The last group worthy of attention from the local (Nigerian) perspective is group F which contains Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. The clash in focus is of course Nigeria versus Argentina. This is the 3rd time that both countries will be pitted together in the group as it was in the 2002 and 2010 World Cup. One thing is certain, the match is never easy for Argentina considering the wealth of talent especially in attack as against Nigeria. Even Lionel Messi can say it that it’s not easy to play Nigeria as it was in 2010. The last two meetings were in defeat and Nigeria failed to qualify from the group but we have a rejuvenated Nigerian team under Stephen Keshi and at the back of a glorious campaign in the African Cup of Nations, maybe Nigeria might get it right this time and win against Argentina and qualify from the group. The other team, Bosnia Herzegovina are in the tournament for the 1st time. Anyone who is familiar with history can say it’s a thing of pride as Bosnia is in this tournament. They are a breakaway nation of the former Republic of Yugoslavia and faced a bloody civil war in 1995 that has left the nation divided, in pains and still having wounds. It’s not doubt that football unites and Bosnia coming to the tournament will bring the nation together at least. I won’t consider Bosnia as a minor team. They are in the top 20 of the FIFA rankings and possess some powerful players like Edin Dzeko who is no stranger to those who watch the EPL, there’s also Miralem Pjanic in midfield who has been key to AS Roma’s unbeaten start in the Serie A this season, striker Vedad Ibisevic and Sejad Salihovic who both play in Germany, Asmir Begovic, the well known keeper for Stoke City who does heroics to keep away the oppression of the bigger teams. These are top players and if they can put their acts right, Bosnians can be celebrating more by qualifying out of the group and moving ahead in the tournament. Iran is the minnow of the group and one can say that Iran only came to the World Cup because Asia lacks quality teams and are only regularly represented by Japan, Australia and South Korea who are the Asians football powers. Well it’s an opportunity for Iran to show the world what they can do. At least the attention of Iran trying to build nuclear weapons would die down and the whole nation as the rest of the world will be fixed to the World Cup showpiece.
I think it’s worth looking at Brazil’s group because they are the hosts. They are grouped with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroun. This should look easy for Brazil. They are at home and should look comfortable, hence should be able to get a result. Mexico should be the only headache for Brazil but judging by the match in the Confederations Cup group stage last year and Mexico’s poor form in the qualifiers that only gave them a play-off spot, it shouldn’t be hard for Brazil. Brazil are looking like their former best once again and as always have the players in attack to give flair and magic to the game. Croatia and Cameroun have good players and would want to prove they can give the Samba Boys a surprise by getting a good result against them. If that shock does happen, it can be sure that the Brazilian people would want the head the Samba Boys and that won’t be a good thing.
Here is my prediction on the group winners and the runners-up and those who take the remaining places as well as the finalist and the champion. In Group A, Brazil top the group and Mexico take 2nd, Croatia 3rd, Cameroun last. In Group B, Spain take top honours and Netherlands will be runners up, Chile 3rd and Australia 4th. Australia does have to take a long early trip back home then. In Group C, Colombia take 1st while Cote d’ Ivoire take 2nd, Greece will be 3rd, Japan last. In Group D which is the group of attention, Italy tops the group, while Uruguay takes the no.2 spot. It’s too bad for England because they will finish 3rd and Costa Rica 4th. In Group E, Switzerland will finish on top. France will have it all to do against Ecuador and Honduras to take that 2nd place. They will eventually finish 2nd while Ecuador will finish 3rd and Honduras 4th. In our Group F, Argentina tops the group and Nigeria will finish in a proud 2nd. We can therefore celebrate for qualifying out of the group and hope for the best in the knockout rounds. Bosnia will give a good 1st time performance but will finish 3rd and so much for the nuclear weapons debate, Iran will finish rock bottom. In Group G, Germany finishes 1st and Portugal 2nd. It’s too bad that Ghana’s bravery won’t be enough to take them through but they will give a good fight and finish 3rd and the Americans will have to accept last place. In the final group, Group H, Belgium will top the group much to their re-transformation. Russia will take 2nd which will be pleasing as they gear up to host the next World Cup in 2018. South Korea will take 3rd and Algeria will take last of the last place. The final will be a repeat of the Confederations Cup final between Spain and Brazil and Brazil will win because they are back to their very best and the support clamouring into the iconic Maracana will only give an extra boost to the Samba boys. There you have it the World Cup is rapped up and we can look forward to Russia in 2018, in the mean time, see you in Brazil from June 12-July 13, 2014. Adeus!