I have played the entire tournament on paper, and here are my predictions:
- Group A: Brazil will win. Not by big margins, which will lead to some criticisms. In second place I find it very difficult, but think that Croatia may just squeeze past Mexico on goal difference (their last group match ending in a tie). The match to watch will indeed be Mexico-Croatia on June 23rd.
- Group B: Chile is being touted as a potential surprise, but I think the surprise will be that they will not surprise. Spain and Netherlands will open with a safe 0-0, and then go on each to win their next two matches. Spain's scoring problems will put them in second place in the group, even though they will try to score many goals in the final match against Australia. Chile will try hard against Spain on June 18th. Chile-Spain will be the match to watch.
- Group C: Such an exciting group! I want all to progress, but I think one of the surprises will come here, as Japan takes first spot with two ties and a victory, same as Colombia, but with better goal difference. It will be comfortable for both teams to play in the last round, where Ivory Coast will defeat Greece for nothing. Japan-Ivory Coast will be the match to watch, on June 14th.
- Group D: Another difficult group, but where Uruguay will benefit by experience and near-home advantage, while weather and schedule will be the enemies of Italy and England, who will struggle in all three matches. So I think Uruguay will win the group, opening with a victory against Costa Rica, where they can subsequently play comfortably against England and Italy. It is difficult, but I think Italy will squeeze through ahead of England. The match to watch is certainly England-Italy on June 14th, as this may decide second place.
- Group E: France, Switzerland and Ecuador all have similar options. I think France and Switzerland will start with victories, but overtly confident Frenchmen will underestimate Ecuador in the last group match, where Ecuador will defeat France to take second place behind Switzerland. Ecuador-France on June 25th is the match to watch.
- Group F: I predict no surprises in this group. Argentina and Nigeria will win their matches to tie in their last group match, and Argentina taking first place on goal difference. Match to watch will be Argentina- Nigeria (a modern classic by now) on June 25th.
- Group G: Germany will win the group due to their schedule, where they know that they have to close by scoring many goals against the USA in their last match. Klinsmann will be fired after losing heavily to his home country. Ghana will fight bravely, but will not manage to beat a Portuguese side that will be inspired by Ronaldo. Match to watch will be Portugal-Ghana on June 26th is a safe bet.
- Group H: Belgium will start with two victories against Algeria and Russia, and will be touted as potential champs. But last match against South Corea, who will be pressured to win after defeating Algeria but losing to Russia, Belgium will be too confident and the by-now experienced Coreans will upset them. This will end with a group where Belgium, Russia and South Corea will all have 6 points. Goal difference will mean Russia and South Corea will progress. Match to watch: South Corea-Belgium on June 26th.
- Brazil-Spain: The end of the road for the world champions, I think, but them winning would not be impossible. It is not unlikely that the winner of this match will be world champion.
- Netherlands-Croatia: A dramatic match where I think the Dutch will win, not unlikely after extra time.
- Japan-Italy: Here I will go for the surprise. Italy squeezed through, and will be tired after a heavy schedule, while Japan are thoroughly well prepared. Japan in the quarterfinals!
- Colombia-Uruguay: This will be a dramatic South American clash, where any of the two could prevail. I tip Colombia, more due to the fact they also defeated Uruguay in qualification.
- Argentina-Ecuador: Argentina will defeat Ecuador, but will struggle. It may take extra time, and the first cracks will start in the Argentine side.
- Switzerland-Nigeria: A repeat of the youth World Cup final of 2009 in Nigeria, where the Swiss won. But this time Nigeria will get its revenge and be another African side progressing to the quarterfinals.
- Germany-South Corea: The end of the road for South Corea against a German side that by this point will be geared for the tournament.
- Russia-Portugal: It will be an epic clash, but Portugal will prevail, and progress to the quarterfinals.
- Argentina-Portugal: Portugal will at this point be inspired and motivated, and obviate the cracks in Argentina's defense. Cristiano Ronaldo will outshine Messi, and Portugal will be in the semifinal.
- Brazil-Japan: Will be a great match because of the close links between the two countries. It will particularly go over in the football history of Japan, who will put on a great match. But Brazil will prevail and be in the semifinals.
- Nigeria-Germany: The Nigerians will play a fantastic match trying to become the first African side in a semifinal. But a last minute doubtful penalty kick will give Germany the victory in what will be the most controversial decision of the World Cup. This is a lot of detail, and not very likely to happen, but a safe bet is to say Germany will go through.
- Colombia-Netherlands: The Dutch experience and technique will be too much for a Colombian side that will have won many fans during the tournament. Netherlands will make it to another semifinal.
- Portugal-Netherlands: This will be another epic clash, perhaps going into extra time, maybe even penalty kicks. Portugal, who by now will be seeing the flame of glory ahead of them will win and make it to their first World Cup final ever.
- Brazil-Germany: How proper that the two greatest footballing nations of all time should play in a World Cup in Brazil! It will be a match that will go over in history. Brazil will win.
My prediction stops here. Anything can happen in any match until this point, and in a final, anything can happen. Brazil will be favourites, but a Portugal inspired by a Cristiano Ronaldo who will enter the history books of World Cup legends, will be a difficult adversary.
Note that the final could also be Spain-Portugal! Also, Spain-Brazil is possible if Spain win their group.
Is all this likely to happen? Probably not; as I mentioned I am usually wrong (but it is difficult-o!).
If I had done it with my heart rather than my head, the final would be Argentina-Brazil, and Nigeria and Colombia would have made it to the semifinal. Also, Ghana and Belgium would have progressed, and Chile might have fulfilled some of the expectations. But ok, all this could also happen....
Good luck to all nations and all fans though!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!