With the World Cup just around the corner, everyone and their mother has soccer fever. Even if don’t have the slightest clue when it comes to global soccer, you can still appreciate the passion and competitive spirit present. For all you tennis fans who really want to know the in’s and out’s of the World Cup, start with our Tennis Fan Guide to the World Cup.
Brazil – Rafa Nadal
Brazil is not only one of the most storied, talented and exciting soccer nations but they also have the world’s greatest home field advantage. We just saw how important “home” court advantage can be for a player of Nadal’s caliber at Roland Garros with his win in the French Open, and it should be very similar for Brazil if all goes according to plan. Each time a tournament draw is set both Nadal and Brazil are pegged as the most talented, which also puts the most expectation on them as well.
Mexico- Ana Ivanovic
Mexico have long been the kings of North American soccer (in 2012 they won Gold at the Olympics) but they’ve had a rough go of it over the last few years, and almost failed to qualify for the World Cup. After a great start to her career, which included a French Open title, Ana Ivanovic fell out of the top 25 and right off the tennis map. Both have found a new lease on life (Mexico qualified with some help from the USA/Ivanovic is back in the top 10) and are competitors who can beat anyone on any given day.
Spain- Roger Federer
For the longest time Roger Federer was the the most feared man on tour and won nearly every tournament he entered. Much like Fed, Spain has won just about every tournament over the last 8 years but is somehow flying under the radar heading into Brazil. We’re at a point where people wouldn’t be shocked if either lost, but they also wouldn’t be surprised if they won. They both are the most respected competitors in their respective sports.
Netherlands- Andy Roddick
Three time World Cup runner ups, the Netherlands, often have one of the most exciting and free-flowing teams in the field but have never been able to get over the hump on the biggest stage. Andy Roddick’s career has also been defined more by his failures in Grand Slam finals than his triumphs, even though he was one of the most talented player on tour for almost a decade. Besides the final disappointments, both are also prone to public outbursts and bust ups. Never a dull moment.
Colombia- Tommy Haas
Never been able to reach the pinnacle but have been perennial world beaters. Both Colombia and Tommy Haas share this distinction in that they’ve formerly had their time in the spotlight and they’ve been desperately trying to recapture that success. Though Colombia was among the world’s best teams in the 90’s and Haas is a former world number 2, both have succumbed to injuries (Haas has dropped out of the world rankings twice due to injuries/global superstar Falcao will miss the WC for Colombia). They’ve both climbed back into the top 10 in recent years bringing optimism to both camps.
Cote-d’ivoire – Gael Monfils
If you’re looking for supreme talent and unbridled excitement, both Monfils and the Ivory Coast fit the bill. The Cote d’ivoire has long had one of the most talented teams in the world (see the physical specimens Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure), but have never put it together at the Africa Cup of Nations or the World Cup. Monfils has also always been one of the most exciting players on tour, while simultaneously the most enigmatic. Though they both may never put it all together they’ll be damn fun to watch.
Uruguay- Venus Williams
Always lingering as tournament title hopefuls, both Venus Williams and Uruguay have storied pasts. Though Venus is at the tail end of her career she has won numerous titles, the majority coming at the most prestigious tournament, Wimbledon. Much like Venus, Uruguay has tasted ultimate glory, winning the World Cup twice, both times on South American soil. It must be said however, both haven’t won much lately with Uruguay’s world cups victories coming back in 1930 and 1950 while Venus hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since 2008.
England – Lleyton Hewitt
For a long time they were both always touted among the favorites but in the end, they always seemed to disappoint. Hewitt is a former world number 1 and has a few Grand Slam title to his name but his career has been mired in obscurity for more than a decade. England also can lean on the fact they won the WC back in 1966 even but they’ve only been to one semifinal since. Now that the “Golden Generation” is almost entirely gone, the English fans have tempered expectations for their National Team much like the Aussie fans have with Hewitt.
France – Li Na
Both supremely talented and outspoken, both Li Na and the French National team have trouble with consistency. Not always the supreme footballing nation they are today (they failed to qualify for the WC in 70, 74, 90, and 94) they’ve found lightning in a bottle at major tournaments winning the World Cup in 1998 and finishing runner ups in 2006 (remember Zidane’s headbutt?). Like the French, Li Na is just as likely to win a title (Australian Open 2014) as she is to crash out in the first round (French Open 2014).
Argentina- Andy Murray
Both have been defensive stalwarts in the past but have relied more heavily on their offensive strengths of late. Both are two time champions and both have been able to win one of those titles in their home countries (Argentina were WC hosts and champs in 1978/Murray won Wimbledon in 2013). Murray is still one of the best players on tour and Argentina has one of, if not the best, player in the world in the form of Lionel Messi so you always have to rank both among the favorites.
Bosnia and Herzegovina- Simona Halep
Bosnia who? Simona who? You better get to know both these competitors now that they have properly broken through. Even though Bosnia-Herzegovina is competing at their first World Cup they have genuine talent in the form of Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic among others. Much like the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team, Simona Halep has just recently burst onto the scene. She showed us at the French Open why she is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Germany- Novak Djokovic
Maybe the most consistently good competitors in their respective sports (Germany are 3-time winners and a 4-time runner up/Djokovic has won 5 Grand Slams and been a 6 time runner up in the last 3+ years), both Djokovic and the German National Team ooze power,discipline and efficiency. Though they both usually win every time they compete, in recent times they have both played second fiddle to the Spanish revolution occurring in each sport. Don’t expect either however, to ever lie down without a fight.
USA- Grigor Dimitrov
Both are still relative unknowns but have an aura of intrigue around them. Both have big names in their corners (Jurgen Klinsmann for the USA/Maria Sharapova for Grigor Dimitrov) that have certainly upped their global profile, but it remains to be seen if they’re ready for the big stage. Both have shown glimpses of what they could be (Both have made the quarterfinals in the World Cup and Australian Open respectively) and seem primed for a run, but the verdict is still out.
Belgium- Eugenie Bouchard
Young, attractive and bursting with talent. The Belgian team has an abundance of young talent (I expect Eden Hazard to be the breakout star of the WC) that plays beautiful soccer, and Eugenie Bouchard has made a name for herself as much more than just a pretty face. Bouchard has been to consecutive semi-finals and Belgium didn’t lose a game on route to winning their qualifying group, but until they both do it consistently they won’t considered among the world’s elite.