This draw for the World Cup is quite conservative by most standards, leaving the teams with the four best odds in the semifinals. Selecting two finalists is never easy. Odds put Brazil (4-1) and Argentina (5-2) in the finals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13. I see Germany and Argentina instead, a rematch of multiple cups past.
Brazil has the strongest back line of the four — Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo. But the team as a whole is too young and inexperienced. Argentina has Lionel Messi and the rest of the world’s best forwards, but they suffer from a weak defense. Javier Mascherano cannot possibly carry that weight himself. The Argentines will have a relatively easy track until they meet Spain.
But Spain is old, plain and simple. They insist on continuing their tiki-taka futbol, but Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Xabi Alonso can no longer keep up. The team has the potential to play fast counterattack soccer with Jesús Navas and David Silva at the wings and Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla in the middle, but it seems like head coach Vicente del Bosque does not understand the need to alter the style of play.
Of the four expected semifinalists, Germany boasts the best all-around team. Graced with some of the best players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, their counterattack, like a freight train, has torn through every defense they have faced. With speed and crisp passing, they will cruise straight to the final and possibly win the cup.
Although ESPN’s Nate Silver projec-ted Portugal and the United States to be within only one percentage point of a chance to book a place into the round of 16 (40 percent and 39 percent, respectively), this possibility relies on many unlikely variables. Logic puts Germany and Portugal through.
Two other unpopular possibilities include Ecuador placing first in their group and Colombia eliminating Uruguay in the round of 16.
Although Uruguay recently beat Colombia 2-0 in qualifying, Uruguay is inconsistent, and the match was closer than the score represented. With a whole six months to improve, Falcao and James Rodriguez’s chemistry will peak while Uruguay continues to age.
As for Ecuador, speed kills. With Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, their leading wing, they outrun most teams, and will outrun the lackluster defenders in Group E.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 10 print edition. Francisco Navas is sports editor. Email him at [email protected]