After four long years, the World Cup is back
Love it or hate it, just like the Olympics and Super Bowl, you will not be able to ignore it. The world’s biggest sporting event, the World Cup, kicks off this summer.
As in the case of most massive sporting events, analysts to armchair viewers alike have their predictions. However, don’t expect to examine the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) world rankings and find your winner based on the ranking system alone.
The reason being, soccer is a global game, played by many nations with a wide range of styles. All combining their respective talents in an attempt to succeed in South America this summer. The ultimate goal is to win the sport’s top prize in a tournament taking place over 31 days from June 12 to July 13.
Through 29 months of qualification games within their respective confederations, 204 competing countries fought for just 32 slots and have earned the honour to contend for the Jules Rimet Trophy. The group of teams are comprised from the favoured and prestigious Spain and Argentina, to the underdogs such as Australia or Iran.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is allocated 13 places in the finals. This is eight places more than the next confederation, the Confederation of African Football (CAF). However, history shows South America is not Europe’s favorite place to play. South American teams have swept all four World Cups held in their continent. With teams such as, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, European squads such as Spain, Germany and Italy once again face a tough challenge from the South American hosts.
Even though the top South American players mostly compete in the more financially favourable European club leagues, they are experienced with South American playing conditions. As for European born players, they are not even close to having the same familiarity to the climate.
European sides will have to be at the top of their game if they are to prevent another South American victory in a South American World Cup.
The host — and five-time winner — Brazil, will be aiming for their sixth win and this time in front of their home crowd. A feat that has only been accomplished six times: Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, and France in 1998.
Led by their star player and arguably best in world, Lionel Messi, Argentina will look to seize the opportunity of claiming the championship on their rival’s home pitch.
What cannot be overlooked is the league of African Nations that could also be a factor. Over the past few decades, the African Nations has been a surging force in the soccer world. With the emergence of the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon, who all placed well at previous World Cup competitions, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they will once again play well during the forthcoming competition.
The undisputed kings of Europe are Spain, while Argentina and Brazil are challenging for the South American equivalent title. However, there are no African sides that can claim to be the continent’s giant. This does not mean, however that an African team could not emerge as World Cup champions by making a Cinderella run.
Trying to predict who the overall winners will be is not an exact science when weighing World Cup rankings, star player profiles with the South American playing conditions. However, all things being equal, the winner will also be decided on the ability of the coaching staff to recognize and utilize the strengths of their team representing their country.
So who will be the last team standing? Well, there is no team that jumps out as the obvious choice. However, the best choice, for the first time since 1986, is Argentina.
One thing that is certain, once again, this world cup will generate the largest worldwide media audience participation. It will display the misery of defeat and the jubilation of success. Fans will witness tears of joy and the emotions of despair. The fine line between victory and defeat will be on display in the world-class venues exhibiting the beautiful game.