The Biggest Prize on Earth

14 May

Mostly due to very busy days at the office, I’ve been forsaking blogging for much too long.  I certainly miss it, although for now I’m forced to consider it as a luxury that I can only afford every once in a while.

But not for one moment I will miss penning down my thoughts on the biggest competitive prize ever graced the world of sports:  The Football World Cup come this June.  No, not if I profess to be a football fan.

It is certainly exciting, if only because it is the first world cup to be held in the land of Africa.  Beside the concerns of logistics and security (the incident of the shooting at Togo team’s bus during the African Nations Cup quickly came to mind), the very distinctive ambience and climate alone could prove trying to the traditional giants of football.  Remember the USA World Cup where the temperature gets so high until it broke all the record of how many times the players take a break for drinks?  Then, the high temperature could be argued as having a negative effect of the quality of the games.  Of course, one could always argue that it’s just one of the excitement of the game: only the fittest survives.  But to push such argument is beside the point.  After all, I would still like to watch beautiful football where not only winning matters.

That being said, this World Cup is really an example of how peaceful the world could be if we can just accept our differences and focus on things we have in common.  I mean, where else do we see the United States and North Korea playing on a same field, with a same set of rules?  Come next month, we’re going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, celebrating the most beautiful show not only on technical skills, but also of human spirit.

As to the strongest candidate I can think, my choice would still go to Spain.  Oh, yes.  In the past, people laughed at me for my silly candidates to win a major football tournament.  But after the French victory at ’98 and Spain’s at Euro ’08; I stopped to worry about it.  Here’s why I think they would win.  Of all the 32 teams battling for the title, Spain has the best qualifying campaign.  They secured a perfect 10 wins out of 10 matches.  Conceding only five goals, and scoring 28; – any nation would tremble to face the deadly pair of Villa and Torres upfront, the vision and flair of Xavi and Fabregas, or the strong physical prowess of Puyol and Ramos.  If there’s a weakness at all in their play, they should pay particular attention when defending in dead-ball situations.

Next on my line is England.  Again, laugh all you want.  But the English have been hungry for far too long that in fact it’s rather easy to imagine them performing a feat as amazing as Spain did in Euro 2008.  And please, never underestimate the man called Fabio Capello.  With the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, and Rooney; the English can do big things this time.  I would also mention their defense which could be the strongest in the world if Terry and Ferdinand play at their best.  What they need to work at is their determination, as it’s rather too often we watch them become needlessly complacent when things go their way.

My third choice for the top spot is equally divided between Argentina, France and the Netherlands.  Messi would prove a nightmare for his defender, but Maradona still needs to prove that he’s as good manager as he was a player.  France remains a strong contender albeit weak qualifying performance.  The finals might be a place where they can redeem themselves after Henry’s notorious handball that led to a goal that brought them here.  Nobody doubts Sneijder and van Persie for the Netherlands, although they have to remember that skills alone do not win the game.

The dark horse of the tournament will be of course Brazil.  I might be stoned for saying this, but they’re facing quite a struggle with their tough group matches against Portugal and Ivory Coast.  I think they will go through, but then run into a lot of trouble from injuries and suspensions which will led to a slump of form.  Oh, and make no mistake.  Pay close attention to Ivory Coast and Ghana.  Africa is their turf, and they will fight to defend it.

There you go, my two cents about the oncoming World Cup.  I might write more about some interesting matches, but until then, let’s pray that the opening day will come sooner than later…


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