World Cup fever is at its pinnacle as football’s greatest show prepares to kick off in Brazil tomorrow.
From Neymar to Messi, Costa to Pirlo and Robben to Ronaldo, many of the world’s best-known and most-admired players will be lacing up their boots in South America.
But who will be lifting that famous trophy come the end of the tournament? The Standard asked our panel of experts who they are tipping for the top of the world...
Boston United boss Dennis Greene believes Argentina, inspired by Lionel Messi, will win the tournament.
He said: “I think that Messi knows that some people won’t judge him as a truly great player unless he does it at a World Cup. He hasn’t really done that yet and he’s not getting any younger. This could be his perfect chance as the World Cup’s in South America, so he’ll know what it’s like to play in those conditions.”
Another manager backing Argentina is Boston Town boss Nathan Collins.
“I’ve got a sneaky feeling Argentina will win it,” he said. “Brazil are the favourites, but I can’t look past the players Argentina have got. They’ve got strikers who can cause massive problems for any team, and quality players right through the team.”
BBC Radio Lincolnshire Breakfast Show host, and former football commentator Scott Dalton, is right behind the boys from Brazil.
He said: “As a country they may have left it late in everything being ready in staging the World Cup, but on the pitch Brazil at a home tournament looks a thrilling prospect. That’s why, with host advantage, it’s hard to see past them for the top prize, but Argentina will push them close.”
Gary Frost led Wyberton to the Boston Saturday League Premier Division title, and he is backing Vicente Del Bosque to retain the title for Spain.
“I think Spain will win the World Cup,” he said. “They’ve had the best sides in Europe this season and although some players are ageing they still have great players like Iniesta, Ramos and David Silva.
“With Diego Costa likely to be fit they have the perfect frontman to bring their great midfielders into play.”
Another backing a European side to do well is Boston Standard deputy editor and Nottingham Forest obsessive Andrew Brookes.
He said: “I wish I could predict someone else, maybe the ‘golden generation’ of the Hondurans, a Falcao-less Colombia clicking or, most fancifully perhaps, Roy’s Boys bringing home the trophy. I’d like to say any of those but I can’t look past the reigning champions. Some feel Spain are set for decline based, it seems, on the fact that Barcelona ‘only’ got to the Champions League semis and were within a goal of winning La Liga. But Spain aren’t Barca and can draw on the success of the Madrid clubs.”
Standard columnist and Boston United fanzine author Pete Brooksbank (alias ImpsTalk) is another going for home advantage.
He said: “The Brazilians may not be much good at building stadiums on-time, and this World Cup is still politically contentious, but I think their national team will make it a tournament the country ends up celebrating as a triumph. I can see Neymar being one of the standout sensations.
“Also watch out for Italy’s Ciro Immobile, who is my shout for Golden Boot. As for England, they’ll make it through the group and then lose to Japan. Obviously.”