I’ve been round in a circle 100 times thinking about a potential World Cup winner… and always end up coming back to Brazil.
I’ll give you my thinking.
The tournament is in Russia, so, for me, that favours the big European teams. The conditions, the travel, the state of mind. It all helps and points to them.
Yet, when it comes down to it, what does it really take to win a World Cup? What ingredient defines the winner and makes them stand out from the rest? A touch of genius. Quarter-finals, semis, the final. You need something extra.
Look back at virtually all the winners and they have that brilliance, usually in the final third, that X factor when it comes down to where it matters in the final stages.
You have to be organised, you have to defend. That is a minimum requirement these days. Even a hint of muddled thinking and you’re on the plane home… as England have found out to their cost in recent tournaments.
Most of the nations in Russia have that, though. Germany are masters at it.
You look at any potential winners and you always start with them, because they are so hard to beat. Any country that can leave out Leroy Sane you’d look at anyway!
Maybe Germany were the absolute refined essence of that at the last World Cup. That was peak Germany. So, if you are going to get past them, you need something extra.
I must admit I’m finding it hard to look past them myself. Yet I keep coming back to Brazil because they have got that formidable look about them again.
The last World Cup, they had the genius in Neymar, but he was kicked out of the competition and what was left was a bunch of forwards who shouldn’t have been wearing the shirt.
This time, they look different. They have got that work ethic you need to win anything. They have defenders who are nasty, horrible – they look quite old-school in just how uncompromising they can be. And they have that exciting individual brilliance in the final third.
Neymar looked incredibly fit and fresh at Anfield. They have Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, too, players who have come of age over the past year and now have a touch of arrogance and class about them.
They have Firmino with his incredible work ethic to come in too.
So, Brazil are back.
You could argue Argentina have it, too. Messi is 30, but he has lost none of his powers. But, for all his brilliance, you still need that team around you and I’m not quite sure he has that, if you look at their results in qualifying.
Their struggles may give them the kick up the backside they need, but do they have that traditional Argentina defence and organisation? They certainly don’t look vintage South American defenders, do they?
Beyond that, France have an amazing squad, have an easy start to get themselves into the competition and a young side that could come of age. But, again, they are not so convincing.
I have a sneaky feeling Spain will come good because they don’t have so much pressure on them this time around, and they do have plenty of individual brilliance still.
I’m always asked for an outsider bet, but the truth is, the winner will come from the usual suspects. One of the big nations will get it right. But if you want a team that could do better than expected, I’m thinking of Egypt.
If Mo Salah is 100 per cent cent – and I’ve had that shoulder injury and believe me, you don’t recover quickly – but if he’s any where near, then he can give a good, organised side a touch of unpredictability. I’m not saying they’ll win it (naturally!), but I think they could get out of their group, and maybe go a little way into it.
I’ve gone around in a circle again, but it all comes back to Brazil. Naturally.
Will Brazil win the World Cup?
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