All eyes firmly on 2014 World Cup


With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil kicking off in just eight days, Express football writer Sam Patchett asked some of Marlborough's football personalities who would win, and why, and to name their key players and a possible tournament dark horse.

Half Italian, GIUSEPPE VASSALINI is Marlborough Football's development officer and currently plays for Marlborough Development.

Tournament winner: "I personally think Brazil. Due to home advantage and their history in the World Cup [they've won it five times], you can't look past them.

"I'd like to say Italy will be up there too. Traditionally speaking, they're next in line to Brazil with four World Cups, but it depends on how they go in pool play."

Key players: "Well everyone's talking about Neymar. He's got the number 10 jersey and that's a big honour in Brazilian football, so you'd probably have to say he's the key player. Andrea Pirlo was unreal for Italy in 2006, so he'll also be one to watch, he's a creator."

Dark horse: "Belgium. There are about eight really renowned footballers that Belgium is producing at the moment and they've come up the rankings recently."

Originally from Germany, WOLFIE WAECHTER will be backing "Die Mannschaft" in Brazil. Waechter is heavily involved with football in Marlborough, having played, coached and refereed locally.

Tournament winner: "I think it will be a Brazil v Argentina final, with Brazil taking it out. It's just a matter of getting it together during the four weeks of the tournament that will make the difference for the hosts.

"I think Germany will do well. They perform well as a team which makes them a great tournament side. If they lose one or two players to injury it doesn't worry them too much - they don't live from individuals."

Key players: "Brazil have a number of exciting players like Neymar, so he could be a young Pele, really putting his mark on the tournament. Cristiano Ronaldo will carry Portugal, but it probably won't be enough to get them past the quarterfinals."

Dark horse: "Belgium are definitely my dark horse, but another could be the USA. You never know what they're going to bring to the tournament and they've beaten a few big nations recently."

DAVE TURNER hails from Wolverhampton and believes England are favourites for this year's tournament. A Marlborough schools development officer, Turner has coached at academies and talent centres and is currently coaching the Marlborough Development and New Zealand Air Force sides.

Tournament winner: "From my point of view England are obviously going to win the World Cup. They have a better squad then what they've had for a few competitions. They still have some stalwarts like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, but they've also got some up and coming players who have played for top Premier League sides such as Raheem Sterling and Jack Wilshere.

"If it could happen on paper, a Brazil v England final would work for me."

Key players: "In the past, Brazil have had old school players, but now they have Dani Alves, Neymar and Fernandinho, who are all pretty smart players."

Dark horse: "I think Chile have a dark horse chance. I don't know much about their team to be honest, but they'll be very exciting, they're quite young."

ALAN KELLY is general manager of Marlborough Football. Originally from Ireland, Kelly was both a player and board member for Irish club Donegal Town.

Tournament winner: "Brazil would be my favourite. Being the home team will definitely stand in their favour. They're a young side, so the whole team will have to fire if they are to win.

"Argentina would be second favourite because it's being played in South America, and they've got fabulous players such as Messi and Gonzalo Higuain."

Key player: "To win a World Cup it often comes down to one player that can rise above the rest. In 2010 it was Andres Iniesta for Spain, in 2006 it was Fabio Cannavaro for Italy, and the way Neymar's playing for Barcelona I think he could be the key player this year."

Dark horse: "I think Belgium will surprise a lot of teams. It's a young side but they've got some tremendous players."

CARL CONNOR-MCCLEAN has been a prolific goal scorer for Marlborough Development in Nelson's division one competition this year. The 18-year-old striker also plays for Nelson Marlborough Falcons in the ASB Youth League.

Tournament winner: "I think that Germany has a good shot. They have good individual players, but they aren't as arrogant as some players from teams such as England, Brazil and Spain. They gel really well as a team and they play good football, so they'll be my favourites."

Key players: "I think Manuel Neuer will be very important in goal for Germany. Then you can't go past Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi for Argentina and Neymar and Oscar for Brazil."

Dark horse: "Colombia will be the dark horse of the tournament. They have a good team and are back in the World Cup for the first time in years."

TERRY SLOAN, originally from Ireland, played for Marlborough club side Central for 14 years and was president of the Marlborough Football Association for the same period. He is also Marlborough's deputy mayor.

Tournament winner: "Well it's a shame that neither of the two Irish sides are in it. But my favourites would have to be Spain, they won it last time and they'll do well again this year. The Dutch have always got to be in the mix as well."

Key players: "Robin van Persie. He's a guy that can turn a game on its head in a matter of moments."

Dark horse: "My dark horse will be Germany. They're always such a strong nation, they always perform strongly at World Cups. They're a team you can never count out."

The tournament kicks off with the opening match between hosts Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo next Friday, New Zealand time.

The Marlborough Express