FIFA World Cup Brazil pairings are about to be set and Nike takes an early lead

FIFA World Cup Brazil pairings are about to be set and Nike takes an early lead

The 32 participants are set for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The next step is learning the pairings, set to be announced Dec. 6.

The nations that have qualified: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil (host nation), Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States.

Patriotic preferences aside, the three major soccer brands — Nike, Adidas and Puma — have another way of looking at the final roster of teams. That is, whether their sponsored squads made it to the dance.

The champion is not known, of course, but the edge at this early stage of the game goes to Nike with 10 teams, Adidas with 8, and Puma with 8, “other” with 6. Adidas can claim the top four ranked teams in FIFA, with Spain, Germany, Argentina and Colombia.

Adidas also boosted its global soccer stock Thursday when it announced it had extended its agreement with FIFA through 2030 to secure Official Partner, Supplier and Licensee rights for the FIFA World Cup and all FIFA events. Uncannily, Adidas has had what it takes to satisfy FIFA and keep that partnership going since 1970.

One of the intriguing side stories sure to develop after play begins in Brazil is the running debate over who is the better soccer player of them all: Lionel “Leo” Messi of Argentina or Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.

It also could shape up as another battle of the brands as Messi, who plays professionally for FC Barcelona, is sponsored by Adidas (the company has made clear he will be a focal point of marketing efforts going forward) and Nike is aligned with Ronaldo, who plays professionally for Real Madrid. If social media metrics for the dueling forwards are any key, Ronaldo leads in Facebook likes, 64.9 million to Messi’s 50.8 million.

Also, The Associated Press notes, five soccer superstars — Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden, Gareth Bale of Wales, Robert Lewandowski of Poland, Petr Cech of the Czech Republic, and Christian Eriksen of Denmark — won’t be playing in the World Cup because their countries failed to qualify.

— Allan Brettman