With the draw now complete - the anticipation for Brazil 2014 is building.
Before the Confederations Cup earlier this year, few would have been predicting any shift in power away from the dominant Spain.
The Spanish, however, who have been used to lifting international trophies of late, suffered a heavy beating at the hands of Brazil this summer at the Maracana and many are tipping this as a sign of things to come for next year’s hosts.
In my opinion for the first time since 2006, there is no clear favourite as to who will lift the coveted World Cup trophy. Whilst the Spaniards have every right to remain confident that they can replicate their success of recent years, the memories of their encounter with the dynamically brilliant Brazil in the summer will not fade easily.
I’m sure I was not the only one to reel in shock when the only trophy Spain walked away with that night in June was a golden boot for Fernando Torres.
So does this triumph for Brazil make them the favourites for a tournament being held on their own turf? As no European team has ever won the World Cup on South American soil, history suggests they should be. But this is football- anything can happen.
Naturally, regardless of the debate raging between Spain or Brazil, there are of course other teams who believe next year could be their year. Perhaps most notably- the Germans.
Their team is a well-oiled winning machine, with main midfield cogs Mesut Ӧzil and Toni Kroos constituting an efficient team which will be incredibly difficult to beat over 90 minutes. So could an upset be on the cards for an 'outsider' to steal the title from under the noses of Spain and Brazil? Or is it possibly set to be all about them?
Spain: Yes, mention their name in footballing circles and class comes to mind. The most unbelievable thing about the European giants is their amazing strength in depth.
With a starting XI bursting with stars such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Silva, world-class options such as Juan Mata and Alvaro Negredo hardly ever find their way into the first team.
It’s this Spanish depth that forms the formidable force they are. However upon examination of the Spain squad, there is always the argument that their core players are getting older and the question of whether their young talent be able to replace them upon their retirement?
Players like Isco have answered that question with a firm yes, as the young starlet had a fabulous tournament for the Spanish U21s, and thus secured a big money move to Galacticos Real Madrid. Flawless talents like Isco are proof that Spain has the ability in their youth system to keep up their dominance for many years to come.
Their fluid style of play, keeping possession and using their master craftsmen to create chances for their finishers, has made them so successful because they have been taught to play this way from grassroots level (take note England).
This is why, despite the defeat to Brazil, many will still see the Spaniards as the favourites. The second they lose the ball, players swarm over the opposition like bees over honey, closing their avenues to pass into and usually winning it back soon after.
Their ability to dominate and dictate a game through their quality in possession means they fashion more chances than most other teams. Plus, on the rare occasions they actually need their defence; it includes rocks Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique backed up by captain fantastic Iker Casillas in goal to clear the danger.
These integral components to their team mean it’ll take something really special to defeat the stylishly sublime Spaniards next year.
Brazil: Their style is very different to that of Spain. Rather than farming possession, they quickly turn the possession they gain from defensive to attacking through their wide men- Neymar and Hulk.
As well as this mix of pace, power and skill, they have a creative core midfield with their maestro Oscar pulling the strings. The young Chelsea player has made the number ten role his own under Jose Mourinho’s rule and is influential in making Brazil tick. In fact- he’s almost a touch of Spanish amidst all of the Samba style in Brazil's team.
As well as their midfield, striker Fred also has something to offer to the carnival. Though not a household name, his finesse has a cold assassin’s touch. This was shown by his earning of the silver boot in the Confederations cup, only losing out to Torres.
Not only all of this, but hosting the World Cup next year is one of the main reasons they are being seen as favourites to claim the trophy ahead of Spain. There can no doubt they are a serious contender, as they have proven earlier this year. Still, whether they can rise to the occasion in a major international tournament is yet to be seen.
Then of course - there is Germany.
Whilst they don’t seem to be getting as much credit for their performances as Spain and Brazil, they certainly deserve to be classed as one of the tournament’s favourites next year.
Germany’s team just wins matches. Not always in such splendid style as Spain, or not always as flamboyantly as Brazil; but they achieve their goals. During the qualifying stages of this World Cup, they were the first team to qualify.
In doing this they won nine of their ten games and drew the other one. Their tally of twenty-eight out of a possible thirty points was the joint highest achieved in the group stages- only to be equalled by the Netherlands. So whilst Germany’s name may only be being whispered as a favourite, their points tally shouts louder and clearer than Spain’s.
So maybe come the end of next year’s tournament it’s Germany who will emerge victorious.
Right now, though, it’s too close to call. Although how about this- Brazil haven’t lost a competitive match at home since 1975… something to think about.
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