With the World Cup under way, here are a few points and bold predictions for what will go down in the next few weeks.
Brazil/Spain vs Everyone Else
It’s undeniable, when talking about which team is a top-tier contender for the finals, Brazil and Spain are the sexy picks of 2010.
For most fans this has to do with the way each team plays: how Spain has finally got their championship mojo after blasting through Euro 2008, and how Brazil tends to win every other World Cup in history. But aside from their obvious talent for attacking football, both of these squads have been playing a top-quality, organized game that could easily see them through a tournament of this calibre.
Spain finished the qualifiers with the highest number of points amongst European clubs, and Brazil dominated COMNEBOL qualifiers in typical fashion. If both teams take their group, then the possibility arises that they will face each other in what would be a classic final.
Look for Germany to find success despite Ballack’s injury
Can you ever really count out ze Germans? This is a team that is built to withstand the loss of a midfielder such as Michael Ballack. Despite the absence of their captain, Germany still fields a potent attacking trio in Bastian Schweinsteger and strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.
If they manage to get out of their group, look for them to do some damage in the elimination rounds.
Who will surprise?
Dark horse Serbia will reach the quarterfinals. This is a team that no one is really talking about, but Serbia quietly ran through the qualification campaign in dominant fashion, forcing runners-up France to go through a playoff to qualify.
They drew a tough group in Germany, Australia, and Ghana, however Michael Ballack’s injury lessens the German threat, and if Serbia continues their strong play it could see them take the group as the other three teams fight to take points from each other.
Italy, too old?
Unless you’re a fan of the Azzuri, you’re probably slagging the hell out of Italy right now, calling them too old and unfit to repeat as world champions. But before you shut them out entirely, consider that often the oldest and most experienced teams reach the finals, including France and you-know-who in 2006.
The Italians also got the luck of the draw, facing Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia in the group stage. None of these squads has any significant World Cup experience and barring a miracle Italy will take the group.
And once the elimination rounds begin, the backbone of the Italian squad’s World Cup success will come from the back, with Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta anchoring a stout defence.
Beyond that, having Gianluigi Buffon in net in a tournament where you can live or die by a shootout is a huge benefit.
That’s it for now, enjoy the action!