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!
In 2011, the unthinkable happened – three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi was booed by his own fans during the Copa America after they drew disappointingly against both Bolivia and Colombia.
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.
There is a lot more confidence about England this time around with coach Roy Hodgson deciding to give youth a chance. Everton’s Ross Barkley, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw of Southampton are names that immediately sprung out from the 23 when the squad as officially confirmed.
Belgian Striker Romelu Lukaku will need rest after picking up an injury on Saturday, but coach Marc Wilmots expects him to be fit for the World Cup.
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.