In the previous post we looked at  “The Usual Suspects” when it comes to picking the favourites for a FIFA world cup. But strangely this time around,its “The Underachievers” who will head into the tournament as the front-runners.

Spain are bookmakers’ favourite this time around and we shouldn’t be surprised by that, should we?  At previous world cups they have had teams which were good enough to win the competition. But forget about winning, the fact is that they have not even made it to the final of any world cup. The currnt Spanish team is very different very though. They are on a high after Euro 2008 success and a quite comprehensive qualification campaign. This can attributed to the recent success of FC Barcelona,which have as many as eight players in the national team. Spain’s playing style is based on retaining the possession, much similar to that of Barcelona. This restricts the opponents from having the ball for long periods and they end up creating a very few chances. The players like Cesc Fabregas, “Best Player of Euro 2008″ Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso are extremely accurate with possession and passing. Also they have two of the supreme target men around in Fernando Torres and David Villa.  Expect loads of goals from this team. (Spain vs Argentina is a match-up I would like see, it is possible in the semi-finals, considering the draws :) )

Whenever England arrive at every world cup, they bring along with them, the expectations of millions of passionate fans not only from home but also from all over the world, who religiously follow the English Premier League and  the burden of such high expectations have made Englishmen crumble more often than not. But everything seems to have changed since Fabio Capello has taken over the role of management. “Three Lions” have become ruthless and enterprising under his management.This current crop of English players is  regarded by many as “The Golden Generation” of English football. They have quality throughout the pitch with the likes of “Red Hot” Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole in their ranks. Their bench strength is probably the strongest in the tournament.For me, they are the most COMPLETE team in the competition and I expect them to go VERY FAR.

If you ask me, which team will you label as ‘the biggest underachiever’ in world cups? my answer would be plain and simple..Its Holland. Its really amazing to see the number of world class players that this country does produce time and time again.They always have at least have four or five players in their team, who are blessed with supreme talent and mesmerizing skills. This time around also, they have Arjene Robben, Wesley Sniejder, Roben van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart in their team, who are second to very few, when it comes to the skills. But football matches are not won with individual talent but with teamwork and this is my concern with this team. Also they lack that “substance”  in the team, which is so mandatory when it comes down to the business end of the tournament. I think “The Oranges” are a good bet to reach at least quarter finals.(There is a lip-smacking prospect of Brazil vs Holland quarter-final).

France and Portugal , I afraid, will not be able to fulfill the expectations of their fans. French football team is so notorious for their internal rifts and ego clashes that I would be very surprised if they go beyond quarter-finals. Portugal on the other hand are just not good enough. They will rely very heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo, with now Nani out injured.

Denmark and Serbia would be my “Dark Horses” for this edition. Both have had very impressive qualification campaigns and are very organized. We should not get shocked, if we see either of these teams at least in the quarter finals.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I can’t see African teams posing any real threat to the “Established” ones. Almost all the African teams have been hampered by injuries,which will make their task even harder.Nigeria have a good chance to reach knock out round, considering their group. But believe me, it will be the fans of these teams which will make this world cup VERY SPECIAL.

I really fear for Asian teams. There is a serious possibility that we may not see even a single Asian team in the Round of 16. All the hopes of Asia will resting on Korea republic who have the best record amongst the Asians in the world cups.

VERDICT:  huh!! its prediction time. For me, this is the most open World Cup in recent decades. England and Spain are DEFINITELY going to last long in the tournament. Also Brazilians have everything in them, which is required to win the cup.

LET THE FESTIVAL BEGIN!!!!!!!!!!  Joga Bonito!!!