Hyderabad: Former Indian captain, Victor Amalraj feels that the 2018 World Cup has no particular favourites but stated the European and South American giants will obviously dominate the showpiece event in Russia.
“There is no favourite team in a tournament such as this. But at the end of the day, its between South America and Europe.
“Germany are obviously favourites and they are also the defending champions. With Neymar in side one can’t discount Brazil. Then come the Iberian giants, Spain and Portugal. Portugal are also the European Champions and they have the might of Cristiano Ronaldo and then we have Argentina with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero etc. So we have to wait and watch to see which team weaves their magic”, said Amalraj.
Turning his attention to the players that will catch the eye, he stated that in every World Cup, a new superstar emerges.
“There are players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Mohamad Salah. But in every World Cup, a new superstar will emerge. We had the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller (Germany) in 2010. In 2014, we had the likes of James Rodriguez (Colombia) who lit up the place”, said the former midfielder.
For most of us football fans, the name Diego Maradona rings a bell. He said, “I have seen the World Cups from the 80’s and in those days, Diego Maradona was the best player. Paolo Rossi, Gary Lineker were the other players who were great.”
Going into more details, Amalraj said that the team with the most players from one particular club team have the best chance of winning the World Cup and cited the examples of Spain and Germany, who won in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
“The German team that won the World Cup in 2014 had seven players playing for one club, Bayern Munich. In 2010, when Spain lifted the trophy, more than half of their team was playing for Barcelona. And when that is the case, the cohesion and understanding is on a totally different level. And that is the reason why even though Spain and Germany don’t have individual stars, together as a team they can defeat anyone”, said Amalraj, who was the first player to captain East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.
He also said that he admired German coach, Joachim Loew. “Joachim Loew as a coach stands out for me. The way he sets up his teams and they way they play, its just a joy to watch.”
Russia is a very cold country and most of the top players don’t play in the Russian League. When asked if the weather conditions will play a part in determining the winner, Amalraj said, “Russia is a very cold place and I agree that it will suit the Europeans more but most of the teams go to the venue one week in advance. And that will help them to acclimatize to the conditions.”
“We once played in freezing conditions in North Korea and finished the game. And nowadays, all the players are supremely fit athletes so it wont be very hard for them”, he concluded.