Millions of homes would be glued to their TV boxes from today onwards expecting their favorite team to win the world cup. Germany take on Costa Rica in the opening match today and the Germans have to be careful of the openings match syndrome i.e., the stronger team usually loses or draws the match with the weaker team. As per the FIFA rankings, Germans rank just 7 places above Costa Rica (Germany - 19 and Costa Rica - 26). However the rankings would have no meaning during the world cup. The Germans would be under lot of pressure and expectation from the home team whereas the Costa Ricans has nothing to lose and can afford to go all out with the hope of a win ! The Costa Ricans would also be aware of the fact that their group is placed such that they have a better chance of making it to the second round with Poland and Ecuador placed lower down in the rankings. Hence the chances of an upset are real and Germany has to be vary of this !
Yesterday, I was following the discussion on when and whether India would make it to the world cup (NDTV 24x7 - Cricket Controversies) and it made me wonder if it was really worth the discussion. In India, football is fast fading as a popular sport (as far as watching/ following Indian team and football is concerned). During my school days, my dad once took me to the Federation Cup match between BSF and Mohun Bagan being played at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore. The stadium was overflowing with spectators and everyone used to cheer and shout the moment Babu Mani received the ball. Those days the following for the sport was huge and people used to follow the Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy, Rajiv Gandhi International Tournament, etc. Nowadays, even newspapers rarely give news space for these tournaments ! The following has dropped significantly and is mostly non-existent in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra where this sport used to be played and followed with much enthusiasm. Whatever the reason for the decline, it is sad to see the sport in such a mess in India ! But we always like to discuss such things. Be it athletics at Olympics, Soccer or hockey, we generally remember these sports during importants events and would comfortably forget them and everything is back to square one ! Hopefully, cricket would not meet such a fate in the near future !
Coming back to the world cup, I had talked about my personal favorites in the last posting. But technically (on paper) I feel the following teams have it in them to make it to the last 4 - Brazil, England, Netherlands and Czech Republic. The only common factor between my personal favorites and that of the technical favorites is Netherlands !! :-) Brazil are the strong favorites, but for some reason I normally dont like the favorites winning the cup as it makes the tournament very predictable and takes the zing out of the tournament ! Whoever wins, glue yourself to the TV sets for the next 1 month and ensure that you dont miss a single moment of the tournament.