By: Patrick Sisbarro
With the Confederations Cup now over and World Cup qualifiers in full swing, many people are wondering who’s the favorite to win the World Cup. Brazil took the Confederations Cup by storm and posted an impressive 3-0 result against the defending World Cup champions, Spain. The Spanish have had a disappointing year, with FC Barcelona being dominated in the Champions League by the German side, Bayern Munich, and watching the Brazilians dismantle them in the Confederations Cup final. Does this signal the fall of the Spanish as the elite club and national team? In my opinion the door has not closed on the Spanish national team’s dynasty. As it stands, it’s just one loss. Just as I think that Brazil’s win, as dominant as it was, does not make them the favorite either. Winning teams find it difficult to change, while losing teams have the extra motivation and incentive. Will Brazil be able to handle adversity in the World Cup? This leads us to the focus of this article: who is the favorite to win the World Cup?
The Italians had a disappointing World Cup in 2010, losing in the group stage. However, with many players in their prime of their careers, they look set to make another deep run in the World Cup. The Azzurri had an impressive tournament, placing 3rd without Mario Balotelli, Ignazio Abate, and an injured Andrea Pirlo. The Italians limped into the semi-final but certainly came to play, by taking Spain to a penalty shoot out. Many would also say that they outplayed Spain the first 90 minutes. Italy puts their mark on the game with their stout defense led by Giorgio Chiellini. Italy is accustomed to not scoring goals and relying on their defense to win the game. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. However, the Italians were broken down several times during the tournament, allowing 10 goals in 5 games. This team is evolving and is relying on their counter attacks controlled by the ageless Andrea Pirlo. They also have a stout offense with Daniel De Rossi, Alessandro Diamanti, Mario Balotelli, and emerging star, El Shaarawy. Italy has proved that when they are at their best, they are very difficult to beat. However, it’s difficult to see them beating the Spanish, Brazilians, or Germans.
2010 World Cup: Lost in the Quarterfinal
Key Players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Oscar, Fred
Before this year’s Confederations Cup, the Brazilian national team had plummeted to 22nd in the FIFA world rankings. This is a staggering number with all the talent on their roster and the expectations of the Brazilian fans. However, Brazil certainly silenced all the doubters this summer by waltzing through the Confederations Cup with virtually unscathed. Brazil was only scored on in 2 of the 5 games and proved that they had a highly potent offense by outscoring opponents by 11 goals throughout the tournament. The captain, Thiago Silva, and veteran Barcelona defender Dani Alves championed Brazil’s defense, while Neymar orchestrated the offense. As a result of their dominant performance in this tournament, Brazil shot up in the FIFA rankings all the way to 9th place. Brazil is a hot team and will feed off the energy of the crowd, since they are the host nation. Shouldn’t all of this make them World Cup favorites? No team that has won the Confederations Cup has ever gone on to win the World Cup. Brazil won the 2009 Confederations Cup, only to lose in the quarterfinal of the World Cup the next summer. Regardless of their disappointment in 2010, I feel that the Brazilian side is capable of breaking the aforementioned statistic. Brazil faced no adversity in their most recent tournament, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it next summer. With the nation behind them, you can expect many goals from this team and a deep run in the World Cup.
2010 World Cup: 1st
Key Players: Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas
Spain is always a safe pick and it definitely would not be a surprise to watch them hoist the trophy next year. Along with being the defending World Cup and EURO champions, the Spanish have six starters who play at the same club, 9 total players from Barcelona, and 65% of the team playing club football in Spain. There is no doubt that this team has familiarity and chemistry. Throughout the 2010 World Cup, 2012 EURO Cup, and this year’s Confederations Cup, Spain has allowed only 7 goals in 18 games. That’s a mere .39 goals a game. In addition, Spain outscored their opponents by 28 goals during those same three tournaments. Spain establishes their style of play early in the match with quick passes, constant possession, and creative midfield play. It’s a rare occasion that Spain gets out-possessed, and many times they will have possession more than two-thirds of a game. When a team has possession of the ball for that much time, it’s difficult to score on them and develop an offensive rhythm. The 3-0 loss to Brazil will rally the Spanish and result in a more motivated team that will be ready for next summer’s World Cup. You can definitely, baring any injuries, expect the Spanish to be in the final.
2010 World Cup: 3rd
Key Players: Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger
The 2010 World Cup saw an extremely young German squad that resulted in a trial-and-error tournament for coach Joachim Low. Shockingly enough, they managed to salvage 3rd place and re-establish themselves as an elite national team. The Germans were able to evade the pressure from the opposing teams and respond with a deadly counter attack. They are very disciplined with their formations and play a hard-working style that proves to be very successful in international tournaments. Now this young German squad has had four years to mature and have become a very powerful force, as evidenced by the Bundesliga’s performance in the Champions League. The ‘cream of the crop’ of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are coming off European dominance as we saw an all-German final in the Champions League. It is hard to see a 7-0 aggregate thumping of Barcelona and a 4-1 victory over Real Madrid as a fluke. Bayern Munich dominated Barcelona in every aspect of the game besides possession, and made it an absolute blitzkrieg. They dismantled Barcelona by executing German football to perfection, scoring on multiple counter attacks, winning aerial battles, and using their size to keep Barcelona from stealing the ball. The German squad is likely to be comprised of many players from Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. The team has nine players from Bayern, six of whom are starters, and approximately 75% of players on the national team play club ball in Germany. Germany has a solid defense led by Phillip Lahm, and various attacking threats such as Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mario Gomez. You can anticipate this team to net an enormous amount of goals and exert their dominance like they did in this year’s Champions League. You can also expect the Germans to lift the 2014 FIFA World Cup trophy!
Belgium is full of emerging stars, with Eden Hazard just to name one. All of the starters on Belgium are well under 30 and certainly quality talent. They are capable of doing great things now and in the future. I’d even go as far as to say that this team is similar to the quality, age, and capability of the German side in the 2010 World Cup. It would not be surprising to see Belgium make an impressive push in the 2014 World Cup.
Germany and Spain have clearly been a dominant force in both international and club football. In the last three years, these two countries have had a combined 10 clubs reach the semi-final and 4 final appearances in the Champions League. These two countries undoubtedly have the most talented players and will be favored to reach the World Cup final. Next summer will bring much excitement, many goals, and one of the best tournaments in recent memory.
Prediction of the Top 8 Teams