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Jun 8, 2014

Ian Darke's World Cup one-liners

World Cup debates are raging and they can go on all night. So here's my easy-to-digest one-line take on all 32 teams.

Algeria: Too lightweight to repeat their shock win over West Germany in 1982 despite the threat of striker Islam Slimani.

Argentina: Huge attacking threat with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel di Maria. Potential winners if defence is half-decent too.

Australia: In transition and impossible to fancy unless it was a cricket tournament.

Belgium: Have their own golden generation led by Eden Hazard, but their defending and a lack of big tournament experience might find them out.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Some of these players are the children of terror in the old Yugoslavia and they have enough talent plus the goals of Edin Dzeko to make an impression on debut.

Brazil: Have to cope with impossibly huge expectations, but have the right blend of silk and steel to win a sixth World Cup with Neymar in the poster boy role.

Cameroon: Very poor at the past two World Cups and probably heading for another early exit.

Chile: Beat England at Wembley and outplayed Germany in a luckless defeat. Very dangerous outsiders in the conditions.

Colombia: The loss of key striker Radamel Falcao hurts them badly, but they qualified brilliantly. Will relish the heat.

Costa Rica: Even in a very tough group, their spirit and organisation make them nobody's pushovers. Might easily nick a point or two off Italy, Uruguay and England.

Croatia: Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic are at the heartbeat of a useful team. Starting and probably losing against Brazil might leave them playing catch-up.

Ecuador: Might win the World Cup if it were in sky-high Quito. Last-16 possibilities after a kind draw.

England: Dreadful four years ago, this team has a younger, fresher feel and could surprise if often-cautious head coach Roy Hodgson decides to let the likes of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley off the leash.

France: Have lost top player Franck Ribery, but possess enough talent to cash in on a draw which might give them a blindside run to the last eight at least.

Germany: Surprisingly without a trophy since Euro '96, and under pressure to deliver with a gifted group. Suspicion that a sometimes suspect defence may cost them.

Ghana: Within one missed penalty of the semis four years ago, the Black Stars look a threat with a classy midfield and the goals of Asamoah Gyan.

Greece: Notoriously hard to beat and possible loose cannons in Group C. But don't have enough quality for a long run.

Holland: Finalists three times without ever winning. Any team with Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder has a chance, but Chile threaten to nick second place away from them in Group B.

Honduras: Solid and spirited, they will defend for their lives.

Iran: Experienced coach Carlos Queiroz will need to turn water into wine. Even one point would be a surprise.

Italy: Despite poor form going in, coach Cesare Prandelli's adventurous Azzurri can go well so long as this is not a tournament too far for the little magician Andrea Pirlo.

Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba is getting old and Kolo Toure is recovering from malaria. Talented team who often disappoint at big tournaments, though a generous draw helps.

Japan: They play some pleasing and enterprising football with players from top leagues, but the defence is a worry.

Mexico: Lucky qualifiers, though with a revived spirit under coach Miguel Herrera, need striker Oribe Peralta to come off; otherwise will struggle to score.

Nigeria: Winless at past two World Cups, the African champions are tough and talented but disappointed at last year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, for all his brilliance, is yet to star at a World Cup. He will be desperate to outshine Argentina's Lionel Messi and Neymar. In that mood, he makes Portugal three times more dangerous.

Russia: Coached by Fabio Capello, who had a nightmare with England in 2010. Often flatter to deceive though striker Aleksandr Kokorin is one to watch.

South Korea: Looking to reach the knockout stages for the third time in four tournaments. Can't defend set pieces.

Spain: The defending champions are still very good, but the 3-0 defeat to Brazil in last year's Confederations Cup final leaves a big question mark.

Switzerland: Lost only one of 18 games going in; they are not to be underestimated with Bayern Munich's Xherdan Shaqiri a bundle of energy and a menace.

Uruguay: Rough, tough, disciplined, battle-hardened and with the flair of Luis Suarez -- if fit -- and Edinson Cavani, can go well deep again.

USA: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann leads a team built around keeper Tim Howard, Michael Bradley in midfield and striker Clint Dempsey. Will need to play above themselves to escape from Group G.