As bad as our season has been, I’ll still miss the football which is why it’s a good job there is a World Cup just around the corner.
Why? Firstly because it gives us something to talk about and secondly because it gives me something to carry on writing about as I have a sneaking suspicion that the summer will be very quiet at St James’ Park.
I can’t wait till the competition starts if I’m being honest. That’s why I’ve previewed some of the favourites for the competition. At this current moment in time the host nation are the favourites. If you check http://static.williamhill.com/world-cup-2014/betting/winner-odds/, odds for Brazil are currently 10/3 to win the whole thing.
Germany and Argentina are joint second favourites at 9/2 with defending champions Spain ranked at 11/2. Belgium are 14/1, Holland 16/1, England are 18/1 with Italy placed at 20/1. I personally think the winners will come any of those mentioned so let’s take a look at what they are about.
The hype started when they beat Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup and with a squad packed with quality playing on home soil you can see why they are being tagged as favourites. A lot of their key players ply their trade in Europe so there is an understanding of how the stronger teams from Europe are likely to play and they face the physical side of things more often than perhaps they have done previously.
Neymar has the potential to be one of the best players on the planet but things haven’t got off to a good start for him at Barcelona and he looks a little bit lightweight for the European game. However his Brazil record speaks for itself with 30 goals in 47 appearances so he’s likely to be the guy they rely on for the bulk of their goals.
The Argies are always in with a shout at major tournaments and they have one of the best players in the world at their disposal. Lionel Messi has been outstanding over the years for Barcelona but he has never hit those heights for Argentina scoring 37 times in his 83 caps. Not too shabby from the Captain but still a far cry from the 243 goals in 275 appearances he’s managed for Barca.
The strength of Spain is in the team itself and the way they play although being blessed with superb talent always helps. The defending champions have been a dominant force in recent years although there is a feeling that their star is on the wane. Their midfield engine room of Xavi and Iniesta isn’t getting any younger but they do still have some sublime options in the middle of the park like Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas to name just two.
Up front they may struggle. Fernando Torres has been named in their provisional 30-man squad which is a surprise while their record scorer, David Villa, will probably make his last appearance at a World Cup if he impresses enough. The other options are Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Chelsea-bound Diego Costa, none of whom have been prolific at international level.
They could go far in this tournament given the players at their disposal. In goal they have a choice of Simon Mingolet or Thibaut Cortois, both of who have had excellent seasons. In defence they have high quality with the likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderwiereld, a strong midfield with the strength of Marouane Fellaini mixed with the flair and pace of Eden Hazard and Kevin Mirallas and power up front with Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. If Marc Wilmots gets it right they could be a feature in the later rounds of the competition.
Runners up last time out, if Holland are to go anywhere near emulating that feat they’ll need big performances from their big players. Robin van Persie, as Captain and top scorer at international level, will need to find his shooting boots while Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder will need to be at the top of their game. However at the back they look weak.
First things first are getting out of the group. Roy Hodgson raised a few eyebrows with his decision not to take Ashley Cole to Brazil but Leighton Baines has had the better season. However, should anything happen to Baines then it will be up to Luke Shaw to deputise at a very young age.
Up front Wayne Rooney has rarely produced at a World Cup and is yet to register a goal in the competition which ratchets up the pressure on Daniel Sturridge, who has had a great season to be fair. I can’t see the Three Lions going much further than the Quarter Final with either Ivory Coast, Greece, Japan or Colombia lined up as second round opponents should they progress.
The Azzurri are in the same group as England and indeed eliminated them in the last European Championships. A spine made up of Buffon, Chiellini, Pirlo and Balotelli is not too shabby but it’s the gaps around them than should concern the Italians. Marco Verratti has been excellent for PSG this term allaying some fears about taking a player so young to such a big tournament but it will once again be how that domestic form can translate on the international stage.
So that is my quick round up of the favourites for the World Cup. There will always be a surprise package or two thrown in (anyone remember Greece, or Croatia?) so it’s important to remember that, but it’s also worth remembering that these sides are ranked more favourably for a reason.