On 12 June 2014, 32 of the worlds greatest football teams and 500,000 die hard fans will descend on Rio de Janeiro to compete in the greatest show on earth for the greatest prize in world football: The FIFA World Cup. This monumental spectacle will be viewed by an TV audience of approximately 2 billion people, nearly one third of the worlds population, and all of them will be hoping their team can be the ones to lift the legendary Jules Rimet Trophy. However, which teams actually have the right tools in their locker to be able to realistically wrestle the trophy away from Spain? I’ve been looking at the top contenders that could potentially take the title of “Worlds Best” away from La Roja’s:
“Die Mannschaft” have to be regarded as one of the favourites for the tournament due to their unwavering stoicism as a team and their ability to field quality players all under the age of 30.
Strengths: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze.
Weaknesses: The German “kids” have very large shoes to fill and that’s a lot of pressure on young shoulders.
La Albiceleste will always be regarded as one of the favourites for the competition due to the daunting forward line they can field! They also have a certain, rather skillful, diminutive Barcelona forward they can call on . . . . .
Strengths: Lionel Messi. Enough said.
Weaknessses: Inconsistent, shaky defense that lacks cohesion means Sabella has to keep playing Javier Mascherano as a center back as he is yet to find a first choice pairing.
The perennial underachievers of previous tournaments, the Dutch are the archetypal footballing enigma. With a wealth of talent at their disposal they really should be doing better with just one final reached in the last ten major tournaments.
Strengths: Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Klass Jan Huntelaar,
Weaknesses: Similar to Argentina, Holland have a weak defense. In-fighting between players hasn’t helped matters either.
The joint favourites for the trophy, they get the slight edge over Spain due to home country advantage. Brazil have just about everything needed to win the tournament.
Strengths: Mano Menezes has a solid spine in his team with Thiago Silva, Kaka, Oscar and Neymar. He also has attacking full-backs to complement the forward line in Dani Alves and Marcelo.
Weaknesses: Brazil are still far from a cohesive unit with Menezes’ greatest challenge being to amalgamate the samba flair with more grit and determination when they are losing.
Recently back to where they rightly belong among the World’s elite, Uruguay have an excellent front line but may yet not actually qualify having had a disastrous qualifying round.
Strengths: Luis Suarez, Gaston Ramirez and Edinson Cavani as a forward line. These guys on their day are unplayable, just get the ball to them and watch the magic.
Weaknesses: Take out Nicolas Lodeiro and Walter Gargano and the squad is a little bereft of quality midfielders to supply the ammo for the front men. The defense is also a little short with Coates suffering from a lack of playing time.
The fact that the Azzurri have the mentality that is needed to succeed in Rio is not in dispute, it’s their possible lack of depth up front that may cost them.
Strengths: Mentally the Italians are all tough and disciplined and the fact that 8 of the current Juventus squad are Italian only adds to their cohesion as a team.
Weaknesses: No real weaknesses as such, if there is one it’s that they will only have Mario Balotelli and Stephen El Shaarawy as forwards in 2014 and if Balotelli is true to form his dismissal could hinder them up front.
The dark horse of the tournament, Columbia are blessed with some incredible emerging attacking talent and are looking to qualify for the first time since 1998.
Strengths: Radamel Falcao. Perhaps the best striker in world football right now, Falcao possesses strength, finishing, vision and excellent aerial ability making him one to watch. James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez are the other stand out forwards completing the attacking trio.
Weaknesses: Goalkeepers. David Ospina and Faryd Mondragon play for Nice and Deportivo Cali respectively which means, in the nicest possible terms, they aren’t of the highest quality.
Portugal are certainly a talented team no doubt about it, however they are a team in transition at this point in time. With some younger players being incorporated into the team currently it may be a little too soon to call them genuine contenders. They do however have the second best player on the planet at the minute and perhaps the best finisher . . . . . .
Strengths: Cristiano Ronaldo. A scoring record of 189 goals in 187 games speaks volumes and provided he can carry this form into 2014, Portugal will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
Weaknesses: This is a team in transition and the young shoulders of Custodio, Silvestre Varela and Nelson Oliveira may be asked to shoulder a little too much pressure too soon.
So there we have the main contenders for the 2014 tournament, I for one will be watching and although I wont actually get to bask on the Copacabana beach with a chilled mojito in my hand, I will certainly be there in spirit! GAME ON!!