Belfast Telegraph

Who does Michael O'Neill think will win the World Cup?


Tough call: Michael O’Neill is backing Brazil to lift trophy
Tough call: Michael O’Neill is backing Brazil to lift trophy

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill may have celebrated his 49th birthday yesterday, but he brought little cheer to the long suffering England faithful by predicting a World Cup Final loss for Gareth Southgate's men.

O'Neill, who has been working as a pundit for RTÉ and other broadcasters at the tournament in Russia, believes England can go all the way to the decider but he can only see one winner… Brazil.

The man who steered Northern Ireland to the knockout stages of Euro 2016 in France doesn't believe any side is capable of silencing the Samba Boys.

Most observers are tipping Brazil to lift the famous trophy on July 15 and O'Neill is signing from the same hymnsheet.

"Brazil have the best depth to their squad and have lots of options, and for that reason I think they will win it," he said.

Focusing on the last eight of the tournament, the Northern Ireland boss believes Uruguay, Brazil, England and Croatia will make it through this weekend.

Of the Uruguay v France quarter-final, O'Neill said: "Uruguay will win it. Mind you, it depends if (Edinson) Cavani is available. If he is not fit then France might do it. However, Uruguay are strong defensively and have a great attack.

"France are still inconsistent. Uruguay give nothing away at the back and they possess the twin threat of Cavani and (Luis) Suarez going forward."

The second quarter-final sees Brazil take on Belgium. O'Neill addeed: "I think Brazil will win it. They are getting better with each game and I believe they have a lot more to show."

And between Sweden and England in Samara tomorrow? "England will win that one," he argued. "They carry a bigger attacking threat."

The fourth quarter-final match, also on tomorrow, will see host nation Russia take on Croatia in Sochi.

O'Neill continued: "This will be the end for Russia. They did great to hang in there and put Spain out on penalties but I think Croatia will have too much for them."

If O'Neill's predictions prove correct then Uruguay will face Brazil in St Petersburg on Tuesday for a place in the final - with Brazil progressing.

"There's a mental block for other South American countries when it comes to taking on and beating Brazil," he added.

"I think Brazil have more depth to their squad."

The second semi, according to O'Neill, would see England take on Croatia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on July 11.

He added: "England have not been in a World Cup semi-final since 1990 but they have enough in their current squad to deal with this game. I think they will continue to get stronger."

But O'Neill thinks England's run will end at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15 against Brazil.

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