You come to realise over a certain amount of time, that yes there really is a difference between ourselves and those loveable reds from across the park. Its strange when you consider that we are all human beings, all come from the same city, and we all have basically the same up bringing. I’m best friends with a red, we have been friends since we were kids, and during our friendship we have always had good banter and I would like to think intelligent conversations about both clubs. We would often disagree, but with him I forget about scoring points an try and be as honest as I can about Liverpool and my own club Everton, and for his part he does the same.
Gary Lineker stole the line which I penned well before his column on the BBC site or the channel’s preview of the 20th finals on World Cup Eve. How on Earth can Belgium can be dark horses for the tournament, if they are EVERYONE’S choice of darkhorses?
Germany are my favourites for this tournament. Quite simply because they have quality in every area. A world-class goalkeeper, solid in defence, creative in midfield and and clinical in attack. They are the most successful European nation (though they’ve won one less World Cup than Italy) and nobody ever likes facing the Germans – except for in Euro 2000!
This is going to be the first time that almost half of Switzerland’s World Cup squad is under the age of 25 and they will be looking to emulate their successful under-17 players, who triumphed in the under-age version in 2009. Three players from that 23 will be in coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s selection – Gladbach’s Granit Xhaka, Real Sociedad striker, Haris Seferovic and Wolfsburg defender Ricardo Rodriguez.
Group C sees (!) yet another South American country and one who I initially fancied to go far when the draw was made last December. However, since then they have lost not only a man who is their talismanic striker but one of the world’s great goalscorers.
On paper, this looks like a fearsome threesome; Australia being the odd-ones out. We have the winners of their last three competitive international tournaments, including this tournament four years ago in South Africa, the side they beat in the final there – the Netherlands – and Chile, darkhorses on their own continent and thrust into the limelight following their 2-0 triumph at Wembley in November.
Not long to go until the renewal of the greatest football tournament on Earth, the World Cup. The pre-tournament warm-up matches are coming to a close and the final preparations by each country are being made. This is my guide to those competing in Brazil this summer, with predictions.