Who’s going to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup then?
It’s a perilously difficult question to answer. Soccer—as the old cliché goes—isn’t won on paper. Most of the time, the team with the most desirable combination of players, manager and mentality come out on top. But those small margins, the differentials that ultimately separate those teams who sample glory and those who endure despair, often come down to blind luck.
Nonetheless, supporters from all over the world formulate their own picks, adding up all the facets—some tangible, recordable aspects of the game, other based on instinct alone—and by the conclusion of that thought process, they have their winner.
Here, we’re going to try and help you make your picks, isolating seven key areas in which teams must excel if they’re to win the most coveted trophy in the game.
We’ve rated every team out of five in all seven categories and whilst the tournament certainly isn’t won on paper. Hopefully this will provide a comprehensive look at the chances of each team involved.
These are the categories that we’ve chosen and why each is vital to a team’s chances of glory:
Starting XI – A team’s first XI will ultimately go a long way to determining whether or not they’re in store for a prosperous World Cup. Of course, the convoluted nature of the tournament means that managers will need to be astute in their squad rotation, but for the vast majority of teams, the core of their team will remain the same throughout the tournament.
Squad – When injuries and suspensions do hit, the depth of a nation’s squad will also be crucial. If a key player drops out before the tournament, do the team have enough in reserve to replace him? Will the manager feel confident rotating players? Or given their resources, will they have little choice but to run the best XI through the ringer in the South American sun?
Manager – A capable manager can make a huge difference to a nation. Has the manager sampled major tournaments before? How has he fared in World Cup’s gone by? Will his tactics be suitable in the unique Brazilian conditions? If not, has he showcased an ability to adjust?
Adaptability – For plenty of the teams that are involved in this tournament, the conditions are going to be a major factor. Playing in the Brazilian heat can be punishing, whilst the humidity at the host of venues will be suffocating. Is the team experienced in these kind of conditions? Or will they wilt under the physical demands these conditions will place upon teams.
Star Quality – We’ve seen it before, how one wonderful player can galvanize a team. Diego Maradona inspired Argentina to victory in 1986, Ronaldo’s goals fired Brazil to glory in 2002 and the majesty of Zinedine Zidane very nearly facilitated a French win in 2006. Does the team have a player of that ilk? One that can haul his team over the line with a moment of genius?