Over the weekend, most of the national soccer leagues around the world were closed to allow the best and brightest from all parts of the globe to come and represent their countries in qualifying matches which lead up to the greatest competition in all of soccer: the World Cup. Every four years, the best national selections in the world get together and compete for the most coveted title in soccer and next year in South Africa, a new champion will be chosen.
After watching these games, and after watching the Euro Cup 2008 (like World Cup, but only for Europe), I have made a few predictions of my own of the teams most and least likely to win the World Cup 2010.
In the ‘will not’ category:
France’s team for the Euro Cup, where they failed to make it pass the group stages, was largely made up of aging veterans who were still around from the squad that reached the World Cup final in 2006. Now they’re going through a phase of restructuring that has not quite yet paid off. In the qualifying matches, they placed third in their group with a 2-1-1 record and as many goals for as against.
Brazil is, historically, the best national squad in football. However, they’ve been going through their own reconstruction and still can’t get a coherent playing style together. Sitting fourth, out of four assured qualification spots (behind Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay), with more draws than wins, they seem more likely to disappoint than to impress next year.
Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, France and England are the only teams that have ever won the World Cup, and Uruguay hasn’t since 1950. Historically, an upset is unlikely and underdogs usually stay under, so I don’t see anyone else winning the World Cup besides the countries I’m about to name.
In the ‘might just do it’ category:
Spain dominated Euro Cup 2008, and with enough talent to more than fill up the starting 11, players like Jose Reina, Xabi Alonso, and Gerard Pique have been having to sit out many games on the bench. Their 1-0 win against Turkey on Saturday is their fifth in a row in qualifications, and they don’t look like will stop anytime soon.
Argentina has some of the most in-form players in the world right now. Their team-oriented playing style, highlighted by amazing individual talent, shone Saturday against Venezuela. If you don’t believe me, look who scored the goals and who made the assists — first goal Tevez assist to Messi, second goal Messi assist to Tevez, third goal Agüero assist to Maxi and fourth goal Agüero on his own.
The Netherlands team has also found its rhythm, and the so-called “clockwork orange” is back and running. With four wins in four qualifying games, and wins against France and Italy in the Euro Cup, the Netherlands is looking more and more like a favorite every game.
There are other teams I think could go either way — Italy and England flopped in the Euro Cup, but are shining in qualifications. Germany looks to be improving in every tournament they play, but still lack the talent that teams like Argentina and Spain have.
But who really knows? I could always be dead wrong. Maybe France will pull it out in the end. Or maybe it will be a team nobody expects. Maybe the USA team will win! I can always dream…