Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald reporters predict how the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will unfold:
MICHELLE KAUFMAN, MIAMI HERALD
Common sense says Brazil will win this World Cup. As host country, it will have the home crowd and comforts of home. It is a very talented team that made a huge statement last summer by beating Spain convincingly in the Confederations Cup final.
And, even though it has been 64 years, Brazilians haven’t forgotten that World Cup final loss to Uruguay at home. This team is determined to avenge that dreadful day.
But anyone who follows soccer knows that favorites and common sense don’t always prevail.
Argentina also is a wise pick. Lionel Messi is due to have a big breakout World Cup after scoring just one goal in eight previous World Cup matches. Group F, at least on paper, looks very winnable with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran. Argentina will be playing in its backyard and surely will have lots of fan support.
Colombia is a sleeper, as is Belgium.
European teams have never done well on South American soil, but don’t be surprised if that changes this time around. Spain is still a mighty dangerous team. Have you seen its roster? It looks like a La Liga All-Star team. Their second 11 is more impressive than most team’s starters.
And then there’s Germany. The Germans led Europe in qualifying with 36 goals. Germany is ranked No. 2 in the world, has been to 17 World Cups, winning three times (1954, 1974, 1990) and finished runner-up three times. Any team with Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger is a scary team.
It’s hard to really know which of these favorites will be standing at the end, or, maybe none of them will. Maybe it will be a surprise team. But, if I had to narrow it down to the two most likely winners, I’d have to go with Brazil and Germany. Now that I wrote those words, surely someone else will win.
LUIS SANCHEZ, EL NUEVO HERALD
Argentina has the attack that can turn it into one of the great candidates to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Since Diego Maradona’s kingdom ended, the Albiceleste team has not made it to a final. The last time was in Italy in 1990. Four years before, led by Maradona, aka El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy), it had won its second world title.
The Argentines have this time surrendered their hearts to Lionel Messi and trust that with his genius and the contribution by formidable strikers such as Sergio Aguero (21 goals in 47 games) and Gonzalo Higuaín (21 goals in 36 games), their scoring force will lead them to again caress the Cup, elusive to them for 28 years.
At age 26, Messi is at the top of his game, just like Maradona was when he led Argentina to the title in Mexico in 1986. To crown his career, the four-time Golden Ball trophy winner must show his leadership. Messi has scored 37 goals in 83 games with the team.
Of course it will be hard to win in Brazil, given the tremendous rivalry between the countries.
Uruguay might also show up like a ghost, as it did 64 years ago when it defeated Brazil 2-1 in the 1950 final, now remembered as the Maracanazo, one of the biggest surprises in world soccer history. The Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, will again host the World Cup final on July 13.
Uruguay is the current champion of the Copa America and has an aggressive team with two very effective strikers: Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez, though Suárez had meniscus surgery a few weeks ago and might not recover in time.
The Netherlands is the perpetual runner-up, with three finals (1974, 1978 and 2010) and no title. Now with a renovated team and a coach with a great trajectory like Louis van Gaal, it can become the hidden ace in this world championship.
OTHER PREDICTIONS• Linda Robertson: Top 4 – Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain. Sleeper – Bosnia-Herzegovina. Winner – Brazil.
• Greg Cote: Top 4 – Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany. Sleeper – Uruguay. Winner – Argentina.
• Adam H. Beasley: Top 4 – Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Italy. Sleeper – USA. Winner – Germany.
• Joseph Goodman: Top 4 – Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina. Sleeper – Belgium. Winner – Brazil.
• David J. Neal: Top 4 – Germany, Brazil, Spain, Argentina. Sleeper – Ghana. Winner – Brazil.