In our recent podcast, John Ryan and I spent a few minutes on the upcoming World Championship, getting underway on January 11 in Spain. We had a few suggestions about possible success for Denmark and Poland, together with the notion that John is no longer as high on France as in the past. I also noted that several key injuries together with the some cases of post-Olympic retirement would undoubtedly have some impact.
But several friends, especially over in Europe, have used the New Year’s holiday to harass me about being a ‘coward’ by not offering some more specific suggestions for the outcome of the Championship. Yes, I know that some of you like to see my speculations, simply to be able to determine at the end that, yet again, my forecasts were a bit off the mark. So, I do not want to make you disappointed.
First, even more than in the past, I suspect that the preliminary groups will show a major contrast between some really solid teams and a whole bunch of teams that may be in the running for the ‘Round of 16′ but who really are not at the top level. So in each group it is mainly a matter of picking out the favorites and those who might be next in line.
In Group A, I think it is going to be almost impossible for France to fail to come out on top, and it is equally difficult to see the ‘new’ German team finish below second or third. I do not count on Argentina and Tunisia this time, so my only ‘dark horse’ here is Brazil. In Group B, Denmark seems to be the overwhelming favorite, whereas I do not expect great things from Iceland this time. So it should instead be interesting to see how a partly rebuilt Russian team will do. And let us see if Qatar, already looking ahead to hosting the next Championship in 2015, might be able to surprise FYRO Macedonia.
On the other half of the draw, I envisage a major fight for the first spot in Group C between Serbia and Poland. Some may think that Belarus and Slovenia will be in a battle for third place, but I could see the Koreans coming up with a surprise. Finally, in Group D, it can sometimes be a mixed blessing to be the home team, and perhaps Hungary could manage to win the group ahead of Spain. But I am also really curious about how the rejuvenated Croatian team, this time without Balic, will fare. Perhaps the Egyptians will turn out to be the best non-European team, but I do not have much of basis for that assertion.
So as you can see, I have been rather cautious, but I really do believe that it will in the end be a fight between ‘the usual suspects’. And perhaps I have been a bit less enthusiasm this time, as it will be the first time in 20 years that I am not involved, or at least present, for a men’s World Championship…