World Cup Preview: Breaking down the Brazil 2014 field

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi gestures during his warm up during a friendly football match...

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi gestures during his warm up during a friendly football match against Slovenia at La Plata stadium in La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 7, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/Alejandro PAGNI)

Fred Rinne, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:34 PM ET

On a field of paper, this World Cup appears to be an easy handicap for several reasons -- a classic case of out with the old (world) and in with the new.

Not that FIFA has ever been accused of rigging a draw for a major event or allowing one to be bought (#Qatar) yet, stunningly, the draw for Brazil 2014, in its bracket format, seems to highly favour host side and fellow South American juggernaut Argentina playing the final July 13 at Rio De Janeiro.

In fact, if the draw works out for organizers, Uruguay, just down the Rio Plate, could also be along for the ride to the Final Four.

Tradition is at play here big-time. Events in Japan/Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010 interrupted an almost surreal statistical norm. Outside of Brazil's win in Sweden in 1962, no South American team had ever won the Jules Rimet in Europe and no European side has ever won it in the Western Hemisphere.

Call it climate, culture, karma, it is a pretty difficult stat to overlook.

So it would make sense that a South American team would be favoured anyway not to mention they are excellent sides. Brazil is, well, Brazil. They are the host, they are soccer, they are the favourites. And with fun fan faves named Neymar, Fred and Hulk, what's not to like?

The Argentines have hoisted the trophy before and memories of Maradona are rekindled in Barca's Lionel Messi and his supporting crew.

And let's not forget the Uruguayans, who were in the last four at South Africa thanks to a red-hot Diego Forlan. This tiny country hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930 and again the previous time it was held in Brazil in 1950, that final in Maracana. And now EPL player of the year Luis Saurez (Liverpool) is cleared to play and add to that mix a hot Edinson Cavani (PSG). Watch out!

The continent, in fact, the hemisphere, has teams that are capable of making big waves here. Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and even the United States will be players.

Footie financiers, however, know the product still requires the romance of the old European flavour. But old is old. Spain has enjoyed a magnificent run in all competitions and surely will be among the most popular of the cross-Atlantic squads in South America, but are they at the end of the run?

Portugal is emerging from a similar evolution, and despite the unique advantage of sharing a language and culture with the host, how far can FIFA player of the year Ronaldo carry this side by himself?

The usual suspects -- Italy, The Netherlands, England, France -- are all good sides but not great, caught somewhere between being too old or too young. The Germans are likely the best of the traditional favourites to reload in this cycle.

England has the romance card. But there is only so much Steven Gerard and Wayne Rooney can do. Without a goal party from Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) and Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United), an invigoured service regimen from now Chelsea-ex-pat Frank Lampard and stellar keeping by Joe Hart (Man City), Roy Hodgson's Three Lions might not get out of a very tough group which includes Uruguay and Italy.

As for The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, nobody will be too surprised to see any of them around near the end, as they are all still deep and experienced.

Two dark-horse teams to watch, aided by very favourable draws are Belgium and Switzerland. Both of have World Cup pedigree and Belgium, particularly, have played well including a final four in Mexico '86.

They are solid at the back, especially in goal boasting Atletico Madrid's Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool's Simon Mignolet evoking memories of Michel Preud'homme from USA 94 -- that tourney's top keeper.

While Africa and Asia are emerging with strong sides and will add splashes of surprise, it is unlikely any of them are deep enough or experienced enough to win a title.

Of those sides, Ghana and the Ivory Coast are the most likely to make waves.

The great thing about the World Cup is that there is always a team or two that comes out of nowhere -- Cameroon or Nigeria, Turkey or Bulgaria -- and that's what is so compelling about the world's most beautiful game.

FRED'S PICKS

ROUND OF 16

Brazil over Chile

Italy over Colombia

France over Nigeria

Germany over Russia

Spain over Mexico

Uruguay over Ivory Coast

Argentina over Ecuador

Portugal over Belgium

QUARTERFINALS

Uruguay over Spain

Argentina over Portugal

Brazil over Italy

Germany over France

SEMIFINALS

Brazil over Germany

Argentina over Uruguay

THIRD-PLACE GAME

Uruguay over Germany

FINAL

Brazil over Argentina

Golden Boot : Fred

Golden Ball: Messi


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