For all the thrills and spills that club football brings us each and every season it doesn’t come close to the passion I personally feel when it comes to the World Cup Finals.
Perhaps it’s because my background as a professional footballer numbed my feelings and allegiances to one specific club? After all, had I been a devout supporter in my teens and twenties instead, I am sure I’d now be experiencing the buzz that comes with feeling undying love for one particular side. But I haven’t. And because of that, whenever my country is playing football it feels special. The World Cup finals are subsequently of course, the ultimate adrenalin rush for somebody like me.
I simply can’t wait for next summer.
This week we’ve seen the list of nations guaranteed a place in the finals grow to 23 and in little over a month’s time after the play-offs we will finally know the names of the 32 countries who will do battle to be crowned number ones in South Africa.
What do we make of the teams already there?
To be perfectly honest, I think this is somewhat of a ‘weak’ World Cup. Who are the stand-out teams? Who are the star players going to be? In both cases I feel the short lists are small.
Looking at the nations, Spain look the strongest side to me and their 5-2 demolition of a strong Bosnian outfit this week, shorn of some of their brightest talents, underlined their credentials.
England arguably leads the remainder of the European challenge but with so much responsibility resting on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney their bid is laced with fragility. It’s hard to find a compelling case for Germany, Italy, France and Portugal too (should the latter pair make it through the play-offs) as they seem to be teams who are on the slide. Packed with experience yes, but all four teams lack X Factor and the unpredictability of talented new young players. The Dutch have the flair element and could do OK but we all know that Holland usually self destruct when it matters most!
Brazil appear to be the best bet from South America’s challenge as they have become hugely efficient under Dunga’s tutorship but their qualification displays won’t have frightened anyone. In their favour is the fact that they have match winners aplenty in Kaka, Pato and Fabiano but there are elements in their make up that would give reason to cast doubt on their credentials.
The Asian, American and African contingent will no doubt spring a surprise or too in South Africa but do any of them have a team that you honestly believe can win the tournament? No, I don’t think they do.
When I look at individual players, it seems to me that the pool of truly special world class players who could dominate the tournament is an elite few. Lionel Messi, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba are all special players but outside of them who can leave us spellbound? There aren’t too many superstars out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it could be the greatest tournament ever in terms of exciting attacking matches, flavour and spectacle but in terms of the overall standard – I’m not sure it’s going to be that fantastic.
It’s a World Cup that is very much up for grabs and for that reason it would be folly to rule out Fabio Capello’s England completely.
Whether it’s weak or not, we are all going to love it. Bring it on!
Which teams would you pick as favourites to win the World Cup? Write in to the Soccerlens Podcast (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment below.