South Africa World Cup 101: Who’s favored to win it all?
Brazil and Spain are favorites to win the World Cup, but three solid African teams have a legitimate shot at surviving deep into the tournament, as does the US.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Legendary Brazilian star, Pele, is no different.
Pele is the greatest player that ever lived (all apologies to the soulful nation of Argentina and its Diego Maradona-worshipping fans), and an ambassador for the game since he stopped playing in the 1970s. It was he, after all, who coined the phrase “the beautiful game,” which has become the descriptor of choice for sports broadcasters worldwide. His track record as a prognosticator is rather shaky, however. He hasn't picked a World Cup winner since before 1990, and many of his favorites have gone crashing out in the first round.
But with many others getting on the Brazil and Spain bandwagon, this may be the year that Pele breaks his duck.
To be sure, no self-respecting soccer enthusiast would ever put Italy far from the top of the list. The reigning champions who edged out France in the last World Cup in 2006 are the only team to have won nearly as many World Cups (4) as Brazil (5). Football is religion in Italy, and their highly technical, defensive – often cynical – brand of soccer is usually enough to squeak by even the most inspired teams.
Traditional powerhouses, Germany, the Netherlands, and Argentina are all expected to reach the quarterfinals, as usual. But most analysts are not bullish on France, a team dripping with talent, but full of “old” players and a coach who many in France say lacks the leadership to inspire the team to greatness.