Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Forget Brazil and Spain, Germany will be the 2014 World Cup winners

Germany captain Philipp Lahm has every chance of lifting the World Cup next year

The play-off draw for the World Cup finals took place earlier this week.

Shame Northern Ireland weren't in it, but we move on and hope for better, much better, in the European Championships.

In the draw Portugal were paired with Sweden which means either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss out on a trip to Brazil next summer.

I hope Portugal win the two legged affair and not just because they were in our group during the qualifying stages, but because, even though Ibrahimovic will beg to differ with his array of spectacular goals, Ronaldo will offer more in Rio.

Not least as he can continue his battle with Lionel Messi for the tag of best player on the planet.

Those two may be the stand out individuals, but the team to keep an eye on will be Germany.

There you go, I'm nailing my colours to the mast early.

Germany to win the World Cup and become the first European side to do so on South American soil.

Brazil will be many's favourites and home advantage will certainly help them advance to the latter stages, but I'm not convinced they have the all round ability to win the thing.

In my book Argentina are more likely to succeed with Messi's magic combined with the goalscoring prowess of Sergio Aguero.

Spain are holders and have won the last three major championships they have contested, but even with the wonderful Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings I fancy this will be a tournament too far for them.

Belgium? Possible semi-finalists. Holland? Last eight. Uruguay? Compelling to watch with Luis Suarez, but quarter-finalists. Ditto England with the luck of the draw.

That brings me to Germany, managed by the canny Joachim Low.

Amazingly they have not won a big football tournament since Euro 96 at Wembley. Far too long. They will arrive in Brazil with a fierce determination to put that right.

And with the players at their disposal they have every chance.

Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller are all magnificent. And then there's captain Philipp Lahm. For years he has been one of the finest footballers in the world and with the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich it seems like he is reaching new levels.

The former Barcelona coach has great admiration for Lahm and encourages the full-back to move into midfield every chance he gets to operate in a more offensive and creative role.

Anyone who witnessed Bayern's demolition of Manchester City in the Champions League earlier this season will agree that Lahm has so much quality he could play in virtually every position on the pitch.

Also helping the German cause is that the Bundesliga is stronger than it has been for years.

Unlike the Premier League in England this actually means something, because so many high class Germans actually play in Germany.

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