Several things about the squads named and the players left off.
Brazil was correct in leaving aging stars Ronaldo, Adriano and even to a lesser extent Ronaldinho off the WC roster. But Alexander Pato? This young star had a solid season for AC Milan in the Italian top flight league and was passed over for a couple of locally based Brazilian players who have never played top flight football. That one qualifies as a strange decision. Dunga however, has made some strange coaching decisions in the past and they have worked out in his favor. We shall see.
Another glaring omission is Mario Balotelli (right) On an Italian team without any great strikers, wingers or attacking midfielders, the omission of this young, budding star raised a few eyebrows. The fact that he is the only black player representing Italy and widely considered their best young player makes it even more surprising.
The successful World Cup teams are going to be the ones with quality strikers and a strong midfield. Spain, with the unheralded Xabi Alonso, is my bet for the team to win the tournament. Xabi is the name to remember on this Spanish team. He is one of the best if not the best midfielder in the world, and an excellent passer. His leaving Liverpool to play in Spain for Real Madrid was a major reason behind the dramatic decline of Liverpool this past season and he was the glue in the ‘Galacticos’ having their best season ever in La Liga. He will be feeding passes to Fernando Torres (below, left)and David Villa who will make the most of them.
I watched this Spanish side in Euro 2008 and the Confederations Cup last year; they were clearly a cut above every other team there; a European side that plays with South American flair and possessing one of the best goalkeepers (Iker Casillas) defenders (Carles Puyol) midfields (Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Xavi) and scorers (“El Nino,” Fernando Torres) in the world.
They will not only win, they will be fun to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch there are some matches that will qualify as must see. Ivory Coast vs Portugal, Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, Argentina vs Nigeria, Brazil vs Portugal, Germany vs Ghana and England vs USA will be some of the more compelling 1st round matches. Portugal, with my favorite player Cristian Ronaldo, will not come out of the first round ‘group of death’ unfortunately.
I see this tournament coming down to the following quarter final matchups:
France v England, Netherlands v Brazil, Argentina v USA and Cameroon v Spain.
The semifinals will be England v Brazil and Argentina v Spain and I predict England v Spain in the finals with Spain winning their first World Cup.
Brazil’s defense, a major source of improvement since Dunga became coach, is rock solid and led by Lucio will be hard to get past, but Wayne Rooney has blossomed into one of the best strikers in the world and he will lead a very good England into the finals.
Messi is the best player in the world today, but I do not think Maradona is a world class coach and his technical deficiencies and overwhelming ego will be a huge factor in his team falling short despite the wizardry of Messi. I think he is gone as coach after the tournament, and deservedly so.
There will be some upsets; I believe the biggest may be the USA beating Germany in the knockout stages and Cameroon knocking out the title holders Italy.
There will be some interesting players to watch; the usual stars of course-Drogba, Rooney, Torres, Kaka, Messi and Cristian Ronaldo, but there will be some other players who if given opportunities will shine.
Diego Forlan of Uruguay (left,) Solomon Kalou of Ivory Coast, Diego Milito of Argentina, Clint Dempsey of the USA and Theo Walcott of England (right) are some to watch, names that the football fan knows but the casual fan might not.