Winners And Losers - Little Boy Blue's World Cup Countdown

Last updated : 10 June 2010 By Little Boy Blue

The major event is almost upon us and, while I've been big in the mouth with my predictions over this past week and a bit, I have to admit (I'm not a big fan of confession!) that these have been made without a great deal of conviction.  I'll have a wee punt here and there as the tournament progresses but, if previous World Cups or Euros are any great indicators, Ladbrokes will again announce record profits due entirely to my inability to pick a winner.


At World Cup level, even bad teams (if there are any left in it) are well coached and well organised so, while all the big boys can safely project their involvement beyond the group stages, I don't foresee too many liberty-taking sessions.  Just as they were in 1966, North Korea are the big unknown quantity and, in the football world we know, Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast will surely go to town against them.  But we said that 44 years ago and they didn't do too badly then, did they?


New Zealand and Honduras are also expected to be in for a hiding or two and it will be interesting to see what sort of appetising odds the bookies might offer to generate some interest in their games.  While I wouldn't hesitate to give North Korea three goals of a start and still expect them to lose, the Kiwis and Honduras could be more durable and may frustrate their opponents for long periods.  I will, of course, be checking out Georgie Welcome.  What sort of price do you think I'll get on the Rangers' signing target getting on the scoresheet in South Africa?


As I see it, it is quite straightforward to pick out the group winners.  France, Argentina, England, Germany, Holland, Brazil, Italy and Spain.  If each was to do the bizzo I'd pick up a tidy wee roll-up.  But there is bound to be at least one group which goes against the form book, figuring out which one is the trick.  Maybe Group A, with Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa in with the French, is the hardest to call.


The real shake-up will be in the battle for the second qualifying spots.  In some groups it is a three-way fight, in others a straight head-to-head between two teams, but it all adds up to some pretty tasty football, just the stuff to get a fitba anorak like me through a long summer.  And it could all develop into a real feast of top quality football in the knock-out stages where, in my humble opinion, the following scenario could be building up to some cracking quarter-finals.  France or Nigeria v England or Ghana; Germany or Algeria v Argentina or Uruguay; Holland or Slovakia v Brazil or Chile, Italy or Denmark v Spain or Portugal.


If I was looking for appealing odds, I might be tempted to go for Mexico or even South Africa to deny Uruguay their place in the last sixteen, or for the USA to edge out Algeria, or for the Ivory Coast to upset Portugal.  All of which confirms my view that this will be the most competitive World Cup ever.


No doubt the bookies will devise all sorts of interesting ways of persuading you and me to part with our hard-earned.  What about how long will it take Landry N'Guemo to be shown a yellow card, how many sitters will Ha-Ha Samaras miss, will the Knackeredfella get through a game, or even part of a game, without a blatant dive.  With the Japs playing Cameroon in their opener on Monday afternoon, maybe PLG will just tell Sebastien Bassong to give him 'a dull yin early doors', in French of course!


I'm really looking forward to USA v Algeria on June 23.  With England playing Slovenia at the same time, I'm probably have to do a bit of channel-hopping to see Bougie, Beasley and Mo Edu in action and I've still not made up my mind who I'll be supporting.  I really want Bougie to have an outstanding World Cup but the flip side of that is the likelihood it will mean he has played his last game for the Rangers.  But if the Ellis takeover goes through - not before feckin time! - and we do have some money to spend, it would surely give us more clout if we get to add something like £6 million for the big fella to the budget.


Maybe with the Rangers' finances stabilising, we can again look on the World Cup as a talent scouting opportunity.  I'll bet Georgie Welcome ain't the only name in Walter's notebook and our new owner would do his personal credibility no harm at all if our club was again seen to be mixing in the right circles on the transfer scene, instead of scraping around for the Bosman leftovers as deadline day draws near.


So if Walter happens to log on to FF over this next month or so, I won't be slow to draw his attention to any player who catches my eye - take my word for it Walt, the boy Kaka can play a bit!!!  The again, with Coisty covering the World Cup for ESPN, the Gers may already find their name being mentioned in the various camps.  I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall if he happened to meet up with PLG.


No doubt the Super One will enjoy himself in South Africa...and I certainly intend to enjoy myself between now and Bonfire Night (July 11!!!), shifting plenty of bevvy, having a few bets and giving FFers my slant on events as they unfold.  Your feedback on the Messageboard would be greatly appreciated.



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Tomorrow: LBB's Countdown becomes LBB's Diary as the Opening Ceremony is followed by South Africa v Mexico and France v Uruguay.