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Steven Beacom's World Cup predictions

Brazil 2014 ideal time for big names to light up greatest show on earth

Published 11/06/2014

Colour and passion: Fans of the 32 countries competing in Brazil will make the 2014 World Cup an occasion to be remembered
Colour and passion: Fans of the 32 countries competing in Brazil will make the 2014 World Cup an occasion to be remembered

With the 2014 World Cup starting tomorrow, we assess all eight groups and all the sides involved naming their players to watch, their strengths and their weaknesses... and our man Steven Beacom offers his predictions for every single team.

Lionel Messi has scored just one goal in 571 minutes of football for Argentina at World Cup finals.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Two Australian football fans show off their football style haircuts at Copacabana beach on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Two Australian football fans show off their football style haircuts at Copacabana beach on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
A street is decorated with national flags of countries participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup near Santa Cruz Cabralia, Brazil, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch the World Cup soccer tournament that kicks off in Sao Paulo, Thursday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: (EDITORS NOTE: A neutral density filter was used for this image.) A dressed dog seen at the seafront of Copacabana beach on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: An England fan holds a replica world cup trophy at Copacabana beach on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Fans walk along the seafront of Copacabana beach on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Australian fans sing at Copacabana beach front on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Argentina fans parade a Lionel Messi jersey around the front of Maracana stadium as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Fans hold up a flag of Argentina during an open training session ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Fans cheer and take photos as the Brazilian team bus departs after a training session at Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 11, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Argentinean soccer team fan, Alejandro Combessies, from Argentina, wears his country's flag as he enjoys Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: French soccer team fan, Sephora Senouci, from France, wears the color of her countries flag as she enjoys Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Colombian soccer team fan, Jurley Rodriguez, from Colombia, wears the color of her countries flag as she enjoys Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Argentinean soccer team fan, Cesar Ragazzini, from Argentina, wears the head of the FIFA mascot as he and his friends enjoy Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Andy Roberts from Australia holds an inflated kangaroo as he and others cheer for his countries team as they enjoy Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Colombian soccer team fans, Pedro Caicedo Ramirez (L) and Isabel Maldonado, from Colombia, enjoy Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: A local boy shows off his beach football skills on Magna Praia beach on June 11, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Leila de Matos holds her cat, Yandu, as it wears a Brazlian flag hat as they visit Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the World Cup tournament on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Iranian soccer team fan, Hooman Moossavi, from France, waves an Iranian flag as he visits Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the World Cup tournament on June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mexican soccer fan, Herwin Gomez, from Mexico, wears a Lucha libre mask as he arrives at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport for the World Cup tournament on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JUNE 11: FIFA World Cup 2014 merchandise is seen on display at a football store on June 11, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. The World Cup 2014 in Brazil will begin on June 12th with the first match between Brazil and Croatia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Former Brazilian football star Ronaldo Nazario speaks during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Presenter Fernanda Lima speaks during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expo Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mirabror Zufarovich Usmanov (R) of Uzbekistan receives the FIFA Order of Merit from FIFA President Joseph Blatter during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Locals pass a mural of the World Cup at Serviluz favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A young goalkeeper is beaten by a shot during a practice match at Serviluz favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Children enjoy a game of football at the Serviluz Favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A worker stands by anti-World Cup graffiti on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: People shop for Brazilian soccer memorabilia on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Everton Manager, Roberto Martinez and former Netherlands striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy speak as they watch the action during the Netherlands training session at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil held at the Estadio Jose Bastos Padilha Gavea on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Neymar in action during a training session of the Brazilian national football team at the squad's Granja Comary training complex, on June 10, 2014 in Teresopolis, 90 km from downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: People wave Spanish flags during a Spain training session at the Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju on June 10, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Military Police officers stand guard outside Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju prior to a Spain training session on June 10, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A motorcycle passes graffiti of multi-colored hands supporting the planet marked with a Brazilian flag on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Alex Palacios (L) and Christian Palacios in town to root for the Ecuadorian soccer team play with a soccer ball among large inflatable ones that are part of a protest on Copacabana beach against what the Brazilian government spent on building stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and to call for more money to be spent on better education, health and public services on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mark Stroh from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shows his support for the American soccer team as he arrives to pick up friends at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport for the start of the World Cup soccer tournament on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazil fan poses for a photo near the Christ Redeemer on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Firefighters and soldiers conduct a chemical contamination simulated training exercise, in preparation for the FIFA soccer World Cup, in front of the National Stadium, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 9, 2014. The international soccer tournament is set to begin in just a few days, with Brazil and Croatia competing in the opening match on June 12. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Mateus da Silva, 12, poses for a photo after playing soccer at a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 9, 2014. The 2014 Word Cup soccer tournament is set to begin in just a few days, with Brazil and Croatia playing in the opening match on June 12. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Argentina's national soccer team T-shirts hang for sale outside the Argentine Soccer Association before the team heads the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, June 9, 2014. Argentina's team is leaving Monday to compete in the Brazil's 2014 soccer Word Cup. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A general view of the Christ the Redeemer statue prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists pose for photos in front Christ the Redeemer statue prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists in front of the Christ Redeemer Statue are seen on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazil fan is seen enjoying the sights on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People walk past a soccer themed mural as the host country shows its love of soccer on the walls of the city on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A general view of a sandcastle model of the Fuleco, the FIFA 2014 World Cup mascot with a Brazilian flag on the Copacabana Beach as the sun rises prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, looks at the Christ the Redeemer statue of Jesus Christ as he visits while waiting for the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, shows spirit for his home country's soccer team while waiting for the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, takes in a view of the city as he awaits the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: World Cup themed 'can coolers' are seen on Copacabana beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A sandcastle of Neymar of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina on Copacabana beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists take photos of the view by the Christ Redeemer Statue on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: England fans pose outside the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel, in the Sao Conrado district of the city, is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Football fans pose with Chelsea shirts outside the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel in the Sao Conrado district is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazilian Navy ship patrols the waters close to the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel in the Sao Conrado district is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
MAUA, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: (L-R) DFB President Wolfgang Nierbach, Reinhold Huber of Lufthansa and Dr Reinhard Rauball, DFL League President play with kids during a visit of the DFB delegation at Centro Comunitario Casa Mateus on June 09, 2014 in Maua, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tattoos of the UEFA Champions League and the World Cup trophies are seen on Sergio Ramos of Spain during a Spain training session at the Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju on June 9, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: World Cup souvenirs are displayed for sale in a store on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People play with a soccer ball on Ipanema beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People play a game of altinha, a spin-off of soccer, on Ipanema Beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A replica of the World Cup trophy is seen on a sand sculpture as a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities moves past on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players and other celebrities move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A dog wearing a halter in the color of the Brazilian flag is seen as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Cintya Mello laughs as she stands among large puppets in the likeness of soccer players during a break in a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Thai youths fight for the ball with elephants during a soccer match between men and elephants to celebrate the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil organized by Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand Monday, June 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
A Thai mahout guides his elephant to entertain school children during the break at a soccer match between men and elephants to celebrate the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil organized by Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand Monday, June 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
A diver wearing a South Korean soccer fan uniform performs with sardines during an event to promote the upcoming 2014 Brazil World Cup, at the COEX Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 9, 2014. South Korea will face Russia, Belgium and Algeria in 2014 Brazil World Cup. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A diver wearing a South Korean soccer fan uniform performs with sardines during an event to promote the upcoming 2014 Brazil World Cup, at the COEX Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 9, 2014. South Korea will face Russia, Belgium and Algeria in 2014 Brazil World Cup. The writing on the banner reads " We hope for the success of the national soccer team." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 09: South Korean divers clad in soccer uniform swim with fishes for South Korean team's success in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at the Coex Aquarium on June 9, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil begins on June 12, 2014. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Fans attempt to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals through a fence around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A parishioner launches a firework from the roof during Festa Junina celebrations at the Paroquia Divino Espirito Santo church located near Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Today was the final Sunday before Itaquerao hosts the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A fan attempts to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals through a fence around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People paint a Brazilian flag on the streets of a 'favela' called Santa Marta as they show their spirit for their home soccer team on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A woman watches from her window as a young man paints a World Cup mural on the street and the wall of her apartment in a 'favela' called Santa Marta as they prepare for the start of World Cup play on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A Brazil fans poses outside of opening ceremony rehearsals around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Fans attempt to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Brazil fans cheer while gathered outside Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A young man practices Capoeira on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A young boy juggles a football on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A couple takes a selfie photo on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Girls take a selfie photo on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Professionals of media work during the match between Corinthians U20 v Corinthians U17 as part of the last technical test event on June 08, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo will be hosting FIFA 2014 World Cup inaugural match on June 12. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Professionals of media work during the match between Corinthians U20 v Corinthians U17 as part of the last technical test event on June 08, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo will be hosting FIFA 2014 World Cup inaugural match on June 12. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A Brazilian flag waves on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A man attempts to walk a tightrope next to Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: An acrobat practices a backflip on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SOROCABA, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Hotaru Yamaguchi of Japan poses with children as the team pose for a group photo with children from the local community during a Japan training session held at Walter Riberio Stadium on June 8, 2014 in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: In this handout image supplied by the FA, (L-R) Gary Cahill, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart, Phil Jagielka and James Milner of England take part in a recovery session at the Golden Tulip Hotel on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Given that the Barcelona hero nets virtually a goal per game at club level, it is a staggering statistic.

In the last eight years, Argentina may not have had the players possessed by Barcelona, but the little maestro hasn't exactly been playing alongside a bunch of Average Joes at international level either.

Could this be the World Cup when everything clicks for both player and nation?

It's one of many intriguing questions hanging in the air which will be answered over the next five weeks.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo still be regarded as the best player on the planet post tournament?

Can Luis Suarez inspire Uruguay to a second surprise success in Brazil 64 years on from the first one?

How will Brazil cope with home advantage?

Is Neymar really any good?

Will Louis van Gaal lose focus with the Dutch knowing the Manchester United manager's job is waiting for him come what may?

Can Germany bridge a gap of 24 years of World Cup hurt?

Will Spain win their fourth major tournament in a row?

How will England do?

And will all of Yaya Toure's birthdays come at once with Ivory Coast emerging as genuine contenders?

We are about to find out.

Just one more sleep and then it will kick off with Brazil against a Croatian side determined to spoil the fun and frolics of a host country ready to samba all the way to the final.

I've covered monumental events like the Olympics, the Ryder Cup and European Championships plus huge occasions in other big time sports, but the World Cup is on a different scale with the passion, interest and conversation it generates.

Even people with no interest in football get involved.

There is a growing sense that this tournament could prove to be one of the best ever.

Maybe that's just everyone feeling romantic because it is in Brazil, which always makes you conjure up magical World Cup memories.

For the sake of the tournament the hosts need to perform well and not fall by the wayside early on, swept away by a tidal wave of expectation.

Don't know about you but before every World Cup I check out the groups and work out who will go through to the second round and so on.

If my predictions are right we are in for some sensational clashes in the knockout stages.... like Germany taking on Belgium in the last 16 and Fabio Capello's Russia up against Ronaldo's Portugal.

If all goes to plan the quarter-finals will be even more spectacular.

Brazil and Neymar meeting Uruguay and Suarez.

The French going head to head with the Germans.

World Champions Spain versus England and best of all Argentina and Messi against Portugal and Ronaldo in a shoot-out to savour.

If all that wasn't enough Brazil v Germany and Argentina v Spain in the semi-finals would be mouthwatering before the South American giants lock horns in the July decider in Rio all ready for the party to end them all on Copacabana beach or Messi's crowning glory.

I fancy the latter.

Messi's never been idolised in his homeland the way Diego Maradona is.

How that would change if he guided Argentina to victory over Brazil in an epic final.

Sure there will be some dross in the group games, some ridiculous refereeing decisions and big name players failing to live up to the hype, but the more I think about it the more I'm convinced this World Cup will be a joy.

Get ready for the greatest show on earth.

Group A

Brazil

Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Captain: Thiago Silva

Star Player: Neymar

Strengths: Home advantage, the captain's power and the manager

Weaknesses: Pressure and expectation may prove too much in the end

Previous Best: Winners 1958, '62, '70, '94 and 2002

Beacom Prediction: They'll make the final.

Croatia

Manager: Niko Kovac

Captain: Darijo Srna

Star Player: Mario Mandzukic

Strengths: Mandzukic's goals and Luka Modric's creativity

Weaknesses: Lack consistency. Good one game, average the next

Previous Best: Third place 1998

Beacom Prediction: Last 16 at best.

Mexico

Manager: Miguel Herrera

Captain: Rafael Márquez

Star Player: Javier Hernandez

Strengths: Dangerous going forward if they are in the mood

Weaknesses: Lack togetherness and fighting spirit

Previous Best: Quarter-finalists 1970 and 1986

Beacom Prediction: Third in the group

Cameroon

Manager: Volker Finke

Captain: Samuel Eto'o

Star Player: Samuel Eto'o

Strengths: Eto'o. Pity Roger Milla wasn't alongside him

Weaknesses: Eto'o. There is a them and him attitude in the squad

Previous Best: Quarter-finals 1990

Beacom Prediction: Fourth in the group

Group B

Spain

Manager: Vicente del Bosque

Captain: Iker Casillas

Star Player: Andres Iniesta

Strengths: Been there, done it and know how to win big tournaments

Weaknesses: Brazil may be a bridge too far for Xavi and co

Previous Best: Winners 2010

Beacom Prediction: Semi-final, where they will lose out to Argentina

Holland

Manager: Louis van Gaal

Captain: Robin van Persie

Star Player: Arjen Robben

Strengths: When they click, they are devastating in attack

Weaknesses: Always one minor incident away from a major fall out

Previous Best: Runners-up 1974, ‘78 and 2010

Beacom Prediction: Out in group stages.

Chile

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli

Captain: Claudio Bravo

Star Player: Alexis Sanchez

Strengths: Best XI are brilliant to watch with their fluent passing

Weaknesses: Squad is not strong enough

Previous Best: Third 1962

Beacom Prediction: They'll stun Holland and qualify before Brazil knock them out

Australia

Manager: Ange Postecoglou

Captain: Mile Jedinak

Star Player: Tim Cahill

Strengths: Spirit, never say die attitude and young goalkeeper Matthew Ryan

Weaknesses: Players are willing but not wonderful. Plus, have you seen their group?

Previous Best: Last 16 2006

Beacom Prediction: Fourth place in group

Group C

Colombia

Manager: Jose Pekerman

Captain: Mario Yepes

Star Player: Teofilo Gutierrez

Strengths: Conditions in Brazil will suit them

Weaknesses: Not having injured star striker Radamel Falcao is a huge blow

Previous Best: Last 16 1990

Beacom Prediction: Lucky to be in a poor group. Out in last 16

Greece

Manager: Fernando Santos

Captain: Giorgos Karagounis

Star Player: Georgios Samaras

Strengths: Hard to break down. They don't concede many goals

Weaknesses: Can be dull as dishwater, lacking creativity

Previous Best: Group stages 1994 and 2010

Beacom Prediction: Going home early

Ivory Coast

Manager: Sabri Lamouchi

Captain: Didier Drogba

Star Player: Yaya Toure

Strengths: If Toure fancies it, he is unstoppable

Weaknesses: The manager and highly influential striker Drogba don't always see eye to eye

Previous Best: Group stage 2006 and 2010

Beacom Prediction: Last 16

Japan

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni

Captain: Makoto Hasebe

Star Player: Keisuke Honda

Strengths: Manager is a wily campaigner, plenty of guile in midfield

Weaknesses: Vulnerable at set pieces and can be dodgy in defence

Previous Best: Last 16 2002 and 2010

Beacom Prediction: Colombia will just beat them to runners-up spot

Group D

Uruguay

Manager: Oscar Tabarez

Captain: Diego Lugano

Star Player: Luis Suarez

Strengths: The brilliance of Suarez plus fiercely determined to win in Brazil like 1950 compatriots

Weaknesses: Suarez's fitness, or lack of it

Previous Best: Winners 1930 and 1950

Beacom Prediction: Quarter-final defeat

Costa Rica

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

Captain: Bryan Ruiz

Star Player: Bryan Ruiz

Strengths: Minnows have little to lose and believe they can create at least one shock

Weaknesses: Rarely impress away from home and in a tough, tough group

Previous Best: Last 16 1990

Beacom Prediction: Bottom of the group

England

Manager: Roy Hodgson

Captain: Steven Gerrard

Star Player: Wayne Rooney

Strengths: Lower than usual expectations and kids ready to explode on world stage

Weaknesses: Manager may be too cautious

Previous Best: Winners 1966

Beacom Prediction: Quarter-finals (knocked out on penalties of course)

Italy

Manager: Cesare Prandelli

Captain: Gianluigi Buffon

Star Player: Mario Balotelli

Strengths: Andrea Pirlo's ability to control a game

Weaknesses: Italian teams are normally strong at the back. This one?

Previous Best: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006

Beacom Prediction: Can't believe I'm saying this – third in the group and out early

Group E

Switzerland

Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld

Captain: Gökhan Inler

Star Player: Xherdan Shaqiri

Strengths: Shaqiri is a real talent and they'll be out to deliver for soon to retire Hitzfeld

Weaknesses: Defensively they are shaky and have unproven forwards

Previous Best: Quarter-finalists 1934, 1938 and 1954

Beacom Prediction: Last 16

France

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Captain: Hugo Lloris

Star Player: Karim Benzema

Strengths: Benzema is shining in a new look French attack and Paul Pogba has genuine quality

Weaknesses: Not having the injured Franck Ribery and potential internal squad politics

Previous Best: Winners ‘98

Beacom Prediction: Quarter-finals

Ecuador

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda

Captain: Antonio Valencia

Star Player: Antonio Valencia

Strengths: Have a goal threat and the dangerous Jefferson Montero on the wing

Weaknesses: Everyone should score goals against them. Awful at the back.

Previous Best: Last 16 2006

Beacom Prediction: Group exit

Honduras

Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez

Captain: Noel Valladares

Star Player: Carlo Costly

Strengths: Won't be bothered by heat and humidity

Weaknesses: Limited quality and indiscipline. Will struggle to avoid red cards

Previous Best: Group stages 1982 and 2010

Beacom Prediction: Home before the knockout stages

Group F

Argentina

Manager: Alejandro Sabella

Captain: Lionel Messi

Star Player: Lionel Messi

Strengths: Messi — desperate that this will be his World Cup year.

Weaknesses: In comparison to the star-studded attack, defensively can be poor

Previous Best: Winners 1978 and 1986

Beacom Prediction: Winners

Bosnia-H'gov

Manager: Safet Susic

Captain: Emir Spahic

Star Player: Edin Dzeko

Strengths: Dzeko's nose for goal.

Weaknesses: Very little strength in depth. Can be too reliant on Dzeko in attack

Previous Best: Never qualified before

Beacom Prediction: They'll enjoy the experience but it’s an exit at the first stage

Iran

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Captain: Javad Nekounam

Star Player: Ashkan Dejagah

Strengths: Relishing the tag of underdogs. They really do feel they can bite

Weaknesses: They lack a cutting edge and their build up play can be laboured

Previous Best: Group stages 1978, 1998 and 2006

Beacom Prediction: Out at the group stage

Nigeria

Manager: Stephen Keshi

Captain: Vincent Enyeama

Star Player: Victor Moses

Strengths: Keshi can be a controversial boss but his selections can also be inspirational

Weaknesses: If they go behind, confidence can drain quickly

Previous Best: Last 16 1994, 1998

Beacom Prediction: Second round

Group G

Germany

Manager: Joachim Low

Captain: Philipp Lahm

Star Player: Thomas Muller

Strengths: Experience and quality throughout the side.

Weaknesses: For their ability, this squad seem to lack a mental edge

Previous Best: Winners 1954, ‘74, ‘90 (as West Germany)

Beacom Prediction: Semi-finals

Portugal

Manager: Paulo Bento

Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo

Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Strengths: Ronaldo... pure and simple.

Weaknesses: Ronaldo may not be fully fit, hampering his performances and Portugal's

Previous Best: Third place in 1966

Beacom Prediction: Quarter-final exit

Ghana

Manager: James Kwesi Appiah

Captain: Asamoah Gyan

Star Player: Kwadwo Asamoah

Strengths: Are a dangerous attacking side

Weaknesses: Can be erratic and Germany and Portugal are better

Previous Best: Q-final 2010

Beacom Prediction: Knocked out in group after three entertaining games

USA

Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann

Captain: Clint Dempsey

Star Player: Graham Zusi

Strengths: Always arrive full of confidence that they can shock the world

Weaknesses: Klinsmann does not know his best team

Previous Best: Third away back in 1930

Beacom Prediction: Early exit

Group H

Belgium

Manager: Marc Wilmots

Captain: Vincent Kompany

Star Player: Eden Hazard

Strengths: Confident, vibrant and free flowing with lots of quality... could go far

Weaknesses: For all of their class, they don't score as much as they should

Previous Best: Fourth 1986

Beacom Prediction: Exiting at quarter-finals

Algeria

Manager: Vahid Halilhodzic

Captain: Madjid Bougherra

Star Player: Sofiane Feghouli

Strengths: Feghouli has the qualities to surprise the opposition from distance

Weaknesses: May not have enough self belief to compete with Belgium and Russia

Previous Best: Group stages 1982, 1986 and 2010

Prediction: Knocked out in group stages

Russia

Manager: Fabio Capello

Captain: Sergei Ignashevich

Star Player: Aleksandr Kerzhakov

Strengths: Technically strong and on top form can beat top teams

Weaknesses: Northern Ireland beat them in qualifying so on off days they are very poor

Previous Best: Fourth 1966 (as USSR)

Beacom Prediction: Last 16

South Korea

Manager: Hong Myung-Bo

Captain: Lee Chung-Yong

Star Player: Son Heung-Min

Strengths: Pacy in attack and will never give up. Will fancy beating Russia and Algeria

Weaknesses: Can be predictable. Too predictable.

Previous Best: Fourth in 2002

Prediction: Group stages exit

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