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15 World Cup Predictions

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ShortList’s Sam Rowe asks the experts to reveal all about Brazil 2014

1. It will be a carnival

John Barnes: “As soon as the World Cup starts, the entire nation and whole world will get behind it. And of course – the colour, the revelry and the excitement that Brazil encapsulates – it means it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. Before the World Cup, from a political and media perspective, Fifa and the organisers are going to get a lot of stick, but once everyone gets there and the football starts, expect a real carnival atmosphere.”

2. Messi will be fired-up

Matt Le Tissier: “Lionel Messi has something to prove on the World Cup stage. If he wants to be considered on the same level as Maradona and Pelé, he’s got to have a strong World Cup and lead his team to win. Until Messi really shines there, people will always ask the question – is he really at that level?”

3. Spain’s reign will be over

Jeff Stelling: “I think the golden era of Spanish football is showing signs of edging towards its conclusion. I’m not saying they have a bad side or anything, but at the Confederations Cup they got walloped in South America, and I think we’re seeing a slight decline in terms of their national team. They’re all getting a little bit older, and I’m not sure the youngsters are of the same quality.”

4. Someone will ‘do a Greece’ and win

Adrian Chiles: “It could be the year of the underdog – it’s never happened at a World Cup. It’s happened at the Euros and the Champions League. I think someone might find a way of getting a bit lucky, winning a game on penalties and all of a sudden they’re in the final. Think Belgium or Chile.“

5. England’s hardest game will be Uruguay

Gus Poyet: “Uruguay have something different – we get together for a month before a tournament and become a proper group of players. That month training, living, knowing each other brings something special. It’s the way we live football, we learn football. We die to play for the national team.”

6. Rooney will finally turn up

Roy Keane: “Wayne’s a top player, but I’m sure he’d be disappointed with some of his England performances. He’s had a few niggly problems for a month or two, but his form’s been decent, and England need him firing on all cylinders. There is a lot of pressure on him, but he’s used to that.”

7. Fledglings will shine…

Gordon Strachan: “The preparation will take their breath away – the build-up and intense media scrutiny might be different. But sometimes you come down a level for your country. If you’re playing Chelsea or Man City, they have the best players in the world; in an international you could play Lithuania.”

8. …Especially Raheem Sterling

Matt Smith: “He’s had a great season and is maturing into a pacy, talented, confident young man. I think he can beat a man in a telephone box, he has an eye for goal as we’ve seen recently, plus he’s the youngest probable starter at 19 years of age. That’s a good thing. I think at 19 you’re not burdened by fear.”

9. There will be more goals

Andy Townsend: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection of strikers, in any tournament I’ve worked on, at their peak, and that bodes well. It’ll be a shame if Falcao isn’t fit, and it’s early days for Neymar, but with Messi, Aguero, Rooney, Balotelli, Sanchez – you could go on.”

10. Neymar will like being home

Pat Nevin: “He’s the most talented footballer in the world. I wouldn’t say he’s the best, but for raw skill and ability, Neymar’s the most talented, which is saying something when you have Ronaldo, Bale and Messi. To do that regularly you need to be the main man. He’s not the main man in Barca, but there’s a lot of pressure on him in Brazil – they expect him to do it for them.”

11. Ronaldo won’t win it for Portugal

Marcel Desailly: “When you talk about Portugal for this World Cup, you think about Cristiano Ronaldo. But you’re not capable of bringing out other names. Yes, he is the year’s top player, [winning the] Ballon d’Or, but is it enough? I’m not sure. They had to beat Sweden in a qualifying play-off and [in the] last minute Ronaldo made the difference, but I’m not sure you can count on only one man. It is not yet the time for Portugal.”

12. Even non-football fans will watch it

Adrian Chiles: “What I like about the World Cup is that non-England fans watch it. If we get to the quarter-final, we’ll probably have 25 million people watching on ITV. Normally we’ll get seven or 10 million watching, so that’s 15 million people who don’t normally watch football, and I like that they suffer.”

13. England will do better than you think

Paul Merson: “I can’t understand people saying this is a bad group for England. Italy are an aging team – if we get a man on Pirlo and stop him from playing, I don’t see where they’ll hurt us. Uruguay have Suarez and Cavani, but Cavani’s not setting the world alight. Then there’s Costa Rica. If we win the group, it opens it up for us.”

14. England’s penalty curse will be lifted

Matt Le Tissier: “In World Cups there are games that are very tight, but if it goes to penalties we have people in our squad who are very good penalty-takers, and down the years, we haven’t. So going into this World Cup, I actually feel a lot more confident than any of the previous ones.”

15. A Premier League team will sign a rubbish player

Jeff Stelling: “Plenty of players have been bought off the back of World Cup tournaments that have turned out to be disasters, so every club has got to be wary. But there’s always somebody. Every World Cup somebody comes through you’ve barely heard of and makes an impact. Whether they continue to make an impact after a World Cup is another issue. Ask me who they are now and I couldn’t name one, but there’ll be at least one player who will make their name in Brazil.”

Jeff Stelling, Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson: Keep up to date with all the latest news and analysis throughout the World Cup on Sky Sports News. Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend, Roy Keane, Gordon Strachan, Matt Smith, Gus Poyet: Catch live World Cup games throughout the tournament on ITV and ITV Player. Pat Nevin: Pat Nevin is a BBC 5 live pundit. John Barnes: England legend John Barnes is lending his support to YO! Sushi’s #TEAMTWO campaign, asking the nation to get behind Japan as their second team for a chance to win £1m should they triumph. Marcel Desailly: Marcel Desailly is a Laureus Academy Member, promoting the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. For more information please visit laureus.com

(Images: ITV Sport/Rex/Getty/PA/Sky)

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