Every team in the 2010 World Cup is under a certain amount of pressure. The 32 competing in South Africa not only want to make a good showing for themselves but for the countries as well.
While some teams like North Korea and New Zealand the pressure is more than likely very light. For other teams in the World Cup the pressure is as high as the expectations. Then there are teams like Germany who will have high expectations but the pressure is off since the injury to Michael Ballack.
Before South Africa and Mexico square off in the first match of this tournament it seems reasonable to look at the teams with the most pressure. Here are the top ten teams in the 2010 World Cup under the most pressure.
The Brazilian people seem to be some of the happiest and most relaxed fans in the world. It just seems unnatural that this team has the amount of pressure you would think they would have being the number one team in the world.
In fact nearly every team in this top ten has been discussed as possible winners of this edition of the World Cup ahead of the Brazilians. That does not mean that this team has not been called out by the media or fans.
Most notably the snubs of Ronaldinho, Pato, and Adriano by coach Dunga created a stir after the 23 man roster for this team was announced. Brazil was got placed in the so called group of death being placed in Group G, so any struggles in group play might see the happy Brazil fans turn angry quickly.
9. United States
The pressure on the United States is twofold. Half of the pressure comes from expectations garnered from a trip to finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup.
The Confederation Cup Final was the first ever for a FIFA sanctioned event for the United States. The rest of the pressure comes from the poor showing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
In that World Cup in Germany the US had a draw and lost two games in the group stage. To make matters worse this team only scored two goals and one of those goals was an own goal scored by Italy.
After that World Cup the US National Team cut ties with Bruce Arena and hired Bob Bradley. In South Africa all eyes will be on Landon Donovan, considered the best ever US born player, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and the rest of team US to at least make it out of the group stage.
If the US fails to get out of the group stage for the second straight World Cup changes will have to be made again. The United States does not have to win the tournament but they have to at least show up.
Last time we saw France in a World Cup event, it was the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy. The French brought negative attention to themselves when Zinedine Zidane head-butted the Italian player Marco Materazzi in a 1-1 game.
With Zidane sent off during extra time, Les Bleus were defeated 5-3 on penalty kicks. Fast forward to nearly four years later and France once again was at the center of controversy.
This time during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, French captain Thierry Henry was the culprit. Against Ireland, Henry used his arm to get the ball to a teammate for what was the deciding goal in game two of a two game playoff.
Jump forward once more to a week before the start of the World Cup and France loses basically a home game on French island of Reunion to China. The stunning loss started many to question if France would even make it out of the group stage in this tournament.
This French team struggled during qualifying but the French fans only care about their team making a good showing now that they are in the tournament. The pressure for France to perform has only been upped with every controversy and loss.
The Azzurri enter this World Cup as the defending champions and also is four years older as well. Italian coach Marcello Lippi has tried to convince the media and fans that this team is “Like a fine wine, which gets better with age”.
This team better get better with age, because Italian fans only care about how well their team plays. Some of the pressure gets relieved because Italy won the 2006 World Cup.
Still Italians believe they have some of the best talent in the world and should be a factor in every single World Cup. Winning this tournament would give the Azzurri five titles to match Brazil as well.
One thing the Netherlands can do, is win during group play but when it comes down to winning when it counts during the elimination phase the Dutch find ways to lose. The Oranje cruised through group play in the 2008 European Championship only to be bounced by Russia 3-1 in the quarterfinals.
In the 2006 World Cup the Dutch won two games and drew another to finish second in their group due to goal differential. In the second round, the Netherlands were bounced 1-0 by Portugal.
Many experts and fans believe that the Oranje are primed to do something they have yet to do. That is to hoist a trophy over their heads.
The Netherlands will be without one of their best players Arjen Robben after an injury. Still the Dutch have enough talent to make noise in this tournament.
Anything less than a deep run in South African will be considered a failure for this team. The Netherlands must start to show they, are more than group play wonders.
England has not won the World Cup since hosting the event in 1966 on home soil. After 44 years the fans of the Tree Lions are starting to get restless.
This team is hoping to build upon two straight trips to the quarterfinals. The English do not lack talent with players like John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampart, and captain Steven Gerrard.
The core of this team is starting to get old and it has become now or never if these English stars want to win a World Cup. The media and the fans know it as well.
The fans and the English media could turn on this team quickly if they lose or have a poor showing in their opening game against the United States. Nothing less than winning a championship in the tournament will do.
This team has the best player in the world Lionel Messi and talent to spare like most of the top teams in this tournament. La Albicelestes also have the crazies coach in this tournament, Diego Maradona.
Argentina struggled in qualifying, nearly having to play in the fifth place CONMEBOL versus the fourth place CONCACAF playoff. Maradona righted the ship enough to get Argentina into the tournament but calls for his head were mounting until got his team to South Africa.
The wacky Argentina coach has already demanded special toilets in his living quarters and promised to run naked if his team won the tournament. If Maradona does not deliver a deep run in the tournament he will be looking for a new job.
A sad fact might be that this talented team could be derailed by Maradona’s sideshow antics. That would be terrible for a team that could go far in this tournament.
After a trip to the third place game in Germany in 2006 and the quarterfinals of the European Championship in 2008, expectations were high for a good showing in this World Cup. During qualifying the Portuguese struggled greatly.
Portugal was able to narrowly place ahead of Hungary by three points and Sweden by one point. This team was unable however to get past Denmark, who won the group by two points.
This forced the Portuguese to have to win a two leg playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Portugal went on to win both legs by the score 1-0, for a 2-0 aggregate victory.
The Portuguese are one of about five to seven teams in this tournament that has talent to spare and have to leave an abundance of talent at home. They also feature one of the best players in the world in, Cristiano Ronaldo who is captain as well.
This team needs to make a deep run with all the talent they have and anything short of the quarterfinals will be a disappointment. The pressure on this team will be intense to produce.
This is the team most favor to win this tournament and why not they have a abundance of talent that they can call upon. During European qualifying, Spain won all of their matches and was the only team besides the Netherlands to do so.
Until their victory in the 2008 European Championship, Spain was a lot like the Netherlands. They did well in group play but could not win when it counted most.
Spain returned back to their old form in 2009 in the confederations Cup. They lost to the United States in the semifinals; reverting back to their same group play wonders then did their normal choke job when it counts.
The Spanish team features top players like Fernando Torres, David Villa, Xabi Alonso, and David Silva. With this much talent it would be crazy to think any less than a deep run is not expected.
As favorites of the tournament, Spain has to hit the ground running and play their best soccer from game one. Any little slip will see the pressure ratchet up and major knee-jerk reactions by fans and the media.
1. South Africa
I know what you are thinking. How is the 83rd ranked team in the world under the most pressure?
Well, since you asked let me tell. As host nation the Bafana Bafana are expected to do a couple of things.
No host country has ever lost their opening gaming in World Cup history. South Africa will be under pressure to beat or find a way to get a draw.
Otherwise they will make history and that is not the good kind of history. South Africa will also be under pressure to make the second round.
That is because, once again, no host country has failed to advance to the second round. If South Africa cannot make it out of the group stage, they will make more bad history.
Playing at home will give this team a lift but it will also mean they will be under more pressure from fans and media. That makes the pressure unbearable if things start to go wrong.
This team does have a secret weapon though. With luck Nelson Mandela will provide this team some magic like he did during the 1995 Rugby World Cup on South African soil as well.