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WORLD CUP 2014: Great Things Come In Small Packages

Penny Watkins, Special to The Informer | 2/20/2014, noon
Courtesy of fifa.com

With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil less four months away, the excitement and anticipation begins to build around the 32 nations who made their way through the qualifying phases in their quest to lift the famous trophy.

Although concerns persist about the progress and safety of the newly built stadiums across the country, Brazil will undoubtedly provide a vibrant and colorful Samba atmosphere that is like no other in world football.

An electric vibe created within each stadium should be greeted with high quality football from the best players in the world who will take to the pitch to represent their nation and make their fans proud.

The World Cup tops the bill of what promises to be a great year of sports in 2014.

While media and fans alike are already making their predictions as to who will lift the World Cup trophy in the famous Maracanã Stadium on July 13, it is essentially a level playing field when teams walk out onto the pitch throughout each stage.

Football, like any other sport, is packed with high drama and shock results, with Senegal and South Korea perfectly illustrating the unpredictable power of the underdog in 2002. Punters have already begun to put their money where their mouth is across the World Cup betting markets, with a number of strong favorites and underdogs being backed to go all the way and dazzle the millions of people watching in the stadiums and on television sets across the world.

Will Brazil emulate France in 1998?

Although Spain and Germany head the strong European contingent heading to South America as the main challengers for the World Cup, it is difficult to look past the host Brazil as the favorites for a number of reasons. It has been sixteen years since a host nation has won the World Cup since France were victorious in the first 32-team tournament in history, but Brazil has all the ingredients of a World Cup winning side. National team managers currently have everything possible tied in the hope that their star players remain injury-free throughout the remaining stages of their domestic campaigns.

While flamboyancy, mesmerizing skills and lightning-paced attacks will always remain part of the Brazilian ethos and style of football, there have been signs that Luis Filipe Scolari has developed a side that is difficult to break down in defense — a complete contrast from years gone by when Brazil were susceptible to defensive weaknesses being exploited and were often caught on the counterattack. While Neymar, Oscar, Hulk et al., can weave their magic in front of passionate home supporters who put considerable pressure on their national team to produce the goods in every game, Brazil now have solidary at the back in the form of Thiago Silva, Dante, Dani Alves and Marcelo — a quartet that is ranked amongst the best defensive units in world football.

While the current Brazil squad have more than enough quality to win the World Cup on merit, the soaring heat and humid climates expected pose a considerable challenge to non-South American nations who must acclimatize efficiently. This may hamper the likes of Germany and Spain, which, despite having superb squads packed with quality, may find the conditions too much after a few games and be unable to produce the brand of football that is devastating and successful. The same rule could apply to England who will go to Brazil with lowered expectations than previous years, yet still have the quality to surprise themselves and many others.