The Italians enter the tournament defending champs, but in few football critics minds are they considered capable of pulling off a repeat. They do have a strange blend of over the hill defenders and young inexperienced forwards to choose from, but one key fixture still on the Azzurri is their prized keeper Buffon. The man has still got the skills and having an elite keeper should make all of the difference in the first round of the tournament. After that it will become very challenging, but expect Italy to initially defend their thrown with a first round group victory.
Slovakia is one of my favorite sleeper teams this Cup and the biggest reason why is because of the offensive prowess of young Serie A star Marek Hamsik. The attacking midfielder remains unknown to the world of international football fans, but this summer he should get his proper introduction. Slovakia is by no means a powerhouse team, but the country played the role of the underdog well in the WCQ and should continue to do so with a potential five point performance here in Group F.
A lot has been said about Paraguay’s bold WCQ run in South America and over the span it is hard to say that teams like Argentina were more deserving of making the Cup then the underrated squad. And despite their impressive offensive display this fall, I still think the South American side will eventually falter in the initial round of the Cup. Santa Cruz certainly doesn’t lack league experience, but the man is injury prone to say the least and Paraguay has few stars that could potentially fill in if the EPL striker goes down once again.
4) New Zealand
Anyone that actually thinks New Zealand will advance to the second round of the tournament should be forced into a mental institution. I’m sorry fans of the Kiwi it is just a sheer fact that your team is likely the second worst in all of the tournament if not the worst. You never do know what will happen, but New Zealand’s team is so terrible that I dare you to name three players on their team right now. New Zealand will likely earn zero points this summer and will be lucky to score a single goal.