World Cup Predictions

11 Jun

Italy football fansWorld Cup soccer has everybody feverish right now, even with the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup celebrations and promise of a classic Wimbledon supplying our sporting fix. And while I can’t wait for the first game to kick-off – albeit South Africa vs. Mexico (hardly a barn burner) – I’m truly looking forward to the bandwagon prognosticators packing it up for another four years. How do you become one of these so-called “expert” tipsters anyway? Seems you only need to be a staff  member of any major publication to be awarded a shot at picking World Cup winners. What does Jerry the janitor think of Group D, anyway?

Well, if he’s like everyone else in the media world, his picks will undoubtedly hinge on the presumption that Spain, Argentina and Brazil have been perennially intimidating. FIFA rankings, after all, have Brazil at No.1 and Spain in at second. So those particular selections, to coin a Vince Vaughn favorite, are a “shocker”. As for Argentina, who rank seventh on FIFA’s almighty list, we can only assume that previous Cup glories precede them. That, and because they’re coached by the one and only Diego Maradona, and are also fielding the current Maradona, Lionel Messi, may be boosting their perceived strength. Hey, I’ll buy it. But whether or not this logic translates into a 2010 World Cup Champion is another matter.

So with that said, three teams the pundits are forgetting need to be on your own list of picks, if for no other reason than to show some originality: Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. All three nations have the potential to win the tournament, and without starting a sweat. The Italians, led by the unbreakable Fabio Cannavaro, are the maestros of defense and will prove this yet again in 2010. The Dutch can scorch anyone on their day, including Argentina and Brazil. And the Portuguese, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, will dissect more than a few backlines.

There’s no science to picking World Cup winners, and I’m reluctant to declare a definitive favorite. But I’d certainly broaden my picks beyond the usual suspects, because this isn’t 1994.

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