World Cup: here we go!

I don’t intend to dedicate the entire blog to my favourite sports event of all, but I’ll try to drop in with some Monday notes as time permits!

I have already drafted a history of the tournament, updated with the 2010 tournament, and I have a downloadable pdf of all results in World Cup history and a schedule for 2014.

I won’t bother with a full preview this time – there are plenty of those about! But a few pointers to look for…

There is now a “Big Five” of countries who have won the World Cup away from home, and they are likely to provide the winner again (not least since one of them is actually at home) – namely Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina and Spain.

There is always a surprise semi-finallist. Such is the praise heaped on an exciting Belgium team, it almost wouldn’t be a surprise! The likelihood is that the surprise will come from the bottom end of the draw – personally, I’m watching for Bosnia-Hercegovina.

If you’re betting, go for teams in a tough group (the odds include group difficulty), like the Netherlands or Italy (33-1 and 25-1).

Fresh teams do best – this, surprisingly, will favour England (who generally get knocked out in the quarter-final, by the way).

Germany will reach the quarter-final – the last time they failed (having been allowed to participate) was 1938!

It’s not looking good for Brazil – the only time Brazil has won the World Cup without playing England was in 1994 when England didn’t qualify. With England in the field, Brazil has always had to play them in order to win. They are unlikely to meet this time…

Penalties will be important – there were relatively few shoot-outs in South Africa, but they will probably return to prominence this time, not least given the heat. As I mentioned previously, it is also worth noting for information that shoot-outs do not form an official part of the game; and that the toss of the coin at the start of the shoot-out determines only which team goes first – this is important, the last seven World Cup shoot-outs have been won by that team…

Teams level on points are separated on goal difference and then goals scored – this is a quick note, but it is an important change from the last European Championships, where teams level on points were separated by head-to-head record (which in fact put Greece in the quarter-final at the expense of Russia).

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