Nial’s World Cup Preview – Who’s hot and who’s not in groups A – D

It’s the showpiece event in the footballing calendar, and following what has already been a really eventful year domestically and on the European front, we anticipate a tournament to remember in the nation that lives, breathes and sleeps football. The World Cup is returning to Brazil for the first time in 64 years, with the hosts aiming to make it a record sixth title. Today, we are taking a look at groups A – D and look at where the value may lie in what could prove to be a truly wide open tournament.

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(Image source – Express)

(Image source – Express)

Group A – Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon

Brazil go into this competition with the expectations of a nation on their shoulders, and never has the pressure been more on a group of players to deliver. In the World Cup dress rehearsal last summer, Brazil cantered to the Confederations Cup, but this will prove to be a much more difficult task. If they are to prevail this summer, expect big things from the trio of Oscar, Hulk and the golden boy, Neymar. Brazil kick off the tournament against Croatia on Thursday night and I can only see one winner here. Brazil is best priced at 3/10 while Neymar is 11/10 to score anytime with Bet 365.

In the other fixture to begin group A, Mexico take on Cameroon. I expect this to be a tight affair and neither team will want to lose their opening game. The draw at 21/5 with Bet Victor looks really appealing.

I expect Brazil to top the group comfortably with 3 wins from 3 in front of home support although the second round should prove more challenging with Spain or Holland the likely opponents. Who finishes second is anyone’s guess. Croatia are best priced 11/10 to qualify with Mexico 7/5 and Cameroon 9/2.

Group A predictions – 1st Brazil, 2nd Mexico

(Image source – BBC)

(Image source – BBC)

Group B – Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia

You’ve got to worry about Australia in this group as they face 3 of the top 15 teams in the world, including the two finalists from South Africa. Spain will be aiming to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to defend the World Cup and their opening group game against the Dutch promises to be a cracker. Spain suffered a defeat in their opening game in South Africa 4 years ago, but I can’t see history repeating itself. The opening game in group B will be a tough one to call but I can certainly see both sides finding the net, and the odds of 11/8 from Bet Victor for both teams to score, looks a good bet.

Chile showed in their recent game against England that they could be the surprise package of this competition and with players like Sanchez and Vidal in their ranks, they’ll certainly be a team to keep an eye on. Chile are best priced 4/9 to beat Australia, and I can only see one winner here. If you’re looking a value bet, Chile -1 goal is 11/8 with Paddy Power.

I can see this battle for the top two spots in this group going right down to the wire, and while Chile will be well suited to the conditions, I think the experience of the two European sides, along with the will to win of their managers, will help see Spain and Holland over the line.

Group B predictions – 1st Spain, 2nd Netherlands

(Image source – BBC)

(Image source – BBC)

Group C – Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan

On paper group C looks to be one of the most wide-open groups in the competition, and each side will really fancy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages. Colombia finished second in the South American qualifiers and are currently ranked 8th in the world. They have some great players in their ranks, but the absence of Falcao is a huge blow to their hopes of progressing far in the competition. That being said, Colombia should still have enough firepower in their ranks with the talented Rodriguez, Martinez and Bacca, all having enjoyed good campaigns in Europe. The start their campaign against Greece, and while the Greeks will be organised, I just don’t think they’ll have enough to stop the South Americans. Get on Colombia at 5/6 to win the opening game of group C.

The second game between Japan and the Ivory Coast should prove to be a much tighter affair. Japan qualified with ease from Asia and looked an accomplished side in last years Confederations Cup. With the likes of Honda and Kagawa in their ranks, the Japanese could certainly cause a shock in this group, and I expect the winner of this game to progress through along with Colombia. The Ivory Coast will be a strong, powerful side, and if they can match this natural ability with organisation, they can certainly expect to challenge to top the group. For me this first game is going to be hard to call, but I can see both teams scoring. Best odds on this are 21/20, so I’d double it up with a Colombia win for matchday 1.

(Image source – World Soccer Talk)

(Image source – World Soccer Talk)

Who progresses from this group will come down to the teams that make the least mistakes. I can’t see Greece challenging, and they’ll do well to go home with a point. For me, the important game is the Ivory Coast v Japan game. I think it is a winner takes all even at this early stage. I fancy Colombia at evens with Sky Bet to top the group, with Ivory Coast just edging out the boys from the land of the rising sun. Ivory Coast are evens with William Hill to qualify.

Group C predictions – 1st Colombia, 2nd Ivory Coast

Group D – Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group D rounds up our first World Cup preview blog, and I think out of all the groups, this will be the tightest group to call. With 3 teams ranked in the world’s top 10, and Costa Rica capable of anything, we can only hope that group D lives up to expectations.

All eyes from these shores will be on England, and the first game against Italy is going to be crucial. Both teams will be out to ensure they avoid defeat, and it will be interesting to see how England cope in the conditions. The Italians are a side with great pedigree when it comes to tournaments, and were the world champions in 2006. They exited at the group stage in South Africa though and they won’t be looking for a repeat performance in Brazil. Andrea Pirlo will be the man orchestrating things for Italy, while a lot will be expected of the volatile Mario Balotelli in attack.

England will be hoping Wayne Rooney can finally break his World Cup duck, but with players like Sterling, Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere, it could be the English subs that hold the biggest threat to an aging Italian defence. With neither side looking to start with a defeat, I imagine a draw to be the most likely result in the first game, and it’s best priced at 2/1.

(Image source – Footy Headlines)

(Image source – Footy Headlines)

Uruguay are many pundits outside bet for the competition, and having reached the semi final in South Africa, they will be aiming to go one better this time round. It’s hard to argue against their case, and with Suarez and Cavani in attack; they have two of the finest forwards in the world today. They also have good players at the other end of the field, with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin one of the standout defenders in Europe this year. If Suarez and Cavani can click, I expect to see lots of goals from the Uruguayans. I expect them to comfortably beat Costa Rica and Uruguay half time / full time at 5/4 with Bet Victor, and Uruguay -1 goal at 11/8 with William Hill seem good value.

The battle for top in group D should prove to be a tight affair, but I think the firepower that Uruguay possess, and the fact they are playing in South America, will see them top the group. The battle for second could come down to goal difference, and if Rooney and Sturridge can click, and carry some of their club form into the England setup, I think England might just have enough to qualify. If England draw their opening two games, they may find themselves in a favourable position against Costa Rica. Uruguay at 2/1 with Bet Victor to top the group and England at 4/7 with Bet 365 to qualify is where I’ll be putting my money for group D. Unfortunately it will be arrivederci Italy.

Group D predictions – 1st Uruguay, 2nd England (only just)

Let the fun begin

So there you have it, that’s my preview of the first four groups for this years World Cup. It promises to be an exciting few weeks as these groups get whittled down to a last 16. Tune in tomorrow for the preview of groups E to H, before the fun really begins in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

Who do you think will qualify?

Do you agree with my predictions for groups A to D? Who do you think will qualify and do you think there will be any surprises? Let me know by commenting below, or join the conversation with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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