Preview analysis of the imminent start of the World Cup in Brazil 2014
In 1950, around 200,000 spectators attended the legendary Maracanã Stadium to see Brasil v Uruguay, a duel which, as anyone who has a minimal relationship with football history knows, ended with a victory of the 'charrua' side by 2-1 making the entire Brazilian population fall into despair. Now, 64 years later, Brazil has the chance to get even and triumph again in the majestic scenery of the Maracana.
The Brazilian victory (3-0) against the current Spanish world champions in June 2013 in the Confederations Cup and the fact that the World Cup will be disputed in a country in which 190 million people who live in it will be strongly supporting their home team, grants them the role of favorites.
To all of this we must add some statistics, six of the last nineteen FIFA World Cup tournaments (31,58%) have been won by the host country and no European team has managed to impose in this competition when it is played in America. This should add some options for the host team, because the two teams that are ahead of the 'canarinha' in the world rankings, Spain and Germany, obviously are from the 'old continent'. But what are the reasons of this curious statistic. Maybe acclimatization, style of game, heat, rhythm of the competition, pressure from fans...? These are the words which occupy positions of privilege with the modern term - 'trending', but does this have basis or is it just that the South American teams have been simply stronger?
In the past few days I have read with some frequency that national sides will have to acclimatise as a principal first condition to aspire to a hypothetical success. They speak with importance about moisture, thinking that it will be very hot and whilst this may be true and that this can have an effect, in one way or another on the performance of the players. But there are people who are more prepared than me and have a more qualified opinion to theorize about these criteria. The same can be said in regards to the influence of the fans and their support in each of the meetings. However, I'd like to comment in relation to style or the playing rhythm, in the playing approach of some of the big teams that attend this intercontinental football tournament.
Without going into a very detailed tactical analysis, something that perhaps we will do as the teams plays their matches, I would like to focus on what you could expect from any of these selections.
In Group A, Brazil will be without doubt the center of all the attention. Their biggest problem lies in the pressure that they will have to withstand by what is expected of being hosts. Brazil is the only team that has disputed all editions of this 'big test'. They were proclaimed champions five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002), runner-up in two more (1950-1998) and third in two others (1938 and 1978). It is clear that there is a willing for success with their supporters is something out of the ordinary and in this case we can ensure that being second will not be enough for the 'canarinha' fans.
Their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has already won a World Cup (2002) and has more than enough experience to withstand any pressure. With a 1-4-2-3-1 as a basic system, Neymar, if he has no problems with his ankle, is set to be the key man in the team, not to mention fundamental players such as Oscar, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, or the experience of Julio Cesar keeping goal. I also wish good luck to Henrique as he deserves it. Fred, their striker, recognized that Brazil still have not reached their best technical and tactical level. "We are well, but we must evolve".
We will have to see this evolution, with their ability to overcome teams close in the back; this is what may await in the majority of matches played by Brazil.
In Group B, Spain will be the favorite. But as with Brazil, you will have to adjust to playing against teams with more defence than usual. With this, we must look at the difference of the pitch grass, typically high in South America, which slows down the speed in the movement of the ball, something that is considered fundamental for closed teams.
Holland, has already made a declaration of intent and, through their coach, Louis Van Gaal, has warned that "the quality of Spain requires us to play with five at the back".
Diego Costa’s recovery will, undoubtedly be good news for Vicente del Bosque but I have the feeling that David Silva, as he already has shown us in the match against El Salvador, could be a key piece to opening up more than one tight defence, which with no doubt, will find the Spaniards on their way. Will we be surprised by Vicente with the famous 'false nine' at one of the games? On a personal level, I hope that Albiol and Reina enjoy some minutes to show their quality.
In Group C, Ivory Coast seems a great candidate, with Yaya Toure, Gervinho or Drogba as a sign of their full potential in attack. However, Colombia, with Armero y Zúñiga as one of our representatives (SSC Napoli) and with a great group spirit, can surprise the Ivorian and 'sneak' through as the first group.
Group D is undoubtedly the most matched group. It will be very interesting to see a renewed England, with the mix of young people like Sterling, Barkley and Sturridge, with veterans such as Gerrard, Cahill, Lampard and Johnson, faced with a selection from Italy, who are perfectly suited to the opponent's setup and can play with a defense of five or a 1-4-3-3 as they did in the match against Fluminense with such good results (5-2), thanks to the two Neapolitan players - Inmobile (3) and our Lorenzo Insigne (2).
Both teams will have to play very well to overcome the very solid Uruguay, that despite the difficulties that Luis Suárez might face in being recovered from his injury in time for these games, they will also have Cavani as their main offensive weapon. They are a team with an exceptional motivation and that takes sometime to mature with the same players, which gives it an advantage linked to the already discussed fact that they are playing in their own continent.
In these matches, again, the speed of the game can be the key to the possible success of England.
In Group E, France and Switzerland, with Dzemaili, Behrami, Inler, seem to be favorite and the French seem to have reinforced this idea with their 1-4-3-3 and their winning 8-0 score over Jamaica playing with that system.
Another favorite selections is Argentina in group F. Their attack, with Messi, Agüero and Higuain is enough to scare any defence. But, if this was not enough, once again we have to talk about a South American selection with a special motivation to try to win this competition. Mascherano will give balance to the midfield and Fede Fernández will help to protect blue goal, with Andujar waiting for his opportunity. Messi says they will fight for the World Cup because they are more united than ever. This is a good sign, a very good sign for Argentina.
It seems that in Group G, Germany will be the main threat to Portugal. Based on this, the injury of Reus and the recovery of Cristiano Ronaldo will be truly very important. It seems that Germany bet on 1-4-2-3-1, with the attraction of Klose in attack. A total of 14 goals make him the maximum scorer of the 736 players participating in this tournament. In the other side, Portugal bet on playing 1-4-3-3, with Ronaldo as hope for the Portuguese team.
In Group H, we must emphasize that Russia will be the only selection with 100% of the players playing in their League and however, the Algeria of our player Ghoulam, on the other hand, will be the only selection that none of their players play on the same team.
The average age of Belgium is set to be 25 years and 11 months, one of the youngest in the tournament, the mean age of the last four World Cup being 27 years and five months. The youth and the quality of the Belgian team are an advantage, because their football has to be attractive. With players like Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku and Mertens it could not be otherwise. The experience of their defence is a guarantee of balance between attack and defence.
In short, the speed of the game, the rhythm of the matches can be a determining factor so that European teams can break the curse and win for the first time in history in South America. We will see.