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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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Russia


World Cup pedigree and prospects: Whatever the country's assorted incarnations, the Soviets have historically tended to arrive Back in the USSR before the World Cup's first postcards have landed in the mailboxes of Moscow. It is an ignominious history that includes allowing an arthritic Roger Milla of Cameroon, at age 42, to score against it in 1994 for what remains the most geriatric goal ever in the finals. This time a formidable Belgium side, the dark-horse choice of many to win the trophy, block their path. Algeria and South Korea are more beatable opponents, but expect Russia to enjoy quite the quantum leap at the 2018 tournament. That's when it will be a controversial host, and referees -- fearing President Putin has ordered up either servings of radioactive sushi or an unfortunate accident in the bath for any official who doesn't toe the line -- are expected to be unusually generous to the home team.

Player to watch: Truth be told, a prosaic collection of Denisovs, Shirokovs, and Zhirkovs is unlikely to thrill in Brazil. Amid the mediocrity, CSKA Moscow playmaker Alan Dzagoev stands out. He won't turn 24 until next week, yet the Beslan-born midfielder already boasts an impressive pedigree, having been joint top goal scorer in Euro 2012.

Famous fútbol feat: Net, nyet? The second most analyzed film of the '60s, after Abraham Zapruder's in Dallas, also involved a contentious shot. With the World Cup final between England and Germany in extra time and on a knife edge at 2-2, Geoff Hirst hammered in an effort only to see it cannon back off the crossbar. Did it go in? That remains up for debate, although subsequent high-tech forensic analysis suggests not. Nevertheless, Azerbaijani linesman Tofik Bakhramov adjudged the ghost goal to be good, and England took the trophy.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? Russia's deathbed demographics do not augur well for a country called "Upper Volta with missiles." In May, Moscow's Micex Index (INDEXCF) jumped almost 10% for its best month in three years, but the crisis in Ukraine continues to weigh heavily on this extraction economy. The IMF expects growth of only 0.2% this year, a figure that could easily tip into a recessionary reading once sanctions start to bite.

Stock to score with: For investors, Russia is the Wild Wild West right now due to geopolitical risks, but energy giant Gazprom (OTCMKTS:OGZPY) remains one potentially lucrative option. The company just inked a 30-year, $400 billion deal with China that was the toast of the Wall Street Journal and, while the true benefits of that agreement are still several years away, America's much-touted shale boom is not about to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy any time soon. In the meantime, Putin's cronies continue to supply the continent with fully one-third of its natural gas needs.

NEXT PAGE: Germany

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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