2014 WORLD CUP: PERMUTATIONS, PREDICTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
As the days swiftly snowballs into hours, the anticipation and excitement of what the FIFA World Cup holds is getting to a crescendo level. For a month, the eyes of the world will be fixed on Brazil; a fitting spectacle to occupy our gaze in a season of terrible national news events and sad global happenings. The issues surrounding the preparedness of some of the Brazilian stadiums might have taken center stage in recent times; however, there is the knowing that all will be set by June 12th when Brazil and Croatia take to the field. Indeed, while it is also true that a lot of public funds have gone into the planning and organization of football’s biggest event, it does not justify the undue unrest and protests that is threatening the event. Trends have showed that the economic gains that come with hosting the FIFA world cup cannot be overemphasized. If you are ever in doubt, ask South Africa and Germany. In addition, it has been said and not without reason that once the first ball is kicked by Brazil at the world cup, the protesters will be forced to forsake their placards.
At times like this, the bookmakers have conjured their crystal balls, and the permutations over who will win the world cup have begun. Without mincing words, host Brazil are firm favorites for the trophy. After a display that reignited the Samba era at the Confederations Cup, it will be foolhardy to dismiss the Brazilians. Wonder boy, Neymar, has been the crux of this new era of Samba rekindling. The superstar is always a different animal when he is on the yellow stripes of the national team. The disparities in his performances when he plays for Brazil and Barcelona, is a case of how much a player can perform in an ideal habitat. While a bulk of the smart money will be on Brazil, no one will ever write off the holders, Spain. The detractors will argue that the current Spanish team is currently ageing, and with Casillas, Xavi, Alonso and Torres in their last legs, this might not be a great outing for the champions. Having said that, with a new era of emerging stars like Diego Costa, David De Gea and Cazorla, the Spaniards will still be out to make a case. Germany and Argentina also completes the quadruple of ‘first favorites’ for the trophy. For Portugal and Holland, they make up a duo of nations with outstanding potentials that they might have a big say in Brazil. As expected, the eyes of the world will be on the planet’s top two players, C.Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. While the former had an incredible season with Real Madrid, the latter was left to reflect on a subdued season by his own very high standards. The aspirations of the Argentinean team will be hinged on the shoulders of Messi. He surely has something to prove. For C.Ronaldo, it is a case to show that he can replicate what Luis Figo was in the Portuguese team. The fans demands that he translate the same gusto and uncanny ability that has made him a monster in club football into national team fortunes. Yet, it must be mentioned that his fitness is also a point that will play a pivotal factor.
Touted as the unsung giant killers, Belgium has emerged as a team to watch out for not just in Brazil, but in future tournaments. A generation of young amazing talents including the mercurial Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Maroune Fellani, Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, and the gifted Axel Witsel, has made Belgians to start dreaming again. Coached by Marc Wilmots, a lot will be looking at this incredible generation to be the spoilers at the party. The expectations on the Belgians might be too inflated, but we all have a feeling that will put up a great showing at the world cup.
Africa provides another interesting piece of the spectacle. Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Algeria and Cameroon are the continent’s hope. Cameroon has to navigate through a group that has the host, Brazil, Mexico and Croatia. That’s a tough ask by every sense of the word. Ghana undoubtedly has the deadliest fate among the five. To play in a group that has Germany, Portugal and the United States is certainly a notch above ‘Group of Death’. It is a torment pool. However, it is football and with this bloody old game of ours, nothing is cast in stone.