A THORNY ISSUE: All Brazil’s eggs in Neymar’s basket
Who will win the World Cup? The jury is still very much out on this question.
Going into the second week, I don’t think we can cast an objective verdict because not even the big guns have yet staked a strong claim for the title.
Subjectivity comes into play because every supporter only uses one eye to see their team and closes the next to the others.
Fair enough because we all have to represent and show allegiance to our favourite units unless we are like the proverbial Bajan weather cocks, shifting positions depending on how the exchanges evolve.
Perhaps we shall learn more as the list for the round of 16 is completed and places us in a more informed position to make better decisions.
Hosts and bookmakers favourites Brazil should maintain that status because of home advantage and not necessarily on the basis of what they have produced so far (Cameroon game was pending at the time of writing).
They were average against Croatia and Mexico but the consolation is that they could only get better and therein lies the threat to those facing them.
There’s too much reliance on the gifted Neymar and the other forwards haven’t yet come to the football fiesta. Surely Fred and Hulk must be prepared to make more than guest appearances.
I can’t remember any of the noted Brazilian teams having to depend so much on one man until now. Neymar has become a combination of Samson and Hercules, and they must have had their limitations. He can’t do it alone either.
Their Argentine neighbours have the genius of Lionel Messi leading their troops along with other notables like Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Pablo Zabaleta in support, but still weren’t convincing against Bosnia or Iran. In fact, in each game it took moments of Messi’s brilliance to gain the advantage otherwise they could have been embarrassed.
The Iran encounter found them lacking in creative ideas once there were a lot of men behind the ball.They didn’t seem to have a plan B to deal with the well organised Iranian defence who, by the way, conceded the least goals in the qualifiers.
Still, a Messi can always make the difference and perhaps he will as they seek their third World Cup title, the last being in Mexico in 1986 when the great Diego Maradona was at his peak.
I think that only the Germans of previous winners can match Argentina’s depth but some of their frailties were exposed by the fearless Ghana who are exemplary models of the opinion that the gap is closing between the established heavyweights and emerging lightweights.
This paradigm shift is rooted in the fact that more players from Third World constituencies are plying their trade in the big professional leagues and the experience gained is defrocking them of any former inferiority complex while enhancing their competitiveness.
Once they become better organised in the way their developmental plans are structured and cut out internal wrangling, it won’t be long before they become genuine contenders for the big prize.
It wasn’t a pretty sight watching two Cameroon players going at each other in the Costa Rica game.
If France don’t implode as they did in South Africa, I believe their odds of winning will be shortened. They have plenty of options in every department but I’m withholding an ultimate judgement of their prospects until they meet tougher opposition.
Holland are the mavericks.They are likely to concede at the back but can hit back forcibily in attack through their marauding twin towers, Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Australia had them on the ropes, failed to land the knockout punch and paid the penalty. Underdogs must perform like crack assassins when they have the big boys in their sights.
I’m perhaps Holland’s biggest fan but I’m not convinced about their overall qualities to gamble on their future destination.
Italy have Andrea Pirlo and Mario Ballotelli while Uruguay play around the exceptional Luis Suarez and side-kick Edwin Cavanni, but one will head home after the group phase. Neither looked like championship material although the Italians are notorious slow starters.
Chile or Colombia can provide South America’s other element of surprise as the star-studded Belgians for Europe, but these pretenders have no track record to speak of in later rounds.
Mexico and Costa Rica look the most competent of the CONCACAF challengers and the advancement of an Asian team is circumspect.
Solving Barbados’ economic woes is easier than predicting the winner at this stage.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning sports journalist.