Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The countdown is almost over. As of today (Wednesday, May 28th), we are fifteen days away from the FIFA World Cup. Like an expectant child on Christmas Eve, June 12th is a date I have been counting down towards for a long while.
When I moved to Rio back in 2010, this global celebration of the planet’s most popular sport was a personal target, both professionally and personally. Four years in the Cidade Maravilhosa has taught me to consider the game I love from various new angles, but right now there is only one question on football fanatics’ lips the world over:- just who is going to win the 2014 World Cup?
As sporting analysis has intensified over recent weeks, four firm favorites have emerged from the pack of 32. But, without forgetting traditional stalwarts such as Uruguay, Italy and France, no side is facing more pressure than the hosts.
It is impossible to approach a World Cup tournament without considering Brazil as one of the forerunners for the crown. For starters, they are five-time world champions, their most recent success coming in 2002, when current boss Luiz Felipe Scolari was again at the helm of the Seleção ship.
There are a plethora of reasons why one would think it imperative Brazil lift the trophy. First, they must exorcise the demons of 1950 FIFA World Cup which still hang gloomily over the country’s glorious footballing heritage.
That year, they were considered a nigh on certainty to lift a first World Cup crown after thumping Sweden and Spain 7-1 and 6-1 respectively. And despite taking the lead against Uruguay – with no knock-out phase and only two group stages, a draw would have been sufficient to give Brazil the title – they were undone by an Alcides Ghiggia strike, which claimed a famous 2-1 victory for the underdogs.
The prospect of political protest during the World Cup has also been well documented. To lift the country, a first World Cup win in twelve years may be the perfect remedy.
But there will be numerous obstacles blocking their path. Neighbors Argentina cannot be ignored. Boasting probably the most powerful offensive unit in the world, the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria, if they can get their side motoring, could well drive their team’s bid for a first international trophy since lifting the Copa America in 1993.
Spain made history by winning the 2008 European Championships, the 2010 World Cup and the Euros again in 2012. The players may be aging but they still offer a huge threat as they chase a fourth successive title.
And the young German side that took the world by storm in 2010 can now offer a more sustained challenge. Having bowed out at the semi-finals in the last World Cup, as well as at the Euros, will they now take that extra step further?
Who is going to win the FIFA World Cup? The simple answer is I don’t know. Nobody does.
It’s why hundreds of millions tune in to watch what is, as a contest, some of the most enthralling entertainment you can come across. There is, to put it mildly, no telling what might happen; finding out our new world champions is going to be one hell of a ride.