We all know how an international tournament works for England fans. Hodgson’s barmy army builds up the excitement and expectations six months ahead of the tournament, only for them to be bitterly disappointed as a poor and struggling England once again miss out on lifting a trophy.
Since their great success in ’66, the Three Lions haven’t been able to reach the final of the World Cup or European Championships. Just one semi-final match has occurred since England’s last glory, and it is unlikely that Hodgson will lead the country to a final, or even semi-final in 6 months time.
But while England may disappoint, fans shouldn’t turn over to Heartbeat (other police dramas are available!) The World Cup will still offer plenty of entertainment and drama, alongside the potential disappointment of England matches. Here are 4 reasons why you should watch the World Cup, despite England’s involvement.
It will have been 12 years since Brazil last won the World Cup, after they defeated Germany in 2002 to lift the trophy for the fifth time. But in 2007, they were finally knocked off the top spot in FIFA’s rankings, as their decline slowly started. In 2012, they were ranked 18th in the world, and later a hit a lowest point of 22nd in June 2013. But their success in the Confederations Cup, where they defeated Spain 3-0 in the final, has just boosted them back into the top 10.
On the rise and on the back of another successful Confederations Cup, the Brazilians look ready to win their 6th World Cup. And where better place to do it than on home soil, in front of millions of Canarinho’s faithful? With a carnival atmosphere and local support, Brazil could be ready to take on the world. The bookies’ favourites, Neymar, Oscar and Luiz have raised expectations, and are set to light up their home country.
The French have always been unpredictable at tournaments. After their shameful performance in South Africa in 2010, where they finished bottom of the group, it was always difficult to know which French side would turn up. After qualifying through the play-offs, once they had narrowly beaten Ukraine 3-2 on aggregate, Didier Deschamps’ men were handed the rather comfortable draw of Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in the group stage of the competition.
They have to travel over 4000km, but on paper even the unpredictable French should top that Group. If they do, they are likely to face either Bosnia or Nigeria in the knockout stages, and before you know it France could be in the quarter-finals without breaking much of a sweat. Could their easy draw lead to a shock success in Brazil? Ribery, Benzema and Nasri could all sneak into the last 8 of the tournament before really facing a challenge.
Tough start for Spain
The current world champions were looking for a nice, easy group to get their 2014 campaign underway. But they got anything but. Whilst they were drawn against Australia, they also got Chile and Holland in Group B. 4 years on from their ill tempered final, Spain and Holland will kick off the group in a vital fixture. The winner will likely top the group, whilst the group runner-up is almost set to face Brazil in the knockout stages.
Chile could easily cause issues for Vicente del Bosque’s side too. Their strong performance at Wembley showed the world they too are capable of reaching the knockout stages of the competition. But Spain won’t be easy to beat. The winners of the last 3 international tournaments, La Furia will take a list of star names with them to Brazil. Silva, Cazorla, Isco, Iniesta, Alonso, Fabregas and Ramos will all be ready to make it back-to-back World Cup successes. Expect sensation talent in this group.
Messi v Ronaldo
It’s been 28 long years since Argentina won the World Cup. After the ‘hand of god’ incident in the quarter-finals, the Blue and Whites went on to lift the trophy for only the second time ever in 1986. But since the era of Maradona, it has been nothing but disappointment for Argentina. Even now they have Messi, 4 times Ballon d’Or winner, they still can’t seem to find success. But with Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia in their group, Alejandro Sabella should guide his team to the last 16, where they are likely to face Switzerland, which again should mean victory for Messi and co.
Messi’s big rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is in a much tougher group. He must play against Germany, USA and Ghana in order to qualify to the knockout stages. After reaching Brazil by beating Sweden in the play-offs, Portugal have been tipped to finish second in Group G, with Germany expected to top the group. Should the Portuguese finish second, they could face either Belgium or Russia in the last 16. Victory there, means Ronaldo and Messi will meet in the quarter-finals.
They have played each other on plenty of occasions for Barcelona and Real Madrid, but this is different. This is on the biggest of all stages, the World Cup. The two have faced each other in international colours once before, where a last minute Messi penalty denied Ronaldo, who had levelled the scores at 1-1 before that. The battle between who is best continues to rage on, and with Ronaldo likely to win the Ballon d’Or this year, Messi will be keen to exact revenge on the Real Madrid star. What a quarter-final this would be, and everyone will be glued to their TV screens to see the results.