Groups E and F didn’t seem like the most thrilling when the draw was made… not sure they’ll be worth the late night viewings! My wife asked which teams I was really desperate to watch and aside from the potentially magical Argentina, Groups E and F look fairly dull. You never know though – often a team you don’t expect comes through and is amazing to watch – think South Korea in 2002, Uruguay in 2010. Here, Sophie casts her experienced eyes over the runners and riders.
Dad: The French have often been castigated as the spoilt brat of the international football scene – moody footballers throwing their toys out of the pram, racked by disharmony and refusing to get along. This was true in 2010 when Anelka’s strop led to scandal and discord but, with Nasri and Ribery at home for different reasons, the squad looks more united and could progress. Giroud and Benzema will threaten, Paul Pogba has earned rave reviews since Man Utd threw him away and in defence Varane and Koscielny should be solid. Besides, they are my team in the class sweepstake – they need to perform well!
Sophie: My Mummy reckons she’s fluent in French (at least in French cooking and French wine!) so I’ve got a soft spot for them. Giroud’s hair makes me laugh – when I’ve been in the bath I can sometimes style mine in the same way. I hope they get through.
Dad: The rest of Group E is fairly wide open. The Swiss are highly ranked in FIFA’s ever-trusty international league table and might even score a goal this time. Ecuador had pace and verve when they played England, although if Antonio Valencia loses the plot again, they’ll probably fall by the wayside. Honduras could be a wildcard. Their up-and-at-’em approach could rattle a few more experienced cages. My tips… France and Ecuador.
Sophie: I watched the Ecuador-England game and they attacked quite well, but that might be because England can’t defend. Everyone loves an underdog so I hope Honduras get through. As for Switzerland, nice chocolate is not enough for me to vote for them.
Dad: Lionel Messi -this is your time. The world awaits its best player (until recently!) to step forward and finally illuminate a World Cup. Very young in 2006, virtually anonymous in 2010, it is said that Messi needs to deliver in a World Cup in order to be truly recognised as one of the greats. The supporting cast isn’t bad either – Mascherano, Aguero, Lavezzi, Higuain… can’t wait to watch them.
Sophie: Their kit looks a bit like a washed out table cloth and all their players are totally over-rated. Yeah sure, it’s in South America, but when did that ever matter? (Dad to Sophie: Only South American teams have ever won South American World Cups. Sophie to Dad: Meh.)
Dad: If on form, Edin Dzeko could fire Bosnia into the second round. He was heavily involved in qualifying, despite a lumbering frame and heavy first touch, he has got a superb goal record at club and international level. The Iranians are totally unfancied, although Carlos Quieroz is a clever tactician and could spring a surprise. Nigeria need John Obi Mikel to perform as an attacker and creative influence -good luck! My tips… Argentina and then Bosnia to sneak Nigeria out of it.
Sophie: It would be great for an African team to do well at this World Cup so Nigeria are my bet. The Bosnian side is full of players whose names I can’t pronounce so I don’t fancy them. I went to see my Daddy’s Iraqi barber last week and he was really nice – seeing as they aren’t in the competition, I want to vote for their next door neighbours!