2010 FIFA World Cup Favorites: Their Odds, Strengths and Weaknesses
In just under a month, the biggest spectacle in world football will take place in South Africa.
The World Cup is one of the most eagerly anticipated competitions in the world of football.
It brings with it such an intrigue that even the most casual football fan is filled with excitement.
31 teams from all over the world will travel to South Africa and battle the hosts in a bid to be crowned the world champions of football.
Despite the tournament consisting of 32 teams, the bookmakers think that there are only eight teams that foster any chance of lifting the World Cup trophy.
Spain - 4/1 or 400 (US)
The reigning champions of Europe enter the 2010 World Cup as the favorites to lift the trophy come the 11th of July.
The main strength of the Spanish side is creative ability that the team as a whole possesses going forward.
Spain are blessed with some of the best midfielders in the world. Barcelona's Xavi and Andres Iniesta along with Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas spoil Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque for choice.
All four players love to play with the ball at their feet. They all have great technical ability while in possession and are gifted with the vision and talent to spot and deliver great passes.
The majority of Spain's goals will come from the boot or head or Fernando Torres or David Villa, but their job is made so much easier thanks to the players they have playing behind them.
Another strength that the Spanish team can boast about is depth between the posts.
Spain are gifted with two of the world's best goalkeepers. Real Madrid's Iker Casillas and Liverpool's Pepe Reina offer Vicente del Bosque one of the greatest luxuries possible.
Spain's defense would be the biggest concern to their manager. Vicente del Bosque has the Barcelona centre back partnership of Gerald Pique and Carlos Puyol at his disposal.
It is very rare that a national coach has the luxury of his centre back pairing playing the majority of their club games side by side, but as Inter Milan showed in the Champions League semi-finals, Pique and Puyol can be vulnerable at the back.
Spain's right back Sergio Ramos is similar in style to Barcelona's Dani Alves and if Ramos goes missing from his defense duties his team may be caught at the back.
Injury concerns could also play a damaging part to Spain's World Cup campaign.
Their star striker Fernando Torres, along with Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta all ended the season with injuries.
The trio are expected to be available to Spain come their opening game against the Swiss, but if a recurrence should strike Spain come be dealt an extremely raw deal.
Spain are heading into the World Cup favorites for a very good reason. If they can remain healthy, they will take all the beating.
Marcos Senna played an instrumental role as the anchor in front of the defense in Spain's European Championship win in 2008 and he will have to protect his back-line as well as he did two years ago.
Spain will find their way to the semi-final stages very easily and unless Argentina surprise us all, they should fulfill there roles as favorites and reach the final.
Brazil - 5/1 or 500 (US)
Brazil enter the 2010 World Cup as the most decorated team in World Cup history. They have won the World Cup an outstanding five times but are playing second fiddle to Spain as favorites to win it all in South Africa.
Brazil has been one of the most consistent nations as far as their attacking flair goes.
Consider as that nation that perfected football Brazil boast a array of stars who excel at the beautiful element of attacking.
Kaka, Robinho, Julio Baptista, Luis Fabiano, and Elano are just some of the names that will add attacking flair to the Brazilian line-up.
And that is without adding in the attacking threat Brazil hold at the full back position.
Dani Alves and Maicon are two of the best right backs in the business at going forward with attacking intent.
Brazil are also stacked at the centre half position, which is something that is not often thought of when it comes to the Brazilian national side.
Lucio and Juan make the defense wall at the heart of the back for Brazil. Thiago Silva completes the trio of Brazilian centre backs that play their club football with the best in Italy.
Benfica's Luisao is another giant centre back at head coach, Dunga's disposal.
Brazil's front-line looks very thin. Luis Fabiano is the only striker of the four who has scored more than 20 goals.
Nilmar and Grafite have just 17 caps and nine goals combined.
Luis Fabiano is a beast in front of goal, and he holds an impressive scoring record in the yellow of Brazil, but if he loses his touch Brazil could struggle to find goals.
Dunga chose to leave behind AC Milan star Ronaldinho, but Kaka and Robinho both made the 23 man squad.
Kaka has struggled for both form and fitness since he big money move to Real Madrid last summer.
Robinho also found himself struggling for form under Mancini in Manchester.
Brazil have a team filled with talent but they can not afford to carry anyone, and that includes such illustrious stars like Kaka.
Unless Brazil slip up during the group stages and fail to top the group, they should go deep in the tournament.
If Brazil where finish second, they could face the possibility of Spain in the last 16, which Dunga would surely want to avoid.
Even if Brazil finish first and avoid Spain, they do not have a smooth run in to finals.
They could face Holland, France, England, Serbia or Germany all on route to the final.
Brazil should make at least a semi-final appearance and if Kaka and Robinho are firing on all cylinders then Brazil could very well make it a favorite vs. second favorite World Cup final.
England - 6/1 or 600 (US)
England travel to South Africa with the expectations of a nation on the shoulders.
They are in the most capable hands entering a World Cup in years, and the English fans are hoping for a second star above their crest come the end of this year's tournament.
England is filled with star players who are natural born leaders. It stars at that back with Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
Despite the noise that John Terry caused earlier in the year after his off-field affairs came to light, he still lead Chelsea to their first ever League and FA Cup double in history.
When Rio has been fit he has lead out his Manchester United teammates.
In Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher stands the captain and vice-captain of Liverpool.
The same can be said of Ledley King and Michael Dawson in relation to Tottenham.
As can be said for Matthew Upson and Scott Parker in relation to West Ham also.
England are also blessed with a versatility.
A number of their stars can play in numerous positions which can only be a benefit to manager Fabio Capello.
Steven Gerrard has played in nearly every position possible in midfield for both club and country.
James Milner can be used on the wing or inside, and in a worst case scenario he could be pushed back as a makeshift right back.
Glen Johnson can play anywhere along the right side and Jamie Carragher can be used anywhere across the back-line.
England's main problem has been consist and has never been corrected.
Who will be England's No.1 has been the pressing issues for the country running into the World Cup and the issue does not seem to be any clearer.
Based on form and consistency during the previous campaign, Joe Hart would have to be considered the best set of hands to put between the posts.
But with only one previous international cap would he have the mental toughness at the biggest stage in football.
David James and Robert Green are the other two possibilities, but both come with their issues.
Both keepers have had consistency issues during the league season and both are prone to making horrendous errors that cost games.
Green has only made nine caps for England, while James who is one short of 50 has had fitness problems all season long.
Fabio Capello also has the issue of whether he can play both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same team.
Both tend to occupy the same role at club level and both are fantastic commodities to have in the team.
Lampard has scored a shocking amount of goals from midfield this season for Chelsea, while Gerrard has the ability to be a game winner for any nation.
Unless England receive a stunning blow from the USA similar to that received by Spain in the Confederations Cup last summer they should sail by the group stages.
With a fully fit team and no self-harming goalkeeper issues, England have every chance to make the final.
In saying that England will face either encounter Germany or Serbia in the last 16 and possible France or Argentina after that, before even reaching the semi-final stages.
England will most likely make it to the latter stages of the tournament but fall at their own undoing.
Argentina - 7/1 or 700 (US)
Argentina made the World Cup 2010 by the skin of their nose. Many expected manager Diego Maradona to lose his position after the South American giants stumbled through the qualifying stages.
Regardless of how poor Argentina played prior to the World Cup their striking options make for some very formidable reading.
Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Diego Milito and Gonzalo Higuain are the five most likely candidates to make up the list of strikers heading to South Africa.
Milito will be hoping he can add a Champions League medal to the league and cup medals he already picked up with Inter Milan.
The five aforementioned strikers have scored a combined 143 goals this season and despite previous and current form, opposition defenses will be aware of the threat carried by such an awesome line of talent.
Argentina also have a good mix of aging experience and youthful exuberance.
Their defense consists of such well-battled stars like Walter Samuel and Gabriel Heinze, who have over 115 international caps between them.
Peppered with untested players like Nicolas Otamendi and Juan Insaurralde.
The midfield has a similar mould with Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano sharing 125 caps joined by seven other midfield players who have a combined 25 first team caps.
The main weakness behind Argentina is actually over Argentina.
Diego Maradona is the perfect advertising campaign that brilliance on the field can not always be transfered productivity off it.
Maradona has failed to take some of the greatest footballing talents in the world and gel a team together than can perform consistently, and more importantly win consistently.
A disgraceful 6-1 hammering at the hands of Boliva speaks volumes about the type of performances Maradona has inspired.
Argentina also have major concerns at the goalkeeper position.
The three goalies going to South Africa have a combined, 12 international appearances.
Sergio Romero is the most likely to be starting between the sticks for the white and sky blue stripes, and the young 23-year-old is the most capped of the keepers with five caps.
Argentina have been a mess under Diego Maradona, but anything can happen in football.
The team is blessed with talent and more importantly they are blessed with single players who can win games for them.
Their group should give them little problems and they should come out of it without a problem.
It is after the group stages where it will become messy for Argentina, and not that good type of Messi.
Argentina will enter the last 16 and face either one of France, Mexico or Uruguay.
After that they could face any of England, USA, Ghana, Serbia or Germany.
That is where Argentina's World Cup will most probably end.
Any further than the quarter-final stages would be a miracle for Argentina in the state they are in.
Holland - 12/1 or 1200 (US)
Holland breezed by their opponents in the group stages and may regret the lack of competition if their fail to build on the impressive performances they had in getting to South Africa.
It is no secret that the strength of the Dutch side is in the creativity of their midfielders.
Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder both showed off their skill-set in helping their respective teams reach the Champions League final.
Arjen Robben was the top goalscorer for Bayern Munich this season.
Along with Robben and Sneijder, their former Real Madrid teammate Rafael van der Vaart plays a major roles.
At the age of 27, van der Vaart is the second most capped player in the Dutch side, behind 35 year old Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
The Dutch team is blessed with a great amount of versatility.
Robben, Sneijder and van der Vaart can play anywhere along the middle of the pitch, and all three can also play in more advanced attacking positions.
Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt can play up front or on the wing due to their roles with Liverpool, as can Arsenal's Robin van Persie.
Holland have a great team with an abundance of talent at their fingertips, but the major issue is can they all stay healthy.
Two of Holland's most valuable players have struggled with injuries this year and have a tendency to pick up injuries at the worst time possible.
Robben and van Persie have both missed quite some time this season due to their inflections.
Nigel de Jong is another player who has a key role in the Dutch set-up who has had issues with fitness this season.
Since making two final appearances in a row back in 1974 and 1978, Holland have performed one struggling campaign after another in the World Cup.
Despite their 1988 European Championship win, Holland have consistently underperformed on the biggest stage of all.
In the last seven World Cup competitions, Holland have reached the last four just once.
They failed to qualify for three of the events, and in 1990 and 2002 they could just managed the last 16.
Holland need to break this cycle, much like Spain did.
Holland will make it to at least the quarter-finals this year. Then the question is will the overcome the mindset of failure to go on from there.
They will most likely meet Brazil in the quarter-finals, unless something unprecedented occurs and Spain come second, or Brazil fail to win their group.
After that a match-up against England, USA, Serbia, Germany, France or Argentina could be on the cards.
If Holland can stay fit and keep their heads positive then they can make the semi-finals but if history is anything to go by, Holland will fall over the hurdle at the quarter-finals.
Italy - 14/1 or 1400 (US)
Italy travel to South Africa as the current holders of the World Cup and they have their work cut out for them to retain their trophy.
Italy have a squad filled with experience from top to bottom, and back to front.
For the majority of the Azzurri team it will be a case of "been there, done that, got my medal."
Italy have a pair of hands that have seen 100 caps in Gianluigi Buffon. And just ahead of him Italy have Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso and Gainluca Zambrotta who boast 272 caps between them.
Italy then a midfield foursome who have over 240 caps.
Along with three potential strikers all of whom have eclipsed the 30 mark on international appearances.
Italy not only have a number of players who have previously won a World Cup medal, they also brought back the man who drove them to that glory.
Marcello Lippi is one of the best Italian managers in the sport.
Three time Serie A manager of the year, Lippi has lifted the biggest trophies in football.
Lippi conquered the domestic, club and national level winning a World Cup in 2006, a Champions League and Intercontinental Cup in 1996 and five Italian leagues.
Italy's striking options are weak to say the least. The lack of names such as Toni, Totti, and Del Piero leave little to fear in the front line of the Italians.
Only Alberto Gilardino has gone into double figures in scoring for his country, with 16 goals.
Between the seven hopeful strikers that want to make it on into the 23-man squad, they have only 37 international goals.
The goal-scoring options is even more diluted the deeper go into the Italian side.
The entire midfield of the Azzurri have scored just 23 goals. Out of ten possible midfielders, two players account for 16 of the 23 goals scored.
10 goals have been scored by the Italian defense, which is not great but considering how abysmal the midfield tally is, ten from the back-line is not too bad.
In total the entire 30 man provisional squad of Italy have scored just 70 goals.
So 27 possible outfield Italians share just 70 goals.
Italy are blessed to be sharing a group with New Zealand, Slovakia and Paraguay.
In saying that there is no guarantee that Italy will finish top, which for their own sake they need to so they can avoid Holland in the next round.
If they manage to avoid the Dutch, they will face either Cameroon, Japan or Denmark.
None of them teams will be a pushover, but Italy would favor themselves to get beyond them.
After that Italy look hopeless. They will more than likely meet Spain in the quarter-finals.
If not Spain it will be either Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast all of which could give Italy a bad day.
At best I see Italy make the quarter-finals. I cannot see them advancing any further than that.
Germany - 14/1 or 1400 (US)
Germany travel to South Africa knowing they could very well go deep. In the last five tournaments Germany have been winners in 1990, runners-up in 2002, and made the last four in 2006.
The biggest strength in the German ranks is discipline and organization.
Germany may not be blessed with the most skillful players in the world who will set the footballing world on fire with their display but one thing they most certainly are is a well organized.
German coach Joachim Low will ensure that his team enter the World Cup as a strong unit and that every players understands their individual assignments.
Germany will also bring a solid defense.
Both fullbacks, Arne Friedrich and Philipp Lahm, are vastly experienced and have acquired 70 and 64 caps respectively for their countries.
Per Mertesacker is another defensive-man who have won 60 caps for Germany.
They also have young talents such as Jerome Boateng and Serdar Tasci entering the defense as well.
Germany's big three up front have great goal to game records for the nation.
Miroslav Klose have scored 48 goals in 94 games, and Lukas Podolski has netted 37 times in 71 matches.
Mario Gomez have scored 11 times in 32 games also.
The major problem is their form entering the World Cup.
Bayern Munich teammates, Klose and Gomez have scored just 11 league goals between them.
Klose, who is Germany's main threat up front, has scored just one league goal this season.
Podolski has scored just eight goals this campaign between Bayern and Koln.
That is a total of just 19 goals between Germany's three main strikers.
Germany could opted to go with Kiebling who scored 21 goals in the Bundesliga or Cacau or Muller who both netted 13 goals, but Low is unlikely to do that.
Germany also have goalkeeper issues.
Due to the tragic death of Robert Enke and the recent injury to Rene Adler, Germany will be traveling to the World Cup without a designated No.1 in goal.
Schalke's net minder, Manuel Neuer is expected to fill the void, but the young 24-year-old has just three international caps going into the World Cup.
The other options are Bayern's 35 year old Hans-Jorg Butt who also has three caps, or Tim Wiese of Werder Bremen, who has just two.
In total Germany are bring a combined eight international caps at the goalkeeper position to South Africa.
If the right options are implemented then Germany can far, but if the usual suspects land in the starting XI based on sentiment then Germany will falter and fail.
Germany are in a tricky group with Ghana, Australia and Serbia.
There tough-nosed defense should take them out of the group but they could end with a tough tie against England, or a tricky encounter against the US.
After that, France or Argentina could be waiting.
If Germany sort out who will be wearing the gloves, and their striking troubles, and finish top of the group, they could find themselves going smoothly to the semi-finals.
But Germany's defense will only hold for so long and if they have trouble in front of goal they could crash out at the last 16.
France - 20/1 - 2000 (US)
France made they way into the World Cup controversially, with a little hand by Thierry Henry.
But now that they are they France will be expected to produce by their faithfully, and they will be expected to make amends for their 2006 final loss.
France have a great blend of age and experience immersed with pace and youth.
At the back France have William Gallas who has 70 plus caps at the highest level for his country.
While Henry has over 110 caps to lead the French team heading into the World Cup.
Chelsea pair Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda along with Barcelona's Eric Abidal have all played over 50 games each.
That experience is blended with the youth of Andre- Pierre Gignac and Arsenal teammates, Abou Diaby and Gael Clichy.
Along with highly-rated No.1 shot-stopper Hugo Lloris.
France are also gifted with some of the best in the world at their respective positions.
The aforementioned Hugo Lloris is fast becoming considered as one of the top goalkeepers in Europe.
To his left he has Patrice Evra, who is arguably the best left back in the world.
Franck Ribery is constantly slapped with a price tag of £50 plus million and the label of one of the best wingers in Europe.
One of the biggest weaknesses to the French side is the man who picks it, Raymond Domenech.
The France manager to have his own agenda which involves his national side failing to produce the type of football they are capable of.
Domenech singled out Karim Benzema and refused to play him, despite struggling in both legs against a mediocre Irish defense.
He also left out Philippe Mexes and Samir Nasri who both played superbly this season for Roma and Arsenal, respectively.
Another major pressing issue for France, and one that may come back to bite Domenech for his omission of Benzema is the lack of goal support.
Thierry Henry has scored 51 goals for his country. The other four strikers being brought to South Africa have a combined total of 37 international goals.
The rest of the French side have contributed with 15 international goals.
Due to the exclusion of Karim Benzema only Henry, Gignac, Anelka and Gallas have scored goals for France in qualifying for the World Cup.
France played so poorly in getting to the World Cup that it would come as no surprise if they failed to get out of their group.
On the performances they put in against Ireland, there is no reason why Mexico, Uruguay and even South Africa could not take even a point from them.
After the group stages it just down hill for France, if they avoid Argentina in the last 16 they are bound to meet a team in the quarter-finals would can match them.
If Henry and Anelka fail to produce their is little scoring production from elsewhere in the side.
France will most probably get to the quarter-finals and then get dumped out unless they really turn there performances around completely.