Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last, oh, let’s conservatively say 7 years, you’d know that the 2014 World Cup in upon us. If you have been living under a rock please get to me in the comments and let me know what it’s like, I’ve often been curious.
But I digress, when the World Cup rolls around it’s become commonplace that my teammates from my various soccer teams offer a couple of quickfire picks for the tournament. Starting with their choice to lift the trophy, who they think will be the biggest pleasant surprise, and finally what team they think will flop out of the tournament in a most fantastical fashion. So I posed the question to the team and prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I didn’t get the same answers from them.
Projected Winner: Argentina. In my mind, Argentina has the best player in the world (Messi), a decent amount of supporting players (di Maria, Zabaleta, etc…), and a group that will likely be easy to escape from in the top spot. That makes them my favorite to win it all. (Richard’s thought: They have hindered themselves though, I mean they’ve brought Martin DeMichelis along with them)
Surprise Package: France. I have the sense a lot of people have them in the likely disappointment category, which will make their triumph into the quarter-finals that much more surprising. With a competent coach, and players coming off huge seasons in the biggest leagues in the world (Giroud, Benzema, Pogba), France is a team that will do better than expected. (Richard’s thought: IF France can avoid going on strike, they’ll surprise me)
Fantastic Flop: Portugal. My American mind may be a bit clouded by the stars and stripes, but I don’t see Portugal getting out of their group, and for a team with one of the tournament’s biggest stars, that’s surely sign of failure.
Projected Winner: Spain. I have a strong belief that Spain can repeat in this World Cup. They have the perfect mix of veteran talent mixed with new blood. I mean seriously, their depth is good enough to leave Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo off the roster. How many other teams would take those two players as starters? (Richard’s thought: Probably most) Also, I think that Germany (my 2nd choice) is missing a big player in Marco Reus. As for Brasil… see below.
Surprise Package: Belgium and Bosnia. Belgium is chalk full of talent, and if they can play as a team, they can dominate. Not going to lie, I can see Belgium making a surprise run deep to the Semi-Final. And as for Bosnia, I expect the World Cup newcomers to also make a big splash. They’ve got an in form striker in Eden Dzeko and should at least make the Round of 16. (Richard’s thought: Thank you for not mentioning that Canadian goalkeeper, Ethan)
Fantastic Flop: Brasil and England. I have a feeling that England will be the best team not to make it out of the group stages this time around. They have some good competition in their group and I feel their poor consistency will keep them out. And as for Brasil, I think their talent has been over hyped. With all the pressure to perform, I have a feeling the hosts led by their young untested Neymar will be knocked out before the Semis. (Richard’s thought: But they’ve got Fred AND Jo? Easily the best named strikers at the World Cup)
Projected Winner: Germany. I just have a feeling about Germany this year. They always do well and their team runs like clockwork. Sure, they are far from home and don’t have the continental advantage but having seen their form that won’t make a huge impact going in. Given their performance in South Africa I’m sure that they are determined to bring this on home. (Richard’s thought: And if not, there’s always Warsaw, no?)
Surprise Package: #Murica (Jim actually did write USA). Call it wishful thinking (Richard’s thought: DONE!), but I think the United States will perform a lot better than everyone thinks they will. But then again I may be dead wrong, however, that is why they qualify as a surprise package. This is going to be a very interesting tournament for the USA.
Fantastic Flop: Cameroon. I would call qualifying for the World Cup a success as it is, but I just don’t see them lasting long. There isn’t much I can say for them, other than, they could potentially outlast Australia. (Richard’s thought: Paging Mr. Milla, your nation needs you again!)
Projected Winner: Spain. Having won everything on the domestic European front, it is tough to look past the current champions claiming another World title. (Richard’s thought: But, boss, there hasn’t been a repeat winner since 1962!) Plus, the fact there is a lot of pressure on Confederations Cup Champions and host nation Brasil, only helps to take a little pressure off Spanish shoulders.
Surprise Package: Ivory Coast. As far as group competitiveness goes, Ivory Coast have a very suitable draw. Drogba has a point to prove on what is sure to be his last big show, and Yaya Toure is just a beast in the middle. Semi-finals maybe? (Richard’s thought: I sure hope the squad shook Yaya’s hand and wished him a happy birthday or else they’re sunk!)
Fantastic Flop: Germany. We all know the Germans have the ability to turn it on when the time comes and they have proven they have the ability to withstand the toughest of tests, but with so many distractions (Richard’s thought: Toni Kroos’ boots?) and key injuries leading up to the tournament, I don’t think they will go as far as they would expect.
Projected Winner: Belgium. A crop of players like this only comes along once in a couple generations. I firmly believe that in 15-20 years time we’ll be talking about this Belgium side like your granddad talks about the Brasil side between 1958-1970. You name it the Red Devils have it. World class goalkeeper? They’ve got TWO. Man mountain defender? Check. Palm tree in midfield? Yep. Explosive forward players? Good gravy yes. And what’s that you say only one player over 30 in the squad. Ladies and gentlemen I present your new football overlords!
Surprise Package: Chile. Four years ago they took Spain to the brink in the group stage, and since then they’ve gotten better! Skippered by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, the Chileans have two truly world class players in Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, and manager Jorge Sampaoli has them playing an exciting attacking style which was favoured by former manager Marcelo Bielsa who guided them to the Round of 16 in 2010. Four years later they’re a better team I wouldn’t rule out a Semi-Final run.
Surprise Package Bonus Ball: Algeria. The Fennec Foxes are looking for their first World Cup win since 1982 when they burst on the scene with wins over West Germany and Chile bookending a loss to Austria. This SHOULD have been enough to see the Foxes through to round two except, that in those days the final group stage matches weren’t played at the same time. Algeria had played the day before versus Chile so Austria and West Germany knew that a 1 or 2 goal West German win would see both Austria and West Germany though ahead of the Foxes. This led to the West Germans and Austrians teaming up to play a match known as the Disgrace of Gijon, where a West German goal on the 10 minute mark was followed by 80 minutes of sideways passing ensuring the result that sent two European sides through to the second round over the plucky North Africans. This time around I have seen odds of 12-1 for Algeria being African team to last the longest and I’ll be honest those are some tasty numbers!
Fantastic Flop: Nigeria. Exhibit A. The Prosecution rests, your honour.
So that does it from us. But what about you guys? I’m sure you all have some opinions (looking your way Pecksy) on who’ll win, and who’ll shock us in either a good or bad way. So let us know your picks down below with a bit of rationale. As always you can find us on twitter and facebook.