Since 1930 when a South American team won the debut World Cup tournament in Uruguay, teams from Europe and South America have dominated the global showpiece. However, a vast improvement in the style and technique of players from other continents coupled with the presence of unbelievable talents could help shift the balance of power in the global sport in Brazil.
Past Winners of the World Cup
Uruguay became the first country to host the World Cup in 1930 and emerged as winners. The subsequent tournaments saw Italy winning the Jules Rimet trophy consecutively in 1934 and 1938 to claim the honor as repeat winners. The Third Reich and World War II obviated FIFA from staging the competition until 1950 when Brazil hosted it and surprisingly, Uruguay tipped the scales over the host nation for its second and hitherto last championship. Since then, Brazil has emerged as the country with the most World Cup triumphs–five won in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. Italy has four to its credit (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006) while Germany has won it on three occasions (1954, 1974, and 1990). Argentina has won it twice (1978 and 1986). England, France, and Spain are tied with one apiece in 1966, 1986, and 2010 respectively.
Cultural Appeal of Soccer
Soccer is widely regarded as the world’s most popular sport, a sport whose cultural appeal spawns a mass hysteria of profound dimensions from its aficionados, so it has created religious spaces worshipped in South America, Africa, Europe, and Central America. These continents have produced some of the most talented potentates of the sport, including Brazil’s Pele, Argentina’s Maradona, Mozambique and Portugal’s Eusebio, Italy’s Paolo Rossi, England’s Bobby Charlton, Germany’s Franz Beckenbaur, and France’s Zinedine Zidan, to mention just a few, who at the height of their crafts produced glorified performances that made them cultural icons throughout the globe. In June and July of this year in Brazil, the cynosure of all eyes will be the heirs of the aforementioned greats such as Lionel Messi of Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo of Brazil, Neymar of Brazil, Frank Ribery of France, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck of England, Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo of Italy, Louis Suarez of Uruguay, Radamel Falcao of Colombia, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller of Germany, Arjen Robben of Holland, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez of Spain, and Eden Hazard of Belgium. From Africa will emerge talents such as Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast, Michael Essien and Kevin Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, and Samoah Gyan of Ghana, John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses of Nigeria, and Samuel E’too of Cameroon.The USA will pin its hopes on Clint Dempsey, Langdon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore while Mexico will look forward to Giovanni Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez to shine with shooting star magnificence in Brazil.
USA or an African Team Will Beckon in Brazil
As much as I am appalled by Jurgen Klinnsman’s banishing of Freddy Adu from the national team after the lad had performed so brilliantly in Bob Bradley’s last game against Mexico and almost single-handedly led the Olympic soccer team to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, the German’s stoic determinism and sense of due diligence where talent is lacking, has greatly transmogrified the American players. As a result, Mexico that used to be the powerhouse in the CONCACAF region is now playing second fiddle to the United States in the region. Besides, the 2014 World Cup will be the swansong for World Cup veterans such as Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, and perhaps Dempsey and Tim Howard, so Brazil may happen to see their most mercurial performances just yet. The veterans together with their teammates, some of whom are Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Brad Evans, and Clarence Goodson should be inspired to unleash a scintillating stir that would create quite a drama in Group H and beyond. However, the arrogance of Klinnsman could mar the beauty of it all in Brazil.
Still in Group G, my other wild choice to emerge from the Group and qualify to the next stage is Ghana. My choice of Ghana is based on the fact that for the most part, countries that won the U-17 and U-20 tournaments have gone on to win the World Cup. Ghana has a couple of triumphs at the U-17 level and in 2009, it won the U-20 tournament in Egypt by beating Brazil in the final. Included in their talented galaxy of ruthless executioners are Essien, Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah, Gyan, Andre Ayew, Christian Atsu, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Isaac Vorsah, David Addy, Daniel Opare, Abdul Majeed Waris, and David Accam. All these guys want to do is to qualify from their group and see if they can better their quarterfinal finish in 2010 in Brazil in 2014.
Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon
Nigeria, another of the West African soccer powerhouses, is currently the African champion and world champion at the U-17 level. It also won the gold medal in soccer at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. Africa’s most populous nation boasts of a deep well of soccer talents, including Mikel, Moses, Yakubu Ayigenni, and Shola Amobi and a host of local talents, all too willing to take on the world in Brazil. In the case of the Ivory Coast, it has been a perennial disappointment in major tournaments in the Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou, and Kolo Toure era. However, with the addition of young talents like Wilfried Bony, the Ivory Coast will be looking forward to exorcise the tag of unequivocal failures in major tournaments and excel in Brazil. If not, they would descend into the annals of that country’s soccer history as an assemblage of great talents who never won any silverware for the Ivory Coast. Cameroon is the most famous contenders of the African entourage as far as the World Cup tournament is concerned based on their history in the tournament. They will be led by Samuel E’too who will also be participating in his last World Cup in Brazil. Expect Cameroon to sustain their excellence in the World Cup should the chips fall in their favor.
Also Mexico, Belgium, and Colombia as Contenders
In the absence of the USA or any of the African teams pulling it off if the acclaimed superpowers fall by the wayside, expect Belgium with Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Moussa Dembele leading their cast of brilliant players to emerge with the probability of winning it all. And based on its pedigree in the age competitions, Mexico can also spring a surprise. They have won at the U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels, so in my opinion, Mexico should have been well placed to win laurels at the senior level in Brazil. It is still not too late for them to get their act together. Colombia like Belgium also has a variety of talents performing at the highest level all over Europe, so they should not be ruled out.