Predictions, right or wrong go hand in hand with the World Cup like some beautifully ironic couple you see walking down the street. At first glance, the awkwardly short man who’s pulled a 5’8 blond model strikes a questionable chord with your intellect.
You immediately resort to predicting and analyzing (if you’re honest with yourself) how you can land said women and how short man has figured out the secret. Your thoughts escape all rationality as you assume he’s either A. loaded and she’s with him for his money, or B. he’s loaded somewhere else. This pairing of short man, tall beautiful woman can’t possibly be in the realm of what humans understand to be factual or legit. Because, in fact (but not really) you are better looking, more funny, more charming and can offer her way more than George Costanza every could. Are our football clubs or nations compared so differently?
You continue to predict, to analyze, to formulate, to hypothesize until the couple wanders past you and out of your eyesight until you’ll ultimately never see them again. This unfortunate mental discourse occurs in our minds and with ourselves in situations ranging from birds to sporting events to why the cute bartender seems to always ignore you when ordering another round. Why? – you ask yourself. Realistically yet not satisfyingly answered: it’s what we do.
In football, everyone’s an expert, everyone’s a pundit. Why do we force ourselves to make such brash predictions and conduct analysis concerning the outcome of matches and tournaments when the eventual result can be a variable so minute and insignificant, it could never be planned, prepared or expected?
As we inch closer and ever closer to June excitement and thoughts of glory, we just can’t help trying to convince ourselves that our country can overcome anyone in their line of sight and why our rivals will ultimately fail. Is it simply our lack of faith in our own that provokes us to tear down those around us? (We’re taller and better looking than the short man) Must we see it in writing to convince ourselves and our fellow like-minded friends that YES! we can do it? We may never really know the intricacies of the mind, but until we land that 5’8 blond model, or until our country wins the World Cup, we’ll have to continue our insignificant little predictions (England, be the George Costanza).
There’s always one favorite when a World Cup approaches that usually begins with the letter B. This country is usually followed by 2 or 3 teams that “could win it”, which is then followed by 3 or 4 that have an “outside chance”. Mostly the phrase “with a little luck” proceeds these countries’ chances for world domination. By the eve of the opening match, all 32 nations seem to have a fortuitous or whimsical shot at glory which clearly means we know not of what we speak and we’re no closer to correctly predicting a winner than we were four years ago.
Brazil of course will exit their group most likely as winners. A fantastic crash and burn of first round elimination most likely won’t be seen in mine or any others lifetime. Yet their ability to conquer the world for a sixth time seems oddly impossible in 2010. Here’s a few reason why:
1. Weather – The much maligned and much talked about South African winter will be in full effect come June and will likely give a slight advantage to the European countries who are used to and comfortable playing in cold conditions. Brazil did in fact win last summer’s Confederations Cup playing under the same conditions, but it was a tournament of less games and lesser competition. Look for the chilly weather to change the style of the Brazilians play and unfortunately force those skimpy-top-wearing female Brazilian fans to cover up a little more.
2. Not Enough Brazilian Outfield Players Playing for Top European Clubs – With the exception of a few, the majority of the recently named Brazil squad aren’t playing club football in the top 15 European clubs. Maicon and Lucio represent Inter Milan, Dani Alves from Barcelona, Kaka with Real Madrid and a few Roma players thrown in are surround by representatives from across Europe and South America such as Cruzerio, Benfica, Panathinaikos, Galatasaray, Flamengo, Santos, Wolfsburg, Fiorentina and Villarreal. All solid clubs domestically, yet not tested on a major European stage. Will the domestic season they’ve just come off of prepare them for battle against the world’s best?
3. Kaká - The once talismanic figure of Brazil and best player on the planet, Kaka has been a quiet shell of his former self since moving from Milan to Madrid scoring only 8 goals and contributing 7 assists in La Liga with los Blancos this season. Has the 28 year old already lost his searing pace that saw him conquer Europe with AC Milan in 2007 and put fear in the hearts of defenders the world over? Brazil will need Kaka at his pacey and creative best if they are to overcome an equally as strong midfield and win the World Cup. I don’t see Kaka having a major impact at this tournament based on his form for club and believe his best days are already behind him. Kaka’s drop in form will be a loss to Brazil who naturally thrive on his quick passing and link up play with strikers from midfield.
4. Dunga Doesn’t Seem Confident – Brazil produce some of the best and most naturally talented footballers on the planet and thus have a huge talent pool to pick from. Dunga left out three of the (arguably) most talented of the lot in Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Adriano. The three players combined have 73 goals scored for Brazil between them. Also, going against the grain, Dunga has already picked his final 23 man squad to go to South Africa with 7 waiting in the wings as last minute replacements as opposed to picking a 30 man squad to start with and trimming it down like other nations. Does his over confidence breed recklessness? Why leave out the brilliant Pato and experience of Adriano and Ronaldinho? Questions that will soon be answered when Brazil take the field in June.
5. Who is the Star on this Brazil Team? – Don’t get me wrong, this is a darn good squad. Brazil will always compete on the international stage, but in my opinion, this Brazilian squad lacks a natural leader who will take the enormous weight of expectations off that of the other players and take the hopes and desires of a nation as his own burden. Brazil’s best player is quite possibly Dani Alves at right back who may not even start as he’s recently been second choice to Maicon. Robinho has been in great form at Santos scoring goals left and right, but we all know his rock star tour of the Brazilian league and his subsequent terrorizing of center backs in Brazil won’t prepare him for the staunch and physical defenses of European countries (see under his high-tailing it out of England for home).
Kaka has been out of form, the midfield is solid yet not striking fear in opponents, central defense will be class and I’m sure Luis Fabiano will score goals. However, there remains a large ? around the ability of this Brazil squad to congeal and put together a World Cup winning run this time around in the cold and competitive South Africa.
5 Reasons Why England Could Win the World Cup
1. Weather – As adversely as the cold conditions in South Africa could hinder teams who thrive in warm weather, it will benefit those who thrive in cold. Look for England, Germany, France and others to have no problem adjusting to the winter as they play the majority of their domestic seasons in harsh winters and will enjoy a tournament without the physically demanding warm temperatures. As silly as it sounds, weather could play an interesting factor as the tournament progresses on.
2. Wayne Rooney and the Emergence of a Natural Leader – As Brazil looks for a natural attacking leader, England have one chomping at the bit and ready to carry the hopes and dreams of an entire nation on his shoulders. Not prone to succumbing to pressure in recent years, Rooney makes players around him better and is sure to be match fit and in top form after the short, but much needed rest he’s been on in recent weeks. Four years better, smarter and more mature than his moment of madness-not 100% match fit appearance at the 2006 Cup, England’s success or failure will ultimately depend on Rooney’s ability to create for those around him and score goals himself. Look for Wayne to have a breakout World Cup performance and take England deep into the tournament.
3. England Players are Peaking or Reaching Match Fitness at the Right Time – Chelsea FC just completed a domestic league and cup double with an English spine of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole contributing off the bench. All will be involved for the national team with other players from Manchester United (runners up), Tottenham Hotspur (fourth) and Aston Villa (sixth) surrounding the Chelsea players who enter the World Cup with all the confidence in the world. Ledley King and Rio Ferdinand seem to have put the worst of their injury concerns behind them and at the right time for their country.
4. England Players are Tried and Tested Against the World’s Best – The debate may never be settled, but England’s Premier League is widely considered to be the strongest domestic league in the world where the top footballing talent come to work. Take for example this weekend’s FA Cup Final that witnessed a battle of first against twentieth. Relegated Portsmouth gave Chelsea a truly good game where Pompey realistically could have taken the lead or won and remained in the game until the final whistle blew. All of England’s final 23 man squad will apply their trade in the Premier League and most have seen Champions League football in their career. Their experience playing against the best footballers in the world will come in handy when the World Cup starts in June. The England players are physical, strong and know how to see out competitive, close fought matches.
5. The Brilliant Fabio Capello – When it comes to tactics, discipline and instilling confidence in your players, England have an advantage in the talent of an Italian master. Capello has won trophies everywhere he’s been and will not stand for lackluster or sorry performances from his players. He’s eliminated distractions while getting better results from a group of England players who failed to qualify for the last major tournament, Euro 2008. England’s success at the World Cup will be set up by Capello and executed by the players. The formations, tactics and substitutions you see from England this summer won’t be circumstances of coincidence, they’ll be well thought out, calculated movements from a brilliant manager like those on a chess board.
Regardless of what happens, I feel this tournament will be one of the best, most watched and most analyzed tournaments in World Cup history. If anything I say is correct, it will most definitely be my favorite.