatia and Chile are posing a real threat.

• Most expensive FIFA World Cup in history
World Cup this summer has broken all previous records and is known to be the most expensive world cup of football till date. The sponsors, media coverage, and overall branding of the tournament has been extremely big. The prize money itself is the staggering $276 million that is the highest amount so far to be paid to the winning team.

• Fantastic Draws in Group Stages
FIFA World Cup 2014 is all set to have some huge matches right from the very beginning. Ties like Spain vs Netherlands, England vs Italy and Brazil vs Croatia at the very start of the tournament make it thrilling from the start.

Following is the preview of the opening mouth-watering fixture of the World Cup 2014:

Brazil vs Croatia

Brazil’s recent form has been extraordinary ever since their coach Felipe Scolari has rejoined. He has lost just twice in his 20 games and scored 57 goals while conceding just 15. The statistics and tactics of the ex-Chelsea coach have been brilliant for Brazil. He might not have the same attacking depth as he had in 2002 with Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, but he still has a massive squad with the likes of Neymar, Hulk, Oscar and Fred in the attacking part of the team. As far as the defense is concerned, Brazil boasts one of the best defenses in the world with Thiago Silva, who is widely regarded as the best defender in the world playing at the heart of their defense pairing with David Luiz who has recently accepted a sensational move to PSG from Chelsea for 50 million pounds. Moreover, their full backs being Champions League winner Marcelo and Barcelona’s Dani Alves give them ample space to attack on the flanks and also keep their defense line waterproof.

One of the major tasks for the Brazilian coach would be to deal with the players who have not played well for their respective league clubs. Players such as Paulinho and Julio Cesar hasn’t been performing well lately, but are expected to start for their nation. The goalkeeping slot handled by Julio Cesar would be a big question and it would remain to see whether Cesar still has it in him to perform at the top level. Louis Gustavo may lose his starting berth to the fantastic performing Fernandinho, while Neymar would once again be expected to be the savior of Brazil.

Leaving aside the significance of Hulk, Neymar and Fred for the team, it is one individual who has to be at his best if Brazil needs to go to the finals and that is Oscar. The Chelsea man started their 2013/2014 campaign with a blast and ended up replacing Juan Mata, who had been winning consecutive player of the year awards for Chelsea. Not only did he replace Juan’s Mata, but his outstanding performances also made Chelsea sell Juan Mata to their title rivals Manchester United. However, in the latter period of the league, Oscar started to perform awfully and was henceforth taken out of the starting 11. It will remain to see whether the talented young Brazilian would be able to grasp his form back, but in case he gets back to his playmaking skills, he shall be an absolute asset for the team.

Croatia on the other hand has an equally popular and successful coach in Robert Kovac. The squad of Croatia is extremely talented and they are hoping to surpass their achievements in 1998 finals where they finished third. Croatia has arguably the best three playmakers in a single team with Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Barcelona’s target Ivan Rakitic all playing the best football of their careers. It will be extremely interesting to see whether the three of them will be able to play in a single team. Mateo Kovacic can be expected to play at the left wing courtesy of his skillful dribbling skills while Modric and Rakitic would be pulling the strings from the midfield. The biggest blow for Croatia, however, is the suspension of Mario Mandzukic. The Bayern Munich star is their biggest weapon in attack and he will miss their first important match against Brazil. Nevertheless, Ivica Olic will most likely take his place and he is still a good enough option to lead the attack for Croatia.

Prediction: Technically, Brazil has a very potent attack and an even solid defense, but they lack some creativity in the midfield as Oscar and Paulinho has not been at their best. On the contrary, Croatia has a remarkable midfield and a decent attack, so the contest between the two of them would be a treat to watch.
However, with the home advantage and a better overall squad, we expect Brazil to win this match with a 2-1 scoreline.
Players to Watch: Neymar and Luka Modric

Spain vs Netherland
Spain enters this world cup as clear cut most favorite with their unbeatable recent performances. Vincente Del Bosque’s men will definitely be looking to add a fourth consecutive prestigious trophy in their cabinet. Spain’s performances in the last world cup and Euro cup have deservedly won them all the success, however their recent thrashing in Brazil last summer has caused some concerns for Del Bosque and he may be looking to have a new formation of his team.

While it could be foolish to change the formation of an incredibly successful team, but the change in tactics could bring out a different brand of football that could be surprising for the opponents. We’ve seen in the past Vincente Del Bosque playing a team without any striker and with their main attacking man Diego Costa fighting through an injury, it would be interesting to see how Spain copes with their attacking options. Apart from Costa, Fernando Torres and David Villa are the other available options, but with the former having a disappointing season with Chelsea, and the latter being overshadowed by Diego Costa in Athletico Madrid, Spain is not likely to depend on these two a lot.

As far as the Spanish midfield is concerned, it is so much enriched with talent that even the positions of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva are not confirmed. However, it is expected that Busquets and Alonso could start in the central midfield with the latter being their star man in the pivot. Cesc Farbregas could well again be their key playmaker as the attacking midfielder would be poised to prove himself after losing his place in Barcelona and also missing a ridiculous penalty against El Salvador in the World Cup warm-up matches.

In the defense section, Sergio Ramos would be all confident to lead the Spain’s defense after his heroic performances in winning the Champions League for Real Madrid. Ramos would most likely start in the central defense instead of full back with Pique as the retirement of Puyol has left a vacant gap in their defense. Moreover, Juafran has pretty much proved his worth as a fullback, so he will most likely start as the right back while Alba would be starting at the left back position. As far as the goalkeeping is concerned, Cassilas would once again start for Spain as he gained back his confidence and position in Real Madrid and played a part in winning the most prestigious club trophy for them.

Overall, Spanish team is arguably the finest in the world and plays an amazing brand of football, and the only concern they have is in the striking department which they have more than covered in past playing without a striker.

Netherlands on the other side has a decent squad and a more than decent manager in Louis Van Gaal, who has agreed a contract with Manchester United for their next coach. With the absence of Kevin Strootman in their squad and Robben and Van Persie being their only superstars, it would be a tough campaign for Van Gaal. Wesley Sneijder is not even half the player that he was in South Africa last world cup, and he would have to carry the entire creative burden in the midfield on himself if Netherland is to have a chance in this tournament. With the presence of Nigel de Jong and Jordi Clasie, Netherland would be hard to break in on counters. Moreover, Arjen Robben and Van Persie alone in attack can weave magic and some hope for the Netherlands.

Prediction: We predict Spain to win this match 2-0.
Players to Watch: Van Persie and Iniesta

England vs Italy

The final game in the opening three days is England against Italy. English team is currently considered an underdog thanks to their disappointing performances in the recent World Cups but it won’t be wrong to say that the English team has approved a lot lately. The emerging talents of Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welback and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the English team should be more hopeful this summer.

Steven Gerrard has been in phenomenal form and with Frank Lampard alongside him, it makes a perfect creative midfield and with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Sturridge in the attack, it would be a great force in attack. Cahill has had the best season of his life with Chelsea and Jagielka is all set to join him in defense, so it would be right to say that the English team is very well balanced in all departments and can give a fight to any team.

Italian’s strength has been in the versatility of their players and their defense being always top-notch, this term it is no different. Italy has a great defense but they lack some fresh legs in the midfield as Pirlo, and De Rossi would once again be expected to guide their midfield. Their strike force has Balotelli, Cerci and Insigne to score for them and overall they have an impressive team, however, it’s not as excellent as it used to be some years before.

Prediction: England may not be the favorite in the World Cup, but we predict England to win this match 1-0 as their team finally looks to gel in and play some fine football.
Players to watch: Wayne Rooney and De Rossi

Teams to watch in the World Cup:

Spain: Having deserved the most favorite in this tournament; Spain has all that it takes to win this world cup. They have a perfect team and a superstar playing in every position. Not only their success in the past, but the fact that it was both the Spanish teams that won the Europa league and played Champions League this year more than tells the depths of talent Spain is producing. The rise of Atletico Madrid in Spanish league and winning La Liga also explains how deeply enriched Spanish squad is. It would come to us as no surprise if they win this tournament as well.

Belgium: Known to be the dark horse in this tournament. Belgium has in incredibly talented team. They have arguably the best goalkeeper presently in Thibaut Courtois. In the midfield they have players like Eden Hazard on his way to follow the boots of Christiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. The talented winger has astonished the world with his heroics at Chelsea. Moreover, they have Lukaku, Adnan Januzaj, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany who are all at the top of their games. Don’t be surprised if this team ends up reaching till the semi finals.

Players to Watch:

Christiano Ronaldo: It’s not a surprise that his name tops our list. He’s one of the finest players football world has ever seen. He single handedly made Portugal qualify for the World Cup and he single handed can win the trophy for them. If there’s one person who can do it after Diego Maradona, it is Christiano Ronaldo.

Leo Messi: On more than several occasions he has expressed his desire to achieve something with his national team. He has failed to do so in the past, but it looks like this would be his time to shine for his national team finally.

Eden Hazard: The talented Chelsea players have impressed at all levels already and he would be all set to explode his skills in the biggest stage of the game. He recently won the young PFA best player award and his dazzling dribbling would be a treat to watch for the fans.

Wayne Rooney: English team has failed to impress at several occasions but this could well be their year. Wayne Rooney is a figure the entire England is looking up to. He’s an amazing player who can single handedly change the paths of games and as Jose Mourinho said, it could be Wayne Rooney’s world cup.

10 Interesting Facts about FIFA World Cup 2014
1.  This will be the first world cup ever to have goal-line technology
2.   It’s the 2nd time Brazil is hosting a world cup
3.   Brazil is the fifth country to host the world cup twice
4.   A paraplegic teenager will take the first kick of this world cup
5.   25 Referees will officiate this tournament
6.   Referees will be allowed to stop matches 2/3 times due to weather circumstances
7.   FIFA will ban players from showing messages underneath their football shirt
8.   Germany will play their 100th World Cup Match when they will play against Portugal
9.   Vanishing sprays will be used to provide a short-term visual marker
10.   No Scandinavian country will participate in this world cup

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