World Cup Outright Preview
The 2010 finals are nearly upon us.
Miniature flag. Check
Garage full of beer. Check
An English victory in the final. Erm........maybe!
The 2010 finals will be the 19th in World Cup history and the first ever to be played on the African continent. Come July 11th in Johannesburg the 32 competing nations will have been whittled down to just two, with one side going on to taste World Cup success and lift the famous trophy while the losers taste only the bitter remnants of defeat.
But who will be the victors?
Since Brazil secured a second successive World Cup in 1962 in Chile, the winning nation has alternated between South Americans and Europeans, continuing most recently with Italy's triumph in Germany in 2006. That trend could continue for a 13th consecutive tournament if we have a South American winner on July 11th this year.
Therefore we'll begin with a look at the obvious contenders from South America that have kept one half of that trend alive. Despite Uruguay's (100/1) early prominence on the world stage it's been there Latin American neighbours Argentina and Brazil that have flown the flag for the CONMEBOL countries.
The two rivals have amassed seven titles between them and eleven appearances in the final (despite never meeting in one).
This time the Brazilians claim to have learnt from that disappointment four years ago in Germany by strengthening the defensive side of their game. In Maicon, Lucio and Julio Cesar they have three of the all conquering Inter Milan back line and unlike many Brazilian sides, this one is based around a solid defence backed up with lightening quick counter attacking capabilities.
Dunga's men are 9/2 second favourites to win their sixth World Cup trophy.
Argentina (13/2), led by Diego Maradona have possibly the most talented and potent attacking line-up in the entire World Cup. Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Diego Milito and Gonzalo Higuain are all at Maradona's disposal and how he utilizes them could be the difference between success and failure.
Despite this plethora of tantalizing talent there are still doubts regarding La Albiceleste, that mainly land at the feet of their eccentric coach. Maradona called up over 100 players during Argentina's qualification process and only sealed their spot in South Africa in their final match. Can this controversial yet brilliant footballer show the world that he is also a great manager or will he fail on football's biggest stage?
The European challenge will be headed by Euro 2008 winners Spain, who start as 4/1 favourites.
Their best World Cup ended with a fourth place finish in 1950, and even hosting the finals didn't help back in 1982 when a goalless draw with England ended the challenge of both nations at the second group stage.
If Torres and Villa can fire in the goals teed up for them by the creative Silva, Xavi and Iniesta then it is hard to see past them. When it comes to open, free flowing football this current crop of Spanish stars have proven themselves to be the masters, outpassing their opposition from their strong central hub.
The only way I can see a team overcoming La Furia Roja is by a dogged, resolute defensive display. Cast your minds back to the 2009 Confederations Cup and that is exactly the performance the USA put on to defeat Spain in the semi-finals. Denying them the space to operate may be a tough ask but is the only way to get anywhere near them.
The Three Lions of England have drifted to 8/1 after losing their captain Rio Ferdinand and three unconvincing friendly performances in the build up to the World Cup. Fabio Capello's men should have too much for their Group C adversaries but could well come unstuck in the quarters and semis where they could well meet Argentina and Brazil respectively.
The English hopes lie on the shoulders of the talismanic Wayne Rooney. If he can grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck and in the process inspire his team mates also, England maybe, just maybe have a chance.
The Netherlands have come in for some significant late support to claim their first ever championship.
The Dutch are now 10/1 to do what Johan Cruyff and co never managed and bring the World Cup trophy back to Amsterdam. With Robin Van Persie recovered from injury and Arjen Robben playing some of the finest football of his career they may well justify the faith that many experts and punters are placing in them.
Germany (14/1), Italy (16/1), France (20/1) and Portugal (25/1) make up the remaining European favourites. The Germans and the Italians are renowned for their ability to go deep in the major tournaments even when they are not at their best. I would not put it past either of these teams to make the last four.
With France and Portugal I am less optimistic. Both countries struggled to qualify and had to do it via the arduous route of the play-offs. Les Bleus only qualified virtue of THAT William Gallas goal in the Stade de France, dishonourably assisted by the hand of Thierry Henry.
Hoping to break the dominance of the South Americans and the Europeans will be the six teams from Africa.
The lowest priced African side are the Ivory Coast at 50/1. If Didier Drogba can recover sufficiently from his fractured elbow he should lead Les Elephants in South Africa. Filled with Premier League stars including Kolo Toure and Salomon Kalou this is the best chance of success an African team has ever had.
The tournament hosts South Africa start at one of the biggest prices we have seen for a team to claim a World Cup on home turf. The Bafana-Bafana are 150/1 to win the entire tournament. A tough expectation for a side that may struggle to get out of Group A.
Ghana are priced slightly ahead of the hosts at 125/1 while Nigeria are just as unfancied at 150s.