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A THORNY ISSUE: Pedigree counts at World Cup

by Andi Thornhill

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IS IT likely that a country that has never won it before will lift the World Cup?Some of the exchanges so far suggest that it might not be farfetched to think of the possibility, yet it is going to be difficult to stop the shareholders dominating as is their wont.What countries like champions Italy and five-time winners Brazil bring to the table is experience and the know how of raising their play a few notches when it counts.              Brazil had a lacklustre qualifying campaign, but didn’t the same Brazil go to South Africa and win the Confederations Cup? And didn’t they come from two goals down to beat the United States in that final?Winning legacy       A winning legacy pushes you to such glory.The same might be said for other giants like Italy and Argentina.Uruguay are two-time winners of the World Cup and even though they haven’t done well in the modern era, you can be assured that they use their history as a reference point to motivate them for greater success.            This is not to say that under-achievers like Spain and the Netherlands don’t have a chance to win in South Africa, but it will be based on their desire to create history as opposed to any benchmark set for them to emulate based on past adventures.Until either of them manages to break the ice, there will always be that self-doubt about whether they can match the elite at World Cup level.                 They might very well win friendly internationals but find the going much more difficult at the game’s greatest extravaganza. The challenges are very different on the game’s biggest stage and you must have the pedigree to compete effectively.        There was nothing in the formbook to indicate that Switzerland could beat Spain but they did, and we know that the Spaniards are notorious for choking in major competitions.There are levels and even higher levels. We can draw the analogy of club cricketers plundering bowling attacks but not getting a run at regional cricket level.              And so it is with the World Cup. If it wasn’t so, the Dutch might have won several World Cups!                So is there a dark horse that can emerge and ruin the pundits’ predictions?         I think Chile can be that team. Apart from Brazil, I think they have it right in all departments. Their attacking flair has caught my eye. You can see why they scored 32 goals – one fewer than Brazil – in the South American qualifying campaign.               The Netherlands could be dangerous, too, because – unlike in previous World Cups – they are not peaking too early and this could be a plus for them going forward. Once they don’t self-destruct, they will be in with a good chance of winning.Composure         Unfortunately, none of the African teams has shown the maturity nor the composure to be recommended for anything more than a second-round berth. Ghana have the best chance of reaching that far.                     And the emphatic answer to my original question is that maybe it can be done, but at the end of the day it will be hard to unseat the shareholders. I still believe that Brazil will win their sixth World Cup accolade.  • Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. He can be reached at [email protected]