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World Cup 2014: Twelve Picks for an Investor's Dream Team


One dozen top FIFA World Cup teams profiled: What are their chances in Brazil? What's the top stock in each market?


The Super Bowl? Please. We navel-gazing Manhattanites gladly bought into the illusion that Gotham was the center of the solar system when New York (oh, all right -- New Jersey) hosted this year's gridiron extravaganza. Yet that match was watched by only 111 million people on a frozen February evening. Consider that approximately ten times as many will soon tune in to a World Cup final basked in Brazilian sunshine, and it quickly becomes clear fútbol -- not football -- is the only game in town.

The World Cup tournament began back in 1930, kicking off right alongside the Great Depression in a year S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) shares tumbled 25.15%. Now the benchmark bourse stands atop a historic high, but through it all the planet's most popular sport has held public imagination in thrall. With the competition set to start, let's look at 12 top teams, along with a homegrown stock selection to accompany each. Go long on these equities by making money talk in the finest Andrés Cantor fashion, and you just might score an investment gooooaaaallll.

Who's on the investor's dream team? Click to jump ahead.

England (see below)


World Cup pedigree and prospects: England won the tournament on home turf in 1966, when captain Bobby Moore accepted the trophy from Her Majesty in one of the iconic images of swinging London. West Germany was vanquished in the final, leading local fans to taunt the Teutons about having triumphed in "Two World Wars and one World Cup." More recent showings have been insipid, however, and being drawn in the Amazonian heat offers no help. A sprinkling of exciting young talent, refreshingly unburdened by the excessive expectation of old, hints at a solid if unspectacular showing this time around. Potential quarter-finalists, but anything more would be an unexpected bonus.

Player to watch: Steven Gerrard. Liverpool, birthplace of The Beatles, is a breed apart, being called "the only foreign city in Britain" and "in the north of England but not of the north of England." It is hugely ironic, therefore, that Albion's hopes will rest squarely on the shoulders of this Liverpool legend, whose club may supply fully half of the national team's outfield in Brazil. Now very much the lion in winter at 34, Gerrard's calm head and experience could be crucial. The midfielder also offers an impressive range of passing skills, plus penalty-taking precision not normally associated with his countrymen. He has a decent World Cup pedigree, having scored the quickest goal of all group games in South Africa in finding the net after only four minutes against the USA.

Famous fútbol feat: Geoff Hirst's World Cup final hat trick is still unprecedented, and the indelible piece of commentary it inspired remains similarly unequaled almost half a century on.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? London's fittingly named "Footsie" 100 (INDEXFTSE:UKX) has barely budged this year, but the economy is suddenly outpacing almost all of its continental cousins. UK output recently increased for a 15th straight month and "austerity England" is starting to spend again. In its annual report released late last week, Christine Lagarde's International Monetary Fund said it "clearly under-estimated" Britain's recovery. Much of the credit for the rebound goes to the so-called "George Clooney of Central Bankers" Mark Carney. It is somehow fitting that the heartthrob governor, who has kept sterling sound as a pound, actually hails from Canada. Raheem Sterling, expected to be a breakout star of England's World Cup squad, was born in Jamaica, and London continues to attract unprecedented amounts of foreign capital. Not least in its red-hot residential sector, where exiled oligarchs pay eye-popping prices for prime property. As a result, there are fears of a new housing bubble building, and the delightfully named Ed Balls -- finance head in the former government whom regular Minyanville readers know all about -- recently warned of "the risks from an imbalanced [real estate] market where...demand is outstripping supply."

Stock to score with: The aforementioned England-USA game took place when the gulf between the two countries was especially wide after BP's (NYSE:BP) well disaster of two months earlier had sent the fabled "special relationship" up in smoke. And what should happen in that match, played when American environmentalists were all aflame over an oil spill? Why, destiny determined that an English goalie named Green should suffer a spill. (Truly, Steven Spielberg on opium couldn't conjure up some of the scripts soccer produces, which is why it is such a compelling sport.) Four years on and the British petroleum giant Margaret Thatcher brought to market in the '80s has indeed "got its life back." Shares are up about 20% in the past 12 months, and an already-rich dividend was recently raised. Compensation costs remain a concern, but have been manageable thus far, and first-quarter earnings beat analyst estimates.


No positions in stocks mentioned.
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