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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?


World Cup pedigree and prospects: Record five-time winners, host Brazil hasn't lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. Last year it won the Confederations Cup, a traditional tune-up for the tournament, by beating Spain in the final. The likes of David Luiz, Dani Alves, Paulinho, and Oscar all ooze quality, even if a traditional emphasis on attack does leave occasional gaps at the back. It is no wonder that the samba boys have been made favorites by the bookmakers. (And Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), although economists at the "great vampire squid" can't hold a candle to the predictive powers of Paul the Octopus, even as he now sadly sleeps with the fishes.) Still, the "Soccernomics" of a World Cup that cost up to $18 billion -- and tragically killed eight construction workers -- haven't gone over at all well with many in this fútbol-crazed country.

Player to watch: If he can avoid Wall Street's dreaded cover curse, Messi's Barcelona teammate Neymar could take the games by storm. A supremely gifted 22-year-old striker who plays with all the flair we expect of his countrymen, the golden boy of Brazilian football boasts 31 goals in only 49 appearances for the national team.

Famous fútbol feat: Too many to mention, but the 1970 Brazilians truly were a thing of beauty. They made the game come alive in the first tournament to be broadcast in glorious Technicolor. Even the team's near misses were exquisite, with it needing the "save of the century" to deny Pelé, while the same player also came close to scoring from fully 50 yards out. But boy, could they finish. Carlos Alberto's goal in the final against Italy, the last act of a famous 4-1 win, is enshrined in the pantheon of the game's greats.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? It's all relative, of course. Compared to the dreaded banana-republic-dictatorship days of the 1970s, lady luck is smiling on Latin America's largest country. Brazil's unemployment rate, at a record low of 4.9% in April, would make America blush. Yet the sense of gloom is pervasive, with annual inflation surging to 6.37%, growth averaging only 2% over the past three years, and S&P having cut the country's credit rating in March. Although the World Cup is expected to generate approximately $11.1 billion in spending, a persistent drop in commodity costs hints at longer-term malaise. This BRIC -- a term coined by an avid football follower -- has suddenly hit a wall.

Stock to score with: During happier times, over the course of one heady week in late 2007, Brazil was awarded the World Cup and its state-owned energy powerhouse Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) announced a multibillion-barrel oil find. Shares swiftly rose to a record but have since fallen sharply in the wake of acute mismanagement and a corruption scandal. This offers investors an opportunity to buy a quality company that currently trades at a steep 35% discount to its 15-year average. Shares have lately shown signs of life, and Petrobras stock should start to benefit as earnings comparisons increasingly ease.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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