Here are the team groups and players to watch as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins on June 12.
Group A The favorite: Brazil. Fans of the Selecao will be expecting nine points from the team’s three games against decent, but not great, competition. Brazil has a loaded roster; the only questions are whether the team can find a reliable striker and if it can cope with the pressure. Buy Photo
The sleeper: Mexico. Mexico’s decline from 2011 Gold Cup and 2012 Olympic champions to nearly missing out on the World Cup has been as shocking as it has been puzzling. Safely in Brazil, maybe El Tri can snap out of its funk.
Player to watch: Luka Modric, MF, Croatia. The Real Madrid playmaker took a bit of time to settle in Spain but emerged this season as one of the team’s best players
Predicted order of finish: Brazil, Croatia, Cameroon, Mexico Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images