World Cup 2014: Kick-off is here!


The favourites

The build up to World Cup has been anything but smooth. While there have been many issues with the stadiums in Brazil, some of the 32 national teams have faced their own problems with a plethora of talented individuals unfortunately missing out on this summer’s showpiece tournament. Kevin Strootman, Falcao, Franck Ribery and Marco Reus to name but four of the players who won’t be taking part in the World Cup.

All eyes will be on Brazil, as tournament kicks-off on Thursday night with the hosts taking on Croatia, thus beginning a month long festival of football. The pressure has already been heaped on the Brazilians, as the nation expects them to lift the trophy on home soil at the Maracanã on July 13th and make up for the final of 1950 which they lost out to Uruguay.

In terms of the European teams taking part, history is against them. This will be the seventh time that the World Cup has been staged in South America; all the previous six have been won from a team from the same continent, a small caveat to add is that South America has only hosted one World Cup in the past half century (Argentina 1978).

On the other hand, Spain has a double chance of creating history – the reigning World and European champions will be aiming for a fourth straight tournament victory – you have to go back to Brazil 1962 to find the last team to retain a World Cup.

There is an air of always the bridesmaids never the bride associated with Germany of late; having made the semi-finals of the last two World Cup’s and the final in 2002 only to fall short. Jogi Loew’s hugely talented squad have a certain Jekyll and Hyde quality about them. While the national team have been successful at youth level, their last major tournament victory came in the 1996 European Championship.

Having recovered from the Diego Maradona sideshow in South Africa in 2010, Argentina go into this summer’s tournament in a curious position. By his own standards, Lionel Messi has had a less than successful season at Barcelona. Argentina and Messi have a strange relationship to say the least, however, that will pale into insignificance if he was to lead them to glory in Brazil. La Albiceleste’s haven’t won a major tournament since 1993, when they triumphed in the Copa America that year.

Outside bet – France (25/1)

Taking those teams into account, an outside bet for the World Cup could well be the 1998 World Champions, France. Les Bleus are a strange beast when it comes to major international tournaments. Under Raymond Domenech, they stank the place out in South Africa in 2010, failing to win a game, finishing bottom of their group and falling out with each other. A new and unified generation has emerged under current manager, Didier Deschamps, with the likes of Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba all travelling to Brazil. Outside the favourites for the tournament, France might just be one to watch.

The Hipster’s choice

Belgium and Colombia are the current two flavours of the month and why wouldn’t they be given that they are ranked 8th and 11th in the current FIFA rankings. Even with a vague interest in football, the chances are you could at least name one Belgian player – their ‘golden generation’ has been very kind to them. However, this is the first tournament that Belgium has qualified for since 2002. While, Radamel Falcao has been one of the most high-profile casualties of this summer’s World Cup, Colombia can still call on the likes of Carlos Bacca, Adrian Ramos and Jackson Martinez. Similar to Belgium, Los Cafeteros, have also been blessed with a golden generation and have been on an upward curve – this will be their first World Cup since 1998.

Even watching the highlights from Chile’s recent friendly vs Egypt gives you a flavour of what to expect from them in Brazil – a suicidal high-line from their defence, but also the ability to counter at breakneck speed.  People will remember Marcelo Bielsa’s, Chile from South Africa, well, never fear, they haven’t changed one bit.



Coming soon: World Cup content


It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since Spain triumphed in South Africa in 2010 as our attention turns to Brazil who host the competition for the second time – as they previously hosted the tournament in 1950.

With 23-man squads and provisional squads already being named, World Cup fever is already catching and with most domestic seasons coming to their climax excitement is beginning to build for Rio in just a few short weeks – or 30 days and counting to be precise.

As a result, some World Cup content will be winging it’s way to Touchline Views over the next couple of weeks.

If you wish to get in touch or wish to write for Touchline View you can email ismiseian[@]gmail[dot]com or contact me on Twitter @walsh_i 

In praise of Spain – the collective and the individuals

Spain did it. The first side to win three consecutive major tournaments – Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and on Sunday night, Euro 2012. Having been accused of being ‘boring’ in the build up to the final – certainly a legitimate criticism looking back at Portugal game. Even Arsene Wenger weighed in on the matter saying Spain were “betraying their philosophy and turned into something more negative” – La Roja rubbed it in their critics faces as they recorded the biggest margin of victory in a European Championship final – a 4-0 victory.

“Those people who think we are boring…in my opinion, they don’t understand the game” were Cesc Fabregas’ parting words. Boring is the ultimate insult that could be bestowed upon this Spanish side. For all the talk of false-9’s and a starting line-up that didn’t contain a recognised striker, La Roja saved their best for last. 12 goals scored, just one conceded, which was against the aforementioned Italians when the sides opened Group C. But once some of the many questions had been answered by the Spaniards, even more have since arisen. What more can they achieve?

Many are currently trying to contemplate if this Spanish side is the best international side ever. It is certainly a side that continues to break record after record coupled with opponent after opponent. It has been 990 minutes since they last conceded a goal in a knock-out game that was back at the 2006 World Cup against France – an aggregate of 14-0 on their way of a hat-trick of major tournaments. Those are the collective records, there have also been a couple of individual records set in the process by this team – Fernando Torres became the first person to score in two European Championship finals. Iker Casillas notched up his 100th international victory in 137 appearances, keeping his 9th clean sheet at a European Championship putting him level with Edwin Van der Sar. “It’s unique. It’s magical. Something that cannot be repeated. People can’t ignore how great this is.” beamed Andres Iniesta last night.

Even the brains the behind the operation, the quiet, unassuming coach, Vicente Del Bosque has managed his own unique treble of being a World Cup, Champions League and European Championship winning manager – the first coach to ever achieve such a feat. In the Galacticos era at Real Madrid he won six trophies: two La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues, the European Supercup and the Spanish Supercup. He is such unassuming character, that not one person mentioned him when @MarrsioFootball conducted a straw poll of: “Who are the best five managers in the world?” for his blog on the man. Del Bosque – who took charge from Luis Argones after Euro 2008 has cemented his place in history and has developed and evolved this side his in four years as coach.

In a year’s time, this Spain side will travel to Brazil to take part in the prelude to the 2014 World Cup, the Confederations Cup – where they will again take on Italy, along with South American’s finest – Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay – Japan, Tahiti and the winners of the 2013 African Cup of Nations. It is this World Cup in two years time in Brazil, should Spain successfully retain it, they would set yet another precedent, as no European side have ever won a World Cup staged in South America and would set La Roja apart from any other international side that has gone before them.

Another question raised – another one for Spain to answer.