It’s time for the best / biggest / most corporate / most corrupt (delete as applicable) football tournament in the world! Welcome to Brazil 2014…..
I’m not going to go into the murkier side of things here – suffice to say I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the 2018 decision was as dodgy as the 2022 one – because that’s being talked about all over the interweb already. Instead, I am going to take on the mantle of my late namesake Paul the Psychic Octopus!
Here’s my take on what we will see over the next few weeks:
GROUP A – BRAZIL, MEXICO, CROATIA, CAMEROON
I can’t really see too many upsets in this group. Last time out, South Africa became the first host nation not to make it out of the Group stages, and there’s no way that’ll happen again this time round. Brazil will win all of their games, and after that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. I can see it coming down to goal difference, with Mexico getting the nod for me in second place.
GROUP B – SPAIN, NETHERLANDS, CHILE, AUSTRALIA
On paper, this is a win for Spain, with Netherlands and Chile fighting for second. Spain usually have an early hiccup, though, so it’s not so clear cut. I still expect them to win the group, with Netherlands coming second despite Chile’s home continent advantage. Australia will be entertaining and the neutral’s favourite, before getting the early flight home.
GROUP C – COLOMBIA, GREECE, IVORY COAST, JAPAN
Group C is without doubt the most open group, whilst also being the weakest by some margin. There are no clear favourites, and so it comes down to individual match ups. First games see Colombia play Greece (which should favour the South American side) whilst Japan and Ivory Coast will play out a draw. In game 2, I can see another draw between Colombia and Ivory Coast, whilst Japan will beat Greece, putting the Europeans out. Ivory coast have the advantage of playing Greece last, but will need a win to get through, whilst a draw between Colombia and Japan will put three teams on 5 points, and it’ll all come down to who puts more goals past Greece. In the absence of any science, I’ll go for Ivory Coast winning the group ahead of Japan.
GROUP D – URUGUAY, ENGLAND, ITALY, COSTA RICA
England will hopefully benefit from two things: Italy being notoriously slow starters, and Roy Hodgson getting heatstroke and picking the right eleven players. If these things happen, I can see the Italians joining Costa Rica on the plane home, whilst we finish second behind Uruguay. We need to get at least one win against Uruguay or Italy in order to make our final game against the group minnows worthwhile, and meeting Italy in the first game counts in our favour.
GROUP E – SWITZERLAND, FRANCE, ECUADOR, HONDURAS
France can count themselves lucky. Having scraped into the finals via the playoffs, they have secured a group that should be a stroll in the park for them. As long as they keep out of the way of the Honduran’s over-the-top tackling, they should come top of the group. Ecuador’s success in getting a draw against England last week was mainly down to defensive lapses (or as I like to call them, “Chris Smalling”) and so I can see both of the European teams getting through, with France at the head of the group ahead of Switzerland.
GROUP F – ARGENTINA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, IRAN, NIGERIA
As with Brazil in Group A, this one is a clear Argentina win. Iran are the also-rans in the group, and so second place will come down to the game between Bosnia and Nigeria. It’s being played down south, and so the conditions won’t favour either side particularly. Gut feeling is a Nigeria win, with a flash of brilliance being the difference that sends the Europeans home.
GROUP G – GERMANY, PORTUGAL, USA, GHANA
The Germans will fancy themselves to win the group, and tend to grind out the results they need in the early stages. Ghana are a good side, but I can’t see them breaking down the other two sides easily. Portugal are an enigma, and have perennially under-performed at World Cups. For some reason, I’m backing USA to snatch second, because I can see tears for Ronaldo yet again…
GROUP H – BELGIUM, RUSSIA, ALGERIA, KOREA REPUBLIC
Belgium are many people’s tip to do well this time round, but they need to be on their toes to get out of the group. Whilst Algeria are clearly the weakest side, in South Korea and Russia they face different but equally difficult opposition. The Russians will be strong and disciplined, and the Koreans will move the ball very quickly and will pose a very real goal threat. Because tournament football tends to favour teams that are attack-minded over those that are ultra-cautious, I’m going to go for a Belgium / South Korea 1-2.
That will make my last 16 line up as follows:
BRAZIL v NETHERLANDS
IVORY COAST v ENGLAND
MEXICO v SPAIN
URUGUAY v JAPAN
FRANCE v NIGERIA
GERMANY v SOUTH KOREA
SWITZERLAND v ARGENTINA
BELGIUM v USA
Straight knock-out from now on changes the game entirely. All-or-nothing tends to lead to more cautious displays, as every mistake punished could be the difference between going through or going home.
I am going to pick these sides to go through: Brazil, England, Spain, Uruguay, France, Germany, Argentina, and Belgium. If the last 16 line up works out as it is above, I really can’t see any upsets. Possibly USA or Ivory Coast have the best chance, but even so, I’d be surprised.
So my quarter-final line up pits BRAZIL against ENGLAND, FRANCE against GERMANY, SPAIN against URUGUAY and ARGENTINA against BELGIUM.
Some of these are straight-forward. Brazil, with all the patriotism in the world, will beat England. At home, in a world Cup quarterfinal, in the coastal heat of Fortaleza? No question. Germany will prove too strong for France, and Argentina will beat Belgium. Spain v Uruguay is an interesting one, and it’s the most difficult to call. I’m going to go with Spain simply because they have the pedigree.
At semi-final time, we’re looking at BRAZIL v GERMANY, which is a match up of two of the games most successful nations. It’ll pivot on whether Brazil can counter the organisation of the Germans. I think they will, and so Brazil should take their place in the final against the winner of the other semi, between ARGENTINA and SPAIN. Again, this is a really close one, and my head says that Argentina will win through. However, I have a hunch that they will come unstuck. When Spain turn it on, they can be irresistible, and that’s why I’m going for them.
So – a BRAZIL v SPAIN final…. European sides have never won a World Cup in American countries. And Brazil have home advantage. So it’s a Brazil win… right?
I’m going to say…. yes. Despite a very close game, I’m gonna say 3-1 to Brazil in 90 minutes.
So there you have it. My World Cup Prediction. Which means I win nothing from the office sweep-stake, but hopefully will perform better than those smug
buggers pundits on the telly!