With the opening of the World Cup in Brazil just one day away, we here at Royal Blue Mersey decided it was time to sit down and discuss our favourites, losers, dark horses and more for the upcoming tournament. So without further ado, here is the RoyalBlueMersey World Cup Roundtable Part 1, focusing on the teams.
Which team do you think will be the eventual World Cup winners?
Adam - Injuries aside, I think Germany have the ability to win the whole thing this year. Thomas Mueller burst onto the international scene in the last World Cup, and I expect him to have a similarly solid tournament this year. Their midfield is impressive even without Marco Reus, they have one of the most accomplished strikers in international football, 3/4s of a spectacular back-line, and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. If Erik Durm can fill in adequately for Marcel Schmelzer and Andre Schurrle can do the same for Marco Reus, I think the Germans go all the way.
Alex - My winners are Argentina for exactly the same thinking as Darren in terms of attack overshadowing poor defending. Also just take a look at their run to the final. Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria are the teams they share group B with. I can see them scoring 6 or 7 both against Iran and Bosnia.
Brian - I'm going with Germany to win it all. I'm not convinced Spain is as dominant as before, and Brazil is too much of an unknown. Not playing a competitive match outside of the Confederation's Cup makes me wonder just how good the Brazilians will be.
Calvin - Brazil appear to have a pretty easy ride right up to the semis, where they'll take on either Germany or France. I expect them to have worked out their issues by that time, and with overwhelming home support plus the climatic advantage, they should win.
Darren - I quite fancy Argentina to win it in their rivals' back yard. Why? Simple - Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero et al. Their forwards are frightening. Of course, their back four isn't anything special, but like Liverpool's, will it really need to be all that?
Sean F - Historically, South American World Cups are won by South American nations. Even though there have only been four South American World Cups, all four have been won by Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. Additionally the two Mexico World Cups were won by Brazil and Argentina (as well as the US World Cup by Brazil. All of which would suggest a South American winner this summer which is why I'm going for a Brazil/Argentina final with the hosts running victorious based on the toss of a coin.
Sean L - After watching the Brazilians in the Confederations Cup, I fancy them; though I do worry about the pressure they're under. However, they have a manager who knows what he's doing and will deal with travelling and such better than the rest. I don't see a European team winning it because of the climate.
Tom - Brazil. They will be under more pressure than probably any other World Cup host in history but I get the feeling that may well carry them all the way, especially if Neymar plays like he did in the Confederations Cup last year.
Which team do you think will be this tournaments surprise package?
Adam - Saying Belgium is only marginally a surprise, but this is a team I legitimately in the final. I've thought very highly of this team for the last year or so, but after writing their preview for RBM, I see Belgium as a serious contender. Provided that Romelu Lukaku is going to be healthy for the tournament, I think he is going to be a huge success.
Alex - I'd say Belgium but for me they just aren't dark horses they have a fantastic chance in a mixed group. They have an outstanding goalkeeper, a solid defence and the ability to score up top. But my overall dark horses would be France. Nobody has spoken about them for years. They have had some real stumbles as a football nation the last few years but their team is looking good. So good they can afford to leave Samir Nasri out!
Brian - I think the surprise team is going to be Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have some fantastic talent including Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko. Their group includes Argentina, Nigeria, and Iran. They should finish 2nd in the group and have a great chance in the knockout round.
Calvin - France keeps getting written off because of the issues they've had over the last couple of tournaments, but they have the potential to go far, even without Franck Ribery. I wouldn't call Belgium a surprise any more because we know what they are capable of.
Darren - I'll go for two, Belgium and England. Belgium are dark horses and will be my each way bet for the tournament. They're a young, exciting side with talent throughout. A quality goalkeeper and an excellent back four, and quick midfield and goals up front.
As far as England goes, call me patriotic but if Roy Hodgson is prepared to let Ross Barkley, Adam Llallana and Wayne Rooney loose behind Daniel Sturridge, or even put Rooney up top, I think we can do well at this tournament. My only concern is the strength in depth. Do we actually have any? The prospect of facing Spain in the quarter finals doesn't bode well either, but it's a World Cup, anything can happen.
Sean F - Rather like England, France have selected a young and energetic squad and could pose a surprise. Chile playing on their home continent may also provide a shock. Columbia and Ecuador also have the luxury of playing on their home continent and on top of that they have (on paper) even groups. Japan and Switzerland are also in those same even groups and once into the knockout stage anything can happen. Japan also had an encouraging Confederations Cup campaign last summer despite not picking up a point but in a group with Brazil, Croatia and Mexico that was always going to be a huge possibility whereas a year on I would expect them to pick up a lot more.
Sean L - It's Chile for me. I like how they play fast attacking football, and they have a decent squad with more quality players from Europe than people realize. I do think Belgium will probably do well though.
Tom - Belgium are a popular pick but I will instead go for France. They seem to have a much more settled team now than in 2010 and have been drawn in an easy group with a potentially kind second round match too. Once you get to the quarter-finals you never know what might happen next (apart from England, who lose on penalties). That said, I still think it will be a Brazil v Argentina final!
Which team do you think will be the most disappointing?
Adam - I think Uruguay is set to have a disappointing tournament, and I don't see them making it out of the group stage. I don't expect Luis Suarez to be at 100% health, and that team is overly reliant on him and Edinson Cavani. Their defending or goalkeeping does not impress me, and their midfield will certainly be overrun by the superior midfields of Italy and England. People seem to have forgotten this team qualified 5th in South America, behind Ecuador and Chile.
Alex - The team I think will let us down is Holland. The 2010 finalists may suffer through an ageing squad, a weak central defence and a manager whom has his mind elsewhere.
Brian - Sadly I think it will be England. With a group including Italy, Uruguay, and Costa Rica; the Three Lions will not be able to get out of the group. While it would be fantastic if Italy flamed out like they did in South Africa, I don't see that happening again.
Calvin - Spain will find that winning the fourth tournament in a row will be a bridge too far, especially with the hot and humid weather sapping the energies of their players after another long and tiring season for the bulk of their squad.
Darren - I think Brazil will disappoint. The natives expect them to win, but I can't see it personally.
Sean F - With almost everyone associated with football, pundit and fan alike tipping Belgium to be the dark horses in Brazil for at least the past two years surely they're set to disappoint? If you are Brazil fan then anything other than a win would mark as a disappointment and that sort of pressure of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side could identify them as the nation to disappoint. Having said that, my prediction for the team to frustrate is Holland - having been on a steady decline since their last World Cup campaign. In addition to being in a group with Spain and Chile this time around, Louis van Gaal is without talisman Rafael van der Vaart with a calf injury.
Sean L - I think it might be Uruguay. I understand they have excellent attacking talents in Suarez and Cavani, but behind that are nothing special and their defence is slow to say the least. I could see them being blown away by some of the faster attacking sides.
Tom - Portugal. They are in a really tough group and an overreliance on Cristiano Ronaldo may prove costly and see them exit at the group stage. I also think/hope the Italians are due a timely implosion, preferably in Manaus on Saturday.
Be sure to check in later today for the World Cup Roundtable Part 2, in which we discuss the players we expect to shine and flop. Share your views on the questions posed here in the comments below!