Play Ball: An Insider’s Guide to the World Cup

   From June 12 to July 13, the eyes of soccer fans worldwide will be on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Teams from 32 countries will compete within eight groups of four, with two from each moving on to further competition, culminating in the final match and the crowning of a new world champion. The tournament takes place every four years, and Spain took home the most recent title, in 2010. We asked Kos Donev, the head coach of Florida Atlantic University‘s men’s soccer team, for his insight and predictions for the tournament.

Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey will play forward for the U.S. team. Photo via Nike.

His pick to win the 2014 World Cup: Germany

I feel that the Germans have the best chance to win the 2014 World Cup because their players are able to play a possession type of game and can also effectively play longer ball with counterattacking. Their players are not only as technical as the Spanish and the Brazilians but are also physically strong/tall, which gives them an advantage defending and attacking in the air.

His pick to move on from Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon): Brazil

Brazil is considered the powerhouse of soccer. As the host country, they are expected to advance and will [given] their level of players and tradition they have. Although they are the host, they will have a tough time earning the first place in this group. All three teams in their group will provide a big challenge for the Brazilians. Croatia and Mexico will both have an equal chance to advance. Cameroon is a long shot.

His picks to move on from Group B (Spain, the Netherlands, Chile and Australia): Spain and the Netherlands

Although Spain has struggled in some friendlies before the World Cup, they will be in top form. All the players on their team play the same style and know each other so well, which gives them a very good chemistry of team play. Netherlands is always a contender to advance and will with their well-defined possession and attacking soccer in addition to their physical strength.

His pick to move on from Group C (Colombia, Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan): Colombia

This one will be anyone’s guess. Colombia should advance but without [Radamel] Falcao, whom they have relied on, they may struggle to score. Japan will be a surprise as they [seem to] be the most disciplined team in that group and may be underestimated.

His picks to move on from Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy): Italy and Uruguay

Like Spain, all of Italy’s players are familiar [with one another] and play the same style soccer and defensively will be tough to break. Uruguay may be the surprise in that group. They are playing in their own continent and will have many supporters not only from their country but from all of South America. Their motivation is to repeat the 1950 World Cup, winning in the final over host Brazil 2:1.

His picks to move on from Group E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras): Switzerland and France

Switzerland has a team of players who have been playing together [for a long time] and have built a good team to advance. France is expected to advance and should advance as they have been building their team to gain back what they saw as failure and an embarrassment in 2010. They should be back in top form having had four years to build.

His picks to move on from Group F (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria): Argentina and Nigeria

Argentina are the favorites in the group; they have very strong players, are playing in their neighboring country and will have huge support. Nigeria always seems to come out with a team that can advance and should, [given that they’re] facing Iran and Bosnia. They will be technical, and their athletics will help them advance at least out of the group.

His pick to move on from Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States): Germany

This is a tough group, especially for the United States. Germany will advance. Again, their players are very disciplined and they know their roles and will do what’s best for the team to win. They can defend well and attack with speed and strength. Portugal and [Cristiano] Ronaldo will advance as they have players who play in very strong leagues around Europe and within their domestic league. Ghana and the United States will have a chance if Ronaldo makes the show about himself. If he is on the top of his game and playing for his team, then Portugal will advance.

His pick to move on from Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia and Korea): Belgium

Belgium has a good domestic league for their young players, and some of their veterans play within the stronger European leagues providing them with the advantage of experience. Korea will have the team and the discipline to overcome Algeria and Russia. Most players playing on the top Russian club teams are from abroad and this does not give Russia the chance to develop their players for this level of competition.

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