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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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Holland


World Cup pedigree and prospects: Moving from Orange to Brilliant Orange, expect another June swoon this wedding season from the Netherlands, whose lot in life is to be always the bridesmaids at international level. Three times they have reached the World Cup final, only to fail on each occasion, most recently four years ago against Spain. The side reached its apotheosis in 1974 and 1978, imbued with the aesthetically exquisite "total football" philosophy of Rinus Michels, later voted coach of the century. Holland won nothing more than untold friends in losing successive deciders to hosts West Germany and Argentina. Temperament is always an issue, but the talent, especially in attack with stars such as skipper Robin Van Persie, remains unquestioned. Spain, although not the force of four years ago, represents a formidable test for the first match, but subsequent games against Australia and Chile should ensure comfortable passage to the second phase.

Player to watch: An early bout with testicular cancer left Arjen Robben looking preternaturally old but, even at 30, the Bayer Munich winger remains fleet-footed. His theatrics occasionally infuriate, yet the forward's crossing skills and powerful shooting are a constant threat. He scored one and made one in last week's warm-up match against Wales.

Famous fútbol feat: As befits the land of Rembrandt, the Dutch are remembered less for medals won than the works of art they create on a football field. The Johan "Cruyff turn" debuted at the 1974 tournament, and its capacity to astound is undimmed after four decades.

Milan's Marco van Basten did manage to twin breathtaking skill with tangible silverware in winning Holland's only major trophy to date, the 1988 European Championship. His geometry-defying clincher from the most impossible of angles in the final against the Soviet Union made a fool of Isaac Newton, never mind the opposing goalkeeper.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? While escaping the worst of the financial crisis that bedeviled Europe's Club Med countries, Holland did endure 24 months of recession. A severe housing downturn especially impacted this nation, whose relative lack of heavy industry has historically engendered an economic mindset akin to "rent collectors." Outside of Amsterdam cafes, times are hardly high in this Low Country, but the Dutch are gradually getting their fiscal house in order amid a better budget backdrop.

Stock to score with: Don't be fooled by their tree-hugging hippie shtick. Everyone's favorite beatniks Ben & Jerry's sold their ice cream empire for a cool $326 million cash at the earliest opportunity. They did so to a consumer products powerhouse whose bevy of household brands are owned by a corporate behemoth that many households have still never heard of. Unilever (NYSE:UN) stock hit a historic high only last month, and it also offers investors a plump payout ratio of about 3.44%. Their ubiquitous products include Alberto Culver, Axe, Brylcreem, Dove, Lipton, Vaseline, and VO5. The company just pocketed $2.15 billion for selling its Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauce.


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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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