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2014 World Cup

1 GER FINAL (ET) ARG 0
JULY 13 | RIO DE JANEIRO
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CBSSports.com's full 2014 World Cup predictions

By Mike Singer | CBSSports.com

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Our experts predict who will be holding the World Cup when it is said and done.(USATSI)

More World Cup: Group Previews | World Cup Roundup | Latest news & notes

For dozens of reasons, soccer has lagged behind other sports in the United States. Even though it's the most popular game in the world, the sport never seems to resonate with the general populace for three out of every four years. Every World Cup cycle, though, it manages to grab our collective attention and squeeze us into a soccer ... errr ... futbol nation.

While most casual fans might have trouble naming more than a few national team regulars, it's hard, nonethless, to remain indifferent when your country is competing on a world stage for national pride.

The U.S. drew an exceptionally hard group, and should they advance out of Group G, no one will be able to question the validity of the achievement. Only two of our six experts predicted that the U.S. will advance along with either Germany or Portugal, but in a way, advancing out of Group G would almost be more significant because of the obvious obstacles. Who knows how the U.S. will compare to the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams in the world, respectively, but who doesn't want to watch and find out?

We've already broken down each group, offered our respective opinions on how each group "should" play out and highlighted which players we believe will impact the 2014 World Cup. Below, we compiled the predictions for every group and even offered up our top-four finishers for public consumption. Save the Golden Boot winners for dessert, because we predicted those, too. Here now is CBSSports.com's full 2014 World Cup predictions:

Group A Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
2nd
Croatia
Croatia
Croatia
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico
3rd
Cameroon
Mexico
Mexico
Croatia
Croatia
Cameroon
4th
Mexico
Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon
Croatia

To say there's a lot riding on the 2014 World Cup for the host nation would be a massive understatement given the political unrest facing Brazil, due in large part to the tournament itself. Not that an impressive showing would excuse the disorder caused by this World Cup (and most World Cups, really) but now that it's happening, Brazil needs to finish higher than the quarterfinals -- its final standing in the last two World Cups. The stage is there for Neymar, the young Barcelona star, but can the 22-year-old seize it? As fortuitous a draw as Brazil earned, no team is luckier to be headed to the World Cup than Mexico, which barely snuck in during qualifying. Our experts are split on which is the second team advancing out of Mexico or Croatia, but know that El Tri has made it to the Round of 16 in five consecutive Cups and the last time Croatia advanced past the group stage was in 1998.

Group A preview

Group B Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Spain
Spain
Spain
Spain
Netherlands
Spain
2nd
Netherlands
Chile
Netherlands
Netherlands
Spain
Netherlands
3rd
Chile
Netherlands
Chile
Chile
Chile
Chile
4th
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia

If there's another Group of Death besides the "Group of Death," you're looking at it. Chile, widely predicted to finish third in the group, is ranked 13th in the latest FIFA rankings -- two ahead of 2010 runner-up Netherlands. This group is so tight up top that the injury status of a few key players, namely Spain's Diego Costa (hamstring) and Chile's Arturo Vidal (knee), could be the separation one team needs. It figures that 2010 champion Spain will advance behind unparalleled midfield play, but what about Holland's chances thanks to the scoring prowess of Robin Van Persie and the ever-dangerous Arjen Robben? If Chile needs any extra motivation, all it needs to do is listen to the stirring message the 33 trapped Chilean miners offered to the team.

Group B preview

Group C Predictions

Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia
2nd
Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast
Greece
Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast
3rd
Greece
Japan
Japan
Ivory Coast
Greece
Greece
4th
Japan
Greece
Greece
Japan
Japan
Japan

There's quite a bit of uniformity amongst our experts in regards to Group C, and that's despite a checkered history from most of the teams. Consider that Colombia, the consensus top-finisher, hasn't made the World Cup since 1998, and Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast has never made it out of the group stages. Colombia should still be considered the favorite (albeit with far-less margin for error), despite the massive loss of striker Radamel Falcao, who's out of the World Cup since suffering a torn ACL this past January. From South America, only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez had more goals during qualifying than Falcao's nine. All of this bodes extremely well for the Ivory Coast, whose prior two World Cup appearances happened to draw brutal groups. This year, look for..no,..expect Drogba, Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou to take advantage of arguably the weakest group.

Group C preview

Group D Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Uruguay
Italy
Italy
Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay
2nd
Italy
Uruguay
Uruguay
Italy
Italy
Italy
3rd
Costa Rica
England
England
England
England
England
4th
England
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica

We didn't have a lot of love for England, despite its bounty of veteran stars like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Frankly, the Three Lions are probably a bit too "veteran" in contrast to Uruguay and Italy, but Luis Suarez's knee inury (he underwent surgery on May 22) throws the group largely into chaos. Aging Uruguayan star Diego Forlan may have to fill in for Suarez up top during their first game against Costa Rica, but a huge question remains whether the Liverpool star can return to face England and then Italy. If not, expect the 2006 World Cup champions -- that'd be the Azzurri -- to cruise into the knockout stages behind their signature tenacious defense. One of the top teams from Group C could await Italy, meaning that a quarterfinal run is a real possibility.

Group D preview

Group E Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Ecuador
France
France
Switzerland
France
France
2nd
Honduras
Switzerland
Switzerland
France
Ecuador
Switzerland
3rd
Switzerland
Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador
Switzerland
Ecuador
4th
France
Honduras
Honduras
Honduras
Honduras
Honduras

For a top-10 FIFA ranked squad, Switzerland (No. 8) is about as underrated a team as there is in the field. They breezed through qualifying, allowing just six goals in their 10 games -- a tribute to both the defense and veteran keeper Diego Benaglio. For France, it's all about redemption. They didn't win one game in the disastrous 2010 showing, but Group E affords them new life. Honduras and Ecuador had a number of suspect losses in qualifying, and it's tough to conceive of the two European squads not advancing. Looking into my crystal ball, France could have a relatively turbulent-free path to the quarterfinals where it would likely meet the No. 1 team from the Group of Death.

Group E preview

Group F Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Argentina
Argentina
Argentina
Argentina
Argentina
Argentina
2nd
Nigeria
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
3rd
Bosnia-
Herzegovina
Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria
4th
Iran
Iran
Iran
Iran
Iran
Iran

Argentina has advanced to the knockout rounds in four of the last five World Cups, and no team in Group F should touch the South American power. Whether Lionel Messi performs up to his Barcelona-stature is another matter, however. In terms of advancing, we offered near-unanimous predictions save for JLC's decision to take Nigeria over Bosnia-Herzegovina, so let's break this down. Bosnia-Herzegovina scored in truck loads during qualifying -- 30 in 10 games, to be exact. They also let up just six goals. Nigeria scored seven goals in six qualifying games, including dubious draws vs. Malawi, Kenya, and Namibia. Look for Bosnia-Herzegovina, in their first appearance at the World Cup, to challenge for a quarterfinal bid behind prolific strikers Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic.

Group F preview

Group G Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Germany
Germany
Germany
Portugal
Germany
Germany
2nd
USA
Portugal
Portugal
USA
Portugal
Portugal
3rd
Ghana
USA
USA
Germany
USA
USA
4th
Portugal
Ghana
Ghana
Ghana
Ghana
Ghana

Let's get this over with. The U.S. drew an extremely unlucky group and should not expect to advance. There are simply too many questions along the backline and far too many inexperienced players who will be thrust into marking players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil, not to mention Ghana's underrated attack (you will know Asamoah Gyan's name by the end of the tournament). Germany scored 36 goals in qualifying, and aside from Ronaldo, Portugal boasts playmakers in Joao Moutinho and Nani who can flank their star. And we haven't even gotten to the U.S.'s arch-nemesis Ghana, which lives for knocking the Stars and Stripes out of the tournament. Best-case scenario: The U.S. beats Ghana, takes on Portugal without a fully-healthy Ronaldo (his thigh has hampered him recently) and then meets a German squad which has already secured its spot in the knockout round. If all that happens, let's talk, but for now, there's a reason only two of us have the U.S. advancing.

Group G preview

Group H Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
1st
Belgium
Belgium
Belgium
Belgium
Belgium
Belgium
2nd
Russia
Russia
Russia
Russia
South Korea
Russia
3rd
South Korea
South Korea
South Korea
Algeria
Russia
South Korea
4th
Algeria
Algeria
Algeria
South Korea
Algeria
Algeria

We almost had it. We almost all agreed, but there's one dissenter who sees South Korea reaching the knockout rounds over Russia. Let's take a look. Russia finished ahead of Portugal in qualifying, largely because they embraced coach Fabio Capello's defensive mandate. They allowed just five goals while scoring 20, but perhaps our outlier was contrasting the respective histories of Russia (never advanced out of group stages in two prior appearances) vs. South Korea's rich football history (highlighted by a semifinal appearance in 2002). New South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo has the uneasy task of blending his players into a cohesive unit (they used 45 different players in qualifying), compared to the settled, experienced defensive approach for Russia. We'll see what happens. Oh, yeah and Belgium. Everyone's favorite darkhorse this year, Belgium got drawn into an extremely favorable group but will likely have to face the second-place team from the Group of Death in the Round of 16.

Group H preview

Final Four Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
Champion
Argentina
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Brazil
Runner-Up
Germany
Argentina
Italy
Argentina
Netherlands
Spain
3rd Place
Brazil
Germany
Spain
Portugal
Germany
Argentina
4th Place
Spain
Spain
Germany
Spain
Argentina
Germany

The vast majority of us agree that the host nation will ultimately be crowned champion at Maracana Stadium in Rio, but that seems like an all-too-obvious pick that just assumes Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad can handle the pressure. (For the record, they couldn't in the 1950 final vs. Uruguay). Spain and Germany were also extremely popular, a nod to their respective past performances. The unique selections of Italy, Portugal and Netherlands aren't unheard of, but there would have to be some monumental upsets either in group play or the Round of 16 to see any of those teams finish in the top-four. The interesting team, based off our picks, is Argentina, which makes it to the semifinal in five of our six brackets. They haven't made it that far since 1990, but as evident by a couple of our Golden Boot winners, we think they have a chance, especially with a favorable route. Can Brazil defend the game on its own soil? Will Argentina finally reach its potential? Will Spain defend its crown or will Italy shock the world? We can't wait to find out.

Golden Boot Predictions
Prediction
Jason
La Canfora
Jeff
Borzello
Tom
Fornelli
Evan
Hilbert
Jerry
Hinnen
Mike
Singer
Winner
Messi
Argentina
Neymar
Brazil
Neymar
Brazil
Neymar
Brazil
Lukaku
Belgium
Messi
Argentina

As mentioned above, Belgium has a favorable group and could stun a few heavyweights. If so, that would likely mean that Romelu Lukaku has had himself a breakout tournament in his first-ever World Cup. Featured as part of a deadly offense, Lukaku could lead the field in goals scored. If Brazil does indeed make history, odds are fleet-footed striker Neymar will have played a major role. Should he notch four or five goals, Neymar will take his rightful place in the long, distinguished line of Brazilian phenoms such as Ronaldinho, Kaka and, of course, Pele.

 
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