The groups for the 2014 FIFA World Cup have been selected, and fans of the United States Men's National Team are somewhere between “it's going to be hard, but we can do this” and “thank goodness there will be baseball on TV next summer.” That aside, plenty of interesting match-ups were created on Friday. Below is my first filled-out World Cup bracket, a bracket that is going to see many changes between now and June.
Note: Group winners will be underlined, second place will be in bold
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon: US Soccer fans enjoyed watching Mexico stumble in 2013. Don't get used to it. There is a lot of talent there, and El Tri will be looking to bounce back on the world's biggest stage. I don't know if anybody has enough guts to not put the hosts through to at least the knockout round.
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia: Holland will get revenge on Spain and win that first showdown. From there, the Dutch will do well to put the disaster that was Euro 2012 behind them.
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan: I'm not at all convinced about these selections. Ivory Coast going on to win this group wouldn't at all surprise me. There's also the fact that both Greece and Japan could have upset wins in them.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy: Do not, do not, do not sleep on Italy. Much like with Ivory Coast over in Group C, Italy have the goods to win this group and make a run. I'm not at all sold on England. Don't be shocked in they finish in the basement of the group.
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras: Who exactly did France pay off for this group, and how much money exchanged hands? This said only in jest, of course; kind of.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria: Iran are good defensively and they are capable of frustrating opponents who underestimate them. They can go through as long as they avoid losing to B&H and Nigeria, they don't get blown out by Argentina, and Argentina takes care of their business in the rest of group play.
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States: Sorry, my fellow Americans. I just can't see it, at least I can't today.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea: I've been on the Belgium bandwagon for over a year. Don't at all think they don't have the talent to win this whole thing.
Spain over Brazil: Brazil looked like the best team in the world when they demolished Spain 3-0 this past summer. That was the Confederations Cup, though. We're talking World Cup here, and the defending champs will be remembering what occurred the last time these two sides met.
Italy over Colombia: Colombia are filled with talent, such as this guy. I do, however, think that they are a bit overrated at fourth overall in the current FIFA world rankings. Breaking down that Italian back line will prove to be no easy task.
France over Iran: Surviving group play is one thing. Winning a one-and-done when you're over-matched is another.
Germany over Russia: Unless many things change between now and June, this hypothetical match could be a blowout. Russia can't hang with Germany.
Netherlands over Mexico: This pick all depends on whether or not those inside the Holland dressing room have yet begun fighting with one another. History suggests it will happen at some point.
Uruguay over Ivory Coast: I was, again, very tempted to go with Ivory Coast here. I guess I really am that much of a believer in Luis Suarez and company.
Argentina over Ecuador: Ecuador are, right now today, at 23 in the FIFA world rankings. They get to this stage of the tournament only because of being placed a soft group.
Belgium over Portugal: Americans looking for some silver lining have to stop referring to Portugal as a “one-man team.” They have more overall talent than do the US. That said, Belgium are the best team in this portion of the bracket.