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

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

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France


World Cup pedigree and prospects: You never know what you're quite going to get with the Gauls. France crashed out at the first hurdle as defending champions in 2002, made it all the way to the final when dismissed as no-hopers four years later, and saw a talented squad exit in last place amid infighting on the fields of South Africa. (Parisian philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre didn't know the half of it when he existentially opined, "In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.") This time the side only scraped in via a playoff, but a relatively easy group demands entry into the second round at least. The late injury-related withdrawal of flying winger Franck Ribéry -- born by the beaches of Normandy and ruled out on D-Day -- is a blow.

Player to watch: Paul Pogba is barely 21 but already commands central midfield with the authority of a grizzled veteran, as this weekend's enormous transfer fee rumors involving his services eloquently attest. The stamina and box-to-box engine that have made him one of the most coveted young talents in world of football will be especially invaluable in the heat of Brazil.

Famous fútbol feat: Everyone remembers Zinedine Zidane losing his head in the 2006 final, a mad moment that the land of frogs legs later immortalized in bronze, but eight years before ZZ blew his top, he won the gold for France by twice employing his cranium for more productive purposes. Almost half an hour into a man-of-the-match performance for the hosts, Zidane powered a bullet header past the Brazilian goalkeeper. He repeated the trick from a corner on the opposite side only 18 minutes later, no mean accomplishment for a central midfielder. Cue the greatest scenes of jubilation seen in France since the Liberation, with this multicultural team taking the trophy for the first -- and so far, only -- time.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? For a country that gave us the word "entrepreneur," many of its most enterprising examples are decamping for foreign fields, looking to escape sclerotic growth rates and onerous public sector red tape. Indeed, not for nothing is London now known as "France's sixth largest city"; Nicolas Sarkozy even campaigned there in the last election. Unemployment remains at a record high, with 25% of the country's youth currently without work.

Stock to score with: In April the Internet erupted with news that the land of 35-hour workweeks had banned responding to office emails after six o'clock in the evening, but telecom titan Orange (NYSE:ORAN) makes money talk 24/7. Stock in France's largest phone company has surged 70% in the past year. A recent round of merger speculation in the mobile arena could provide additional upside. The firm also owns 50% of British wireless market leader Everything Everywhere.

NEXT PAGE: Holland

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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