WORLD CUP 2014: Overall predictions ahead of the tournament

For your everyday football fan, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa offered everything. Whether it be ‘that’ consistent humming of the vuvuzela which accompanied every match from beginning to end helped liven up the dullest of group games or simply the French drama which everybody loved watching unfold – ‘that’ rift within all aspects of the French national side which consequently led to a catastrophic group stage exit – one cannot deny that South Africa 2010 wasn’t a memorable world cup. Many still to this day reminisce of ‘that’ Luis Suarez handball, ‘that’ missed penalty by Asamoah Gyan, ‘that’ kung-fu kick by Nigel De Jong, ‘that’ winning goal by Andres Iniesta or personally whether ‘that’ goal from Frank Lampard did actually cross the line – and for the record it did go over the line…

Regardless, no matter what you may remember South Africa 2010 for, one cannot deny that as a footballing tournament it certainly had everything. Drama, passion, controversy, elation, disappointment, goals, dodgy decisions and of course – the infamous vuvuzela.

So what can we expect from Brazil this summer? Well in the build up to the tournament all we’ve heard about is political protests, unrest and the unfinished construction of stadiums and world cup infrastructures. Whether or not these will prove to be a problem throughout the competition remains to be seen. As for the football itself, with the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all competing on the world’s biggest stage, we can certainly expect goals – lots of them. With some of the biggest countries facing each other in the group stages too, with the likes of both Spain/Netherlands and Portugal/Germany facing each other early on, we can certainly expect some shock early exits this summer. And as with every World Cup tournament there is always one country who proves to be the dark horse, one youngster who sets the world alight, one team who fail to fulfil their potential (most likely England knowing our luck) and inevitably, one team whose performances stand out above the rest.

Unfortunately, I cannot give any definite answers to any of the above at such a premature stage but the next few weeks will certainly shed light on these uncertainties. Inevitably we do not know how the next few weeks will unfold, however we do know one thing… there has to be one winner. So who will walk away with the 2014 World Cup title? We’ll have to wait and see.

Who’s going to go all the way?

Although Germany play some of the best football in the world and have such a strong squad with depth at their disposal, I really don’t think they will last the distance this summer. Likewise, Argentina have an incredibly strong squad with in my opinion the three best strikers in world football in Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. If these three perform to the best of their ability, Argentina could go far but I just can’t see the Argentinians having enough in all areas of the pitch despite such a strong attacking trio, to win the competition. Therefore for me, it leaves only two sides who are good enough to go all the way to the final and I personally can’t see past Spain and Brazil as the two World Cup finalists at this moment in time.

Looking at both sides:

Spain – Four years on from their World Cup success in South Africa, Spain arrive in Brazil after winning three major competitions in a row. Inevitably their luck must run out at some point but whether it will be in Brazil this summer remains to be seen. The addition of Diego Costa means Spain can move away from their successful False 9 tactic, whilst the likes of David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Xavi will be vital going forward if Spain aim to replicate their deadly style of play which has worked so well for so long. And with a strong defence, there’s no reason why Spain can’t last the distance and make four competitions in a row, adding another a world cup victory to their success in 2010.

Brazil – Although the hosts political unrest and life off the pitch has been focused on more so than their squad and footballing ability in recent weeks, there is no denying that Brazil are going to be a tough outfit to beat. A home crowd may work in their favour and in the spiritual home of football, the new generation of Neymar, Oscar and Thiago Silva will look to replicate their past World Cup success. A World Cup victory would do a great deal of good for the unsettled country, but an early exit or anything deemed an underachievement could send the dissenting voices into overdrive.

My Prediction: Despite their off the field problems, something tells me that the luck of La Roja must run out at some point and Brazil will be the right team to capitalise on this. A large factor in their success will inevitably be whether they can perform to an on looking home crowd, but if the support stays strong throughout and Brazil produce some of their best football, I really do think they will be the side walking away with the coveted trophy come the end of the competition.

Flop of the tournament:

In a very tricky Group C, Louis Van Gaal and his Netherlands side may struggle against the current World Cup champions Spain and a very talented Chilean squad. With a squad rooted mainly from the Dutch Eredivisie, there is inevitably some talented players in the side but also a number whose exposure to some of the biggest European players is somewhat limited. One must also question whether Van Gaal’s heart is fully in it, with a move to Manchester United in the pipeline following the World Cup competition. Although I personally think Van Gaal will be focused on Netherlands and only Netherlands this summer, I do think their squad four years on from 2010 is a lot weaker and a group stage exit would not surprise me one bit. Chile on their day with the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez can prove to be difficult opposition for anyone in this summer’s competition and it may be between these two for the second qualification spot in Group B.

The Dark Horse

With the number of Ivorians in world football increasing year by year, the current crop of players for the Ivory Coast national side must be at its strongest. With the likes of Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure participating in what could be their last tournament, they will look to go out on a high and their experience could be vital for younger members of the side. Yaya Toure comes into this summer’s tournament solely focused on the World Cup, despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding his future at club side Manchester City. If he can produce his best football and perform to the same standard as in the 13/14 Premier League season, he will cause teams many problems. The promising Serge Aurier at right back will be a constant driving attacking force from the back whilst the likes of Ya Konan, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou should prove to be difficult players to come up against. If Ivory Coast can make it out of Group C, fully depending on who they’re up against in the Round of 16, who knows how far they can go? One thing is for certain, they certainly have the squad to cause a real upset. Therefore my prediction for the dark horse of this summers World Cup is obviously, the Ivory Coast.

The Golden Boot

My tip for the golden boot winner has to be Karim Benzema. Yes, many look to the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar when considering who may result as the top goal scorer in this summer’s World Cup, the French and their group have gone relatively unnoticed and it seems that they are quietly confident ahead of the start of the competition. And with Ribery out of the competition with an injury, it will be all eyes on the Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema who is set to be the first choice striker and lead the line for France. Following a season where his contribution alongside that of Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo helped the coin the famous ‘BBC’ abbreviation for Madrid fans on social media platforms, Benzema began to silence critics and chipped in with a number of vital goals for Real. If Karim Benzema can replicate his 13/14 form from Liga BBVA, he could score several in a relatively weak Group where the French will face the likes of Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. And at 25/1 with several major bookmakers, he is my bet for this competition’s golden boot winner.

The Player of the tournament

Several candidates spring to mind as potential players of the tournament but something at the back of my mind makes me think the unsung player of the tournament will be one who perhaps doesn’t end up with a winner’s medal. Personally, I believe the player of the tournament could be Angel Di Maria. A player whose performance and influence in the UEFA Champions League final helped Real Madrid on their way to winning the title, Angel Di Maria has every chance of being this year’s player of the tournament. If he performs, Argentina will certainly benefit from it. With the creativity, pace and imagination he has in an abundance, his influence will be felt throughout the pitch and will make Argentina even more dangerous going forward. And although I expect the likes of Luis Suarez, Juan Cuadrado and Eden Hazard to shine, Angel Di Maria at the age of 27 for me could potentially outshine the rest and prove to be the stand out performer this summer.

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