10 June 2014
Mike Gardner's 2014 FIFA World Cup Predictions, Everybody Stop What They're Doing
Much like how the Olympics captivates the world audience with the curiosity of pretending to know half the medal events and what scandals and preplanned drama awaits from NBC, the FIFA World Cup is only days away from the month long kick off to crown the best soccer team in the world.
Yes, here comes another soccer rant from Mike Gardner (Listen to another here).
Thursday is the opening match of the World Cup as Brazil takes on Croatia, just in case you haven't seen Twitter take this sudden interest in caring for reasons I don't know why.
Nevertheless, before I get to my predictions, I am in the same boat with John Oliver in that I love the game of soccer and the spectacle that is the World Cup, but loathe FIFA with a burning passion because of the egotistical approach and boneheadedness of choosing hosts. Qatar anyone? Even the Brazilians didn't want the World Cup because let's face it, they didn't have the money, infrastructure or the care to host the event-just the love of the game. And that's what it's all about.
Yet the predictions are flying in left and right from experts and randos alike, so it's only just that I give my two sense as well. But don't take my world for it: the FiveThirtyEight has a cool graphic page.
Check out Ben's predictions here
DISCLAIMER: I put limited analytics in these predictions using the formula of what I've seen of the 32 teams and going with my gut. Also if you haven't already scrolled down, I have not predicted who will win or the knockout round of 16 and onward, because soccer is not like the NCAA tournament where "mid-majors" bust brackets or spoil Georgia State's dominating conference regular season record to only receive a bid to the NIT.
Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon)
Ironically enough, there are always talks of FIFA making things a little easier for the host nation of the World Cup (2002 South Korea, 2006 Germany) tournament hosts Brazil are coming off the heels of a Confederations Cup win and could easily coast through a group featuring laughable Mexico and Eto'o of Cameroon. Mexico is too disorganized to make a World Cup run, they failed to make the Gold Cup final in 2013, had to rely on Graham Zusi to punch El Tri's ticket to Brazil, and just have not been the same. Croatia as a better chance of organization, but the match between them and Brazil can be critical to see how battle tested Brazil is against physical European opponents.
1. Brazil 2. Croatia 3. Mexico 4. Cameroon
Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia)
I feel bad for Australia, not because I know several referees and enjoying watching Tim Cahill box the corner flag, but they got no love in this group...kind of like the United States. They get the privilege to face the defending champions in Spain, the orange nation of Netherlands who made the finals in 2010 and South American sleeper Chile will beat up the Aussies. If my theory stands correct, the Netherlands dirty style of play will be parallel with Chile making the difference clearly why they will advance, Netherlands has to beat Chile to advance because with two losses, Chile seems doomed to advance.
1. Spain 2. Netherlands 3. Chile 4. Australia
Group C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan)
Most Americans know Colombia soccer for this guy, or this guy. But sadly, drugs are more regulated and Colombia ain't the dream team of 1994. Or are they? I have never seen this team play so I don't have a clue if they are as good as they say, but they finished second in CONMEBOL qualifying just to Argentina. Watch out for them, they could be the South American team that is prime to make a deep run because no one takes them seriously.
1. Colombia 2. Japan 3. Cote D'Ivoire 4. Greece
Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy)
The true "Group of Death" it features an Italian team that finished runner-up at Euro 2012, Balotelli's first World Cup after his GIF for the ages, an England team that always has something to prove under a British manager and a scrappy Latin American team that always gave the USA trouble and even protested the Snow Game. All eyes will apparently be on Uruguay because of Luis Suarez, but this team doesn't have Diego Forlan who became the man of the 2010 World Cup with his free kicks and able to score at will and they have South America backing them, so they will go through. Uruguay returns from a fourth place in 2010 and winning the Copa America, so they're good. The toss up is what Italy does with the fellow Brits, who are one of the youngest teams in England history and Costa Rica. Do no be so high on the Italians, they were bounced from 2010, only beat England on penalties and Balotelli & Co. have a nasty history with getting yellow cards that could come back to haunt them. This group is just several brawls waiting to happen, and we like that because it proves who the toughest teams will be. Kind of like college soccer.
1. Uruguay 2. England 3. Costa Rica 4. Italy
Group E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras)
No Ribery, no Samir Nasri, no point. With a midfield of names I cannot pronounce, the French will be typical French: lose to Ecuador, get banged up by Honduras and tie the Swiss. Poor results and a looming cloud that has been there since the infamous coup in 2010. Switzerland is SIXTH in the world and know one seems to think this country can play? Not only can they play, they'll take the group. Ecuador can win against France and Honduras because Panama could beat Honduras.
1. Switzerland 2. Ecuador 3. France 4. Honduras
Group F (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria)
Straight joke of a group. Nigeria has a dismal defense that tied Greece and lost to the USA. Argentina has no Maradona as coach, but that's not going to stop them from taking the group because nothing screams confidence then beating Trinidad and Tobago and Slovenia. Don't rest on the Bosnians though because from what I've seen, they are similar to the Slovakia team that beat Italy in 2010-small country of unknowns that get solid results against big named opponents. Iran? Minnows of the tournament.
1. Argentina 2. Bosnia-Herzegovina 3. Nigeria 4. Iran
Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States)
Yes. The ESPN "Group of Death." As I will say on Fanatic Radio, everyone takes the European bias when selecting these games and people take Portugal just because of Ronaldo's goals on YouTube. Mexico lost 1-0 to Portugal and that's Mexico. Portugal wouldn't be in the World Cup if it wasn't for Sweden tanking in the second half allowing Ronaldo to go on an absolute scoring tear. Portugal is no better than some of the CONCACAF and European opponents Jurgen Klinsmann scheduled against the USA. For that, the United States advance, and I'm not being a jingoist moron. For being his first time head coaching, Klinsmann is not stupid and knows what he's doing tactically, but he can only get the team so far. If the United States beats Ghana, they advance, because Klinsmann takes the World Cup game by game, not the overall scheme of the group, and if the defense plays organized, America can play up to the potential with the world's best. Germany, my pick to win the whole tournament is das uber maschine that can hang six goals on anyone if they tired, and Ghana has no defense making them prime targets for Ronaldo and the Germans.
1. Germany 2. United States 3. Portugal 4. Ghana
Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea)
I saw Belgium hand the US a beatdown last year in Cleveland and have been preaching the good news of Belgium since the draw back in December. A youthful team with experience and athleticism-that's all it takes. They will go deep. South Korea will be another surprise, a prime squad that was good in qualification, third place in the AFC Asian Cup. Russia is not the same of the team that made the final four in Euro 2008 and six years changes the Russian. Plus they are coached by Fabio Cappello who went mad trying to lead England to glory in South Africa.
1. Belgium 2. South Korea 3. Russia 4. Algeria
- If Brazil were to face Chile in the knockout round, Chile will win because common opponents and familiarity goes a long way in soccer.
- Germany will win because with the way the seeding is, group winner vs other group runner up, the South American teams will beat each other up, allowing the most technical teams to thrive. Germany, Belgium, Spain, etc.
- What teams did in 2010 mean nothing four years later, so no Spain repeat because I think the rest of the world is gunning for them, not just Nigel De Jong.
Knockout Stage Predictions Coming Soon.