What up world! This EJ, and while I typically do The Blog About Nothing around here, I wanted to throw my two cents into this year’s World Cup. I consider myself a big soccer fan, raised by an even bigger soccer fan, and instead of doing a preview of all 32 teams competing for the Cup in Brazil, I thought I’d give you three possible winners, and my dark horse team.
Before I get into that, I can’t believe it’s been four years since Spain beat The Netherlands to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It feels like yesterday. Actually, Italy beating France, and Zidane head butting Materazzi back in 2006 feels like yesterday. France beating Brazil back in 1998 feels like the day before that! It seems that every four years my nostalgia kicks in and I remember where I was and what I was doing for every World Cup Final I’ve been able to witness. I was born in 1981, so I obviously don’t remember the ’82 edition, and ’86 is a bit hazy, but I definitely remember 1990, and since then I’ve been World Cup crazy and soccer mad. I’m a first generation American who loves the game, and I can’t wait for the start of the Cup later today when Brazil faces off against Croatia.
Clearly, the host nation deserves the first mention as one of my World Cup favorites. A Selecao, the Selection, is the 5 time Champions of the competition. With wins in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002 it’s hard to count out the perennial favorites, especially when this Cup is being played on home soil. Led by Luiz Felipe Scolari, a.k.a. Big Phil (who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup win) the Canarinho are looking to make their fans sing with joy when the July 13th Final is over at the world famous Maracana in Rio De Janeiro. Captained by Paris St. Germain center back Thiago Silva, the star of Brazil will be winger/forward Neymar. The Barcelona player, will have the weight of his nation on his shoulders but the 22 year old showed last year at the Confederations Cup (also hosted by Brazil) that he’s ready for the pressure. He was the Player of the Tournament, winning the Golden Ball, as he led them to victory in the final over Spain.
Tactically from Brazil, expect Big Phil to line up his squad in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Essentially it’s four defenders in the back, two defensive/holding midfielders in front of them, three attack midfielders that will slot just behind the striker. Neymar will line up on the left wing, with Fred up top, but don’t be surprised if you see Neymar drift up with Fred. Neymar and Fred (and Hulk on the right side) could interchange and you may see this formation sort of shift to a 4-3-3 but as much as Neymar is the star of Brazil, keep an eye on midfielder Oscar. The Chelsea man, will be the straw that stirs the drink. He’s the focus of the attack and look for his passes to free up the attack towards goal.
Brazil will have an easy ride out of Group A, since it’s not expected Mexico, Croatia, or Cameroon, will stop the host side, and as long as the guys can play together and avoid some of the selfish play that has doomed past Brazilian squads, no one should be surprised if Brazil is the one lifting the Cup.
Another team you can’t count out are the defending Champions. La Furia Roja, The Red Fury, are the defending World Cup Champions, as well as the two time defending European Champions. What Spain has done the past six years deserve to go down history. Led by Vicente Del Bosque, and captained by goalkeeper Iker Casillas, this veteran Spanish side is out for one more gold star on their jersey. Spain is the only one of my three favorites where I can’t single out one player as a star, for Spain the stars are in the midfield.
Spain’s strength is it’s midfield. The midfield controls possession, and the controllers of the tiki-taka style Spain has now become known for. Initially a trait of Barcelona, the short passing controlled style has become all La Roja. Spain will line up in a 4-3-3 but don’t be surprised when Del Bosque fields a 4-6-0 where you’ll see four defenders, and six midfielders, with one of them playing up front in what is called a “false 9”. That formation is meant to control possession, and to keep their opposition off the board. If I have to pick one player to keep an eye on it would be midfielder Cesc Fabrgas, if Spain lines up in a 4-6-0, but if Spain does elect to go with a 4-3-3, four defenders, three center midfielders, 2 wingers, and a striker, then keep your eye on Brazilian born striker Diego Costa. The new Chelsea signee is going to have a lot of eyes on him, since he apparently spurned his native Brazil to play for his adoptive Spain. It will be very curious to see the reaction Brazilians give their countryman.
Spain’s road to the Cup is tougher than Brazil. Coming out of Group B, Spain will have to deal with The Netherlands (the team it beat in the 2010 Final), Chile and Australia. All four countries have extensive World Cup experience, and none of those three will be easy outs for Spain. If Spain wins the Cup, they would have battled their way through it against some real tough competition.
Finally, I come to the nation I think will win the World Cup: Argentina. I’m pretty high on La Albiceleste. The White and Sky Blue come into this edition as one of the older and battle tested team in the competiton. Led by Alejandro Sabella and captained by their star Lionel Messi, I really believe this is Argentina’s time to win their third World Cup, and the first since the great Diego Maradona led them to the title in 1986. The Cup being hosted by rival Brazil, and within traveling distance of Argentina, means that most Argentinian games will be more of a partisan affair and that’ll only help the team.
Argentina will line up in a 4-3-3. Four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. However, unlike Spain which plays a bit more of a flat 4-3-3, Argentina is really more of a 4-1-2-3, because midfielder Javier Mascherano really plays just in front of the defenders while the other two midfielders, are a bit closer up the pitch. Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi (or Angel Di Maria) are more than capable scoring goals as striker, and wingers respectively, but look for Messi to line up the left side, and drift through the center of the attack. Wearing the iconic #10 shirt, Argentina’s chances in the Cup will only go as far as Messi goes. Lionel Messi is arguably the best player in the World, but a World Cup title is missing on his resume. Will he stand up the pressure to take it?
Argentina will be advancing out of Group F. In their group, are first timers Bosnia, Iran, and Nigeria. No disrespect to those nations, but Argentina should roll out of their with ease. By being slotted in Group F, Argentina is in the opposite draw from Brazil so wouldn’t it be epic come July 13th to see Brazil vs. Argentina at the Maracana for the World Cup? I feel the whole World will drop whatever they are doing and watch that match.
I’m pretty high on the Belgians. Just not high enough to think the Red Devils can win this edition of the World Cup. However, if they have a strong campaign here I think you’ll be looking at a team that can win the 2018 edition in Russia, four years from now. Yup, I love Marc Wilmots’ crew that much. Playing in Group H with Russia, South Korea, and Algeria, the draw was very kind to Belgium. Belgium is a young side, with many of their players starring in the English Premier League. It’s a team full of young standouts, and a side that should scare the more traditional powers in the game.
The Belgians are interchangeable. They can line up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation. The focus should be on star man Eden Hazard. The Chelsea midfielder will line up on the left, but he can play centrally, and he should link up well with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku. Dries Martins, or Kevin Marallas will also be big in the Belgian attack rushing from the right side. In support of the back four will be holding midfielders Axel Witsel, Moussa Dembele, or Marouane Fellaini. However, Belgium’s strength and weakness is in their back four. Belgium is bringing 8 defensive backs to Brazil but four of them play centrally. So, you’ll see at least one of their back four playing out of position at one of the full back slots. I’d expect a back four of Vincent Kompany (the team’s captain), Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen to start. 3 of those 4 play in England, while the young Alderweireld recently played in the Champions League final with Atletico Madrid.
The reason why I’m so high on Belgium is that they are so young. Many of their key players are under 25, so this golden generation of Belgian football should be around for awhile. I’d expect Belgium to make the quarterfinals, and it wouldn’t stun me if they shock someone and make it into the semifinals. Keep an eye out on the young Belgians.
Finally, I have to mention two more teams. I follow two National teams. My parents home nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and I beamed with pride when the Soca Warriors represented in the 2006 World Cup, but I’m also a fan of the Three Lions. Yes, I cheer loudly for the English National Team. I sing God Save The Queen and I cheer on the boys. England will be in Group D, and have to contend with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. A pretty tough draw for Roy Hodgson’s men, but I’ll be rooting on the lads all the same.
I know that I’m American born, but I’ve never cared much for the Stars and Stripes. However, I’d be remiss to mention that the Americans play in the tough Group G, the Group of Death, and will have their hands full with Ghana, Germany, and Portugal. American coach Jurgen Klinsmann has taken some abuse for saying the Americans won’t win the World Cup but he’s right: they won’t. It would be damn near impossible for them to advance out of that group.
So, that’s my World Cup predictions for you. I hope you enjoyed the read, and if you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to voice that in our comments section. Thanks for reading. Peace.
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