The FIFA World Cup is all set to be launched this summer. Occurring every four years, it is no surprise this event comes with great expectations, and even greater crowds; viewership this year is predicted to be at one billion worldwide. Thirty one teams plus the host – Brazil holding the coveted spot this year - qualify to compete for the World Cup. They are then divided into 8 groups of 4 teams each; two teams from each group then proceed to the knockout stage.
Hopes are high for the FIFA World Cup 2014. Brazil is the most successful team is World Cup history. However, as things stand, they are not a hundred percent ready to take on the mantle of host. Related costs and spending have exceeded what Brazil could afford. Some of the stadiums built lack adequate facilities for media, sponsors etc. Adding to the challenge, the federation has had to cope with the increasing security concerns in the country. Let’s hope that these issues do not affect the game. Brazilians, the most passionate football fans in the world, will be joined by thousands of fans from across the world supporting their respective countries.
Spain, the defending Champion, is not considered a favorite for retaining its title. In fact, no team is a clear favorite for the ultimate prize; 8-9 nations have the potential to win the trophy, making this competition much more exciting. These teams include: the hosts Brazil, title defender Spain, Van Gaal’s Netherlands, the ‘three lions’ England, the ‘classic’ Italy, the ‘attackers’ Argentina, star studded Germany, Cristiano inspired Portugal, and the ‘dark horses’ Belgium.
Brazil is currently coached by a former World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari. At his disposal are a competent squad and a home-crowd. After winning the FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil has emerged as one of the favorites for the World Cup. Key players to watch out for are Neymar Jr, the star player in the Confederations Cup and Thiago Silva, the best center back. Brazil will kick off the event by playing their opening match against Croatia on June 12.
Spain is naturally considered as a threat by every team. Even after losing to Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final, their midfield cannot be underestimated by any standards. Superb performances by Spanish players in their domestic league are the basis of Spain’s strength and with Del Bosque’s experience, Spain might defend its crown. Key players for Spain include the 2010 World Cup final hero Iniesta, and the ‘goal scoring machine’, Diego Costa.
Inspired by one of the best managers in the World, Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands is capable of defeating any opponent. Key players Netherlands include one of the best strikers in the world, Robin Van Persie and one of the best attacking wingers, Arjen Robben.
The English league has the biggest representation in the World Cup in terms of Premier League players participating in the tournament. This year’s domestic season has introduced a pool of young talent with a lot of potential for Roy Hodgson to choose from. Their key players include the celebrated Wayne Rooney and the high scorer Daniel Sturridge.
Italy’s team is full of players, capable of single-handedly impacting the entire game, who are excellent at finding the right passes to the right players. Their key players include the deep lying duo of DeRossi and Andrea Pirlo, capable of penetrating opposition’s defense with a single pass. And, not to forget, the Italian team consists of the most entertaining character in football, Mario Balotelli.
They might not be defensively one of the best sides in the world, but they possess an attacking lineup capable of breaking any defense. Argentina has only lost a handful of matches since the last World Cup and their strategy of changing formation makes beating them a formidable task. No one is oblivious to the Argentine’s finest, Lionel Messi, four times Ballon D’or winner and the only one in history. They also possess one of the best strikers in the world, Sergio Kun Aguero.
Germany’s star studded lineup, experience and recent performances are enough to intimidate any opponent. Key players for Germany include Mario Gotze from Bayern Munich, capable of getting past any defender, and Mesut Ozil, who can single handedly embarrass four defenders with just one side foot pass. Germany has been hard struck by Marco Reus’s injury but they are still a side to watch out for.
Recent performances have seen Portugal, a side capable of defeating the best in the world, working hard to produce results. It holds the best player standing, Cristiano Ronaldo, the highest scorer of this season. Fabio Coentrao will also prove crucial with the recent Champions League win.
Mathematically, Belgium is one of the best sides, with a perfect balance sheet of experience and youth on their side. They have emerged as the dark horses for this World Cup. Their key players include Eden Hazard, one of the top five players in the world, and Vincent Kompany, one of the finest centre backs. But more importantly, Kompany serves as a leader and inspiration for the ultimate glory.
Based on recent performances, France and Uruguay cannot be considered as likely to win. Nonetheless, with the players they have, they should not be taken too lightly. France’s Karim Benzema, Pogba and Griezmann are players that can destroy any team any day; the same can be said about the Uruguayan duo of Suarez and Cavani.
Here is what to expect from the World Cup: close matches, a lot of upsets and a whole lot of excitement. It might not all be skills that lead a team to victory. Luck will play a fair part.
(January 19, 2018)
(January 05, 2018)