As the curtain has fallen on the 2013/2014 Premier League season, attention now turns to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil which promises to be most of the most exciting and anticipated tournaments in modern history. A wonderful carnival atmosphere packed with vibrant colours and samba dancing will be prominent throughout the twelve host cities, with millions of fans across the world decking the towns and streets with World Cup paraphernalia to immerse themselves in the World Cup euphoria.
Many players will be waiting by their phone in anticipation to hear if they have been chosen by their national team manager to be part of the 23-man squad for Brazil 2014. This applies to many of Manchester United’s players who could be forgiven for wanting to forget their season in a hurry. It was always going to be difficult to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the best manager to ever grace the game, but nobody expected Manchester United to struggle as much as they did; predecessor David Moyes was sacked after just 10 months in charge at Old Trafford, as United fell well below expectations by finishing seventh in the league and will take no part in any European competition next season. Certain players will look to make amends for a forgettable season at domestic level and perform for their country at the World Cup in the hope of fulfilling a lifetime dream and picking up a winner’s medal. Brazil 2014 will be a fascinating tournament, with many countries backed to win the World Cup and a number of dark horses with more than a chance of upsetting the odds.
Every major tournament is usually greeted with high anticipation and expectation across England fans who believe their team have what it takes to go all the way, and get right behind them through passionate support. The 2014 World Cup will be an exception to the norm, with diminishing hope and widespread belief that England have stagnated while other countries around them continue to produce world-class players creating pessimism and negativity.
Roy Hodgson has opted for a squad packed with youth over experience, with four Manchester United stars set to play a major role for the Three Lions in Brazil. Wayne Rooney will be crucial to England’s chances as the star striker who may be tasked with the responsibility of leading from the front and scoring the goals that take England to glory. Danny Welbeck may have to do with a place on the bench as Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is likely to start alongside Rooney, although Welbeck offers a lively option in the later stages when his pace can be utilised. Chris Smalling may also join Welbeck as a substitute as Hodgson is likely to choose Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka as his centre-back pairing. Phil Jones’ versatility could be crucial during the World Cup, although the Manchester United prodigy has two weeks to prove his fitness following a shoulder injury.
Being drawn in a group which includes Italy and Uruguay makes qualifying for the knock-out stages a very difficult task, although if England can put it together, they could be serious dark horses.
When all looked lost for Shinji Kagawa at Manchester United under David Moyes, the Japanese star featured prominently during the latter stages of the season and reminded the Old Trafford faithful why he was signed. Kagawa is yet to find the scintillating form that brought him to prominence at Borussia Dortmund, but his strong performances are an encouraging sign for the future, particularly ahead of a crucial season for Manchester United following the near disaster of 2013/2014. Being played out wide is not Kagawa’s forte, although it may be difficult for him to play as a central attacking midfielder with Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney often preferred in the number 10 position. Kagawa is one of Japan’s main stars who they depend upon to drive the team forward alongside Keisuke Honda, although it would be a major achievement if Japan made it as far as the quarter-finals.
Every World Cup has its fair share of dark horses who have the quality to surprise the favourites and enjoy unprecedented glory by winning the Final. Belgium join Portugal and Colombia in posing a real danger to anyone they face, with Marouane Fellaini expected to play an important role for Marc Wilmot’s side. It remains to be seen whether Fellaini will be first choice for Belgium following a difficult year in his first season as a Manchester United player. The same could not be said for team-mate Adnan Januzaj who has been a revelation since bursting onto the scene at Old Trafford at the age of 18 and taking to first-team football like a duck to water. Choosing to represent Belgium at international level was met with delight across the country, with fans’ calls for his inclusion at the World Cup met by Wilmots who is privileged to have one of the best talents in world football at his disposal. If Belgium manage to keep it tight at the back and utilise their considerable attacking threat, there is no reason why they could not go very far in Brazil.