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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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Spain


World Cup pedigree and prospects: Let's keep playing among the PIIGS, but move from first to last. Actually, on the fútbol field, although clearly not economically, Spain is second to none. The reigning champions have won an unprecedented three straight titles, with the 2010 World Cup sandwiched in between continental crowns captured in 2008 and 2012. What had historically been unwieldy cliques of underperforming players from Cataluña, Madrid, and the Basque country has gelled into the most formidable unit in world football over the past decade. The smart money says that this squad is past its pomp, and indeed the last team to successfully defend its title was Brazil way back in 1962. That no European side has ever won a World Cup staged on South American soil further suggests that this is where the dynasty dies. A team whose midfield alone boasts the luminous likes of Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Juan Mata, Cesc Fábregas, and Xavi Hernandez can never be counted out, however.

Player to watch: Real Madrid's defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso is a metronomic presence for both club and country. His tempo-setting passing keeps the team ticking over and allows more celebrated individuals to shine further forward. This may be Alonso's international swansong after a career spanning 110 appearances. He's also capable of scoring the occasional long-range goal.

Famous fútbol feat: Considering that its 2010 tournament kicked off with a loss to lowly Switzerland, Spain proved an exceptionally quick learner in South Africa. Iniesta, after winning the final with his dramatic late shot, wheeled away in triumph to unveil a T-shirt honoring a colleague taken tragically too soon. Under the sport's arcane rules, the gesture preposterously earned him a caution, but that proved a small price to pay for such an emotional moment of glory.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? The eurozone's fourth-largest economy has successfully stopped the bleeding after a half-decade-long recession. Growth is good by the paltry standards of the region, and the government is readying a 6.3 billion-euro stimulus package. That said, almost six million people remain without work, a figure that football-loving Pope Francis has called "inhumane."

Stock to score with: Until two years ago this very week, Banco Santander (NYSE:SAN) was saddled with the most embarrassing stock symbol in all of finance. There is absolutely nothing shameful about the share-price performance since, with it up about 50% in the past 12 months alone. The balance sheet continues to strengthen, and at almost 8%, its payout ratio is among Europe's highest. First-quarter results came in ahead of consensus expectations amid higher net interest margins in the United Kingdom. Santander, one of the world's top-10 banks by market cap, also offers investors US exposure through its former Sovereign branch network and is a way to play increasing affluence in Latin America.

NEXT PAGE: Colombia

No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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