By Mike Corasaniti
The two best teams in the world could be on track for a rematch of their 2010 semifinal matchup, which Spain won 1-0 en route to its first World Cup.
Spain, considered the favorite to win the whole thing by many, will have its hands full in Group B with the Netherlands and Chile. Nobody is seriously doubting that the world’s best team will make it to the Round of 16, but two tough tests right off the bat will certainly be a good warm-up for this veteran team.
Germany on the other hand, a nation that has been knocking on the door for years now, is looking to avoid its third consecutive third place finish at the World Cup. If they could get past the likes of Spain and other challengers, this may finally be the year the Germans break through for their first World Cup title in 24 years.
Their toughest scheduled match will be their opener against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on June 16, which just might give the world a great idea on the chances for this year’s Germany team.
A Word on Spain
After suffering for long period of time throughout their history, Spain has been great for the better part of the last six years. This year’s club might not come off as intimidating as Spain did four years ago, but they’re still on the short list of favorites to win it all once again..
Since its victory in the 2008 European Championship, the Spanish have set the standard for excellent soccer on the international level, a standard that could very well continue on for years to come. Spain’s prospects to become just the third repeat winners in World Cup history will require more than just a continuation of their recent success.
Some of their best, Xavi and Andres Iniesta most among them, may be heading past their prime but are still performing quite handsomely. So Spain’s chances may hinge most dramatically upon the likes of Sergio Ramos and the defensive side of the ball. Ramos has been one of the best defenders in the world when he’s at his peak but has also showed disastrous potential when he loses his concentration. Spain will need much more of the former from Ramos if they hope to leave Brazil smiling.
Germany was billed by many to be the team to watch next time around after coming up just short in 2010 against the eventual champions. And with three World Cups and countless other championship-caliber squads lining their history books, the Germans are always good at setting themselves up for a position to win. 2014 is no different.
Some role players may have changed for Germany but the core of the team for the past years has remained pretty much the same. For another World Cup season, Germany will look greatly to Bastian Schweinsteiger to lead them to prosperity, although he represents only one of the many weapons Germany has brought to the table. With Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, and others playing at the top of their games, Germany may have the deepest squad in the entire tournament.
To say that it is championship or bust for the Germans may be a bit of an overstatement. But the potential for a fourth World Cup victory is just as great as it’s ever been for one of the most consistently successful teams in international soccer’s history.
There’s no doubt the talent and experience is there for Spain to walk away from Brazil 2014 with their fourth consecutive major international championship, but it’s difficult to know whether the collective mind and body are willing.
Spain is comprised of a team of stars that has made a habit of winning big championships over the past few years, but the majority of them are only getting older and a step slower. Not to say that a fourth consecutive major international championship isn’t within the grasp of this year’s top-rated team, but the obstacles look bigger when you look at potential challengers such as Germany.
Yes, if there are any giants that need to be taken down for others to rise this World Cup, it will be La Furia Roja and its relentless attack. But third place dwellers no more; this could very well be the year that Germany finally breaks through.