PHOTOS & VIDEOS
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 to become the world champion. As the top-seeded team in the tournament, Spain will head to Brazil with hopes of defending its title. Spain will face the Netherlands once again when the two foes match up for their first game of the tournament. In 2010, midfielder Andrés Iniesta scored in overtime to lead Spain to victory. For this year’s tournament, Spain’s 23-man squad has 16 returning players from the 2010 team, including Iniesta. Other players to look out for include the country’s all-time leading scorer David Villa (pictured above, second from left) and goaltender captain Iker Casillas. Casillas holds the record for number of appearances for the Spanish team. The striker Diego Costa (pictured above, far right) is also expected to make a strong impact on the team. Click through this slides show for four more teams to watch at the 2014 World Cup. –By Emily Goldberg
With the home field advantage, Brazil may prove hard to beat. Brazil has a long history with the World Cup tournament. The Brazilian team has appeared in all 19 tournaments, and has held the world champion title five times. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said it would be nice to have more time to prepare for the tournament, but he is excited for it to begin. “It would be good to have another week," Scolari told the Associated Press of the team's preparations. "But at the same time, deep inside me, knowing that my team will be prepared, I wanted it to start now. It's time to get this thing going." Scolari led Brazil to victory at the 2002 World Cup. Two of Brazil’s youngest players, forward Neymar (pictured above, left) and midfielder Oscar, are expected to light up the field. Both are only 22 years old.
Some of the best soccer players in the world will lead Argentina’s offense. Attackers Lionel Messi (pictured above, second from right), Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain will pose a threat to many defenders. Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told the Associated Press that Messi is “the best player in the world.” However, Messi wants to make sure his team stays focused and motivated. “There’s been a lot of talk about how easy it’s going to be,” Messi told FIFA.com. “But it’s the World Cup and there are no easy teams. If they’re there it’s because they deserve to be – there are no straightforward matches at the World Cup.” Higuain is another key player on Argentina’s team. He was Argentina’s top scorer at the 2010 World Cup with four goals. He scored a hat trick —three goals in one game—against South Korea. Another player to watch is Ferando Gago, who is a strong force in the midfield.
Belgium is back at the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. The team will play against Russia, South Korea and Algeria in their first three games. Defender and captain Vincent Kompany is one of the team’s top players. Kompany is also known for his leadership on the field. Goalie Thibaut Courtois will anchor the defense . At six feet six inches tall Courtois will be able to reach and stop almost anything. Eden Hazard is also expected to make a strong impact on the team’s offense. Hazard is known for his creativity on the field. Coach Marc Wilmots brings a lot of experience to the team, having played in four World Cups. This is his first time coaching at the World Cup.
In 2010, Germany had a devastating loss to Spain in the World Cup semifinal. This year, Germany hopes to get to the finals, and lift the World Cup trophy in victory. The team is traveling to Brazil with a very strong lineup. One of the team’s best players is midfielder Thomas Muller. In 2010, Muller was selected as the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner and the tournament’s best young player. "I am going to Brazil with one goal, and that's to win the title," Mueller told the Associated Press. "And that's how the whole team feels." Another accomplished player on the German roster is Marco Reus. Reus was once nicknamed “Rolls Reus” for his speedy pace, and was voted Germany’s player at the end of the 2011-12 season.