Saturday, June 03, 2006

BBC World Cup predictions

I might be the biggest BBC pundit wannabe in the southern hemisphere.


Who will win the World Cup?

England. They are the only ones who can choke Brazil in the midfield. Some other teams have defenders good enough to cope with Ronaldo and Adriano - Italy and Argentina for instance - but when it comes to stopping supply, England can and will be decisive. There's a lot of strenght of character in players like Gerrard, Lampard and Terry, for instance, that does make an impact at that level. No one in Brazil - not even Emerson or Cafu - speaks out loud on the field like any of those three, or even like Gary Neville for that matter.

If not England, then Argentina, Brazil, Italy (in this order of likelihood) and no one else. Full-stop.

Team to watch

I'll go for Portugal here - they're not less strong than in 2004 and everyone knows how good Scolari is in the big stage.

In the "big guns" pool, I see Argentina and Italy doing good World Cups too in spite of their tough groups. Germany will make last 8 more due to lack of opposition than for merit.

Player to watch

I would have said Andriy Shevchenko before his injury. I'll choose then Kaka, who is more useful to Brazil than Ronaldinho, in my view.

Brazil has some tendencies to indulge in dull moments, especially when Adriano and Ronaldo get tired, or when Ze Roberto and the full-backs miss many passes; that is when Kaka's work rate and consistency are most fundamental, more than Gaucho's trickery.

And I think Steven Gerrard will end up as England's top scorer.

Surprise player

A couple of Mexican defenders are truly world class - especially keeper Osvaldo Sanchez and centre-back Carlos Salcido, both of whom I saw in action twice at the Libertadores this year. I think Mexico will end up between last 8 and semifinals, and much of that will be owed to a defence that, trust me, is much more than Rafael Marquez.

I also think Franck Ribéry in France, Cesc Fábregas in Spain and Javier Mascherano in Argentina will have their market values significantly increased after the Cup.

Surprise team

I used to tip Australia until recently, but Japan and Croatia will be tough to beat given what they've shown in pre-tournament games. I also used to think Ukraine would go far, but after warm-up games I'm not so adamant anymore they'd beat France or Korea comfortably at a last 16 tie.

So my strongest bet for surprise package will be Mexico, and the weirdest last 16 team will be Ecuador. As for the biggest losers in the group stage, Poland, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland.

What are you most looking forward to at the World Cup?

Betting a lot and mocking the loooooooooooooosers!!!!

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