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7 Big Questions To Be Answered At the Brasil 2014 World Cup
How well will Belgium's Golden Generation Do
Much has been made about the influx of Belgium talent which has emerged over the past couple of years, and the 2014 World Cup is their chance to showcase how good they really are. Belgium made pretty small work of their World Cup qualifying group winning all but two of their games, having drew those 2 and remaining unbeaten.
Belgium last competed in the World Cup back in 2002 where they suffered a 2nd round loss to eventual winners Brasil. Their current coach Marc Wilmots who has his team in such fine form, was playing in that game.
Belgium's 'Golden Generation' boasts stars such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Curtois just to name a few. Theres no denying the quality they have , both as a starting 11 and a full squad, it may just come down to how ruthless they can be in front of goal.
Personally I think reaching the semi-finals would represent a successful World Cup for Belgium, a team that is still young and in building. I say this because despite all the good players they have, they lack a shortage of genuine world class players. At this moment I would say Hazard, Kompany and Curtois are the only truly world class players in the Belgium squad. Compare this to say Germany, Spain, Brasil and Argentina who all have at least 7 world class players in their ranks.
Will Lionel Messi Silence The Doubters
Already considered by many to be the greatest player ever, Lionel Messi still has his critics. These are the people who believe he doesn't deserve the title as the greatest ever until he has won the World Cup.
The 2014 World Cup in Brasil is most likely the best chance Messi will get to silence his doubters. Despite not scoring in the 2010 World Cup Messi played quite well, but quite well isn't good enough if you want your legacy to be as the best ever.
Four years is a long time and so much has changed since his baron spell in South Africa, proven as his current form for country replicates that of which he produces at Barcelona. In Argentina's World Cup qualifyling campaign Messi notched an impressive 10 goals in 13 appearances.
Messi has been in and out of form and injury during the current season, but still has the most La Liga goals since his return in February. Should Messi get anywhere near his best form in the World Cup, Argentina will pose massive problems and Messi alone can turn any game on its head, writing his name in the record books once again.
Will Spain's Slick Style Prevail Once Again
If Belgium have a 'Golden Generation', then Spain must have a 'Diamond Generation'. The wealth of class Spain possess is somewhat envious to most other nations, and there is no sign of their talent pool slowing down. Spain would make history if they are able to win their 4th consecutive major tournament.
Spain enter the 2014 World Cup as defending champions and double European champions, along with a massive reputation. In the past year however there have been negative signs, the most damning a 3-0 mauling at the hands of Brasil in the Confederations Cup final, where Spain's possession based football was outdone by brilliant counter-attacks.
Some believe their style has been 'found out' and they are now too predictable to break down the bigger teams, especially when they don't play a recognised striker. With that said, a saviour could have just arrived, cue Diego Costa!
Costa is the opposite of the stereotypical Spanish player, more brawn than beaut, a no nonsense centre forward. He only recently qualified to play for Spain and had the choice between them and his home country Brasil. Something tells me he won't be the most popular man at this years World Cup, not that it will phase him.
Now with a target man up top who can bully defences and win ariel duels, Spain can adapt their passing football to work with the more directness of Costa. This 'Plan B' could be the answer to all of Spain's recent problems and possibly propelling them to consecutive World Cup titles.
Will England Make The Knockout Phase
England's group looks to be one of the toughest in the competition on paper, but is it really all doom and gloom?
Italy seem to be the group favourites and rightly so after building on a squad which reached the 2012 European Championship final. However, I don't consider Italy to be that far ahead of England in terms of genuine quality. Of course they have Andrea Pirlo who dominated the game last time both teams met. Aside Pirlo both teams look pretty even, maybe even favouring England should Roy Hodgson play counter attacking football with the likes of Sterling and Sturridge.
The other 'Strong' team in this group is Uruguay who have the world's most in form striker leading their line, Luis Suarez. Alongside him they have Cavani and Forlan, both quality players. However, other than these three players they only really have Diego Godin who can be considered as an excellent player. They finished 5th of 9 in the South American qualifying group meaning they had to win a play off game against Jordan to be present at this years World Cup. If they are to find themselves in the knockout phase, it will be because their strikers have been firing on all cylinders, because their midfield and defence simply isn't good enough.
England usually always seem to make it through the group stages of major tournaments, and I expect this year to be no different.
The final team of the group is Costa Rica, who are pretty much considered to be the 'Whipping Boys'. Should Costa Rica take points from any of the other three teams, expect that team to be the one which fails to make the knockout phase.
Will Neymar Show His Worth
Brasil's face of the 2014 World Cup is young starlet Neymar, who made a €71 million to Barcelona last summer, and largely failed to impress. His season started quite alright scoring the winning goal in the Spanish Super Cup and making the scoreboard in El Clasico too. However, as the season went on it became clear Neymar's performances and influence on a game were well below par.
The Brazilian league is way more physical than La Liga, so it can't be that what's bothering him. Can it be the step up in competition is too much for him? Certainly not. Neymar has already proved on an International level against teams such as Spain and Italy how good he is, and how he can split defences apart with ease, so what is the problem?
The problem may lie with the change of football style and the change of culture. Barcelona's style is known to be hard to adapt for players, even quality ones. Look at Alexis Sanchez, only hitting top form in his third season at the club. With Brasil their football is more direct which suits Neymar's style. Moving away from home is also going to affect him, especially at such a young age.
Back at home this summer, with the expectation of a nation on his shoulders, Neymar needs to stand up and be counted. As the poster boy of their World Cup he needs to deliver and I've no doubt he will. Back in his homeland playing fast paced football, don't be surprised if Neymar comes close to leading his nation to World Cup victory.
Can Ronaldo Drag Portugal Any Further
2013 Ballon D'or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has almost single handedly dragged Portugal to the World Cup. Having failed to qualify through the group for the World cup, Portugal needed to win a play off game to book their place at the event. They were pitched against Sweden and fellow superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The first leg ended 1-0 to Portugal, but the second leg is what got everyone talking. Ronaldo notched up a hat-trick in a highly impressive performance which led his nation to the World Cup.
We seen this same kind of thing back in the 2012 European Championships, where it seemed Portugal's tactic was simply to give the ball to Ronaldo and let him do all the work, but how far will this take them? They lack any other World Class stars, but do have some very good players such as Moutinho, Pepe and Nani. They find themselves in a group with Germany, Ghana and USA so second place to Germany is realistically going to be the aim for Portugal.
If Portugal manage second spot in their group it is likely they will face Belgium in the second round. Begium have an all round strong team which will make it difficult for Ronaldo to prey on the weak players, something he is so good at. Because of the real lack of depth and quality in Portugal's squad I believe it will be deemed as a successful tournament for them if they make it any further than the 2nd round. If they do make it past this point it won't take a genius to work out why, Ronaldo will have been on top of his game and dragged his nation to the brink of success.
Will Brasil As A Nation Deliver
More political than about football, questions have surrounded Brasil ever since they were awarded the World Cup, and not much has changed. Numerous workers have lost their life on the construction site's of stadiums and protests have been ongoing ever since the Confederations Cup last summer.
The protests are mainly due to some Brasil nationals believing their government should be spending money more wisely than on a World Cup, e.g hospitals and education. In a ploy to downplay any protests arranged around the World Cup, football governing body FIFA have promised to give massive sums of money to Brasil to help take the brunt of the costs. Even with this money it is unlikely the protesters will go away, forgetting how much their own government are already spending on this huge event.
The other main problem is the unfinished stadiums which have already caused devistation, by taking lives in the course of building. Should the stadiums be unfinished for the start of the World Cup, massive questions will be asked by FIFA and fans alike, maybe resulting in FIFA not giving Brasil the full amount of money they promised.
After all that said, there really is no better place a World Cup could be held, is there? Brasil is a nation obsessed with football, and the most successful in World Cup history, boasting 5 titles. Should the protests stay peaceful and not violent, and the stadiums gets finished, prepare for an unbelievable World Cup this summer!