We skipped last week’s Friday 5 in honor of Thanksgiving. Now we’re back with the first all-soccer Friday 5 in honor of today’s World Cup Draw from South Africa. So far all we know are the teams who won’t be playing the United States in next Summer’s competition, which are Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Honduras, Mexico and New Zealand. These are things we had already assumed but are now official.
The top seven seeds plus the hosts will be placed at the top of each of the groups and the rest are divided into separate “pots” based on location. You can read about it here. Each tournament there is the “Group of Death” which contains one of the top contenders plus the first team left out of the top flight and a decent team from one of the other pots. Four years ago, the US had the privilege of playing 3rd ranked Czech Republic, the eventual champions Italy, and African upstart Ghana. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again.
Anyway, I’ll be counting down what I feel are the Top 5 Contenders for the FIFA World Cup.
5. Holland – Current FIFA Rank: 3 – The Dutch are one of my favorite teams to watch and this edition should be no different. They are known for their flashy individual skill and up tempo style. I love watching them play, however their strengths can also be their biggest weakness. As my soccer coach once told me, “The Dutch won’t win a World Cup until they learn to play together as a team instead of as 11 individuals.” So far, he’s been correct. This year might be different, however, as they blew through their qualification group with an unblemished 8-0-0 record and a +15 goal differential. The attack was paced by Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntlaar who both struck the back of the net three times. Their stingy defense only gave up two goals, as well. If the US does not advance, I’ll be openly rooting for the Dutch.
4. Spain – Rank: 1 – Perhaps the Spaniards should be higher on this list, but they have a history of failing in major competitions (except Euro 2008). Even in this past year’s Confederations Cup, they lost to the United States when they clearly were the better side. I just feel like this team will only get so far before blowing it to an inferior squad. Regardless, they breezed through qualifications with a 10-0-0 record while outscoring their opponents 28-5. Not surprisingly, Valencia’s David Villa struck seven times in those 10 games. Villa is the same striker who was just rumored to carry a 160 million dollar price tag for potential buyers this January. Spain will definitely be one of the final teams in the competition, I just don’t think they’ll win it.
3. England – Rank: 9 – Any time your center midfield contains both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, your team has a good shot to win. The English side is the only one that can boast those two. England only dropped one game during qualification, a 1-0 loss to Ukraine. Wayne Rooney, who could make a claim for best striker in the world, finished tied for second in all of Europe with 9 goals, followed by Lampard and Peter Crouch who each had four. The Brits also sport some of the best defenders in the world, household names like John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Always formidable, England has as good of a shot as anyone to bring home the Cup.
2. Italy – Rank: 4 – The current holders of the World Cup, Italy gets boosted up to number two on my list. Despite the poor showing in the Confederations Cup, Italy is always a threat to win any tournament they enter. I have a personal dislike for the Italians due to their slow, defensive, boring style of play, plus they tend to do the majority of the diving. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the diving. Anyway, the Italians were led by Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino during qualifying with four goals. They did drop points in three games, but they didn’t lose any of them, finishing with a 7-3-0 record against teams like Ireland and Bulgaria. Not bad, but we have come to expect more from Italy in recent years. Either way, I think they’ll have the kinks worked out before next Summer and be a serious contender for the title.
1. Brazil – Rank: 2 – Not a big surprise here as the Brazilians are always at the top of any of these lists. Brazil tore through their grueling, 18-match with a record of 9-7-2, outscoring their opponents 33-11 along the way. Luis Fabiano struck 9 times, while Kaka and Nilmar each got their names on the scores sheet 5 times. Their defense is set with their Captain, Lucio, in charge. The Brazilians have won the tournament five times, which is more than any other country. After their performance in this Fall’s Confederations Cup, where they outlasted teams like Italy and the United States in impressive fashion I would expect nothing less than a run to the final game.
So those are my Top 5 contenders for next summer’s competition. I’m sure it will change in the upcoming months, but this is how I have it right now. Have some of your own? Let me see them in the comments.