2014 World Cup preview and predictions

WASHINGTON — The 2014 FIFA World Cup has finally arrived. For football (or soccer, domestically) fans around the planet, the world’s biggest sporting event will officially kick off Thursday at 4 p.m., with host nation Brazil taking on Croatia in what may be their only test in the opening group, one they are heavily favored to win.

In fact, while the Brazilians rank third in the World FIFA Rankings behind both 2010 World Cup Champion Spain and European power Germany, they are the favorites in many peoples’ eyes to capture a record sixth title, and their first since 2002.

Meanwhile, much has been made about the United States’ poor draw, with the popular “Group of Death” term being tossed around. The 13th-ranked Americans (according to the FIFA World Rankings) will have to navigate through a field that includes the aforementioned Germans, fourth-ranked Portugal and a Ghana squad that has beaten the U.S. in each of the past two World Cups.

But only one group can really be called the Group of Death. That designation more appropriately (and fittingly) belongs to Group D, comprised of three top-10 squads, including England (10), Italy (9) and Uruguay (7), along with Costa Rica (28). Another group that ought to provide great drama early on will be Group B, which includes a trio of top-15 teams in Chile (14), Spain and The Netherlands (15), as well as Australia (62).

The U.S. Team begins its slate of games Monday, June 16 at 6 p.m. ET vs. Ghana. The Americans will play Portugal on Sunday, June 22 also at 6 p.m., and then finish group play vs. Germany Thursday, June 26 at 12 p.m.

Should they place in the top two in the group, the Men’s National Team will advance to the round of 16 for the second straight World Cup. The U.S. men made the semifinals back in 1930, but since have only once advanced as far as quarterfinals, in South Korea back in 2002.


We’ve tasked our crack sports staff, along with a few other staffers here at WTOP, with trying to predict this year’s World Cup results. Members of the staff have submitted their picks, and will be assigned points based on the following system:

Predicted Winner: One point for every round advanced, plus an additional five points for correctly picking the champion.

U.S. Men’s National Team: Three points for correctly identifying how far the United States will advance.

Dark Horse: Two points for every round advanced. Must be outside of the top five in the current FIFA World Rankings.

Check out the photo gallery for each staff member’s picks. Stay tuned for much more coverage as the Cup kicks off, and be sure to check back to see which of our prognosticators takes down the title.

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