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Another World Cup is upon us, but this time, it’s not just about football. I’m pretty scared about what is going on in Brazil prior to the competition, what with the demonstrations and the demands of the workers. It’s not the complaining that scares me, but the possibility of the hosts’ premature exit: it’s hard to imagine a World Cup in Brazil without Brazil.
I’m no expert on economics, but it seems to me that Brazil could have organised the tournament without spending so much. Fifa’s requirement of new stadia makes no sense to me. If you can spare the money, fine. But one has to be realistic, just like it was at Chile 1962, where they did the best with what they had.
On to football, and I think it’ll boil down to the usual suspects: Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Brazil. But while no one has yet been able to break their hegemony, this time, the South Americans are going to be strong for a variety of reasons, most importantly the weather.
It remains to be seen if Spain can live up to the burden of expectations that comes with being the holders. While I don’t think Xavi and Iniesta are as good as they were four years ago, Spain still have a very good team. But whether they are physically and mentally prepared to defend their title, only time will tell.
The Brazilians are always candidates. What I don’t know is if they will manage to play well together. Neymar will be key, but I don’t think the team is there yet — it is still too young. What we might see in this World Cup is Lionel Messi’s coronation.
I always say that the four kings of football were Alfredo di Stefano, Pelé, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona. In Brazil, Messi could stake his claim for their throne, one that has been vacant for some time now. After Diego went, it looked as if the crown would pass on to Ronaldo, then, Ronaldinho, then Kaka. But, they were left by the wayside.
I believe Messi is the best in the world today. But the World Cup is a different ballgame altogether. If Messi does not do well, it could cost him dear, just like it has cost many other great players before him. So it’s important for Messi to have a good World Cup. Winning it isn’t mandatory: that requires a lot of things to fall into place. But a good outing will reveal the true character of the Argentina captain.
Germany are another one of the favourites. Apart from the dynamism that has always been a part of their game, they now play a very attractive style of football.
The writer was the coach of Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winning team