FILE: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Preview for four of the top seeds for the 2014 World Cup - Germany; Spain; Switzerland and Uruguay - ahead of the group draw on December 5
FILE: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Preview for four of the top seeds for the 2014 World Cup - Germany; Spain; Switzerland and Uruguay - ahead of the group draw on December 5
- Title: FILE: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Preview for four of the top seeds for the 2014 World Cup - Germany; Spain; Switzerland and Uruguay - ahead of the group draw on December 5
- Date: 2nd December 2013
- Summary: ALBACETE, SPAIN (FILE - OCTOBER 14, 2013) (REUTERS) SPAIN COACH VICENTE DEL BOSQUE AT A TRAINING SESSION BARCELONA MIDFIELDER ANDRES INIESTA AT TRAINING CASILLAS SHOOTING AND NAPOLI GOALKEEPER PEPE REINA SAVING THE BALL CASILLAS SAVING A SHOT MANCHESTER CITY STRIKER ALVARO NEGREDO TRAINING MANCHESTER CITY FORWARD DAVID SILVA TRAINING BARCELONA MIDFIELDER XAVI TRAINING BARCELONA MIDFIELDER CESC FABREGAS TUSSLING FOR THE BALL WITH REAL MADRID DEFENDER SERGIO RAMOS / FABREGASUP ON THE FLOOR RAMOS AND FABREGAS TALKING
- Embargoed: 17th December 2013 12:00
- Location: Spain, Germany, Faroe Islands, Korea, Republic of, Finland
- Country: Faroe Islands Finland Korea, Republic of Germany Spain
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA25UY8VSYN4U0W8ZJGPCJ0ZECZ
- Story Text: GERMANY Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Germany: Form and Prospects All would seem rosy in the youthful Germany camp, with hopes high among fans that they can finally lift their first title since Euro 96 in Brazil next year.
The Germans cruised to the 2014 World Cup finals with yet another dominant qualification campaign. They were unbeaten in their 10 games, winning nine of them to top their group.
With arguably the most talented and versatile squad they have possessed in recent decades, the three-times World Cup winners could be excused for eyeing their fourth win in Brazil.
Yet while their midfield is brimming with attacking talents such as Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller, their backline is far from perfect.
Coach Joachim Loew has yet to find a consistent central defensive pairing with Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Benedkit Hoewedes all competing but struggling to lock down a definite starting berth.
Germany have been far less impressive in friendlies this year, losing to the United States, drawing 3-3 with Paraguay, beating Ecuador 4-2 and drawing 1-1 in Italy. They did, however, beat France 2-1 and England 1-0.
There is also a huge question mark regarding who will partner holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger after Sami Khedira suffered a torn cruciate ligament in November's friendly against Italy, putting his World Cup participation in doubt.
Players like Ilkay Guendogan, Toni Kroos or the Bender twins, Sven and Lars, could fill that role although none of them have the physical presence of the tall Real Madrid midfielder.
Coach: Joachim Loew Loew recently extended his contract to 2016. The 53-year-old has a very positive win-loss ratio in charge, having won 69 games, lost 15 and drawn 17.
Despite steering his team to a final and two semi-final spots in the three tournaments since he took over in 2006, Loew will not go down in German football history as a success unless he emulates predecessors Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schoen, Jupp Derwall, Franz Beckenbauer and Berti Vogts, who all won titles.
Having transformed Germany from a physically strong yet technically limited team into an attack-minded unit, making the best of the country's youth system to bring through a string of players, Loew is now eager to see his work pay off.
With German fans' expectations sky-high ahead of the World Cup, Loew knows any result other than a win or at least a final spot will be considered a disappointment.
Key player: Mesut Ozil Ozil's surprise move from Real Madrid to Arsenal for a reported 42.5 million pounds ($68.44 million) at the end of the transfer window in September smashed their club record as well as the that for a German player's transfer.
The playmaker is no ordinary midfielder. Gifted with some of the finest skills in modern football, capable of taking pace off the ball or slicing defences open with sensational passes, Ozil is indispensable for the Germans.
Accused by former club Real of not working hard enough, Ozil has quickly shown in England what he is made of, helping Arsenal to the top of the Premier League and their Champions League group in the opening months of the season.
Apart from dictating play in the last third of the pitch, Ozil also enjoys scoring, having netted 19 goals in 104 La Liga games over three seasons.
He has been even more successful for Germany with 17 goals in 52 internationals, prompting coach Loew to praise him repeatedly as a "genius". Ozil was also top scorer for Germany in the qualifiers, snatching eight goals.
How they qualified: Winners European Group C 2012 Sept 7 Faroe Islands H W 3-0 Goetze, Ozil 2 Sept 11 Austria A W 2-1 Reus, Ozil Oct 12 Ireland A W 6-1 Reus 2, Kroos 2, Klose, Ozil Oct 16 Sweden H D 4-4 Klose 2, Mertesacker, Ozil 2013 March 22 Kazakhstan A W 3-0 Mueller 2, Goetze March 26 Kazakhstan H W 4-1 Reus 2, Goetze, Guendogan Sept 6 Austria H W 3-0 Klose, Kroos, Mueller Sept 10 Faroe Islands A W 3-0 Mertesacker, Ozil (pen), Mueller Oct 11 Ireland H W 3-0 Khedira, Schuerrle, Ozil Oct 15 Sweden A W 5-3 Schuerrle, Ozil, Goetze World Cup record: Previous appearances: 17 (1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010) Best performances: Winners 1954, 1974, 1990 Runners-up: 1966, 1982, 1986, 2002 Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov.2013): 5-1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SPAIN Factbox on World Cup holders Spain: Form and Prospects Although the holders ultimately qualified comfortably for the finals, they struggled at times against the ultra-defensive tactics that the vast majority of their opponents fall back on.
Always able to dominate possession for long periods, they found it tough to break through massed ranks of defenders and 1-1 qualifying draws at home to Finland and France exposed a worrying inability to kill opponents off and a weakness for conceding late goals.
Coach Vicente del Bosque has a settled defence and a midfield built around the Barcelona trio of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso but it is up front where he faces perhaps his most difficult choices.
Often foregoing a traditional centre forward, Del Bosque has regularly deployed Barca playmaker Cesc Fabregas in a roving 'false nine' role with the likes of David Silva, Pedro, David Villa and Jesus Navas buzzing around on either wing.
The coach can also turn to the more muscular talents of strikers like Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Atletico Madrid's Brazil-born forward Diego Costa who has chosen to make himself available for his adopted country.
With his intelligent runs, strength on the ball, deadly finishing and prowess in the air, Costa could be just the player Spain need to unsettle opposition defences and he has some of the world's best passers to provide him with service.
Another conundrum for Del Bosque is the goalkeeping slot with captain Iker Casillas, a fixture for Spain for more than a decade, out of favour at Real.
Victor Valdes has been in inspired form for Barca this season but dropping Casillas, even if he is not playing regularly for Real, could unsettle the defence.
Del Bosque will want to avoid a repeat of June's Confederations Cup final, when an aggressive Brazil beat them 3-0 in Rio de Janeiro, so expect a more physical approach from a Spanish team that will still look to wear opponents down by dominating possession.
Coach: Vicente del Bosque Del Bosque pledged continuity when he succeeded Luis Aragones after Spain's victory at Euro 2008 and delivered spectacularly by leading the country to their first World Cup triumph in South Africa two years later and a second straight European Championship crown in 2012.
A self-confessed football romantic, the mild-mannered 62-year-old has led 'La Roja' to 68 wins in 84 matches, including an unbeaten qualifying campaign for next year's finals.
While Aragones favoured a brasher style and provoked his players in order to inspire them, Del Bosque is a more avuncular figure, quietly coaxing the best out of a hugely talented squad and fostering a harmonious atmosphere.
"It is better to lose than project a negative image," he has said. "You have to behave well and play fair."
Key player: Andres Iniesta The 29-year-old Andres Iniesta will always have a special place in the hearts of Spanish fans for scoring the dramatic extra-time goal that secured the country's first World Cup.
The pale, shy midfielder from the Manchegan village of Fuentealbilla has perhaps not been at his scintillating best this season but has a habit of scoring vital goals for club and country.
His extra-time winner against Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2009 showcased his fabulous technique and he popped up in exactly the right place to smash home the 116th-minute winner against Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg.
Xavi, Fabregas and Villa have strong cases for being considered Spain's star player but it will be no surprise if Iniesta again proves decisive at the finals.
How they qualified: Winners European Group I 2012 Sept 11 Georgia A W 1-0 Soldado Oct 12 Belarus A W 4-0 Pedro 3, Alba Oct 16 France H D 1-1 Ramos 2013 March 22 Finland H D 1-1 Ramos March 26 France A W 1-0 Pedro Sept 6 Finland A W 2-0 Alba, Negredo Oct 11 Belarus H W 2-1 Xavi, Negredo Oct 15 Georgia H W 2-0 Negredo, Mata World Cup record: Previous appearances: 13 (1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010) Best performances: Winners 2010 Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 5-1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SWITZERLAND Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Switzerland: Form and prospects Blessed with arguably the easiest draw of any of the World Cup finalists, Switzerland duly qualified without losing any of their 10 group games against Iceland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Albania or Norway.
As an added bonus, their results lifted them into the top eight of the FIFA rankings and they will be among the seeded teams for the draw on Dec. 6.
Flattering as those statistics maybe, Switzerland, who have successfully drawn on the large community of immigrants from the Balkans over the last few years, have plenty of reasons for believing they can at least reach the last sixteen.
Most of their players, such as Stephan Lichtsteiner and the Napoli trio of Gokhan Inler, Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami, are playing for top Bundesliga and Serie A clubs and are experienced competitors at the very highest levels.
They are led by wily German Ottmar Hitzfeld, one of Europe's most successful coaches at club levels with seven Bundesliga and two Champions League titles to his name.
Many of their players are young, skilful and tenacious and despite the Swiss reputation for being quiet and reserved, will not shy away from a confrontation as they showed in a feisty friendly win over Brazil in August.
Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld Ottmar Hitzfeld is one of only four coaches to have won the Champions League with two different clubs, having collected the title with both Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern Munich in 2001.
The German, who has been at the helm since 2008, has also won seven Bundesliga titles with the same two clubs, making him one of Europe's most successful coaches at club level.
Hitzfeld will be leading the Swiss to his second major tournament, having also been in charge at the 2010 World Cup where they bowed out in the first round despite a 1-0 win over eventual champions Spain in their opening match.
The 64-year-old has decided not to extend his contract and the tournament is likely to mark his swansong as a coach, leaving him to work as a television pundit in his native Germany.
Key Player: Xherdan Shaqiri, one of several Kosovo-born players in the Swiss team, is a crowd pleaser who could easily have come off the Argentine production line of diminutive, dribbling specialists.
Squat and pugnacious, he can weave his way past defenders, thread incisive passes through opposing defences and score goals from distance with his left-foot.
Shaqiri was raised at FC Basel, making his professional debut as a 17-year-old and winning his first Swiss title the same season.
He moved to Bayern Munich last season and confounded predictions that he would be frozen out of the first team as he made decisive contributions whenever called upon, helping the Bavarians win an unprecedented treble.
How they qualified: Winners European Group E 2012 Sept 7 Slovenia A W 2-0 Xhaka, Inler Sept 11 Albania H W 2-0 Shaqiri, Inler (pen) Oct 12 Norway H D 1-1 Gavranovic Oct 16 Iceland A W 2-0 Barnetta, Gavranovic 2013 March 23 Cyprus A D 0-0 June 6 Cyprus H W 1-0 Seferovic Sept 6 Iceland H D 4-4 Lichtsteiner 2, Schaer, Dzemaili (pen) Sept 10 Norway A W 2-0 Schaer 2 Oct 11 Albania A W 2-1 Shaqiri, Lang Oct 15 Slovenia H W 1-0 Xhaka World Cup record: Previous World Cup appearances (9): 1934, 1938, 1950, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006, 2010 Best performances: Quarter-finalists 1934, 1938, 1954 William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 100-1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- URUGUAY Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Uruguay: Form and Prospects Uruguay at a World Cup in Brazil is enough to send shudders down the spine of Brazilian fans given the stigma still attached to Brazil's most famous defeat when they lost 2-1 to the Uruguayans in the 1950 tournament's "Maracanazo".
That feat, winning the decider at the Maracana when a draw in the no-final format would have been enough for Brazil to lift the trophy should spur coach Oscar Tabarez's reigning South American champions to surpass themselves in trademark fashion on familiar South American soil.
And they have, of course, won the World Cup twice on the continent, winning the inaugural competition in Uruguay in 1930, followed up by victory in Brazil 20 years later.
In style the team is essentially the same as that which swept them to the semi-finals four years ago, playing 4-4-2 but breaking into 4-3-1-2 when in attack with Cristian "Cebolla" (onion) Rodriguez in the Diego Forlan "hole" behind Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Rodriguez has had the added incentive of wanting to reach the finals because he missed out on South Africa when a four-match suspension picked up in the qualifiers meant he would be unavailable for the first two group games and Tabarez opted to leave him at home.
The defence is virtually unchanged and the same three holding midfielders are available for selection starting with the in-form Egidio Arevalo Rios.
Generational turnover comes in the form mainly of forwards Gaston Ramirez and Cristhian Stuani, while Nicolas Lodeiro has matured over the four-year cycle and brings creative talent to the midfield.
Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez Nicknamed El Maestro (teacher), Tabarez has been in charge for more than 100 matches over two spells - 1988-90 and from 2006.
When he leaves the job his legacy will have been to head Uruguay's most successful national team since 1970 and provided a sound platform for future generations of Uruguayan players.
As coach, the 66-year-old has led Uruguay to the World Cup semi-finals in 2010 and the country's record 15th Copa America crown in 2011.
He has successfully handled the team's transition from one World Cup to the next, carefully introducing new talent while keeping the old guard fresh.
Diego Forlan owed almost as much to Tabarez as to his own skills when he was voted the best player at the 2010 finals in South Africa and at 34 he is still a key member of the squad, now in a supersub role.
Key player: Luis Suarez One of the top goal predators in the world, Suarez has forged a name for himself at the top of the game despite behaviour problems on the pitch, especially as a Liverpool player in England.
He is highly regarded by his peers and team mates and his ability to score all types of goals while also creating chances for those around him has helped turn Liverpool into potential Premier League title contenders this season.
Suarez reads the game extremely well and this allows him to dart into scoring positions by surprise or set up team mates. He runs tirelessly in and around the box and even as deep as the halfway line looking for the best option to link with fellow attackers.
He top-scored with 11 goals, one more than Argentina's Lionel Messi, in 14 appearances in the 16-match South American qualifying group, missing two through suspension.
He holds the Uruguay scoring record with a tally of 39, three more than Diego Forlan.
How they qualified - South American zone 5th place; winners of inter-continental playoff v Jordan 2011 Oct 7 Bolivia H W 4-2 Suarez, Lugano 2, Cavani Oct 11 Paraguay A D 1-1 Forlan Nov 11 Chile H W 4-0 Luis Suarez 4 2012 June 2 Venezuela H D 1-1 Forlan June 10 Peru H W 4-2 Suarez, Pereira, Rodriguez, Eguren Sept 7 Colombia A L 4-0 Sept 11 Ecuador H D 1-1 Cavani Oct 12 Argentina A L 3-0 Oct 16 Bolivia A L 4-1 Suarez March 22 Paraguay H D 1-1 Suarez Mar 26 Chile A L 2-0 June 11 Venezuela A W 1-0 Cavani Sept 6 Peru A W 2-1 Suarez 2 (1 pen) Sept 10 Colombia H W 2-0 Cavani, Stuani Oct 11 Ecuador A L 1-0 Oct 15 Argentina H W 3-2 Rodriguez, Suarez (pen), Cavani Intercontinental playoff Nov 13 Jordan A W 5-0 Pereira, Stuani, Lodeiro, Rodriguez, Cavani Nov 20 Jordan H D 0-0 World Cup record: Previous appearances: 11 (1930, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1990, 2002, 2010) Best performance: Winners 1930, 1950 Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 20-1
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