Who to support at Brazil 2014

2014-06-12 12:30
Brazil 2014 (Supplied)
Brazil 2014 (Supplied)
Cape Town - With Bafana Bafana having failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, many South Africans may find themselves with little interest invested in the upcoming finals, and without a team to really get behind.

However, there are some truly exciting teams ready to vie for glory in Brazil.

Perhaps, like many a gambling man or woman, you have joined a World Cup betting pool at the office or amongst friends where you've randomly drawn one of the 32 nations from a hat, and they have now become your bet for the tournament. Fair enough.

Young Billy in IT has been blessed after drawing Brazil, while Jenna down in marketing got Germany. Dave has Spain and Sarah gets Argentina, but when it comes to your turn to pull one out the hat, four letters stare mockingly back at you and your R200 wager. I-R-A-N. Bugger.

No offence to the Iran national team as they clearly deserve their place at the finals, having booked their ticket to South America after coming through 16 qualifying matches, but take home the World Cup title they will not.

So, hardly enough to pull you headlong into the madness of World Cup fever.

Maybe you support a Premier League team. There are plenty of us in South Africa, and not just the faux-Manchester United and City fans that buy the shirt but can't spell the names, but the true die-hards who were raised on the drama of English football from before it was even fashionable. England would, therefore, seem a fair choice to support, as the Three Lions' 23-man squad has 22 men who play in their country's top-flight, with Glasgow Celtic's Fraser Forster the exception.

But, I know what you're thinking: 'England; meh. Not exactly world beaters, are they?' And to be fair, you'd be right - nothing worse than backing a team for glory and seeing them crash out at the very first hurdle (sorry to any Three Lions fans, but I'm still bitter from my World Cup draw, which paired me with Roy Hodgson's men).

What about Brazil, then? Sure, they're easily one of, if not the favourite, and you might get the tag as a glory seeker, but they're the host nation, and arguably the home of football, and might by default be the team for the neutral. Flair, passion, drama and excitement seem to follow every match the Samba Kings contest, and when it's on the World Cup stage, anything is possible.

Cristiano Ronaldo, I mean Portugal, appear to also be amongs the favourite favourites, and the aforementioned slick-haired Real Madrid attacker could seemingly single-handedly take on the whole world stepover by stepover. However, one man does not a football team make and CR7's participation at Brazil could be over before it even truly begins.

Still not sold? Alright, let's look at Belgium. Everyone seems to love the Belgians right now, with pundits and critics alike spouting Vincent Kompany this, Eden Hazard that and Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel all over.

To be honest, though, the squad does look a brutal force, highlighted by the fact they ended their eight-year absence from the finals by qualifying for 2014 with an undefeated record, winning eight of their 10 qualifiers to cruise through to Brazil.

It's not only abroad, though, where you could invest your support, with five African nations off to strut their stuff in South America.

Ghana carry with them a huge amount of support from their home continent, and hold the joint-record for deepest run at a World Cup by an African side when they only narrowly missed out on a place in the semi-finals at South Africa 2010.

Cameroon, meanwhile, became the first African side to progress to the quarter-finals when they made it in 1990, only to lose to England, and will be looking to go one better this year. However, the bookies' favourites from the continent have to be Nigeria, who travel to South America as Africa Cup of Nations champions, and having gone through qualification with an undefeated run.

South Africans may even have an extra interest in the Super Eagles, given the fact coach Stephen Keshi has been strongly linked with the Bafana job, meaning this year's finals could provide something of a Litmus test of the tactician's abilities in the hot seat.

The Ivory Coast are also undoubtedly one of the big guns from Africa, with the Elephants boasting some of the biggest names in world football amongst their ranks. However, Cote d'Ivoire are seemingly the continent's major underachievers, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Toure brothers Yaya and Kolo, Gervinho, Didier Zokora and Salomon Kalou all having failed to win any major silverware during their international careers.

Ok, so maybe there really is nothing like supporting the country of your birth, where you kick every ball and suffer every challenge with the hope that this year, glory will be yours. Sadly for South Africans, though, that is just not a possibility this year, and we're almost forced to back a horse we have zero interest in.

However, that sort of attitude might be considered anti-World Cup, with the competition itself considered the very heart of football, so the safest bet, and arguably most exciting path, would be to just support the football itself. Viva Brazil! Viva World Cup! Viva football!

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