The world will certainly face countless challenges in 2014, but seven countries in flux stand out in the crowd, according to NBC News. There is Afghanistan, where the Taliban is growing strong again just as most American troops get ready to leave in 2014. All eyes will be on Brazil as 32 teams and thousands of fans roll into the country for the World Cup in June. Iran took a massive step toward rapprochement and could go all the way and hand over its nuclear program in exchange for a complete lifting of sanctions. Russia will kick off 2014 as host of the Sochi Winter Games. The death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and national elections in the spring will provide a test for South Africa’s young democracy. Syria’s President Bashar Assad appears stronger than at any point in the civil war and is set to run for another term. And China, having promised prosperity at home and power abroad, will have to carefully navigate the suspicions of its neighbors. Click through for more of NBC News' analysis.