Owen vs. The First World Cup Colossus!
THE World Cup – and the first £10 million Colossus of the tournament – gets underway when Brazil take on Croatia, and I doubt that there will be many shorter-priced favourites in the opening round of matches than the host nation here.
However, it may not be the cakewalk that match odds of 1-3 imply, and I am backing Brazil to nick a relatively tight game 2-1, with 1-0, 2-0 and AOH as my back-up correct scores.
You only have to look at Brazil’s star-laden squad with numerous players based around Europe to see what they are capable of in this tournament, and quite clearly home advantage has historically been a massive plus.
As host nation, they obviously didn’t have to qualify but their form in recent internationals has been pretty impressive.
But Croatia won’t be pushovers; you only have to look back to the 2006 World Cup when Brazil only beat them 1-0 to see that Croatia are more than capable of holding their own.
Admittedly, they weren’t great in qualifying on occasions – the undoubted low being a 2-0 away loss to Scotland, and they needed to beat Iceland in the play-offs to get here – but on the plus side they did draw 1-1 away to group winners Belgium.
With the likes of Luka Modric pulling the strings, they will pose teams problems, but they do tend to concede and that is a failing that you have to fancy Brazil to exploit.
Mexico had to win a play-off against New Zealand to get to Brazil after some very poor results in qualifying, but at least they managed to beat the All Whites comfortably enough. And they are the 2012 Olympic champions, remember, after beating Brazil in the final, so you have to fancy them against Cameroon.
Who can forget Cameroon’s exploits in this tournament in the 1990 tournament – certainly not England’s supporters! – but they are not the same force these days, even with Samuel Eto’o up front.
Like the Brazil game, I favour a relatively hard-fought Mexico win, so I will perm 2-0, 1-0 and 2-1.
Spain are not coming into this tournament as favourites this time and perhaps lack a striker out of the top drawer – a not fully fit Diego Costa would be a massive loss for them – but write them off at your peril. After all, they are looking for their fourth major tournament in a row after winning the last two Euros and the 2010 World Cup. Not a bad CV!
They were unbeaten in qualifying, are hard to score against and have an array of midfield talent that makes your eyes water.
Talking of making your eyes water, this re-run of the 2010 final against the Netherlands promises to be very tasty – I’m not sure how many yellow cards that final had, but there should have been a couple more reds to accompany them if my memory serves me well – but I don’t see them losing this opening game.
However, the Netherlands were very impressive in qualifying – after a very poor Euro 2012 – and in Robin Van Persie they certainly do have a world-class striker.
My main fancy is a narrow Spain win, either 2-1 or 1-0, but I think you have to put 1-1 in your perms as they have players in Van Persie and Robben who can cause havoc in the best of defences.
Chile are not a side to be under-estimated, as England found out in a 2-0 loss to them at Wembley last year. And they have given the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany a run for their money away from home too in recent games.
In Alexis Sanchez they have a touch of class, and I’ll be surprised if they don’t open up with a win over Australia.
Again, I don’t see a runaway win here either though, so I am going 2-1, 1-0 and 2-0 again.
I’ve just looked what I have written down for my fancies for the Colombia-Greece game, and bizarrely I am going for exactly the same three correct scores here in a Colombia win.
Some sides may fancy their chances against Colombia with recent news that one of the best forwards around, Radamel Falcao, is out through injury. However, despite the loss of their star man, Colombia are still a force to be reckoned with. Some of their results towards the end of last year – namely a 2-0 win in Belgium and a 0-0 draw against Holland – mark them down as dangerous outsiders for the tournament and firm favourites to top their group.
So an opening win is on the cards. Greece did well in qualifying though, admittedly from not the strongest of groups, and could keep it pretty tight, as well as having goalscoring options up front in Mitroglou and Samaras.
Most people think of Uruguay as Luis Suarez, and their backers will obviously be praying the Liverpool star is fit enough to take his place in the tournament.
But they are more than just a one-man band – Cavani isn’t too bad either – and the 2010 losing semi-finalists have beaten the likes of Argentina in the last 12 months.
Suarez or not, it is Uruguay for me here, but only by the odd goal again as Costa Rica built their qualification on a solid defence. So I take Uruguay to win 1-0 or 2-1.
And then we come to the big one; England v Italy.
I have dealt with my assessment of England in my main opening piece, and I am banking on 1-1.
If we get that far, then that gives us plenty of Cash-In options, as that looks by far the most likely scoreline to me. And I imagine one that would probably suit both teams, as well.
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