It’s here! Forget FIFA corruption, criticism of Brazil’s preparations, England’s sniffiness about the tropical location of Manau, social unrest, injury scares. It’s football, football, football!
I put my predictions together for a competition amongst a few friends, and this is what I came up with.
Winners: Brazil – home advantage, strong defence and midfield, Neymar.
Finalists: Spain – still the best midfield in the world, but can their pressing and possession game beat Brazil in the heat? Maybe. I was tempted to have them as winners.
3rd: Argentina. Could just as easily be winners. Attack of Messi, Aguero, Lavezzi, di Maria and Higuain is awesome on paper. Can it work and can they defend?
4th: Germany. Exciting players, brilliant counter attackers. Muller, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Goetze, Kroos, Lahm. You know, they could win it. But the heat, man….
Holland, if they can get out of their group against Spain and Chile, with a possible last 16 tie against Brazil.
Chile, also in that group. Known to cause Brazil problems.
Uruguay. Suarez (if fit) and Cavani and good ol’ Forlan. Goals on tap.
Belgium. Some really high quality players – Kompany, Hazard, Witsel, et al – mostly located in English Premiership, so they could be our our default team if England go out early.
And what of Eng-er-land? I’m feeling quite confident about getting out of the group, even though we have Italy and Uruguay with us. There’s a youthful, pacey, optimistic air about the team all of a sudden, with the success of Liverpool in the Premier League at the core of it. Sturridge, Sterling, Henderson along with Johnson and Stevie G in his new quarterback role. Then we have Rooney up for it, Adam Lallana’s silky skills and Jack Wilshere fit again and pressing for a starting place. And the ever-reliable James Milner in the equation. Joe Hart in goal is OK. Defence is the worry. Baines-Jagielka-Cahill-Johnson is a decent Premier League line up. But is it world class? We shall see.
In my prediction I have England topping the group, beating Cote D’Ivoire in the last 16 then falling to Spain in the quarters. That would be standard. Can’t really see us doing better. And there is a real risk that we won’t get out of the group.
But I’m hopeful for England and even more hopeful for football as a whole. Some really exciting teams and players. Sit back and enjoy!