SAM MORSHEAD: WITH the climate as it is in Brazil, you would expect those teams that play with a South American swagger to prosper.
Into that bracket fall, obviously, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay but, while the rest of my colleagues on the Adver sportsdesk continue to write them off, I pick Spain above the lot of them.
They can tire teams out in 45 minutes, passing the ball around with subconcious ease until the opposition requires a half-time oxygen tank to fully recover before hitting them with a savage counter-attack out of nowhere and decimating spirits. It’s slash and burn football and it WILL WORK in Brazil.
There are some not-quite-dark horses to watch out for, namely Belgium, Uruguay and Chile, but don’t take your eyes off Bosnia - who have the capacity to reach the quarter-finals. I’d expect them to get out of their group in second place and would fancy them against any of the teams in Group E in the second round.
In a tournament I expect to be full of goals (it bloomin’ better be given my spread bets) the likely lads to be seen towards the top, for me, include Mirsolav Klose - who just loves netting in World Cups and Sergio Aguero - providing he stays fit.
As a final musing, I expect supporters of Holland to go home disappointed at a very early stage indeed.
Their squad is nowhere near the Total Football perfectionists of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s dull, uninspiring and insipid.
England, meanwhile, might just scrape into the second round. If they do, I’d back them to reach the last eight.
Now watch me get it all wrong.
STEVE BUTT: SORRY to disappoint everyone but England aren’t going to win the World Cup and I don’t think I’m in the minority with that thought.
However, the youthfulness of Roy Hodgson’s gives us a great chance of reaching the latter stages.
I hope the likes of Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley are given the chance to shine in Brazil. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what impact they can make at the greatest show on earth.
Predicting England’s chances is a tough one but I think we have the players to beat everyone in our group. Italy and Uruguay are no mugs but don’t rule out Costa Rica throwing in a banana skin along the line.
If Hodgson does blood the youngsters I can see us topping the group and if Luis Suarez is fit, I can see Uruguay sneaking through ahead of the Italians.
I think there are too many question marks over Italy and they’ve just lost their captain Riccardo Montolivo to injury. They are a bit temperamental and I think they will be the biggest flops of the tournament. Don’t expect Holland to do much either.
Hosts Brazil are the obvious favourites to win the tournament and, after all the controversy in the build-up, I can see the Brazilians pulling together as a nation and winning. However, I really like the look of the Argentina squad. With attacking options Like Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuian and Angel Di Maria I think they will be pretty unbeatable, so I predict an all South American final with the Argies taking the spoils.
Everybody knows the supreme talent Messi boasts and I think he will be the shining light of the World Cup although I think the clinical Aguero will edge him out in the goalscoring stakes.
Finally, it’s just left for me to pick a dark horse. I’d pick Uruguay but I’m not sure a side that boasts Suarez and Edinson Cavani counts as a dark horse.
Other than that I’d say Bosnia, purely because I’ve drawn them in the office sweepstake - fingers crossed they can shock the world!
ANDY WARREN: Has there ever been more pressure on a World Cup host nation?
The football public in Brazil aren’t exactly forgiving and demand victory but, sadly for them, I can’t see it happening.
I’m going for an Argentina victory. The environment suits them, they are bursting with goals and also have the steel at the back you need to win major tournaments.
Given that the eventual Golden Boot winner’s main body of work usually comes in the group stages, the fact the potent attack of Argentina take on the combined might of Bosnia, Nigeria and Iran makes me think the top scorer will come from Group F.
Messi is the obvious choice but for me it’s going to be Gonzalo Higuain, as long as he plays. I’m a big fan.
I guess being the World Cup’s top scorer will also make you one of the stars of the tournament but, while he’s not necessarily measured by how many goals he scores, Brazil and Chelsea star Oscar will be up there too as he pulls the strings from midfield for the hosts.
Many will look at Spain as candidates to supply an array of stars for the World Cup Dream Team but, for me, it’s the end of the road for this once feared side.
Being reigning world and European champions brings a weight of expectation which I can’t see them meeting and, while I fully expect them to reach the quarter finals, this is where I can see their journey ending.
It’s not going to be a great year for European teams as a whole, with Italy, Holland and France all falling well short.
Some of the lesser lights of South American football will be there or there abouts, with Chile and Uruguay also fancied to go far.
But my outsiders are Colombia, they came second in South American qualifying, just two points behind Argentina, and even Falcao out they have one a formidable attacking unit.
And what about England? They’ll make it out the group, as winners, no less, but my prediction is a second-round loss to Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast. Oh well.
TOM BASSAM: Brazil are going to win the World Cup, easiest prediction of the lot.
It may not be the strongest Brazil squad of all time but they still have enough quality and they are at home. A team featuring a spine of Thiago Silva, Dante, Fernandinho and Neymar should fancy their chances in any World Cup.
There are other factors to provide extra incentive, if required, for Scolari’s men. The spectre of Uruguay’s Alcides Ghiggia still hangs over Brazil from the last time they were hosts. There is also the need to pay back the disillusioned fans for the off-field costs of the tournament.
England will do well to get out a group that features a talented Italian squad and a Uruguay team featuring one the tournament’s most dangerous strike forces, albeit with injury doubts over Luis Suarez.
For the first time in a while there seems to be some realism in the national press about the team’s chances. Personally I would be happy to make the second round and go out trying to win against a better team.
No one wants to see a dismal draw against Italy in Kiev. The squad has less of the psychological baggage that comes with a history of failure, so hopefully they can afford to play with the freedom that comes from lowered expectations.
Six months ago top scorer would have been an easy choice with Suarez in top form. I’ll plump for Neymar, purely based on the logic if Brazil reach the final he’ll have the most opportunity to score. I’ll also back Miroslav Klose to break the World Cup goals record and Shola Ameobi to make use of his shop window.
Oscar is Brazil’s most important player and for consistency’s sake he will be the tournament’s star man. Belgium will not do as well as predicted, they are a good team but they are playing their first international tournament in 12 years in the unfamiliar surrounds of South America.
Dark horses are hard to come as the Twitter generation’s football knowledge extends beyond the big name players of the Champions League. Ivory Coast have an unheralded amount of attacking force and could do some damage so I’ll go for them as the surprise package.
MICHAEL REEVES: FINALLY, we don’t have to endure reams and reams of wasted paper saying that England are going to win the World Cup.
For me, Roy Hodgson’s men will be lucky to reach the last 16, but given the fact the nation NO LONGER expects they could cause a few surprises - like making the quarter-finals.
If England can make it out of group D, that includes Luiz Suarez’s Uruguay and four-time winners Italy, I’ll be happy.
There is talent in the England squad, Ross Barkley has shown this year at Everton if you’re good enough then you are old enough.
But when I look through the rest the squad it fills me with a sense of ‘is that the best we’ve got?’
Brazil, being the host nation, and of course having such great tradition in competition are for me the one who will be lifting the trophy.
They may not be the glittering all-star side of the past, but with players like Neymar, Daniel Alves and Thiago Silva they have quality littered throughout all areas of their squad.
Belgium, providing they can cope with the heat and humidity of Brazil, could go a long way with the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and talented youngster Adnan Januzaj.
But Spain, the 2010, with all their talent are coming to an end of the golden age and I can’t see them going past the quarter-finals.
The battle for the golden boot is likely to be a hotly contested one with Lionel Messi and Cristano Ronaldo taking centre stage.
But in South Africa they failed to live up to expectations and I think they will again leaving Neymar and Hazard to take the honours of lightning up the Samba nation.