With many experts feeling 2010 champions Spain could be past their best and with a huge weight of expectation on hosts Brazil, there could be an opportunity for a nation outside of the usual suspects to break through in Brazil this summer.
Here we look at the dark horses for Brazil 2014:
With attacking quality in abundance and a defence marshalled by the man many believe to be the best in the business, Belgium are probably the team most likely to put a new name on the roster of World Cup winners. The attacking talent available to them - led by the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens - will be the envy of many, even without the injured Christian Benteke. With Vincent Kompany at the heart of the defence in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, one of Atletico Madrid's brightest stars this season, there is a reassuring solidity at the back too. Also in the mix, intriguingly, is Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj, who recently committed his future to the country of his birth. Kompany said: "We have great players in the team so hopefully for the World Cup we will have a great performance as well."
By rights any team with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani available to them ought to be among the favourites for any tournament. In truth though, despite having been semi-finalists four years ago and being ranked sixth in the world by FIFA, few will be expecting Uruguay - whose last World Cup win came in 1950 - to mount a serious challenge. That's because of a woeful qualifying campaign which saw them scrape into the tournament via a play-off with Jordan. Group D opponents England and Italy will not be underestimating the Copa America champions, though, even if their coach Oscar Tabarez is playing down his side's chances. "In football there is a first world and a third world. We in Uruguay are not among the powers, not even in the South American region," he said.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's loss was Cristiano Ronaldo's gain when Portugal beat Sweden in the qualification play-offs. Portugal, ranked a generous third in the world rankings, are not a great team, but they do boast, on form, the world's greatest player. And if you're tempted to think one man cannot do it alone, it is worth remembering what happened in that Zlatan v Cristiano battle back in November - a 4-2 aggregate win for Portugal with all six goals scored by the tie's two great players. It might seem like an unbearable burden, but the Real Madrid star said: "I won't be putting myself under any pressure; I don't have to prove anything to anyone. I've spent many years playing at the highest level."
One of the more intriguing issues when the provisional squads for the World Cup were unveiled was whether or not Radamel Falcao would be named by Colombia. The Monaco striker has not played since January when he sustained cruciate ligament damage, but was nonetheless chosen by coach Jose Pekerman. In conditions that should suit them and with players like Jackson Martinez available, Colombia could make an impression without Falcao but any hopes of winning the tournament surely rest on the fitness of their star man.
Fans hoping for that elusive first win for an African nation will be looking to Ivory Coast once again. In truth, though, their moment may have passed. With star men like Didier Drogba coming to the end of their careers, this is surely the final final chance for their perennially under-performing golden generation. There is also concern over a fatigued Yaya Toure, who picked up an injury on the final day of Manchester City's successful Premier League campaign. "It's clear that if Ivory Coast hopes to go far it will depend upon a successful World Cup from Yaya Toure," said coach Sabri Lamouchi.