It looks very likely that one of those dreaded dark horses might actually come into contention and be in the finals
So here we are. Yours truly is back from “injury” and sufficiently recovered just in time to partake in the worldwide revelry presented by the global Fifa World Cup now happening in the sun-drenched Federal Republic of Russia.
After the first series of matches it is now safe to give a considered opinion as to which team is likely to walk away with the golden trophy as champions.
In my neck of the woods the overwhelming opinion is that there are too many dark horses in the competition this time around. This means that your usual suspects such as the German machine and the samba boys from Brazil, and then not forgetting Spain and Portugal, will likely not even be in the finals.
This very studied opinion has it that one of the dark horses, which include the likes of Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium and Uruguay at the very top, says that one from among these teams is most likely to run away with the trophy.
To be fair I disagreed a lot with that opinion. But now midway through last week’s opening games, including especially the last group E encounter featuring Brazil against Switzerland, I am starting to have serious doubts about my own predictions.
It now looks very likely that one of those dreaded dark horses might actually come into contention and be in the finals.
Well you might say that it is far too early into the Russia Fifa spectacle to even hazard a possible winner. Firstly the opening games are crucial in that they give an indication of how prepared your favourite team is for the competition.
On that score you might well say that a team such as Saudi Arabia, playing fresh from the Rammadaan holy period, is not going to light up the stadia in any way, anytime soon. The same might apply to the other teams that just observed the holy period.
This has to do with them applying themselves conservatively during that period and not putting in the necessary muscle work out of pure necessity. So Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will end up in the same WhatsApp group of losers.
What about Nigeria, Serbia and Croatia, you might protest. We will talk about them on another day.
Granted, some of the early favourites have already lost the critical openers. Germany, Argentina and Brazil immediately come to mind here. But then mathematically you need not win your opening matches.
Winning two of three group games is good enough to push you into the knockout phase of the contest. But then when you lose or draw the first game the remaining ones become must-win affairs.
It’s obvious that Mexico’s 1-0 win over Deutschland has thoroughly rocked the German boat. Loss of confidence in German ability will likely follow and spur on the chancers that they now encounter as the bubble of invincibility will have been pricked. You can imagine the level of celebrations in Switzerland and Iceland, with the latter having a population less than that of Lesotho or the Northern Cape, getting a draw against Brazil and Argentina respectively, is a big deal.
Thus far Mexico is a clear favourite with either of Spain or Portugal giving up the other half of the likely final. As for Nigeria, progressing to round two will be the project of choice for them. Senegal is my sentimental “banker” for now.
Iceland and Switzerland will be fired-up enough to even imagine they have a shot at world dominance. We will wait and see.
Germany will have to be happy to have at least made the ride to Moscow. And as I write this, England is still to play. Many hopefuls are still in the queue, among them the likes of hard workers Korea and Sweden. See you on match day.