The World Cup’s return to South America should not only mean an unforgettable experience in Brazil, but also a tough road to the title for teams from Europe.
No European team in World Cup history has ever won the tournament when it has been held on South American soil, and while it has not been held on the continent since 1978, there is still reason to believe that the streak will continue.
Not because there aren’t strong European contenders this time around, but because the contingent of South American powers lining up to enjoy some home cooking is formidable.
First you have host country Brazil which served notice at the 2013 Confederations Cup by demolishing Spain in the final that a sixth World Cup title is well within the ‘Selecao’s’ grasp. Led by Neymar and an impressive midfield featuring Oscar, Brazil has the firepower to win the tournament and enters the 2014 World Cup as the favorite.
The dream final for fans of the beautiful game would be Brazil vs. Argentina, a final that has never taken place, and a match-up that would feature Lionel Messi against his Barcelona teammate Neymar. Argentina has to be considered one of the favorites as well, with an attack led by Messi and Sergio Aguero.
There are other South American contenders to consider, with Colombia looking like a good candidate to pull off an upset or two. With Radamel Falcao looking more and more like he will be back from his knee injury to contribute, the ‘Cafeteros’ could make a deep run. Another team to watch out for is Chile, which isn’t quite as star-studded as some other teams in the tournament, but has the quality to knock out either Spain or Netherlands from its stacked group.
Europe does have some teams capable of breaking the South American World Cup jinx, chief among them being Germany. The Germans may be placed in the Group of Death, but their quality should see them advance to the semifinals. Led by Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm and Miroslave Klose, who could break the all-time World Cup scoring record this tournament, the Germans are more than capable of spoiling the chances for an all-South American World Cup final.
Defending champion Spain should not be forgotten, but age has a way of making things tough at the World Cup and the Spaniards are an aging team. Led by Xavi and Iniesta, Spain has the weapons to make a deep run, but could just as easily wind up being eliminated from a group featuring the Netherlands and Chile.
The Dutch are a very good team, led by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, but it’s tough to see a return to the final. A team receiving a lot of buzz is Belgium, featuring one of the best collections of young talent in the world.
Look for Brazil and Argentina to make it to a dream final, though Germany could spoil the party.