WORLD CUP 2014: Packet's new sports guru has his say

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

First published in Sport by , Sports Reporter

EXCITING times lay ahead of us over the next month as the festival of football which comes every four years in the form of the World Cup starts up tomorrow.

With the tournament being in Brazil this time round, the atmosphere of the competition is set to be as hot and passionate as some of the samba dancing which will be seen on the streets of Rio.

It will be the hosts who kick off the festivities at 9pm tomorrow when they face Croatia in Sao Paulo and they also go into the World Cup as the favourites to lift the gold trophy on Sunday July 13.

They certainly do merit their favourites tag as they are a squad filled with goalscorers, skill and grit with a coach in Luiz Felipe Scolari who has won the cup before with Brazil back in 2002.

But personally, although I would love to see Brazil crowned as champions, I do not believe it will be their year even with home advantage.

I still think they will do well and reach the semi finals, but for me the team I am backing to win the World Cup is Argentina. 

At the last two tournaments they have set the group stages alight with dazzling football skills, leading many spectators and pundits to claim they will walk their way to glory.

However, both times they have come unstuck in the quarter final stage and both times against Germany.

Argentina's biggest problem at the last two World Cups has been they have knackered themselves out by the time crunch games come their way.

To be successful in tournament football is about playing the right football at the right time, not the best football all the time.

Winning teams normally grind their way out of the group stage rather than breezing their way into the second round.

This is what Italy and Spain did at the World Cups in 2006 and 2010 respectively and then they developed their way through to glory as they found their form in the latter stages.

The Argentine's approach of playing spectacular football in the early games has backfired as by the time they reach the knockout phase, other teams have either worked out their game or the squad have used up most of their energy.

This time though I think things will be different.

Argentina's squad has a good shape and is full of talent in every area, which of course is led by Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

I do not think the conditions in Brazil will have as much a detrimental affect on some of the teams as is being stated, but it is fair to say Argentina have an advantage being a South American nation.

I also feel where they differ from other sides from their continent is their defence is stronger than their counterparts with Pablo Zabaleta and Benfica's Ezequiel Garay in the squad.

Long gone are the days when simply being able to play the most stylish and beautiful football is good enough to win tournaments like the Brazil side of 1970 where able to do, defenders made of stern stuff are required nowadays and looking at the squads, I feel Argentina have the best.

Then there is the attacking force they have with their skipper and talisman Messi, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain who have the skills to set the world alight with their feet.

For Messi in particular will feel like he has a point to prove with many people saying he cannot truly be classed as an all-time great until he wins a World Cup, so he will surely be chomping at the bit to bring home the trophy to Buenos Aires.

What Argentina also have on their side is a decent draw with Bosnia, Nigeria and Iran all teams they should beat comfortably enough while not expending too much energy.

Then in the knockout stages, their route to the final could see them come up against Switzerland in the last 16, Belgium or Portugal in the quarter finals and Spain, the Netherlands, Italy or, perhaps, England in the semi finals before a likely final against Brazil, Germany or France.

Of course none of these will be easy games, but if they prepare right and set themselves up well then Argentina have the side who can progress onwards and finish the job off. 

I think sides like Brazil, as I already mentioned, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and France will do well too while Belgium could act as the dark horse of the tournament.

But if I was to stick money on a winner, I'd have to go for Argentina.

As for England, I believe we will make it to the quarter finals before losing to Brazil.

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