The teams dreaming of another star on their jerseys

Who will raise the planet’s most coveted trophy on July 13, 2014? Eight of the 32 countries competing in the 2014 World Cup have won that distinction in the past, a feat remembered on their national jersey with a star. They are hoping to add another to the collection when the final whistle blows. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of these former World Cup champions.

© Copyright: FRANCE 24 - Texts: Marc DAOU - Photos: AFP



Boasting a talented generation of players – arguably its most promising ever – and in pursuit of its first major title since the Euro 96, Germany is among the favorites in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Strengths: The ruthless efficiency of its attacking players. Germany is known for both its technical skill and physical play. The talent of young stars like Mats Hummels, Mario Götze and Mesut Özil, coupled with the experience of players like Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, is simply daunting.
Weaknesses: Crumbling under pressure? Finalists in 2002 and semi-finalists in 2006 and 2010, the Germans have developed a habit of stumbling in the last stretch.
The star of the team: The collective, as always with the Germans, though the shining young midfielder Mario Götze deserves a special mention.
Conspicuously absent: Striker Marco Reus, out with an ankle injury.
Group G: The Germans will face Portugal, Ghana and the United States.

Photo: AFP


England is in one of the toughest first-round groups, facing among others Uruguay and Italy. The team will have to defy a host of negative expectations if they hope to get through to the second round.

Strengths: The speed and skill of strikers Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlande-Chamberlain, as well as solid wingers Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Glen Johnson.
Weaknesses: A plodding defence and the inconsistency of goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The star of the team: Manchester United’s striker Wayne Rooney.
Conspicuously absent: Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, who had an operation on his knee in January.
Group D: England’s first match, against Italy, could be their toughest, followed by Uruguay, then Costa Rica.

Photo: AFP


Argentina’s ultimate ambition is to beat their great rivals and the World Cup hosts Brazil on their home turf. To get this done they will be relying more than ever on their star player Lionel Messi.

Strengths: Without doubt, Argentina’s attacking line. With Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria, Argentina’s forwards are a fearsome bunch.
Weaknesses: A history of losing games at key moments – Argentina hasn’t got beyond the quarter finals since 1990. The defence and goalkeeper are also not on a par with the attackers.
The star of the team: The one and only Lionel Messi.
Conspicuously absent: Juventus star striker Carlos Tevez, left off the team by Alejandro Sabella.
Group F: Argentina will face Bosnia-Herzegovina, followed by Iran, then Nigeria.

Photo: AFP


Favourites to win the World Cup, it is almost inconceivable in this football-obsessed country that the five-time champions could be anything but victorious.

Strengths: All of Brazil’s players are of the highest calibre. And beyond their legendary attackers, the team has a defence of solid steel, made up of Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Daniel Alves and Marcelo.
Weaknesses: Brazil is experiencing social upheaval, amid numerous protest movements, which is undermining national morale. Winning the title is a must.
The star of the team: All eyes are on Neymar, who has under-performed at Barcelona, to prove his worth.
Conspicuously absent: Ronaldhino, as well as Kàkà, have not been chosen for the lineup. Diego Costa, meanwhile, will play in the Spanish national side this year.
Group A: Brazil open the World Cup against Croatia. They go on to face Mexico, then Cameroon.

Photo: AFP


Two-time European champions, and the current world champions, Spain are determined to maintain their momentum on the international stage with much the same lineup that brought the Spaniards to victory in 2010 – including Casillas, Ramos, Piqué, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa etc.

Strengths: The Spanish eleven are all players of the highest order, earning titles for both their respective clubs and together for the national side. They are more than capable of dominating and dictating the pace of all their games.
Weaknesses: After a decade of success, the Spanish squad’s game is no secret to its rivals – as was demonstrated in the final of the Confederations Cup in 2013, when they lost 3-0 to Brazil.
The star of the team: Andres Iniesta, the thinker of the team, along with his Barcelona teammate Xavi.
Conspicuously absent: Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City’s star striker.
Group B: Spain play the Netherlands, followed by Chili and Australia.

Photo: AFP


“Les Bleus” have everything to gain in Brazil, especially valuable experience for younger team members Pogba, Varane, Digne and Griezmann.

Strengths: Good luck seems to follow former World Cup winner and present coach Didier Deschamps. This is coupled with a cast iron mid-field of Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi.
Weaknesses: The relative youth of the team and their inexperience of the World Cup. With an average age of just 26, it is the youngest team to take the field for France since 1954.
The star of the team: Striker Karim Benzema, fresh from an outstanding season with Real Madrid.
Conspicuously absent: Franck Ribéry, left out because of a back injury.
Group E: France will face Honduras, followed by Switzerland, then Ecuador.

Photo: AFP


Italy would dearly love to add a fifth star to the national badge, an honour held only by Brazil. Cesare Prandelli’s team are expected to make it to the semi-finals at least.

Strengths: A rock solid defence backed up by the impenetrable goalkeeper Gigi Buffon, as well as the master of the science of football, Andrea Pirlo.
Weaknesses: It remains to be seen how cohesive Prandelli’s choice of players is, with a weak substitutes’ bench to back up the team’s more experienced core.
The star of the team: Mario Balotelli, AC Milan’s deadly striker.
Conspicuously absent: Balotelli’s teammate Ricardo Montolivo, recovering from a broken leg.
Group D: Italy open with a high-profile battle against England, followed by match-ups with Costa Rica and Uruguay.

Photo : AFP


Semi-finalists in 2010, Uruguay are the number one outsider team to deliver shock results. Led by coach Oscar Tabarez, they are dreaming of repeating their upset victory against neighbouring Brazil, on their own turf, in 1950.

Strengths: The attackers. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez working together have every chance of breaking through Brazil’s defences.
Weaknesses: Uruguay’s own defence is old and they have a limited number of replacements.
The star of the team: Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s goal-scoring machine.
Conspicuously absent: Uruguay is not missing any of its best players.
Group D: Uruguay will face off against Costa Rica, followed by England and Italy.

Photo: AFP

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