Spain: Three major trophies. Ten-straight knockout rounds without conceding. Spain are the favorites until they are dethroned. Their core squad should be young enough to make one more run, at least. Striker could be a bit of a question mark. The Spanish may have to replace Xavi Hernandez, who will be 34 in 2014. It sounds like he wants to play, but if he can’t that could be a major loss.
Brazil: Home can be a tremendous advantage. In a country such as Brazil, it can also ramp up excruciating pressure. After the failure of the 11 Dungas in South Africa, Brazil will load up to bring the sex. Mano Manezes looks set to hand the keys off to the Neymar generation. His most recent friendly call ups included just two players over 25 and none with more than 30 caps. The squad will be loaded, but whether they have the savvy to pull off a World Cup win will remain a question.
Germany: Their Euro 2012 exit, especially in concert with their other near misses, will hurt. That said, they can return the same ridiculous squad for 2014, minus Miroslav Klose. Philipp Lahm, at 30, would be the oldest outfield player. Capability did not fell the Germans. It was continuity and execution. If they can deploy their attacking talent more coherently by 2014, look out.
Argentina: The Argentines face the same dilemma they faced in 2010: accommodate Messi or accommodate everyone? They are loaded, almost too loaded, up front and can at least be decent at the back. Under their second coach post-Maradona, Argentina are still under construction. Alejandro Sabella has fielded six different formations in nine matches. If he can find the right combination though…
Italy: The Italians exceeded pre-tournament expectations, reminding everyone never to count them out. If Prandelli stays in the job, they can return much of the same squad, except for Di Natale and probably Andrea Pirlo. If Giuseppe Rossi and Fabio Borini mature as expected, they could have even more attacking talent to pair with Super Mario. Italy won’t be outright favorites, but they are always dangerous.
[Photo via Getty]