The World Cup qualifying playoffs (Asia vs Oceania, Europe, South vs Central America) and deciding games in Africa kick off this weekend, and we begin a three part series about early favorites to win the World Cup, not including those who are still questionable, who we don’t think are likable winners anyway. Today we begin with the big two, the current champions of their continents, Dunga’s Brazil and the fantastic Spain.
Doesn’t matter what year it is and who’s playing for the Selecao, they usually are the big favorites to win the World Cup. Nothing is different this time around, 7 months away from South Africa 2010. Since their very disappointing performance in Germany, back in 2006, things have changed under Dunga who took the helm in July 2006.
His side hasn’t been playing brilliant and “magic” soccer maybe people expect from the Brazilians each time they take the field – but he’s brought in the titles – Winning the 2007 Copa America, beating the favored Argentinians in the final 3-0 and the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, beating the United States 3-2 in the final.
The main change about Brazil compared to the 2006 side is there’s a much more united feel to the squad, and despite having Kaka and Robinho in the squad, there’s no “All-Star” feeling about the team. They attack and defend as a team, and they win games, the important ones (last big one coming over Argentina in September, 3-1 in Rosario). This isn’t the fantasy side most people would want Brazil to be, playing a much more “European” style, but titles don’t lie, and in about 7 months time, Brazil will be looking to get their sixth World Cup trophy.
In 2008, Spain finally fulfilled it’s potential, winning the Euro held in Austria & Switzerland, beating Germany 1-0 in the final. Despite missing out on a Confederations Final against Brazil, as an early warm up heavyweights meeting (lost 2-0 to the United States in the Semi’s), Spain did manage to compile a 35 game undefeated streak until that loss to the Americans, including a 15 game winning streak, a world record for consecutive wins, at the end of their undefeated run.
More impressive probably was their perfect record at the end of the World Cup Qualifying group, win all 10 matches, finishing strong with a 5-2 win in Bosnia who finished second. So how do they do it? When you want “beautiful” soccer, Spain’s the new Brazil. A super-talented midfield, with Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva as the creative force and a lethal strike force, Fernando Torres and David Villa up front, two of the world’s 3 best strikers (Zlatan being the third). The best goalkeeper in the World (Casillas) and a very strong defense make Spain many people’s big favorite to go all the way once again in 2010, matching France’s achievement from 2000 in holding the World Cup and the European Champions mantle at the same time.