Brazil qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals as host nation which has allowed Phil Scolari to rebuild the national side as he bids to emulate the success he had at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan in his first spell as Brazilian coach.
The hosts avoided the demands of South American Zone qualifying but Scolari's youngsters were set a rigorous World Cup preparatin starting with the 2012 Olyomics in London where they were surprisingly beaten by Mexico in the final. Then followed a year of friendlies, beginning with a 4-3 defeat in Argentina before going on a eight-game unbeaten run which ended at Wembley in February 2013 when England won 2-1.
The next test of note for Brazil was the Confederations Cup held on home soil in the summer of 2013 when Scolari's men swept through the tournament in impressive fashion, beating World Cup holders Spain 3-0 in the final.
Second favourites in most bookmaker lists, Argentina have won the World Cup twice before, playing on their own continent on each occasion, Argentina 1978 where they beat West Germany in the final and Mexico 1986 when going to extra-time to defeat Netherlands 3-1. Coach Alejandro Sabella led Argentina to victory in the South American table where they finished two points ahead of Colombia with nine wins and five draws from their 16 qualifying games.
Argentina have what looks a kind draw in Group F, facing Bosnia-Herzogina, Nigeria and outsiders Iran. With a star-studded line up including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria, Argentina are many pundits idea of a banker to reach the semi-finals and one of the favourites to reach the final.
Germany have been the most impressive side in Europe since losing 2-1 against Spain in the semi-finals at Euro 2012. Joachim Low's team reached Brazil 2014 as clear winners of qualifying Group C with nine wins and a draw from ten games scoring 36 goals along the way, more than any other nation in the European qualifying zone.
The Germans rich World Cup tradition looks set to continue in the summer, they are third in the all-time World Cup rankings with three World Cup triumphs and have been runners up a further four times most recently in the last two finals in 2006 and 2010. On paper, Germany have a favourable to route to the latter stages with Portugal, Ghana and USA waiting in Group G. Low's charges will be a popular bet for top European side at the World Cup and could prove the biggest threat to the home continent giants, Brazil and Argentina.
Spain have dominated world football over the past five years, winning the 2012 Euros and head to Brazil as defending World Cup champions. The midfield has been integral to Spain's success and plaers like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso are expected to play a major role once again.
Vicente del Bosgue's side qualified for the World Cup easily enough, going throiugh the Group stage undefeated with six wins and two draws. But the WOrld Cup holders have drifted in the outright winner betting as flaws have begun to creep inot their game. The normally reliable defence has ket a clean sheet just once in the last five games leading up to the finals and strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa have been struggling to find their touch.
The 2014 World Cup draw could have kinder as Spain have been drawn with Netherlands. Chile and Australia to make Group I one of the most difficut routes to the knock out stages.
Belgium's golden generation have ambitions of matching their country's best ever World Cup achievement, reaching the semi-final in Mexico 1986. Marc Wilmotts squad oozes talent with the likes of Eden Hazard, Nacer Chadli and Vincent Kompany key figures in the side that ran out convincing winners of the World Cup qualifying group that included tough nuts, Croatia and Serbia.
The Belgians were one of the first Europeans sides to qualify, winning eight and drawing two of their ten group games. With a clutch of emerging young stars, Belgium could be a profitable team to follow at Brazil 2014. They will compete in Group H against Algeria, Russia and South Korea and it will be a major surprise if the fail to qualify for the knock out stages.
Colombia have only once made it past the group stage of a World Cup final, in Italia 90 when losing to Cameroon in the Round of 16. But the emergence of another golden generation more than 20 years later has given rise to hopes of a best ever finish at the 2014 World Cup.
The Colombians have continued to improve under the guidance of coach Jose Nestor Pekerman who took charge after the home defeat to Argentina in the third 2014 World Cup qualifying match. His side eventually finished runner up in the South American group finishing ahead of Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay. A good draw in Group C against Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan gives them an excellent chance of reaching the last sixteen. If Colombia's solid rearguard can hold out against the big boys they have one of the world's hottest strikers in Falcao to break through any defence.
The temperamental French have struggled in the shadow of the great team that dominated at the turn of the century after winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998. We've witnessed a series of self-destructions since but Didier Deschamps has moulded a squad with strength and solidity which could go far in Brazil.
France had litte room for error in qualification, being drawn in the same group as World Cup holders Spain with just five teams in all. Les Bleus had to cme through a testing playoff against Ukraine when they showed their resolve to come back from a 2-0 first leg deficit to win the second leg 3-0.
For their reward, France have been drawn in Group E with Switzerland, Ecuador anad Honduras from which they have an excellent chance of progressing. With players of the calibre of Franck Ribery, Krim Benzema and Eric Abidail, France could could be capable of upsetting a few in the knock out stages.
Uruguay were winners of the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and have since been runners up once and losing semi-finalists three times, most recently in South Africa 2010. It was a surprise therefore to see their collapse in 2012 when a run of three defeats and a draw put their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in jeopardy. Oscar Tabarez' men had to beat Argentina in the final South American group game to reach the playoff where they qualified with ease after beating Jordan 5-0 in the first leg in the Middle East.
Diego Forlan was Uruguay's inspiration in South Africa and in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, they have two players who can carry the flag in Brazil. Uruguay have been drawn in the 'Group of Death' with England, Italy and Costa Rica but the advantage of playing on their home continent could be a telling one.
With four World Cup titles and two runners up slots, Italy have the second best record in tournament history. It seems no matter how good or bad the Italians' form going into the finals, a route to the latter stages can always be found. Drawn in the Group of Death, count on Italy to dig deep into their tournament experience.
2014 World Cup qualification looked no formality when Italy drew a tricky Group B with Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria but the Azzurri qualified unbeaten to win the group six points clear of Denmark. Bookmakers are well aware of their tournament record so finding good value World Cup betting odds for Italy will be no easy task.
The Oranje purred to the 2014 World Cup finals amassing 28 points from a possible 30 to match Germany's record and finish join-top point scorers in the European qualifying section. The attacking trio of Robin Van Persie, Jeremain Lens and Arjen Robben will be a menace to any opposition and it's up to coach Louis Van Gaal to get his players to follow his lead and avoid a repeat of the dressing room politics that have marred previous campaigns. The Dutch are three-time runners up at the World Cup finals, most recently in 2010, but face a challenge to qualify for the knock out phase having drawn Spain, Chile and Australia in the Group of Death.
The Group runners up are likely to face Brazil in the Second Round which explains why such a classy squad as Netehrlands are a big price to win the 2014 World Cup.