The Beautiful Game, first called so by Brazilian great Pele, will take centre stage starting Thursday, June 12, when the host nation Brazil takes on Croatia in Game One of Group A play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
And I for one cannot be more excited for it. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a soccer enthusiast. After having lived in England for two years, I actually dislike the sport even more, however the World Cup always gets me pumped up.
I love the idea of nations going to war with one another via sport. I salivate at the mere thought of an underdog such as Iran knocking off a favourite like Argentina (it could happen. It most likely won’t, but it could!).
So here is my opinion on who will make it out of the group stages and who will eventually win it all and bring glory to their country.
This group contains tournament favourite, and host, Brazil, as well as Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
The first game of the tournament, Brazil vs. Croatia, will decide who finishes first in Group A and who sneaks into the playoff round as a second place team. However, I feel Brazil will have too much momentum early on and Croatia will be unable to overcome the momentum, and emotion, that the Brazilian side will surely have. Brazil, led by Neymar, goes undefeated in Group play while Croatia downs both Cameroon and Mexico to move on. Cameroon upsets Mexico to finish third in the Group and regain some lost pride.
Consisting of defending champion Spain, 2010 runner up Netherlands and also-rans Chile and Australia, this group is the easiest to call in terms of who is moving on to the playoff round.
Both Spain and the Netherlands are nearly a lock to move on, however stranger things have happened.
However I see the Spaniards knocking off the Dutch in Group play to secure first, while Netherlands is second and the Aussies finish third with Chile rounding out the pack.
Quite an interesting group,Group C contains Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and Japan. There are three legitimate contenders for Group supremacy here. The favourite, due to location of tournament has to be Colombia, however Greece and the Ivory Coast could very easily cause problems for the Colombians.
Decisions, decisions. I’ll go with the safe bet of Colombia and Ivory Coast going through, with the Elephants from Africa finishing first and Colombia second. Greece and Japan round out the group.
While many consider Group G to be the ‘Group of Death’, Group D is also in contention. You have seventh ranked Uruguay, ninth ranked Italy, tenth ranked England… And Costa Rica (ranked a respectable 28th).
While all three high ranked nations have pressure heading into the World Cup with Uruguay playing on its home continent, Italy trying to bounce back from a debacle campaign in 2010 where they finished last in Group F and England under pressure just because it’s England, something has to give.
I see Italy caving under the added weight of a terrible 2010 tournament and finishing third, while Uruguay cruise to first and England secures second. Costa Rica puts up a battle but finishes fourth.
A group consisting of hard defending Switzerland, France, Ecuador and Honduras.
Easy, right? France clearly goes through.
Wrong. I see Switzerland scoring three, maybe four goals in the three games and going 3-0 in Group play while Honduras, yes that’s right, Honduras, takes the second playoff position while France is left to ponder ‘what if?’ in third. Ecuador finishes in fourth.
This is really a group of Argentina and the ‘Other Guys’. Argentina is clearly the cream of the crop, but who will advance with them? Will it be Iran, Nigeria or World Cup virgin Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Well Cinderella still has a few minutes left until midnight and the Boys from the Balkans grab second spot behind Group F undefeated Argentina. Iran completes a very minor upset in defeating Nigeria to finish third, while the African nation is last in the group.
Ah yes, the ‘Group of Death’. Four very talented teams, yet only two can move on. So who will it be? Out of the foursome of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States, only two can move on.
I have to go with Germany here. Even if they were ranked 100th in the world I’d take them as they are the nation I support internationally. However they are ranked second overall and for good reason. They are scary good.
So that leaves one other spot. Any of those teams can win on any given night. However I have to go with my gut and say Portugal will grab a playoff spot ahead of Ghana (third) and the USA (fourth) for two reasons. One is because Portugal is extremely talented; the other is because they’ll be the European favourites of the fans in Brazil. After all, Brazilians do speak Portuguese.
The final group is Group H, consisting of Belgium, South Korea, Russia and Algeria.
This might be the most watched group, just because the rest of the world wants to see Russia fail. What people will see, however, is a team of Belgians ripping off three straight wins to top the group and finish first, while underdog South Korea, against all odds, claims the second playoff spot just like they did four years ago in South Africa. Algeria finishes third and Russia fourth (before some punishment by Putin no doubt).
I see a South American battle in the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the host nation of Brazil takes on their southern neighbours from Uruguay.
However it doesn’t end well for the hosts as Uruguay takes down the favourites in a 3-1 final as Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez torch the Brazilian team up for Uruguay’s third World Cup title and first since 1950.