In a poll of a few football personalities, though, Germany emerged as the big favourite
The Fifa 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia tomorrow – and who better to ask for some insight into the potential winner than Benni McCarthy (pictured).
The 40-year-old Cape Town City coach scored at two World Cups. At the 1998 tournament in France, in Bafana Bafana’s game against Denmark, McCarthy netted to level the score at 1-1; his strike was the SA national football side’s first-ever goal at a World Cup. Four years later, in Korea/Japan 2002, McCarthy scored again – this time in a 3-2 defeat to Spain.
Looking at this year’s World Cup, McCarthy suggested that the usual suspects, Germany, Spain and Brazil, were in the running, but added that, if he was gambling man, he’d put his money elsewhere.
“I think there are a few teams in the running to win this World Cup,” said McCarthy. “Spain obviously look to be firm favourites and you can’t rule out Germany because they are always challenging at events like this. Brazil are solid, they have Neymar back fit, and they always tend to light up the World Cup. But I think France will surprise. They have a young squad with some very good players – for me, I’m putting my money on France.”
France, with a talented-laden squad, including world-class names such as Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar, certainly are a team capable of going all the way.
In a poll of a few football personalities, though, Germany emerged as the big favourite.
Banyana Bafana coach Desiree Ellis is one of those firmly in the German camp.
“I think Germany will win because they have their key player back in goalkeeper Manuel Neuer,” said Ellis. “And they also did so well with a young group at last year’s Confederations Cup.”
Former Ajax Cape Town players Lance Davids and Nathan Paulse, together with current stars Roscoe Pietersen (Ajax) and Lyle Lakay (Cape Town City) are all backing the Germans.
“Germany,” said Davids, “Because they are always consistent in tournaments and they have a balanced squad with a good mix of experience and talented young players.”
Paulse added: “German football is arguably the strongest in world football with their domestic league boasting depth in home-grown talent. The 2014 World Cup winning squad remains largely unchanged for Russia 2018 – and they will now be even more experienced, with many players still in their prime with regard to age.”
“Germany are my favourites to win it,” said Lakay. “They basically have the same team that won the previous World Cup. The players who retired were replaced with similar quality, especially if you look at Lahm who was replaced by Kimmich.”
Pietersen said: “Germany, they are very patient in possession. They are very precise in what they do, be it defending, attacking, creating and scoring chances. Also, because of the type of football they play, it also saves their stamina for the duration of the tournament, which is a key factor in the World Cup.”
The old guard had a different view.
“My heart says Brazil,” said former Santos coach Boebie Solomons. “They have quality. But my logical brain says Germany because of their precision and organisation. However, my gut feeling is Argentina: if Messi comes to the party, like he does at club level, then he can be the difference to win the Cup.”
For former Kaizer Chiefs coach Sergio dos Santos, it’s the Selecao: “Brazil are back to their best and looking and playing like the old days again, since coach Tite took charge – and, even more importantly, Neymar is back.”