With 2 days to go almost every conversation in offices, school, pubs, coffee shops and other assorted venues is starting to focus entirely around the 19th Football World Cup. The anticipation will have reached fever pitch by the time South Africa kick off against Mexico on Friday afternoon. Everyone already has their favourites but in terms of realistic contenders I think there are 3. The reigning European Champions Spain, the 5 times Champions Brazil and the neurotic geniuses Holland.
The way the draw has been done Spain could face Brazil in the 2nd round which is a mouth watering prospect. Their choice of goalkeepers alone sets them apart from the rest in terms of ability with Reina and Valdez fighting with Casillas for the number 1 shirt. The defence will be lead by Puyol and Pique who have formed a formidable defence this season and know each others games inside out. The midfield boasts the top 2 midfielders in the world in Xavi and Iniesta who are ably supported by Silva, Fabregas, Navas, Alonso, Busquets and Pedro; the only shame is that they will only play 3 or 4 of them. In attack they have 2 of the top 3 strikers in the world in Torres and Villa so it’s hard to see them struggling to score goals.
Although Brazil are in Group G, they should emerge as the top team. They aren’t the free flowing Brazil side of the 1970s but Dunga has managed to gel some hard working players along with Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano. In goal they have arguably the best keeper in the world in Julio Cesar and will have Lucio organising the defence in front of him. Dunga will have to choose between the best 2 attacking full-backs in the game in Alves and Maicon. The midfield will be solid and efficient at the base and will supply the flair players such as Kaka and Robinho to feed the strikers.
The Dutch are always a mystery when it comes to international competitions. They possess the technique, flair and organisation required to win these tournaments but always find a way to crash out when it seems like they are destined to win the event. Going into the tournament they have 2 of the most in form players in Europe in Sneijder and Robben who are capable of changing games in a moment. The return of Van Persie will also be a massive boost for the nation, although his career has never reached its potential due to his injuries he is still a wonderful player when on song. They also have steel in midfield in De Jong and Van Bommel who won’t shirk out of any challenges.
I cannot see anyone beyond these teams challenging for the title on the 11th July, if I was asked to pick one I would have my money on Holland. Spain have the best squad and the easiest group but their progress will involve beating all the other leading contenders of they are to make it. If the Dutch can avoid in fighting that we have seen in previous competitions 2010 could be their year.