2014 World Cup: 10 Bold Predictions
There are fewer than 450 days to go before the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo between Brazil and an opponent that will be determined at the Group Stage draw on December 6.
Brazil, as tournament hosts, are the only team we currently know will be in the competition, although with qualification nearing the home stretch, we can safely assume that the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Japan will be there as well.
But will Portugal? Will the United States? One of Spain and France will have to go through the playoffs. What of them? And will Brazil actually be ready to put on this event?
Many questions still remain, and as of now the only way to address them is to guess, or to stick your neck out and make predictions. Which is precisely what we’re going to do in this slideshow.
Following are 10 World Cup predictions, some bolder than others, but each of which contains an element of risk. Let’s get to it.
There Will Be a Random Animal Mascot
Remember Paul the Octopus?
The tentacled oracle correctly predicted each of Germany’s matches at the 2010 World Cup, and also picked Spain to win the final against the Netherlands. Surely another animal prophet will emerge to aid the plight of gamblers the world over during the 2014 event.
My vote goes to a giant anteater. You could stick two mini-flags into a pair of anthills and the anthill he wolfs down is the winner!
The World Cup Will Come off Without a Hitch
Remember all the agonizing over South Africa’s preparedness ahead of the 2010 World Cup? And remember how it all came off without a hitch? The 2014 installment of the biggest event in sports will also proceed tickety-boo, despite all the worrying that’s going on right now.
Even the stadium in Manaus will be completed on time, and it won’t much matter if there are enough hotel rooms in the Amazon outpost as very few fans will actually make the journey to the northwest.
That Manaus was selected to be a host city in the first place is preposterous, but FIFA will bend over backwards to ensure it doesn’t become an embarrassment, at least on TV.
Goal-Line Technology Will Prove Necessary
Speaking of television, it’s a good thing goal-line technology will be used at this World Cup because there will be another “Lampard moment” in Brazil.
Only this time the correct decision will be made on the goal.
Lampard’s goal-that-wasn’t against Germany in South Africa caused FIFA no shortage of embarrassment, and if there’s one thing we know about world football’s governing body it’s that they take themselves very, very seriously.
None of the dinosaurs who run the organization wanted to see goal-line technology introduced, but the last World Cup left them no choice. And when Suarez or Neymar or Balotelli or Rooney score a goal around which there might have been controversy, there won’t be. And technology will be to thank.
There Will Be More Than 145 Goals
As a football tournament, the 2010 World Cup was absolutely dreadful.
Here’s hoping that the 2014 competition includes something closer to the 171 goals scored at the 1998 World Cup than the 145 managed in South Africa.
Of course, goals are only part of what makes football fun to watch, but in 2010 there were so few scoring opportunities it became common to blame the lack of excitement on the Jabulani match ball.
Hopefully Brazuca spends a little more time in the back of the net.
The United States Will Have to Go Through the Playoffs
This is hardly going out on a limb.
Unrest and rumours of unrest surround the USA camp ahead of Friday’s important World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in Colorado, and four days later the Americans will be at the Azteca to face archrivals Mexico. It’s quite conceivable that they could have only a single point to show from their first three Round Four qualification matches.
Honduras, meanwhile, are playing off the flyer and have the quality to remain at or near the top of the table, and one of Costa Rica, Panama or Jamaica look better poised to take the third automatic berth alongside Mexico than the United States.
This would leave Jurgen Klinsmann’s men either last in the standings or, more likely, in fourth spot and having to place the Oceania representative—likely New Zealand—over two legs in the autumn.
England Will Have to Go Through the Playoffs
England will pick up all three points against San Marino on Friday, but Tuesday’s match against Montenegro in Podgorica will be a much more difficult assignment.
Montenegro have a two-point lead atop Group H at the moment and should win their Friday qualifier against Moldova. They’re well positioned to win the bracket, which means the Three Lions could well be facing a two-legged playoff in November.
Mexico Will Make the Semifinals
Only twice have Mexico progressed to the quarterfinals of a World Cup, and on both occasions (1970 and 1986) they hosted the event. They’ve never been to the Final Four, however, and that should change in 2014.
After five successive Round of 16 exits, El Tri are poised to break out at the senior international level.
They are already the reigning World U-17 champions, Gold Cup holders, Toulon Tournament winners and Olympic champions, and while they won’t be installed as one of the favourites ahead of the 2014 World Cup, they should be considered in the category just below the likes of Spain, Germany and Italy.
The Golden Ball Winner Will Be a Non-European Player
Early World Cup favourites Spain, Germany and Italy rely on individual attackers far less than their South American counterparts, and as a result the top goalscorer at the 2014 World Cup will come from a non-European side.
Javier Hernandez of Mexico is a decent candidate, as are Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay, Brazil’s Neymar, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain and Colombia’s Radamel Falcao.
Brazil Won’t Win the World Cup
Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950, and while the tournament in those days was a two-staged round robin affair rather than a round robin plus knockout stage, the championship nevertheless came down to a single match between Brazil and Uruguay.
Brazil needed only a draw to win their first ever World Cup, but in front of more than 170,000 at the Maracana they coughed up a one-goal lead in the final 25 minutes as Uruguay lifted the trophy a second time.
Only six of the 19 World Cup hosts have gone on to win the title, and Brazil won’t make it seven in 2014. Although sacking manager Mano Menezes in favour of Luiz Felipe Scolari was a positive move, it came more than a year too late, and now with less than 15 months to go before kickoff Brazil have had to start from scratch and have yet to establish anything resembling an identity.
They won’t win the World Cup, and a semifinal place is asking a lot of them as well.
Spain Will Win the World Cup
Back-to-back European Championships and, in all likelihood, back-to-back World Cups. We’re witnessing history with this Spanish side.
Until one of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta calls time on his international career, Spain will remain the favourite for whatever international tournament they enter. The pair of them represent one of the most dominant midfield tandems in football history, and when you add Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets to the mix you get a group that can not only create magic going forward but prevent scoring chances in the defensive third as well.
The fact that Santi Cazorla and Jesus Navas can’t even get regular playing time speaks to manager Vicente del Bosque’s outfield depth, and the arrival of Isco on the international scene will ensure Spain’s creative players will remain on their toes.
But take one of Xavi and Iniesta out of the picture and you have a very different side. And as long as they’re both in the team they can expect their historic run to continue.