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Brazil, Argentina, Italy Will Contend In World Cup Play With Unique Styles

By Dennis Ramdass
and Amy Ludlum

The World Cup tournament serves a greater purpose than finding the best teams, although it does that very well. Soccer is a game of style and creativity with every region and country having an entirely unique approach. The World Cup is an opportunity to show the world what your country has to offer.

The teams with the best chances to win must balance individual talent with team play. We will introduce you to some of the strongest teams in the tournament, describing their strengths and weaknesses, to highlight the ones with better odds of winning.

Brazil has an extremely talented team and is considered a strong favorite to win the Cup. With arguably the best player in the world, Ronaldinho, supported by more of the world’s finest, including Kaka and Adriano, Brazil probably has the most individual talent of any team. Brazil traditionally plays with the most flair, scores the most beautiful goals, and maintains possession with the most style.

While this year should be no exception, there are a few key concerns for the defending champions. The defense is aging and perhaps past their prime, and an at times erratic goalkeeper, Dida, should make supporters a bit nervous.

Argentina, another favorite, brings an aggressive and direct style of play. With brilliant young playmakers like Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme in the squad, Argentina will not be short on creativity. Also in their arsenal is Chelsea’s Hernan Crespo, a clinical finisher.

Working against this strong Argentinean contingent is a lack of big game experience, due to their failure to make it through the group stages in the 2002 tournament.

With their strong defense, Italy is always a strong contender. This year their attacking strength should not be overlooked, as it is driven by one of the most creative midfielders in the world, Francesco Totti. They have been strong in qualifying, impressive in friendlies (exhibition matches), and hungry to add to their three World Cup titles.

Italy’s biggest problem remains their inability to dominate possession, especially against top teams. They put themselves on defense for the greater part of the game, making their play a bit sloppy at times, especially towards the last few minutes of play.

England brings a remarkably talented team — every position is filled by players who start for top-level European clubs. Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham and Joe Cole form a one of the most talented midfields in the tournament, and are supported by a solid backline including Campbell, Ferdinand and Terry.

Despite their undoubted individual talent, the big question for England is whether they can play together effectively enough to dominate. Key to this effort is Wayne Rooney, a truly remarkable young talent who almost exclusively carries England’s title hopes on his shoulders. However, there is serious doubt as to whether he can recover from his broken foot in time. Not having Rooney would be a devastating loss to the English.

The host of the World Cup should never be discounted as a strong contender, especially when it is Germany, who managed to make the final in 2002 and won the title the last time they hosted. Overall, Germany tends to be consistent, largely because of Michael Ballack, one of the world’s most complete and talented attacking midfielders. However, this squad lacks the talent of past teams and their defense is notably weak by German standards. Home support is a crucial factor to the game and this keeps Germany’s World Cup hopes alive, though under different circumstances supporters would be far less optimistic.

The U.S. drew a very difficult group, and if they take second in group stages they most likely look ahead to Brazil in the second round. If they manage to win the group, there is a much better chance of reaching later stages, perhaps even the final.

The team is still anchored by many of the players who performed so well in 2002, including Kasey Keller in goal, Eddie Pope anchoring the defense, and Landon Donovan and Brian McBride attacking. The U.S. is well-rounded enough to challenge any team, but needs to overcome a widely acknowledged lack of attacking creativity if they are to break down the best defenses in the world.

Holland and France are two more outside hopefuls with the ability to perform very well in the later stages. Both teams have had good records in past World Cups and have always challenged top teams in major competitions. Holland, led by Van Nistelrooy and Rafael van der Vaart up top, along with Arjen Robben in the midfield, sport a lot of talent and the will to prove it. France is once again held together by one of the world’s greatest players, Zidane, and one of the world’s greatest strikers, Thierry Henry, and will need outstanding performances from both to have chance of later-stage success.

What makes the World Cup such a gala event is not only the high level of competition but the pride, euphoria, devotion, and passion of fans from every corner of the globe. Big or small, rich or poor, well-known or obscure, all fans enjoy their seeing their teams earn the right to compete on the world stage.