With the 2010 World Cup starting tomorrow, here's my take, and my predictions. There is little chance of actually getting it right, but that's what makes it fun.
The Favorites: Brazil, Spain
-Brazil and their un-Brazilian style of play: defense (2 holding midfielders - very Bradley-like) and counterattack (very American) instilled by Dunga is a vast contrast to the 2006 joga bonito edition featuring Ronaldinho. But Dunga has them playing not to entertain, but to win. And its working. Led by Kaka and a trio of the world's best at their respective positions (all having won the CL for Inter last month) Cesar, Maicon and Lucio, Brazil is the favorite to raise the cup on July 11th.
-Espana's style is in direct contrast to Brazil. They play a beautiful style of short-passing (tiki-taka) possession offense. They believe that the best defense is a good offense. Loaded with talent from Barcelona and Real Madrid, who can blame them? I want to pick them to win but knowing that Spain always finds a way to lose, and no European team has ever won a cup not staged on European soil, and the fact the US played the Dunga style with inferior players and still beat them last year, I think Brazil may have the slight edge.
The Contenders: England, Netherlands, Argentina
I think these 3 teams have the best chance of winning after the two heavyweights above. The Three Lions are marching into this tournament under another foreign coach, Italian Fabio Capello, and are tempting history since no foreign coach has ever guided a team to a Cup championship. However, I think he's the best man for the job since he's not affected by the limelight or English media pressure. Its for Capello alone that I've admitted England into this tier of true contenders. In direct contrast to England, Argentina would join Brazil and Spain above if it were not for Maradona. Personally I think he will find a way to cost this extremely talented Argentina side the title. The Dutch have big time players as well but always underachieve on the big time stage. Still, as long as they remain healthy, they are a threat.
The Pretenders: Germany, Italy, France
I'm treading on dangerous ground here, I know. All three have won the trophy before and they all have what it takes to easily make the final. But for one reason or another, I just don't see it happening for them this time. Germany lacks starpower, especially with Ballack out, but usually makes up for it with great teamwork and fundamental play. Not this year. France is just the opposite - they might be more talented than anyone but their team play is severely lacking. They also have the dumbest national team coach I have ever seen, Domenech. Italy should probably be included in the group above but they just seem too old. Plus, they won it last time, what's the chances they'll repeat?
Long shot: Portugal, Serbia, Ivory Coast
Long long shot: Cameroon, Chile, Greece, Mexico, Uruguay, USA
Uruguay - Forlan!
France - a big team always goes home early.
South Africa - first host nation to not win a game.
Argentina - Tevez-Higuain-Messi too much to handle.
Serbia - Upsets Deutchland to win group of death.
Netherlands - don't need Robben in group stage.
Italy - Experience and Buffon too much for weak group.
Ivory Coast - advances b/c of win over Portugal
Spain - runs up score in all 3 games.
Round of 16
1A Uruguay over 2B Nigeria
1C England over 2D Germany
1E Netherlands over 2F Paraguay
1G Brazil over 2H Chile
1B Argentina over 2A Mexico
2C USA over 1D Serbia
2E Cameroon over 1F Italy
1H Spain over 2G Ivory Coast
1C England over 1A Uruguay
1G Brazil over 1E Netherlands
1B Argentina over 2C USA
1H Spain over 2E Cameroon
1C England over 1G Brazil
1H Spain over 1B Argentina
1H Spain over 1C England
Yes, I did list all those reasons why Spain wouldn't win the World Cup. Which is exactly why they will. I think (for now at least).