May 22, 1050 days ago

World Cup 2014 – Three To Avoid

World Cup 2014 – Three To Avoid

Colombia – 25/1

For many people, Colombia are one of the leading contenders for this year’s World Cup. Ranked in the top ten teams in world football, the South Americans qualified for the tournament with ease and kept more clean sheets in qualifying than any of their South American rivals.

However, expecting them to win the World Cup looks like a tall order. Their main problem is the fitness of iconic striker Radamel Falcao. A massive influence both on and off the pitch, the striker is already his nation’s second highest goalscorer of all time and, despite the claims of Porto’s Jackson Martinez or River Plate’s Teo Gutierrez, is irreplaceable.

Falcao may be fit in time for the tournament, but he’d need to be on fire to carry Colombia to the title.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Colombia’s best ever World Cup performance was in 1990 when they reached the last sixteen. Even with their golden generation of players – Carlos Valderrama et al – they only managed to reach the first knockout round and this is the first tournament they have qualified for since 1998.

Their poor previous record, the fitness of Falcao and the fact that they will likely play Italy or Uruguay in the last 16 means I can’t see Los Cafeteros making the later stages.

Belgium – 16/1

If ever there was a team which arrives at the World Cup as a dark horse, it’s Belgium. They arrive in Brazil as fifth favourites – shorter in the betting than previous winners Italy, Uruguay, England and France.

Their place in the betting seems to be based on two factors: the squad at manager Marc Wilmots’ disposal and their qualifying record. They won eight of their ten qualifying matches – although it’s worth bearing in mind that the most difficult tie was away in Croatia and the likes of Serbia, Scotland, Wales and Macedonia were not the strongest of rivals.

There’s certainly plenty of young talent on display, many of whom grace the Premier League. Marouane Fellaini has a key role in the midfield while Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku lead the attack. With substitutes including Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Napoli’s Dries Mertens, coach Wilmots certainly has plenty of options.

While there are undoubtedly some good players here, for me Belgium are nowhere near the tournament’s strongest squad. Their form is also less than brilliant in that they haven’t won since last October and they recently lost to Japan in Brussels.

A good Belgium team can go well at the World Cup – they were fourth in 1986 – but they have little tournament experience and ought to be found out by one of the better sides.

Netherlands – 25/1

It’s not the quality of the squad that is likely to scupper Netherlands’ long quest to win their first World Cup this time. Neither is it the imminent departure of coach Louis van Gaal or injuries to key players.

Netherlands’ biggest problem this summer is the draw they have been given. In order to qualify for the last eight of the tournament they are almost certain to have to beat Spain or Brazil – or even both.

The tough draw is represented by the 25/1 on offer – a price that would surely be shorter with a more favourable route to the latter stages. However, despite the range of talent the Dutch have to call on, I simply can’t see them overcoming Spain or Brazil in two of their first four matches. If they do – and then go on to beat the likes of Germany and Argentina on the way to the title – there will have been few more deserving winners.

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