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Argentina or England will take the World Cup home

Yes !! I am laying it on the line here. Being in England during a World Cup in which England is one of the strongest contenders is not a bad situation to be in at all. There are great shows on TV, lots of programmes showing snippets of old matches, vintage goals and a million other World Cup knick knacks.

I am not a football fan, but more of a Champions' League and World Cup fan ;-) and I really enjoyed the Arsenal v Barcelona match in the Champions' League final. Weren't Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho absolutely magical ?

Anyway, I am getting carried away as usual. Yeah, we were mentioning about my putting it on the line. I think England have the men to fight it out all the way to the finals but what could, and I fear will, bring them down is their coach's asinine insistence on playing a formation which just doesn't allow his players to do what they can be best at.

Michael Owen's ineffectiveness has a lot to do with the fact that he is not being fed enough balls in side the penalty area. And that is happening because the guys who are supposed to feed him, Gerrard and Lampard and Ferdinand are all playing in positions they have never played in comfortably or effectively. Gerrard is far more effective in a central role, not on the wings, where he keeps crossing Beckham's ways. Something similar happens between Lampard and Terry.

The most lethal teams down the ages have had a concentration of their most feared players in the rectangle defined by joining the inside corners of both the penalty areas, basically the central area, not the wings. And England, on the other hand, have a totally sluggish, not-so-sharp, and selfish Michael Owen, and just-plain-lucky good-but-not-good-enough Peter Crouch in that area.

All their superstars are currently operating on the flanks. Beckham thankfully has come back into a bit of form. That coupled with Peter Crouch's purple vein of form has kept them out of trouble till now. But that won't keep them afloat the seriously classy teams and someone better realise it.

What Sven is not doing is terrorise his potential opponents. He needs to let Beckham run circles around the right flank and float more than 50 crosses into the box. He needs to let Aaron Lennon scream deep down the right and keep atleast two defenders harassed and busy. He needs to let Steven Gerrard come further up down the centre and cause mayhem with his powerful shotmaking. He needs to let Michael just park his butt in the box with Peter Crouch, if both are on the field and wait for the crosses to come in. And he needs to play Rooney. And he is reluctant to do any of this. So England will not win.

But if England won't, who will. And on the evidence of the matches till now, I have to say its got to be Argentina. The sheer fluency with which they have started their campaign must be ominous to the other contenders. While highbred teams like Italy and Brazil struggle to put it across not so impressive opposition, Argentina just decimate Serbia & Montenegro with a display that shook me out of my usual Brazil-will-win just by sheer talent reverie. They are good, they are peaking at the right time, they are playing as a team, and apart from Brazil, they are the only team which believes in nothing but attack, and they have the players who can strike fear deep in the hearts of any defense in the world.

Among others, Brazil remain dangerous but they need to either get Ronaldo to get his act together or take him off. He is so pathetic right now his marker is not even bothered about cutting him off !!! And while Ronaldinho ran circles with his wizardry, he needs to start shooting at the goal. In the end, all the dazzling footwork amounts to nothing if you dont score, something Ronaldinho himself must've seen during the Champions' League final when Theirry Henry was a sheer magician with the ball but never scored.

And if Roberto Carlos is reduced to hitting in long floaters from next to his penalty area right into the hands of the opposition goalie, then I guess he has outgrown his utility. There are better defenders than him in every team in this World Cup, even on the bench. He is in the team for his striking, something similar to a allrounder in Cricket who is basically an average bowler but commands a place in the team because of his batting or vice versa. If he starts fluffing his batting as well he must be kicked out pronto.

The silver lining for Brazil is the composed display of their goalkeeper and the relentless running in of Jairzinho, Cafu & Edmilson. Its a spectacle to watch for sure, who cares whether they win or not. You should see how the defenders back up like German forces at the end of WW II when any of them gets the ball and sets off towards the opposition goal. And then you have Kaka Possessing the world's most lethal eye for a chance at the goal, this man is destined to achieve greatness in the years to come. He looked like conjuring up something every time he got a touch to the ball. Now if only he was fed the ball more often and more precisely by his mates.

Italy, well they are crap right now. They are playing as if they belong not to one country but West Indies. There is no sense of co-ordination, no team spirit and no collective vision. It somehow feels like they started their preparations just the other day. Hope they get their act together soon.

All the others have one or two potential Golden Boot winners but are basically not good enough.

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