Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 World Cup predictions

Predictions are a mug’s game – so here we go!

World Cup winners: Let’s just say it – Spain are great, they have been for years and over the past five years or so and despite being short a centre-forward they find ways to win. They truly are a team with no holes (especially with the acquisition of Diego Costa) and their manager knows how to get the most from them. The inability to win that plagued them for fifty years before the 2008 Euros has now been utterly reversed.

Finalist: Brazil. Boasting probably the iconic player of the tournament in Neymar, a fine supporting cast and a manager who borders on genius, the reason I haven’t selected them isn’t so much commentary on them but a reflection on how much faith I have in Spain (and Spanish football in general). However, this team depends more on three players (Thiago Silva, Luis Gustavo and Hulk) than you might suspect.

Third-place game: Germany vs Argentina, with Argentina coming out on top. The quality going forward that the Argentines have is mind-boggling: the best player on the planet, perhaps the fourth-best player on the planet (Aguero), and – according to the Guardian – the criminally-underrated 72nd best player on the planet (Angel Di Maria – he may be the 72nd “best”, but may rank in the top 20 in terms of actual impact).

This trident are backed by the wiles of Martin Dimichelis, Pablo Zabaleta, Javier Mascherano, while the elegance of Ezequiel Garay will shine in South American conditions. Unfortunately for Germany, a reliance on a goalscorer who is only two years away from using a Zimmer frame is just too great to achieve their lofty – and now increasingly tempered – ambitions.

Most overwhelmed team: Call it nationalism, patriotism or just plain jingoism – but despite having the toughest slate of games at the Cup, Australia will acquit themselves (relatively) well, thus taking themselves out of the running for this award. Another team with a tough draw is Honduras, who will face little-known South Americans Ecuador while also dealing with France and an impressive Swiss outfit that should have designs on the Quarter Finals.

Golden boot: It’s always Miroslav Klose, isn’t it? Germany have no other alternative (especially since false-9 Marco Reus has been bitten by the injury mosquito, Lukas Podolski hasn’t scored regularly in years and both Mario Gomez has been left home) so the Lazio frontman could take the chocolates again. Other alternatives include Argentines Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and even Swiss starlet Josip Drmic.

Breakout player: Ciro Immobile parlayed a great season with upstart Torino in Serie A into a big move to Champions League team Borussia Dortmund. He may win the starting striker position in Cesare Prandelli’s Italy side and runs direct – and, in direct opposition to his competitor for the job, Mario Balotelli – is one of the more selfless forwards you’ll find.
Dark-horse/breakout team: Don’t sleep on a Japanese lineup that features two absolute game-changers in Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda. Honda pwned the World Cup in South Africa but had to wait nearly until this tournament to get his long-mooted move to a “name” club (AC Milan). Japan have an almost fanatically-organised system, a quality goalkeeper in Eiji Kawashima and a reasonable group that’s been shorn of it’s biggest star (Radamel Falcao) and injury clouds another (Yaya Toure). It’s eminently possible that Japan exits Group C – to face either Uruguay or England in the second round.

Dark-horse breakout player: Australia are often typified as a nation of underdogs, who don’t back down in a contest (just don’t think about Harry Kewell – perhaps imagine of Lucas Neill instead). Australia’s best player may actually be their goalkeeper, a guy who’s expected to pick the ball out of his own net on anywhere between 5 and 25 occasions throughout the Socceroos’ expected two-week stint in Brazil. But Ryan is a talent apparently on the radar of clubs like Real Madrid, and may well earn himself a shiny new club with a solid Cup.

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