Last Friday the World Cup Soccer draw took place. There was a lot of hype and attention on the event, as everyone was hoping for an easy draw. I was most interested in Serbia’s group and this post is an analysis of their chances of winning the World Cup.
I think people put too much emphasis on which group their team gets placed into. I look at it like it doesn’t matter when you face the tough opponents, whether in your group or in following rounds, eventually you are going to have to beat a quality opponent. For each group of 4, the top two qualify. Then the 16 teams in the 8 groups advance to the single elimination bracket. Qualifying from an easy group, a team will likely play a tough opponent in the knockout round of 16.
Serbia’s group is one of the tougher groups of the eight. Of course, the favorite is Germany. The Germans have been in the championship game 7 times in their history and have won three World Cups. The team cruised through its qualifying group, easily defeating Russia and Finland. The team once again is solid, with Chelsea star Michael Ballack leading the way. Germany’s discipline, physical play, and talent will be hard to beat.
Serbia is ranked second in the group on paper, but I would say that all three teams are just about even. Ghana is a country of 23 million and are a traditional African power, winner several African Cups over the years. “The Black Stars” recently won the Under-20 World Cup and last World Cup, made it out of the first round, losing to Brazil 0-3 in the round of 16. The team features another Chelsea superstar, midfielder, Michael Essien, and also, former Vojvodina FK coach, and Serb, Milovan Rajevac is the coach.
Australia qualified through Asia for the first time. Usually they compete in the Oceania group, but wanted tougher competition to prepare for the Cup. They beat Japan to get in, and their star is Tim Cahill, from Everton.
Serbia has a good of chance as anyone. They won a tough qualifying group, finishing higher than France, Austria, and Romania. They have top league European based players, with the star being Nemanja Vidic for Manchester United. They looked out classed against France however, and I fear that both Germany and Ghana, may have a faster game than the Serbs. I do feel good with Vidic in the back, and the Serbs do play tough soccer.
If they do get through, they will have to play either #1 or #2 of group C which features England, USA, Algeria, and Slovenia. Suppose they finish second, they could play England. The winner then plays either group 1 winner France or group 2 runner-up Argentina. That would put them in the semifinals. As you can see, it will be very tough odds for Serbia to win it all.
There has only been a small number of teams that have won the World Cup in recent years. Realistically, the winner will be Brazil (192 million), Germany (82 million), Italy (60 million) England (50 million) France (62 million). The Netherlands, with 16.5 million, is the smallest country to consistently appear in the semifinals. Note that Croatia did make it to the 1998 semifinals which is an anomaly. My idea would be to have a large nation and a small nation World Cup. Set it at say 20 million, and nations with a population smaller than that would compete in one tourney and larger nations in the other. You could even have the winners meet. I know other factors come into play other than population, like coaching, financial support, youth programs, etc, but long-term, the chances of a very small nation winning it are remote. There are many smaller nations with excellent soccer, like Denmark, Paraguay, Portugal, etc. that would make for an interesting World Cup, small division. There is a nice article in the Wall Street Journal that has similar thoughts to my ideas.
I would also modify the game of soccer to allow more goals. Because the extreme difficulty of scoring goals, too many games come down to a lucky bounce or an acting dive in the penalty box. I don’t like to watch a game where one team dominates play the entire game and then loses with one counter attack that results in a goal. The modifications I propose would be larger goals, more lenient offsides rule, stricter penalties for players faking a trip (automatic red card and forced to wear a pink tutu for the rest of the season or tourney), etc. I would rather see games finish 8-7 than 0-0 and a team wins with penalty kicks.
Anyway, I’ll enjoy watching the games in June and there will be a lot of excitement here in Serbia. Living an expat global nomad lifestyle, I have several alligences to other teams including Australia and the USA. My South American teams did not qualify this time (Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela).