Most of the heavy favourites have already qualified for the World Cup due next summer in South Africa. Previous World Cup winners such as Brazil, Germany, England, Argentina and Italy (also current WC Winners) all booked their spot in South Africa following a long and arduous road. Some teams such as Argentina have struggled while others such as England have cruised, yet the World Cup stage is a different playing field and previous results will not count. The only two teams with an outside chance that have yet to qualify are France and Portugal while the Spaniards have impressed in their group following their 2008 triumph in Europe.
Spain cannot be overlooked due to its rich talent, in particular the likes of David Villa, Xavi Herndandez and Fernando Torres among others. Other than Spain, the English national team under Italian Coach Fabio Capello had an impressive tally of points after convincingly navigating the qualifying group stage. Capello can count on the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard to carry England all the way into the final stages.
The Brazilians and the Germans as well as the Italians often perform their best when it matters most. Brazil has a plethora of talent beginning with current Real Madrid star Kaka and stretching to right-back Maicon who plays for Inter Milan. The Italians are current World Cup holders so there will be additional pressure on the Azzurri to perform following a relatively uninspiring qualifying campaign. It will be wrong to undermine Italy’s chances when considering that Gianluigi Buffon is recapturing his best form which had him labeled as the best custodian in the world while Daniele De Rossi remains a considerable driving force in the midfield engine room.
While Argentina had a horrendous sequence of results before securing qualification in the very last match, it is not wise to exclude the Argentines from the list of potential winners though Diego Maradona as a coach has shown over and again that he not only lacks the know-how but also is clueless when it comes to strategies, team selection and tactics. After all, Argentina still has Lionel Messi though he continues to underperform when compared to his exploits with Barcelona.
Will one of the traditional powers (i.e. Brazil, Germany or Italy) or will an emerging nation (Spain and England) or a new rising team (Ivory Coast) triumph in South Africa? For the record no European team has ever won outside Europe and the trend could very well continue if Brazil performs up to expectations or perhaps a surprising African package rises to the occasions just as the South Koreans did in Asia 2002 when they made it to the semi-finals.