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The best festival of the summer is on the horizon



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A sea of Oranje, waves of Azzuri and Mexicans, the samba brigade and the Vuvezula army are on their way…

Four years have passed but this is brand new to me, as if the World Cup never happened before. A festival of football is on the way that I’ll never forget.

Stadiums chock full of life, nations that may even breathe new life, teams that can become inspirational heroes and believe that this is their time, and the blistering sunshine all combine to create one big almighty party.

The Vuvezula will be everywhere this summer, you can hate it, or get used to it and go with the flow. One thing, its not going away. That will be the South African symbol of the tournament, and surely everybody hopes they can do the improbable and get out of their group. If this happens, the whole tournament will not just be a success for the host country, but as a whole. Whoever your team is, you should have a place in your heart for Bafana Bafana.

Unglorified countries such as New Zealand, Honduras, North Korea and Slovakia have made it to the world cup beyond heir wildest dreams, either finally taking a place at the centre of the universe or making a long overdue return.

There are football federations that feel re-evaluated by being here, such as Algeria, conspired out of contention in 1982 and long gone, Greece who last made an appearance in 1994, Denmark who like to make their presence felt, and Uruguay, a team whose previous success must hurt from not being a part of it all, such as in 2006.

There are teams who will be eager to make the most of their potential that has always shown on this stage, and finally achieve what they want. Teams like Mexico who have always had something in their locker in times past, Serbia, who have gone through radical transformation but still have the capability of producing stars of technical and aggressive brilliance, and those perennial underachievers, Spain.

There will be the continents local boys. In previous years we have seen the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon inspire the world over and nearly go the whole way, Likewise Senegal, who nearly bettered the former in 2002 shocking everybody to a place in the quarter finals, along the way beating favorites and world champs France. The hugely talented Nigeria side of 1998, a team who could have actually gone the whole distance, however sadly lost their way.

The most vibrant teams in Africa, Ghana and Ivory Coast, compete in arguably the toughest groups of the lot, but you can be sure they aren’t here to make up the numbers. If they go far, it should shock no one.

There will be dark horses. Might be Japan, Paraguay, Chile, USA or even Slovenia. May even be someone else, it’s impossible to speculate until the big kick off.

Of course, the teams likely to make up the end of the tournament are the names that get thrown about like confetti.

The champions of the world, Italy, eager to show the critics they aren’t past it and prove that they are the best when it really comes to crunch time and deservedly still hold the cup in their hands.

The Netherlands cheered on by their fervent Oranje support. The site of their following is an inspiration in itself, but a compact unit that may have learned from past mistakes with a sprinkling of attacking brilliance may just achieve what they yearn to do.

The Portuguese have banished their regular absence from the competition and replaced it with a real presence in the last decade, and a certain star player can take them the whole way.

The German national team, now recognized for their talent instead of their dogged reputation of old, feel no doubt overdue and have some vibrant young exciting players and may take the tournament by storm.

Another national treasure supported by an array of talented strikers and play-makers under the supervision of a national god may be enough to take Argentina back to the top. If they could play to their strengths and field all their attackers, they would be a shoe in.

It’s hard to believe that a France side littered with talent are in the state they are in now. Love them or hate them, only a fool could completely write them off.

Under expert direction and with some genuine match winners, England may even finally put the ghosts of 66 behind them and write a new chapter.

Without a doubt though, the two favorites are crystal clear.

Brazil may have a defensive minded coach who has made some shocking exemptions, but their samba style is still capable of destroying all in their path, and World Cup winning captain and manager Dunga may just know what he is doing after all. The Selecao’s recent World Cup history may be an omen for all else concerned, 94 win, 98 loss, 02 win, 06 loss, 2010 win?

La Seleccion not just have an intimidating nickname, but on paper they have the most intimidating squad around. Thankfully, this is not a free wheeling hacking side, but an awesome display of technical brilliance in midfield and attack,aided by a super-powered goalkeeper, a compact defense, and in reserve it seems a whole team who could slot in to the starting eleven easily. They no longer go into a world cup with a dark horses tag, the European champions are in the face of everybody.

Pele, Garrincha, Just Fontaine, Eusebio, Bobby’s Moore and Charlton, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Grzegorz Lato, Gerd Muller, Rudi Krol, Jairzinho, Tostao, Mario Kempes, Passarela, Paul Breitner, Tardelli, Rossi, Conti, Zico and Socrates, Maradona, Platini, Lineker, Matthaus, Gascoigne, Roberto Baggio, Stoitchkov, Romario, Zidane, Suker, Bergkamp, Owen, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ballack, Klose, Pirlo, Cannavaro…

This is a collection of names who have owned world cups past and others who have seen their careers go into orbit and become one of the faces of football. They will all be remembered for their past exploits.

Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Fabiano, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Bastian Schweinstiger, Michael Essien, Kaka, Robinho, Daniele De Rossi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribery, Gourcuff. Who will join the forementioned names. Time will tell.