A Guide to the 2014 FIFA World Cup - Part 1

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Group A

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Brazil

Champions: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Last Time: Quarter Finals

Coach: Luis Felipe Scolari (Brazil)              

Players to Watch Out For: Neymar (Barcelona), Thiago Silva (PSG), Marcelo (Real Madrid).

Expectations: In their own backyard, nothing short of world glory will do for the most illustrious nation in the history of the World Cup. They have even brought back the manager that took them to the title in 2002.

Croatia

Last Time: Did Not Qualify

Coach: Niko Kovac (Croatia)       

Players to Watch Out For: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City).

Expectations: In their first ever appearance in 1998 they famously finished third. Those dizzying heights are obviously too far to reach again, but a trip beyond the group stage is a strong possibility.

Mexico

Last Time: Round of 16

Coach: Miguel Herrera (Mexico)

Players to Watch Out For: Javier Hernandez (Man Utd), Giovanni Dos Santos (Villareal), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen).

Expectations: After struggling through qualification, eventually having to see off our own All Whites to make it, getting out of the group will be a big accomplishment for the Mexicans.

Cameroon

Last Time: Group Stage

Coach: Volker Finke (Germany)

Players to Watch Out For: Alex Song (Barcelona), Samuel Eto’o (NA – formerly Chelsea), Joel Matip (Schalke).

Expectations: Cameroon were the first African team to make an impact on the biggest stage and have played more World Cup games than any other nation form their continent. They have an outside chance at making the second round – something they have only ever done once. 

GROUP B

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Spain

Champions: 2010

Last Time: Champions

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque (Spain)         

Players to Watch Out For: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid).

Expectations: The reigning World Cup winners are also the two-time reigning European Cup winners. They will be expecting to extend that incredible streak of success by taking home the trophy once more.

Netherlands

Last Time: Runners Up

Coach: Louis Van Gaal (Netherlands)     

Players to Watch Out For: Robin Van Persie (Man Utd), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan).

Expectations: The world, and everything in it. This Dutch team has big time experience and a whole lot of quality about it plus a coach who has won most things going around. They have never won it before – this could be their year.

Chile

Last Time: Round of 16

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina)          

Players to Watch Out For: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina).

Expectations: Their qualifying campaign was a mix of winning streaks and losing streaks. The latter is more likely here. Chile’s flair could cause the Aussie defenders some nightmares when the two meet in their opening game.

Australia

Last Time: Group Stage

Coach: Ange Postecoglou (Australia)

Players to Watch Out For: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls).

Expectations: With the two previous finalists in their group, the best the Aussies can probably hope for is a win over Chile. 

GROUP C

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Ivory Coast

Last Time: Group Stage

Coach: Sabri Lamouchi (France)

Players to Watch Out For: Yaya Toure (Man City), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Saloman Kalou (Lille OSC).

Expectations: Pretty high. They failed to live up to it last time in South Africa, though this team is still super impressive. Led by Yaya Toure who is one of the very best in the world at what he does, the Ivory Coast can go a long way. However this group is tougher than it looks.

Colombia

Last Time: Did not qualify

Coach: Jose Pekerman (Argentina)

Players to Watch Out For: Falcao (Monaco), Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Cristián Zapata (AC Milan).

Expectations: Playing in South America will suit them, just as this favourable group draw will too. There may not be many star names in this team, but they can definitely make a splash and reach the round of 16 – especially if Falcao is fit to play.

Greece

Last Time: Group Stage

Coach: Fernando Santos (Portugal)         

Players to Watch Out For: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Georgios Karagounis (Fulham), Vaseleios Tosorides (AS Roma).

Expectations: Not many. Greece were the darlings of Europe when a team of underdogs won EURO 2004 against all odds. That has hardly translated into long term success, and this is only their third World Cup appearance. A 2-1 win over Nigeria last tournament was not only their only win at the World Cup but the only goals they have ever scored as well.

Japan

Last Time: Round of 16

Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni (Italy)             

Players to Watch Out For: Shinji Kagawa (Man Utd), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Yuto Yagamoto (Inter Milan).

Expectations: Japan hold the biggest expectations of the Asian teams. Best case scenario is the quarter finals. A more realistic aim is to make the second round.

GROUP D

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Uruguay

Champions: 1930, 1950

Last Time: Fourth Place

Coach: Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay)

Players to Watch Out For: Luis Suarez (Liverpool),

Expectations: Reaching the semis last time was a superb achievement. You cannot expect them to relive that but they will back themselves to get past the intimidating defences of Italy and England.

Costa Rica

Last Time: Did Not Qualify

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto (Colombia)          

Players to Watch Out For: Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven), Joel Campbell (Olympiakos), Carlos Hernandez (NA – formerly Wellington Phoenix).

Expectations: 1990 was the only time this nation has made it beyond the group stages. Given how hard their draw is, maybe stealing a win or a couple of draws off of some good teams will see them return happy. If former Nix star Carlos Hernandez makes the final squad, kiwi fans will have something extra to cheer for here.

England

Champions: 1966

Last Time: Round of 16

Coach: Roy Hodgson (England) 

Players to Watch Out For: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

Expectations: Probably the quarter finals. That is the stage they usually lose at (on penalties of course). Though this English team is very well balanced. If all are fit and healthy, you never know. The Three Lions have to get out of an incredibly tough group first.

Italy

Champions: 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006

Last Time: Group Stage

Coach: Cesar Prandelli (Italy)     

Players to Watch Out For: Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus).

Expectations: Italy always have high hopes as four time champions. All four of those were on European soil though, and the Azzurri tend to struggle away from home. If they can get through this group, their tight, conservative style of play is always difficult to play against in the knockout games.