Hey everyone, you're all looking good today! Great to see you again too! So eagerly looking forward to E3? Yeah I totally agree, or maybe of the time of reading you've already seen some of E3 then how are you enjoying E3? Yeah I totally know! Anyway I know what's been sorely lacking around here these day, especially this time of year (Well you probably know because you've read the title) Let's have a world cup opinion piece! Let's break down what's going on.
- Build up to the world cup
- I'll be doing my own small analysis of my national team and how far they can go
- My group prediction
- Overall winner of the tournament
As with all world cups, there's always monumental build-up be it, news about the host countries to the actual preparation of the tournament and it's never good. There obviously have been fears that people think there are safety issues for fans and tourists when it comes to Rio, and its history of its criminal drug gangs. It's not the first time either when concerning the safety of the tournament, the previous world cup in South Africa during 2010 there was the tragic incident with Togo being attacked by terrorists in the African Cup of Nations in the very same year, and had to withdraw from both tournaments. In this case, there have been major operations in the slums of Rio and other major cities trying to crack down on the criminal activities making both a statement to the critics of the tournament and ensuring safety throughout the tournament. Riots have also broken out around Brazil protesting the world cup when the figures were revealed at how much public spending has gone into the tournament when told it was funded privately, as people call out that this sort of money should have been spent on the infrastructure of the country with schools, healthcare and jobs to be improved on as well. Stadium development has also come under intense scrutiny in addition with stadium feared to not be completed in time, with reported deaths of workers as well, with people calling potential change of host if even the facilities which to play football in can't be completed in time. Small outcries as well with the location of each stadium , being located in isolated areas with no sight of future development have caused some national teams and respective FA's to question the judgement, especially the stadium built somewhere in the amazon forest. This world cup may very well be overshadowed by some of these factors, especially the ones that will leave a constant presence such as the protests if they intend to carry on, alongside if reports start appearing of tourists and fans being mugged or attacked during the tournament.
Every time England plays in a world cup, we always have high expectation of our team. I think it's fair every time as well, we produce amazing footballers and most of our players play the in the best league in the world (in my opinion) alongside and against world class players of different nations. Strangely enough though this world cup we have set our expectation much lower, and for good reasons too. We're now going through a transitional phase with our squad, leaving out some of our most experienced players and the absent of others in positions we didn't fill last tournament (J.T, Ashely Cole, Carrick, Beckham to a certain degree) This means we can bleed some of the younger players and give them the experience of the highest level of football, so in the future they can perform at a higher level and become used to the atmosphere and burden when playing for our country. Roy has done that perfectly by calling up bright, promising and in-formed younger players in the shape of Shaw, Ross Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Stones and Lallana. Selected also are the consistent and the reliable players who always perform in the name of Joe Hart, Gerrard, Lampard, Cahill, Jagielka and the in-form players with Sturridge, Lambert and supposedly our star player, Wayne Rooney.
This is a good squad with a mix of both young players and experienced players to keep a cool head on everyone's shoulders. Though my critique on the selection is some of the back-up players, such as Ben Foster and the exclusion of Carrick, Walker or Ruddy (Though I guess that can't be helped being a Norwich fan) Ben Foster simply put isn't fit to be England's keeper and pales in comparison to other English keepers, I would rather have Forster as the back-up keeper and take Jack Butland to the world cup to gain experience and like the rest of the younger members. The only reason somehow that Foster is in the squad is because he played for Roy when he was managing West Brom, and for me that isn't good enough at the international level, when in the season I personally didn't think he performed well enough. There is some sound reasoning why Carrick exclusion from the squad. The formation which we will play requires 2 holding midfielders (4-2-3-1), and we didn't even take 2 natural holding defensive midfielders. You can argue that Wilshere can fit in that role, but personally I don't think that is his best position though I do believe he will perform that role well but not sure how far we can go with him there. So Carrick being excluded, might indicated we will take another midfielder in the middle to sit alongside Gerrard who is the first team choice in that position, and Roy decided to go with Henderson. You can understand why Henderson, due to the Liverpool partnership they strengthen over the seasons (especially last), but the partnership isn't good enough at this level, especially Henderson who will no doubt in my mind will grow and become a better player in the years to come, just not this world cup. So the choices I would've of picked is either Carrick or Gareth Barry. Both players have performed well in their respective clubs, and appeared multiple times, and match fit. They're also very experienced and disciplined as it's their natural position so they can sit back and defend and look after the back four when the full backs go forward. Granted if we follow Roy method of wanting to give experience to younger players for the next major tournament then Henderson is a reasonable pick, but will play as a back-up player for first picks like Wilshere.
Milner playing right back was okay, but not stable. In this tournament okay isn't good enough and sometimes one mistake is all it takes to be knocked out. Though I like Milner in a winger/midfielder position rather than pushing him down as a defender, I would of taken Kyle Walker as again the natural right back and give competition to Glen Johnson , or Micah Richards, though he's given less playing time at his domestic club and not achieved match fitness. That being all said, we've got a very good attacking team in my opinion with flair and pace, with lots of youth so they can keep running all day even during the high temperatures we'll be facing in Brazil. We also share a similar trait that many people have been saying about Brazil, if Neymar has a good world cup, Brazil will have a good world cup. I believe this applies to us with Rooney, if Rooney has a good world cup, England will have a good world cup. Though we finally answer the age old question of where Rooney plays best (even if we played him as a midfielder and a winger) He seemed jaded now in comparison to his previous performances, and hopefully if we can re-ignite his hunger for the ball and change his attitude to start closing down and chasing the defence, tracking runners, we will do very well if he starts this approach and England will go far. With the inclusion of Ross Barkley, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain we've got plenty of pace to win balls, run behind defences, work the lines, and dribble pass players, with Sturridge up front who's played very well this season who hopes to carry his form into the tournament, and the ever grateful Ricky Lambert who rewards us with goals when given a chance, we've got a good strikers with options as well. This will allow us to transition between formations from maybe a 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) flowing into maybe a 4-3-3 (Potentially 4-2-4). With the pace we can break on the counter attack, expose weakness on the flanks and other teams with a frail back four like Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy (If they play 3 at the back). Roy Hodgson is someone I can believe in what he's doing, a very stable manager with a wealth of experience and a calm head on his shoulder. He's also willing to change formation and bring on the change that is needed if you've seen the latest friendlies and he knows when to make the change which is just as crucial as well.
Overall for this team I'm slightly concern as we do have the hardest group. If we can get out the group with good results and keep momentum going, with some kind draws for us, I expect at least the quarter finals, and hope for semi-finals. The thing is, only South Americans team has ever won a world cup hosted in South America. I believe in this statistic still with the current national teams in display both in South America and Europe.
Brazil is always a deadly team with amazing players who all play for amazing clubs. Their "samba" football will take them far, being host nation as well and accustomed to the climate, I think already it's strongly in their favour to win their group, and potentially the tournament. Anything less than an appearance in the finals would be deemed a failure from their fans, unless they go out in a spectacular fashion with truck-loads of goals. The group is reasonable easy for a team of Brazils calibre.
This was tough, between Croatia and Cameroon. Real Madrid star man Luka Mordic will be the leading player who will lead them as far as the team can go. Mordic will become the main playmaker and help bring out the best of his team mates with his creativity. They started their campaign quite shaky but qualified strong, and if Mordic can stay fit, I think 2nd spot is easily attainable. They'll have to cope with first day defeat at the hands of Brazil on the opening match, and stay focused against both Cameroon with star man Eto and Mexico with their resilience.
Spain still looks like the same world cup winning squad with the winning play style and mentality. They must not become complacent though, one sour result and they could finish unfavourable 2nd in their group against both Chile and Netherlands. The defending champions will have their work cut out for them as last tournament 2nd place Netherlands will come back for revenge most probably, but they do have a strong winning streak coming into this world cup.
They'll have to pick their heads back up and start again, after suffering painful defeats in latter stages of these major tournaments. Netherlands are gifted with multiple gifted players and leading them their all-time leading scorer Van Persie and Robben , they can expect to do well in the tournament (Provided they stay fit). Netherlands will also need to learn how to bring the best with a mix of both their younger players and their experienced players.
Group C (Really tough to call)
Columbia will also have a slight edge over its competitors in the group stage when already being used to the temperature and climate, especially in the jungle (Literally). Falcao is injured and out of the squad. This shouldn't faze the nation and have good alternative strikers who perform well, though untested on the big stage, with also the notion that their other star players actually perform better without Falcao, James Rodriguez. Though it might be true in Ligue 1, if it can transfer over to the world stage, then Columbia should finish strong as everyone is beatable in their group.
The only reason why Ivory Coast won't make 2nd place is because they've never performed on the biggest stage, even with their golden generation. Now older with less stamina and fitness, I don't think they can keep up with the demands of the world cup. Japan on the other hand will rest its hope on their in-form European players. Kagawa, Okazaki, Nagamoto, Honda, Nagamoto. Impressive result with Netherlands, Belgium and Ghana show they have the ability to compete with the bigger teams.
Group D (By god so tough to call)
Italy is a very solid and good team, with strengths in all departments. Italy always do poorly in the run-up to the tournament with friendlies, so they come into the tournament with everyone counting them out, and then suddenly performing very well and getting far. Italy will know their key matches and know how to play out their needed points/clean sheets.
Right I cheated a little, because this group is has basically 3 key matches that decides who will come out on top. Essentially for England is, if they can beat Italy, then the last 2 games will seem less important and will therefore less pressure (We always perform worse with added pressure).
Uruguay has been graced with great strikers and one man in particular Luis Saurez, who seemed to just score for fun. If they play their best, all the teams in the group will have trouble defending, and any result is within their grasp.
While they may have many injuries as of late, they still have an abundance of quality in the squad to see past everyone in the group comfortably. Their only worries are how far they can reach with an injury hit squad like theirs. Though they will have to achieve harmony to avoid a repeat of history which was a detriment both on-pitch performance and off the pitch relationship between both players and managers.
With their physical and fast play style and being accustomed to the climate of this world cup will muscle their way past the other weaker teams in the group. Antio Valencia being their star man in the squad has to hope he doesn't get impeded by his action in the friendly against England. Christian Benitez death was a tragedy during their campaign to qualify, but have used it as an inspiration to make sure they succeed.
Argentina has been blessed with a holy trinity of strikers. Messi, Higuain and Aguero, with already exceptional supporting acts like Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria and Mascherano. Arguably the most potent attacking team in the tournament through their lightning counter attacks and movement. I personally would say this team have the 2nd highest chance of winning the world cup, and will show why throughout the group stage and later in the knockout rounds.
What a dream for the nation, and their debut on the biggest tournament in world football. I also think they can keep dreaming into the last 16, though they will have to work hard and stay focused throughout the groups, against their group members. They're a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, with strong attacking presence with attacking football, it will an enjoyable tournament for the fans.
A team with almost a star in every position and department, with old guard Klose leading the striking force and close to writing his name down in the history books for both his country and world cup. With such creative and attacking midfielders as well who have been scoring plenty, they'll surely be a force to be reckon and steady, reliable players in the back with tactical knowledge. Now that they've matured more since their fantastic showing in last tournament what once was a young promising German team have now become the reality of a potential world cup winning team.
Team Ronaldo (I kid) With Ronaldo on your team, everything is possible and you can dream for anything. Portugal has placed so much faith in the legendary player and he's rose to the occasion. Ronaldo taking his team almost single handedly to the world cup with impressive performances in the qualifiers and play-offs to Rio. The squad definitely has a particular pedigree within some of their players who play at high club level football. Portugal can cause upset and nothing is out of the question with the best footballer in the world.
A team filled to the brim with talent who are peppered in the best clubs across the world. Players like Eden Hazard who can create and score for his team just like his club Chelsea. Kompany at the back will lead and guide his team to as far as the team can potentially go with his outstanding performances for Man City and defensive capabilities as a centre back. A team many consider a dark horse for this tournament and there's plenty of reason why. They'll have to perform though especially against Russia who probably the toughest group member.
Former England boss Capello has brought his personality and play style into the nation, discipline and organisation. Russia may not have the best players in the squad that would be renown, but with Capello at the helm, they play effective and defensive football without many mistakes. Russia has enough in the squad to be able to see off South Korea and Algeria methodically and ensuring the needed results, with Belgium as their only real opponent to test their abilities.
My final thoughts and predicted champions
I know I've mentioned the climate a few times and for good reason. They're playing in the FRIGGIN AMAZON JUNGLE! This will definitely hamper every player who are not used to such humidity and temperatures, and will play poorly in comparison to their usual self. You need to be at your very best just to have a chance at the world cup, and if the team is not prepared enough to play in Manaus, then they will surely pay the price. As I mentioned before, only South American teams have ever won the world cup when hosted in South America. I still believe this statistic will still go on. So my choices are either Brazil, or Argentina. Brazils are favourites to win the tournament, but you never know in the crazy world of football, and if Neymar doesn't perform, then they will surely be in trouble when they are matched against a more versatile and stronger team. While Argentina have that explosive firepower , of which the any country would be green with envy to have, could simply just blast everyone away with the sheer attacking prowess , with fortunate results and draws then winning the world cup would be an attainable dream for this nation.
P.S Hey thanks for reading, if you notice any mistakes please point them out, I think I proof read enough late at night lol. Anyway if you want more football stuff from me please say so, I'm more than happy to do keep writing about the world cup as we go along, and give my opinion on some of the matches, teams, players or managers. Anyway thanks for reading, totally won't clash with E3 or anything lol right? Love to see if you guys have any opinions on the world cup and we can discuss, or you can write and I'll comment!