2014 World Cup Stock Watch: Buy Argentina, Sell Spain, Hold USA, Portugal

Lionel Messi Argentina 2014 World CupNow that all 32 competing nations at the 2014 FIFA World Cup have played at least one game, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve seen. Literally.

Some teams and players have surpassed our expectations. Others have let down their fans (and fantasy owners) in a big way. Many have performed as well as expected.

This is our first 2014 World Cup Stock Watch. After each round of games (three in the group stage, one in each knockout round), we’ll look at some of the big movers in the tournament in an effort to predict which direction their value will head in the coming days and weeks.

You know how this works. “Buy low, sell high” is the name of the game. Let’s go.

Buy

– England’s Wayne Rooney: Rooney set up England’s goal in its loss to Italy, but he made little impact otherwise. Rooney faces intense criticism and there is a chance he could lose his starting spot. England faces a deflated Uruguay next, and there’s nowhere to go but up for Rooney, whose stock has plummeted in recent days.

– Argentina: Lionel Messi and Argentina struggled for long stretches against Bosnia-Herzegovina. But once Messi put Argentina ahead by two goals, the South Americans showed what they are capable of during a passing masterclass in the final 20 minutes. Argentina has room for improvement, and it will start against Iran.

– Ghana: The Black Stars showed their undoubted class in a tough loss to the United States. Ghana faces Germany next and will be flying into its third game against Portugal if it earns at least a draw.

Sell

– Iker Casillas, Spain: Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque faces an impossible choice after the drubbing the Netherlands gave his team. Either del Bosque drops goalkeeper Iker Casillas and risks unsettling his squad, or he sticks with his captain, hoping Casillas doesn’t have another nightmare performance against Chile in a game Spain can’t afford to lose. Things are looking bleak for the reigning world champions.

– Japan: The Samauri Warriors looked good for an hour against Ivory Coast before conceding twice in two minutes and losing the game. The last half hour of the loss suggests Japan may not be up for a fight against Greece.

– Nigeria: The young Super Eagles were underwhelming in their goalless draw against Iran, and the road grows trickier from here. Nigeria faces Bosnia-Herzegovina (which was admirable in defeat to Argentina) next, and the opening games lead us to believe that the Europeans will be in Brazil longer than the Super Eagles.

– Iran: Team Melli drew against Nigera but faces Argentina then Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sell now. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Hold

– Portugal: The Group G opener against Germany was an unmitigated disaster for Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, but all is not (yet) lost. If Portugal defeats the United States and Ghana, it will advance to the knockout rounds with some momentum. But Portugal must improve right away.

– Mario Balotelli, Italy: Balotelli scored the game-winner against England, but that’s what the high-priced striker is supposed to do. Italy faces a surprisingly impressive Costa Rica next. Balotelli could score in another Italy win, but that won’t raise their values above current levels.

– United States: Team USA is buzzing after defeating Ghana, but it can’t afford to let up, as Portugal, then Germany, beckon. Th United States will be without Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler is questionable, and Clint Dempsey might play with a broken nose. We’ll could find out Sunday if Team USA has enough depth to withstand the casualties that inevitably come about in tournament play.