This week I have gone off to Norway for 2 weeks to visit Karen Anna's family and it is really warm, so that is a bonus. I brought my computer though so I could blog at some point and the point is now. It was a good week for me last week with my move to Alloa being completed. Although I enjoyed my time at Stirling with promotion in the end, the chance to go in play in The Championship next season was impossible to turn down. Getting to play in front of bigger crowds and at better stadiums will be good to get back to after a year away from it. Added to that there is no doubt that playing Rangers, Hibs and Hearts will attract bigger crowds and add some extra interest to the league. Personally it is great for me as I haven't played at Tynecastle or Easter Road before, so I am looking forward to that. Hopefully I am allowed to walk down to Tynecastle on game day as it is about a two minute walk. It should be a very competitive league, and it is great for fans as well without any long journeys up north, the longest being down to my old club Queen of the South.
Although my injury in the last game of the season isn't ideal I am hoping it is sorted and I am ready to train on the first day of pre season. I have been out on my bike and will hope to start running next week. I haven't had a full pre season for the last 2 years, so I really want to do everything and although it is hard work, it is strangely enjoyable getting fit and getting closer to your teammates who are suffering with you.
The Weatherston World Cup Preview
So I have gone through all the groups, now it is time to preview what I think are the likely winners, losers, surprise packages and best players.
Who will win?
According to the bookies there are only 4 teams with a good chance of winning the tournament, with Brazil as the favourites. The other 3 not surprisingly are Argentina, Germany and Spain, in that order.There is no doubt that these 4 teams are the best on paper, but there is some real value in every other team if you want to have a bet(I'm not allowed).
I personally think that Argentina and Brazil will be in the final, which would be rather interesting, but if I was betting outside the top 4 my pick is France. They have a great squad all the way from back to front, they seem to have left behind their problems from 2010, and they have goals in the team. They have a nice group to qualify from with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras, so they should win that and could face Bosnia, Iran or Nigeria in round 2. There first real challenge would potentially be Germany in the Quarter Final, but you never know when you get to that stage, and I fancy them to be really strong. At 25/1 it has to be worth some money in my opinion.
There are a number of big nations that could struggle to get out their groups, but my surprise of the tournament will be The Netherlands going out in the group stages. I think Spain will be too good for them in the first game which will put pressure on them to beat Chile in the final game, and I don't think they will be good enough to do it. They are 13/10 not to reach the second round, and I like that as a bet.
For a team to be a proper surprise package they have to make it to the quarter finals at least, and every tournament seems to have one. It was Ghana in 2010, Ukraine in 2006 and South Korea at home in 2002. So who could it be this year? There are a few lesser teams that will fancy there chances of getting through the groups, like Bosnia, Ivory Coast and Switzerland, but it is the second round where they are likely to find themselves against one of the favourites. It will be very difficult for either of those 3 to come through a second round tie, but don't be too surprised if a strong Bosnia defense manages to sneak through in round 2.
Between 1978 and 1998, 6 goals was enough to earn the title of Golden Boot. Since then Ronaldo scored 8 in 2002, but it was 5 for Klose and Muller in 2006 and 2010 respectively that earned them that title. So with Germany winning it the last two World Cups, who are the favourites this time around? Not surprisingly it is Lionel Messi who is favourite, but surely the best bet has to be for Cristiano Ronaldo who can be found as high as 20/1. For the best player in the world this year that is surely worth a pound. Since I fancy France to do well, and because they should score a few goals in the groups, I like the odds of 33/1 for Karim Benzema. He has found his form this year and should get plenty of chances created for him.
If you are looking for a couple of outside each way bets, it is hard to look beyond Alexis Sanchez (66/1). If Chile can get through their tough group then he will be the main man scoring goals for them. He plays through the middle unlike his wider position at Barcelona, so he will get plenty of chances.
Also Mesut Özil (100/1) could be worth another pound. He was top scorer with 8 in Germany's qualifying campaign and he seems to play a more advanced role for them. If he finds his top form and Germany go far, he could be in the goals.
The stage is set in Brazil for Neymar to lead his team to glory in the home World Cup, but at just 22 this might be a lot of weight to carry on his shoulders. There is no doubt the way he plays is great to watch and the Brazil fans love him for this, so in a hard working team that is strong defensively, can the flair of Neymar shine through. Lionel Messi however will be the main man, he hasn't played too many games this season and he is desperate to show himself on the biggest stage. He should be fresh and raring to go, and in his own continent I think he will take control of games and win the World Cup for his country.
Best Young Player?
The Best Young Player award was brought in in 2006 and has been won by 2 Germans. Lukas Podolski won it in 2006 and Thomas Müller followed him by winning it last time out in South Africa. The award is given to the best player in the tournament who is at most 21 years old.
There are a few candidates who should be regular starter for their country, and in my opinion the man with the best chance of winning it is Romelu Lukaku. He will be the main goal threat for Belgium and should play every game. Belgium should comfortably get through the groups and if he can score goals it will give him a great chance to win the Young Player of the Tournament.