Is it me or are World Cup mascots getting worse? I think they pretty much hit their peak in 1986. Anyway, with this years spectacle returning to the beaches of Rio for the first time since 1950 it’s a good a time as any to look at a few of the teams that could spring a surprise or two.
1. Chile. Although they are in a group containing the holders and the Netherlands the South Americans high pressing and energetic game could cause the Europeans plenty of trouble. A win or loose philosophy, that saw them only draw one match in the qualifying campaign,could very well derail their chances if they get out of the group stages but if Alexis Sanchez transfers his irresistible club form to the national team they will have a player who could light up this years tournament. With Arturo Vidal pulling the strings in midfield and Gary Medel providing some much needed aggression a quarter final spot is a distinct possibility.
2. Nigeria. Along with Bosnia they will be battling it out for second place behind Argentina in group F. Having won the African Cup of Nations last year their confidence will be high. Emmanuel Emenike has returned to the squad after missing the Confederations Cup and the Fenerbache forward could be the difference between the runners up spot behind La Albiceleste and an early flight home. John Obi Mikel plays slightly further forward for his country and dictates the play in the middle. A relatively young squad could make all the difference when the soaring temperature and energy sapping conditions begin to effect more experienced players.
3. Colombia. Despite the crushing absence of Radamel Falcao the Colombians are still a force to be reckoned with. Porto’s Jackson Martinez will probably shoulder the burden of main goal threat, though finishing the season as the Primeira Liga’s top scorer will still be fresh in his mind. Expect midfielder Fredy Guarin to show everyone why his name is always mentioned during the transfer windows and James Rodriguez to take the breath away with his fancy footwork and direct running. The main concern is that a distinctly average set of teams in their group could breed complacence.
What no European teams?
No team from Europe has won on South American soil and the smart money is on this trend continuing. The ability of Spain and Germany is in no doubt however the humidity and heat will take their toll and an average team that can keep up ninety minutes of running and pressing stand a good chance of upsetting the proud footballing nations.
Oh and check out https://pullupapew.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/football/
for my greatest eleven ever and feel free to contribute.