It seems like only yesterday that Tshabalala was rocketing one into the top right corner in South Africa to score the first goal of the 2010 World Cup. Three years have passed, however, and the biggest sporting event in the world is only around the corner.
Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Holland, France, Italy, Portugal, and even England are a handful of the countries which are favourites to take that shiny gold trophy back to their capital. However, what about Mexico, Belgium, Chile, Nigeria et al?
Here are a few dark horses for the 2014 World Cup who I believe could go far, or even win the whole kaboodle.
A squad boasting an array of talents. Solid at the back there’s Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, and Jan Verthongen, not to mention the slowest player in the world, bar Mertesacker; Van Buyten. It doesn’t stop there, this Premier League Belgium combination continues with the likes of Moussa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, and the in-form Romelu Lukaku, as well as Benteke! Stir in the likes of Axel Witsel, and Thibaut Courtois, and that’s not a bad team at all.
Up to date, this Belgium side have been unable to properly gel, and have lacked a fully fledged goalscorer. However. This season Romelu Lukaku, the Chelsea loanee, has scored 13 goals, as has Christian Benteke for Villa. Surely, if Belgium’s key problem up until now was that they could carve out an opportunity from anywhere, but just weren’t clinical enough, and now they have two strikers who have scored a bunch of goals this season, then they must be contenders? The only problem is that both these strikers are fairly young, and consistency is hard to come by if you’re young.
Nonetheless, add a good goalkeeper, a solid defence, a creative midfield, and a possibly clinical attack and you’ve got a remedy for success, surely? Only time will tell, but definitely do not rule out this young, prosperous side.
Current Position in Qualifying: Sitting atop group A on 16 points lie Belgium, along with joint top side Croatia – who are also another dark horse who always do well at major competitions.
Along with star man David Alaba, Austria are beginning to assemble a nice looking blend of promising young talent, similar to Belgium, and experienced players. Aleksander Dragovic, Marko Arnautovic, and David Alaba are all very young, and very good. The team is also balanced with what every good team needs – a good spine. With centre-back Emanuel Pogatetz, Shalke player Christian Fuchs, and striker Stefan Maierhofer who provide grit and experience.
Austria play nice football, and similarly to Belgium have a generally young team, although fairly unproven, who can do damage, it will be interesting to see how they do in Brazil if they get there.
Current Position in Qualifying: Thanks to a last gasp equaliser from Alaba against Ireland recently, Austria remain second in Group B, but; as do two other teams: Ireland, and Sweden, who are also strong. One things for sure, they’re not catching Germany, who are on 16 points in first, double Austria’s total.
Russia looked certain to go far in the Euros after an impressing start, but somehow didn’t manage to get out their group. However, equipped with new coach Fabio Capello (chortle) they could be set to do very well in 2014.
Russia rely on counter-attacks, started by Igor Denisov and the centralised, lazy, but extremely talented, Andriy Arshavin. They are also fairly prolific infront of goal, despite Kerzhakov not being able to finish his dinner at the Euros. Their only weakness is lapses in concentration defensively, which cost them silly goals in big games. Not to mention the game against Poland in the Euros!
Current Position in Qualifying: With a now prolific Kerzhakov, with 3 goals in qualifying and having won all their games in qualifying, Russia look set to qualify ahead of Israel and Portugal, who are level on 11 points; one behind Russia.
For the first time in a long while, Columbian football is shining bright. The team can count on European stars James Rodriguez of FC Porto, Fredy Guarin of Inter, and of course the one and only Radamel Falcao of Atletico Madrid to shine bright like the Columbian flag.
At the Copa America, Columbia showed some quality, but surprisingly tumbled out in the quarters to Peru. They will be happy to reach the quarters at the World Cup, and it’s possible.
With experience at the back in Milan defender Yepes and Zapata, as well as Perea (who is liable to mistakes) Columbia look fairly solid, and with a good goalkeeper. But going forward they are devastating, Falcao, Rodriguez, and striker Gutierrez are an elusive front three which could certainly cause Joleon Lescott a problem or two. However, lack of experience may be their undoing.
Current Position in Qualifying: Sitting third in South American qualification, on 19 points, Columbia have a very good chance of making the short trip to Brazil in 2014.
So there we go, four teams which may cause an upset in 2014, out of any of them, i’m keen on Belgium, but we’ll have to wait and see. Jeez, how long until next year, are we there yet?
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