It’s been a little while since I’ve done a post, mainly due to exams, but I’m back with my thoughts about the World Cup that kicks off later today.
So the obvious place to start is with who is going to win the World Cup. Most people, myself included are fairly confident that the winners will come from a group of four teams; Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain. So first of the host Brazil, my personal favourites for the tournament. They have a very good, if not great squad, but in Neymar they have a great player, and as numerous teams in the past have proved one great player surrounded by a very solid squad is sometime exactly what you need to win it. They also have the most solid defence of any of the “big 4” in my opinion, Thiago Silva is pretty much accepted as the best centre back in the world, and Luiz, Dante are both more than capable of playing with him. Dani Alves and Marcelo are both fantastic full backs who can create going forward and defend in the greatest of Brazilian tradition. A lot of the doubts about Brazil have come from them being the hosts and the pressure that this then entails. But I think the way the played at, and won, the confederations cup last year can put some of those doubts to rest. Also we’ve seen numerous countries win the World Cup on their own soil, so it seems to have historically helped the hosts rather than hinder them.
Next is Argentina, many people favourites. This is most likely because of a certain Lionel Messi. He’s not had the greatest of seasons, but he’s still scored at a goal a game, and I have heard suggestions that he was saving himself for the World Cup towards the end of the season, so will probably go pretty well at this tournament. He’s also finally found a settled role in the Argentina team, which is what I believe was the main thing that contributed to a less than stellar performance in South Africa. As well as Messi they have Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria, Lavezzi as attacking options, which is enough to scare almost any defence. The reason I feel Argentina will fall short is the defence. Personally I don’t think it looks up to world cup winning standard. At the last World Cup they were going very strongly until they came up against a top team going forward, Germany, and got absolutely destroyed defensively, and I think something similar could happen this time.
Germany have a huge amount of midfield talent in their current crop of players; Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Draxler, Ozil, Podolski, Muller, Kroos, Schurrle to name a few, and thats the reason why you have to put Germany in the reckoning. It’s great to see Klose going to another World Cup with the opportunity to become the all time top scorer at any World Cups, and thats something you think he should manage as he only needs 2 goals. But this brings up to Germany’s first problem, they only have one striker in their squad, and he’s the wrong side of 35 so I’m a little worried whether he’ll be able to perform at a high level in every game. Also in defence Hummels and Lahm are both top class defenders, but the lack of a top class left back, and the fact Badstuber has been injured all season could really hurt them. I think Howedes would probably be the best partner to Hummels, but I doubt they’ll go that route. Instead it’s most likely that Boateng will play, whose a competent defender, but there are too many weakness in his game, Mertesacker is the other option, but he showed last season that he’s far too vulnerable too any team that has pace up front. Germany’s biggest problem however will obviously be the conditions. No European side has ever won the World Cup in South America, largely due to the heat and humidity that is a feature of the South America environment, but not Europe’s, which will cause huge problems not only for Germany, but for all the European teams.
Out of those European teams Spain are probably the best equipped to deal with the conditions. The way they play doesn’t involve expending as much effort as teams like Germany, instead they may tire other team with their passing football. They’ve finally found another top class striker, after a few years of searching, in Diego Costa, and that means they can stop trying to play Fabregas or Silva in a “Messi” or false 9 role, something which just doesn’t suit either of their games. They obviously still have so much talent in the midfield with Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta et al, but some like Xavi and Alonso are getting on a bit, whilst Torres and Mata have had pretty poor seasons for Chelsea and Man U. However in Koke they have one of the most versatile and talented young midfielders around at the minute, and it’s easy to see why Xavi labelled Koke as his natural successor. The defence is still essentially the same, Pique and Ramos are a very good centre back partnership, but there’s no real depth. Alba is a brilliant attacking full back, but I still have some reservations over his defensive ability, but I do believe that either Azpilicueta will be a step up from Arbeloa. I think they may just fall short because of the way that we say Brazil get in their faces and disrupt them in the final of the Confederations Cup, but I think it would be idiotic to ignore Spain.
Next I’m going to look at a couple of dark horses at this tournament. Belgium have developed something of a Golden generation and are many peoples dark horse pick at this world cup, I do think that this may be one tournament too soon for them, and that the conditions will not be in their favour, instead I’d look at them as serious challengers at the next Euros. I can’t believe than a lot of people are ignoring France, although in fairness so was I until a month or so ago. Pogba is promising to be on of the young stars at this World Cup and will be ably supported by the almost as exciting Matuidi, whilst Benzema and Griezmann offer a large threat up front, they will really miss RIbery, but I think that could make a couple of the younger players step up. But like all the European teams I think they will struggle with the heat and humidity. I think Portugal are worth a mention just because Ronaldo is, on current form, playing the best football of anyone in the world right now, but they rest of the team around him are not up to the standard of some of the other teams with a great player. Finally I think Chile could be a very outside the box idea. They’re in a group with Spain and the Netherlands, but if they can upset the Dutch and get out of it, then they could do very well in the tournament. In Alexis, Vidal, Isla and Vargas they do actually have some very good players, they will also be far more used to playing in South America conditions than the European teams, so watch this space, Chile almost certainly won’t win, but could have a Turkey/South Korea in 2002 esq impact.
It’s obviously incredibly hard to pick whose going to win the World Cup as it’s so unpredictable, but if I absolutely had to go for someone, then I would have to put my money on Brazil.