Thursday, 10 June 2010


Thank God it ain't like that. No square ball and no paper pitches. Thank God the World Cup is not played on paper, but on grass, and that the ball is round and not square!

The beauty of the World Cup is its unpredictable nature. I know I'm not alone in feeling frustration at hearing pundit predictions of a certain Spain v Brazil Final at this year's World Cup. It always happens, and it makes me laugh. How quickly history is forgotten.

I well remember the build up to the 2002 tournament in the Far East - all the talk was of an invincible French team who, in their bid to retain their World title, could only possibly to challenged by a highly talented Argentinian side.

France were as fancied then as Spain are for this World Cup. Honduras, Switzerland and Chile take heart - France exited that tournament in the group stages with one point and no goals. Argentina followed suit, out in the first round, and suddenly the Cup was open.

So, when did the best team win the World Cup? Let's consider that question for the World Cups since 1970...

Did the best team win the World Cup in.....


YES. Brazil ruled the world and deservedly so. Arguably the best team in history.


NO. Beaten finalists Holland were the inventors of 'Total Football' and should have conquered the world, but were undone by the dogged hosts West Germany.


NO again. The Dutch blew another chance to capture the biggest prize and lost out again to the hosts (Argentina) in the Final.


Absolutedly NOT. Brazil should have won this one at a canter, but couldn't play safe when they needed to. A draw against Italy in a second round group game was all they needed to reach a semi-final against Poland, but a Paolo Rossi hat-trick resulted in a 3-2 scoreline that dumped the Samba Stars out.


NO again, but a lBoldittle more debatable this one. Although Argentina with an unstoppable Maradona were worthy winners, Brazil again played with a panache that looked like it would take them all the way. It would have made a fitting Final, but France and a penalty shootout in the quarter-final ended Brazilian dreams.


YES. Following defeat in the 1986 Final to Argentina, Franz Beckenbauer had said that his team would be ready to go a step further at the next World Cup, and they did. Their only serious test was a fabulously well-balanced semi-final with England which finished 1-1. But once it went to penalties, well, there was only one winner.


YES. This was an extremely open tournament, with no outstanding candidates prior to kick-off. Although not in the same league as the 1970 team, Brazil were too good for the rest in the USA and won their first Cup for 24 years.


YES. France certainly enjoyed luck with the draw and the rub of the green at some key moments - and may have come unstuck had they come up against Holland or Argentina - but there was an unexpected strength about them that got them through to the Final where they trounced Brazil to forcibly silence all their critics.


NO. The two pre-tournaments favourites France and Argentina were knocked out in the group stages. Both would have given eventual winners Brazil serious problems had they clashed in the knock-out stages. Why did they both fail so miserably then? Reasonable question. The round ball I guess.


NO. I fancied Italy to win this World Cup and backed them heavily, but not because they were the best team. And they weren't. Argentina were set for glory, but the fateful substitution of play-maker Riquelme in their quarter-final against hosts Germany altered the course of World Cup history and opened the door for an Italian side to meet their destiny with glory.

So there you have it. In only four of the last ten World Cups have the best team won the tournament, but only according to my humble opinion. It does suggest that fans of many countries can harbour dreams of reaching the stars over the next month. It also suggests that Spain have only a 40% chance of taking home the treasured trophy. From a Spanish perspective though, that's pretty good if you think about it, given that there are 32 participating nations.

Hey, let's get one thing clear. I'm not saying that the Final won't be Spain v Brazil. OK, perhaps I am saying that! Actually I expect them to clash in the second round, as I have a funny feeling Brazil are not going to win their group. That would be great for the tournament, one of the big two out by the quarter-finals. That would open the door.

The World Cup is here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank God for lush grass, and the fact that the ball is round. Fasten your seatbelts everyone. Let the unpredictability begin.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Charlie, see much of the 1974 world cup then?

    The best team is the team that wins the cup. Simple. This is ridiculous.