The Football World Cup in South Africa is now only a couple of months away, the World Cup Fixtures have been pored over at length, and people are starting to ponder which team will lift the trophy.
After their Euro 2008 triumph, Spain have been installed as the tournament favourites, ahead of Brazil, England, Argentina and Italy.
Barcelona’s form in La Liga and the Champions League has suggested that this favourites’ tag is well-deserved, and with the likes of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol in their ranks, they’ll be a tough team to beat. Add Cesc Fabregas to that list, and Vicente del Bosque has a formidable line-up to take on the world.
But Fabregas’ injury may have a significant impact on their campaign. Although he is expected to be fit, as England supporters, we know how much of a concern it is to select a player for the World Cup short of match practice and fitness over 90 minutes – Fabregas may struggle to hit top gear on the world’s biggest stage after missing Arsenal’s Premier league run-in.
Brazil are always one of the teams to beat at the World Cup, and will feature the usual array of big players with only one name, such as Lucio, Robinho and Kaka. They have a tough group and will need to overcome Portugal in order to emerge as group winners, but only a brave man would write them off.
Likewise Argentina, where the hopes of a nation will be pinned on Lionel Messi of Barcelona, and we haven’t even mentioned Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and Holland, who always challenge for the title. England’s prospects will no doubt be well-documented in the weeks to come, and they are real contenders if Wayne Rooney stays fit and Fabio Capello prevents the team from self-destructing. There will be many nervous fans around the UK watching the world cup from social venues such as holiday camps and bars. These places provide the best atmosphere to enjoy the World Cup and hopefully England's success.
It’s time to nail your colours to the mast and give us your prediction for the tournament winner. I’m tentatively going for Argentina, with Messi claiming the Golden Boot.
By James Hutchison