United bloggers unite to predict the outcome of the World Cup
Ah, The World Cup. It is undoubtedly the biggest, most-anticipated sports competition in the world. So, as clever as I am, I decided that I’d invite the best United bloggers on the net to come together and make some predictions. I have to, unfortunately, settle for this lot. Yolkie from Stretty Rant, Pos from When the Seagulls… and Hakan from Between the Lines. So, without further ado, here’s our predictions…
· World Cup Winners?
ManUtd24: I’d go for one of the ‘Perennial Underachievers’ (gosh, how I hate when people say that). That’s either Spain or the Netherlands, though the former is a rather safe bet and a boring choice. Brazil’s another obvious one and much, in my eyes anyway, will rest on Fabiano, whose uncanny knack of goals and style of football is comparable to that of World Cup legend Ronaldo (the fat one). However their football is rather dull, no longer sexy, and I believe that Dunga had missed a trick by not including Milan’s Ronaldinho in his squad. If England don’t win this tournament due to some metatarsal-related reason, I hope the winner is a team that plays an entertaining brand of football. Not Italy or Brazil, then. France will crash out of the group stages and Argentina will most probably succumb in the last eight. I’ll plump for Spain. Beating England in a penalty shoot-out, of course, along the way.
Yolkie: I’m half tempted to go with France.. awful build up, cheated to get in, they seem charmed, but under Domenech I hope that the comedy show continues. It’s wonderful that Evra is captain and there are some great talented individuals but I can’t predict a team that loses to China days before the tournament as winners. England without Ferdinand and sticking with shoehorning an out of form Gerrard and a glory hog Lampard into the team won’t win it – I think the Maradona factor will derail the Argentinian push, too. So, regrettably, it’ll be a run of the mill prediction, and I’ll plump for Spain just ahead of Brazil because their squad is stronger, full of players in top form and in Casillas, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa, have arguably the top 5 players in their positions in the world. I can’t believe I haven’t even considered the holders; but I thought Italy’s win in 2006 was the last hurrah of that generation.
Pos: In terms of raw, outstanding talent and therefore who should win it based on that, I’d like to see Argentina winning it (yes, Argentina!!). But as we all know from many a World Cup (Cruyff’s Holland missing out in ’74 and ’78, as well as Spain’s consistent underachievement in the tournament) it really doesn’t work like that. Spain are obviously looking good and are the bookies favourites, with Brazil not far behind; so I think realistically, it’ll be either one of those.
Hakan: Spain. The best and most well balanced team in the world over the last few years. Truly outstanding midfield, and Villa/Torres is the world’s best twin spearhead. I hope their kind of football will triumph.
· Surprise Package?
ManUtd24: I genuinely feel that Uruguay could spring a major surprise and make it as far as the quarter finals – or further. Diego Forlan, you could argue, single-handedly won the Europa League for Atletico Madrid and the two-time winners will rely on him to take them to the last eight. The other two Diego’s in defence, Lugano and Godin are solid and reliable but could have their work cut out as Uruguay’s three goalkeepers only have about 20 caps between them. Serbia is a name often sprayed around but let me be the first person to say they won’t even get past the group stages. Ivory Coast, another candidate, will make it as far as the second round at most, certainly can’t expect Aruna Dindane to come up with goals in the absence of Didier Drogba. So Uruguay. Maybe because they have a funny name.
Yolkie: This would have been Ivory Coast before Drogba’s injury. I don’t think I can squeeze Germany or Portugal into this category fairly so I’ll go with Serbia – a great, well drilled defence used to playing together, some wonderful creativity in midfield and firepower that can be described as “not bad at all”. I’ll stop short of predicting how far they will go; should they advance from the group stages though I imagine they’ll be difficult to break down. They could meet England in the second round and if they do, don’t put it past the Serbians to knock us out.
Pos: I’d like to say Ivory Coast would finally be the surprise package they’ve been promising us they would be (Drogba, Toure x2, Kalou etc). But after a poor World Cup in ’06, where they were supposed to give group members Argentina and Holland a good run for their money (instead finishing 3rd, losing to both teams along the way), they will probably struggle just as badly this time round with Portugal and Brazil getting in the way of their progression. I’d go for Uruguay therefore. I’m definitely not saying they could win it, but with an alright group that could potentially see them finishing top (assuming they overcome the unpredictable France, and Suarez and Forlan play as well as they can), they could have a surprisingly easy route to the quarters and beyond.
Hakan: Holland. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking, but ever since the 70’s I always want Holland to do well. Very encouraging performances by Sneijder and Robben in the later stages of the Champions League.
· Top Goalscorer?
ManUtd24: Jamie Carragher. That’s if we’re counting own goals. Pundits alike will back David Villa for the Golden Boot, probably as many of his goals could come in the group stages where Spain face relatively poor opposition. If I were a betting man, I’d plump for Luis Fabiano. Kim Myong-gil (North Korea’s ‘no.1’) will surely regret the day he ever came across him when they do face each other in the group match. I’ll go Fabiano.
Yolkie: Probably best to study the groups for this one and see where strikers could “fill their boots” if they were selected. England have Algeria and Slovenia so there is a case for Rooney (if he plays, if qualification is already assured by the Slovenia game) while Luis Fabiano could, with the greatest of respect to North Korea, rattle a few past them. The heart says Rooney but the head says David Villa, with relatively soft defences in the group stage and their chances of progression, he looks more likely. I wish I would name “A N OTHER” because the golden boot always seems to go to someone nobody previously predicted.
Pos: Always a tough one. Villa and Messi would be the obvious choices, yet who knows what the likes of Higuain and Klose can do. Realistically however, I can’t see past Villa continuing his fine goalscoring form for Spain and finishing with the golden boot as he did 2 years ago in the Euro’s.
Hakan: Van Persie. He hasn’t played much this season, and I feel this will be an advantage. Any top scorer depends on good service, and van Persie will receive this from Sneijder and Robben (if fit).
· Best Player?
ManUtd24: It has to be one of the two midfield marvels in the Spanish team. Never has a nation possessed so much talent in one position, so it seems a fairly obvious choice to go for either of Messrs Xavi and Iniesta. Both are capable of doing something spectacular and Spain will almost certainly progress to the latter stages (talking semi-finals or finals) of this tournament if either these two can stay fit. That’s not exactly assured – both having spent time on the sidelines in the previous year.
Yolkie: This is the first World Cup played in the generation that is truly appreciating the art of the previously understated central midfielder. This might just be the time that Andres Iniesta, still regarded as something of a second fiddle to the wondrous Xavi, underlines his position as the best in the world at what he does.
Pos: Unquestionably it’s the team(s) that reaches the final who produce the player of the tournament. Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney…which ever one of those teams holds their nerve to reach the final (assuming at least one of Argentina, Portugal, Brazil or England do), their star man will undoubtedly be one of those.
Hakan: Xavi. If you want to know why, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq_zRoGI5mA
· And how will England fare…?
ManUtd24: I wouldn’t expect them to under-perform like they did in Germany 2006, but that could just be me (once again) believing that they could go all the way and lift the Jules Rimet trophy. And guess what? They will go to the semi finals. England have probably got the easiest route to the last four, potentially taking on Ghana or Serbia in the last 16, then France or the Argies in the last eight before taking on Brazil on the semis. All of this could be achieved if, of course, they avoid penalties. It also depends on Wayne Rooney’s fitness and, arguably more importantly, that Jamie Carragher is no way near the starting line up. Optimism is the name of the game…
Yolkie: They will advance from the group stage, even if the USA game will be far more difficult than people anticipate. I do think Fabio got the team working far better in qualification and showed he is no nonsense in selection when he – rightly – omitted Theo Walcott from the 23, even if he did pick Jamie Carragher. Thankfully even with Rio’s injury Carragher shouldn’t get anywhere near starting when it matters; even so, I just see the norm. Maybe the clever management will squeeze a semi final out of them but Capello is about to learn that no matter how much you do well in qualification, when tournament time comes around, Lampard and Gerrard are only interested in being heroes, to the detraction of Rooney’s contribution to the team. I’ll go for an optimistic semi final defeat based on the combination of opponents they could face to get to that stage.
Pos: Hmm. They will top their group and hopefully see off the second placed team in group D to reach the Quarters. So on that note I can see England reaching the Semi’s. As long as Rooney, Lampard et al perform as well together as they do for their clubs, they could easily go further.
Hakan: Round of 16. My main concern is that England are more dependent on one player (Rooney) than any other team, except Ivory Coast (Drogba). Opponents will know this and Rooney will receive some rough treatment. Furthermore, the defence looks vulnerable with Ferdinand out, Barry injured and Terry not back to his best. James, Green and Hart are good keepers, but none of them is world class. The opening game against USA could prove a lot more difficult than most people think. I expect England to progress from the group, but they will struggle when they come up against stronger opponents.