World Cup guides. Whether they be the 64-page supplements that fall out of your tabloids or extensive and oft-better researched pieces from the blogosphere, the next nine days will throw more and more at football fans throughout the country by the hour. The thought of listing my thoughts and predictions regarding the fate of the thirty-two nations at length therefore seems fruitless, in the fear they might be lost amongst the feverish broadcasting of opinion by, well, everyone.
Based on this, I have decided to keep my predictions brief. To the extent of 140 characters. Mock, laugh, cheer and cry as I present to you… my World Cup Predictions In A Tweet.
(GS = Group Stages, SR = Second Round, QF = Quarter Finals, SF = Semi Finals, RU = Runners-Up)
South Africa – No hosts have ever failed to get out of the groups. SA will be the first. Little experience out of SA. Pienaar fighting a lone battle. GS.
Mexico – Quick going forward, will trouble French defence. Good WC pedigree. Defence, however, not good enough to progress in knockouts. SR.
Uruguay – Suarez and Forlan in outstanding form. Flexible in their formations, organised, and will revel in how much they are unfancied. QF.
France – In-fighting, controversy, and the most unpopular manager in world football. Will be booted from the tournament however hard Malouda tries. GS
Argentina – Unbelievable attack. Maradona unquestionably passionate despite mental frailty. Underestimated despite talent in all areas. Champions.
Nigeria – Physically strong, experienced and hard-working, and well-placed to finish second in Group B. Lacking in flair to progress further. SR.
South Korea – As solid as ever, but too average to expect any of the heroics of 2002. A victory against Greece the only hope for qualification. GS.
Greece – Rehhagel as organised tactically as in Euro 2004, but with a weaker group of players. Little up front to worry Nigeria and South Korea. GS.
England – Plenty of goals around, but will be shown up defensively by an attack such as NED. Problems in too many positions to be in with a chance. SF.
USA – Very impressive going forward, and exceptionally coached in a very-American way. Will prove too much for Slovenia and Algeria. SR.
Algeria – Will miss Megnhi a great deal, but proud team and fans will prove hard to break down. Discipline a huge problem, as shown in ACN. GS.
Slovenia – Great qualifying campaign, but little talent to suggest they will overcome USA in chase for second. Only hope is defence remaining rock solid. GS.
Germany – Ballack-shaped hole, but blessed with strong front-line. Extensive WC experience. Challenging group. Likely QF replay with Argentina. QF.
Australia – Experienced veterans, looking to build on 2006, but not used to playing against the quality found in Group D. Gone at the first hurdle. GS.
Serbia – Two of the PL’s best in defence, superb Krasic a key man. Huge game against Ghana key to qualification before likely match-up with England. SR.
Ghana – Shaky without Essien, made to look ordinary in recent friendly against the Dutch. Serbians will trouble them during the group stages. GS.
Holland – Outstanding strike force, shaky at the back, but real contenders. Robben, RvP and Sneijder best attacking trio in SA. Good support in SA. RU.
Denmark – Efficient at the back, fantastic in qualifying. Bendtner in irresistible form for his country. Will counter-attack their way out of the group. SR.
Japan – A younger team than at previous WCs, that famously troubled England pre-tournament. Not enough flair to get past the group stages. GS.
Cameroon – Eto’o self-destruction and Le Guen’s lack of spark may prove crucial. Should be well-supported. Alex Song will need to run the backline. GS.
Italy – Aging. A higher average age than 2006, but with only nine members of that squad. Di Natale key. Difficult route in the knockouts. QF.
Paraguay – Tragedy of Cabanas hides a superb attacking team, united in a bid to build on good qualifying campaign. Relatively simple group to get through. SR.
New Zealand – Ridiculously easy qualifying campaign will not aid the All Whites quest. Thrashings await, with very little attacking talent on show. GS.
Brazil – Tough group and a tough route in the knockouts. Robust at the back, but pressure on Luis Fabiano to be the Ronaldo/Romario. QF.
North Korea – Enigmatic, mythical, and probably not as useless as everyone thinks. In any other group, could be a handful. But three defeats a certainty. GS.
Ivory Coast – Game against Portugal a play-off to get out of the group. With Drogba/Kalou in the mood, knockout stages a distinct possibility. SR.
Portugal – Ronaldo must break goal drought to go further than groups. Aging defence. Interesting match-up with Spain a possibility in 2nd Round. GS.
Spain – Outstanding in all areas in principle. Champions elect, but defence must stay focused later in the tournament against Messi et al. SF.
Honduras – Strong and powerful, which could rile the Swiss. Palacious key in inspiring a side playing for pride. Could provide a shock. GS.
Chile – A wonderful WC history, yet not such a great WC present. Will struggle to break down the Swiss, and be roundly beaten by Spain. GS.
Switzerland – The enigmatic Swiss always seem to sit quietly in the background, collected and calm. Will brush aside Chile and Honduras before their SR exit. SR.