Brazil 2014

Waiting for One Month of Paradise

Irakli Magradze
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Brazil 2014

From 12 June to 13 July, Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup for the second time in the country's history. The 20th Mundial will be held in a country that – despite not being able to boast the best infrastructure, the best stadiums or low levels of crime – is well aware of the most important thing: the real value of football. For this very reason, Brazilians will offer their guests an awesome World Cup – a football paradise. This is what each and every person we have asked expects from Brazil 2014.

Representatives of various spheres – people all well known to the Georgian public – shared their opinions about the 20th FIFA World Cup with Tabula.

Levan Berdzenishvili, politician

World Cups vary from one another in the sense that sometimes they change eve­rything, whilst at other times they prove to be just ordinary World Cups in which one team becomes champion and nothing extraordinary happens in football. I think that this Mundial will be one that will change everything. Boring football has clearly exhausted itself. Today, the game needs stars. Currently, one cannot see even a single superstar. True, there is Lionel Messi, Franck Ribéry, Cristiano Ronaldo, but none of these are comparable to, for example, Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona, or Zidane. In this regard, football is a bit boring today, especially considering that recently Messi has not been doing as well as he once did. It is absolutely obvious that something must happen.

It very rarely happens that the national team of Brazil participates in a World Cup without a world champion in its ranks. This time around, however, only the coach fits that bill. Today, the national team of Brazil does not have a footballer of the likes of "El Fenómeno" [Ronaldo]. That said, the team is quite balanced. It has a very good back, a pretty good halfback, and Neymar as a forward. The latter has much to prove. Neymar plays for Barcelona, and in a team that is built around Messi, it is impossible for his role to not be slightly overshadowed by that of the Argentinean. It is possible for Neymar to shine at the World Cup, playing for a team in which there are not two lions in the den – an arrangement that I do not think is a good idea. The World Cup will show whether Neymar is a footballer of the level that he is expected to be. It is, however, clear cut that Neymar is more of a national team player than a club player.

Neymar and Luiz Felipe Scolari
The likes of Messi would not die for Argentina, whereas Ronaldo, for instance, had wanted to be a military serviceman more than a footballer so that he could defend his country. Patriotism in Brazil is still of the type that it should be in such countries: they hate every foreigner and love any local. These people will not allow any manifestation of internal conflict, this is something that also holds true for the national team.

It is very good that Brazilian manager Scolari did not name any super-experienced footballer for his team – for, in Brazilian rules, he would be the leader. This was important for Scolari because, by Brazilian standards, he is a strict coach. That he is Italian by origin means that he is regarded as being top class. Italian origins are very much appreciated in Brazil. The team does not include Ronaldinho, who missed too many training sessions because of women. Let's see how such a Brazilian team will perform. In reality, the demands placed on them might exceed their capacities. In any case, the only satisfactory result for the Brazilians is to become World champions; they would rather drop out of their group than take second place.

Dato Turashvili, writer

From the forthcoming Mundial I first and foremost expect a beautiful show. Unfortunately, we do not have any real shows on any Georgian TV channel, some of the mega-shows broadcast could even be called kitsch. As regards football, I do not view it as only a game. Therefore, since my childhood I have been a fan of our Iberian relatives – the Spaniards and Argentineans. However, once – at the 1990 World Cup – I supported the Italians for several reasons, including the Etruscan factor. However, my first love is, of course, Argentina. This is for three reasons: the first World Cup I watched was that in Argentina in 1978. It left an unforgettable impression on my childhood. The second reason is, of course, Diego Maradona – a miracle for football. Another like him has yet to be born. The third and, perhaps, key reason has a political hue – Argentina was the first country, save for our immediate neighbors, to recognize the independence of Georgia in 1918....

The Spanish national team celebrating their victory in South Africa 2010
Objectively, the Spanish national team has two shortcomings: they all, as a rule, only play most boldly and enthusiastically against champions. Secondly, any team can study their manner of play, in such a way as happened with the case of Barcelona. However, I hope that they cannot be easily defeated and we will get great pleasure from watching them play this summer.

I hope that before the beginning of the World Cup, and there is still some time left, Leo Messi will have time to look through the autobiography of Maradona, in which the essence of wearing the shirt of the national team is perfectly explained, so that Messi will go on to make us happy with a completely distinguished performance. By the way, Brazil now most fears the Argentineans. They worry that they will play like the Uruguayans who defeated the host team in the Maracanã in 1950. However, the key thing is still the celebration of football. If the upcoming Mundial gives us many good games, it means that we will have many unforgettable evenings, getting such pleasure that cannot be compared with anything else....

Otar Tatishvili, doctor, comedian

Many good teams will participate and many good footballers will play in the World Cup. However, there are various injuries to consider too – for instance, it will be a pity if Falcao does not play in the Columbian national team, and Argentina's Di Maria also has an injury. What is more important, however, is not just having such footballers on the team, but them showing the best possible game.

There are many teams from which I expect surprises, such as the national teams of Cote D'Ivoire, Bosnia and Belgium. It will also be very interesting to see how Uruguay will play because Luis Suárez is, perhaps, the best forward in the world today and the other players on the team are not bad either. I expect that it will be a great festival of football with the participation of many good national teams and players.

Robin van Persie
I am a fan of the Netherlands's national team and thus, of course, want it to win every stage, though objectively this will be difficult to achieve. Robin van Persie will not be in ideal shape for the Mundial; and another problem is that many key figures are getting older, for example, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. Today, neither van der Vaart, Eljero Elia nor Ibrahim Afellay represent a great force. Holland's defense is, unfortunately, particularly aged. Nor is the younger generation very promising. Having said all this, I think that getting to the quarter finals will be a success for van Gaal. If the Netherlands makes it into the top eight teams, this will be a success for the current team. However, no one knows what will happen; no one is insured against surprises and I will be happy if my favorite national team manages to achieve even better results.

Giorgi Bakradze, economist

It has been a long time since a World Cup has been held in South America. The expectation is great because people living there treat football in a completely different way. It is the greatest factor that the Mundial is being held in Brazil and the expectation of a neutral fan would be that Brazil will win it. For me, the ideal scenario would be a Brazil vs Uruguay final with the host team winning it.

From among the, so to say, lesser favorites, I expect the most from Portugal. For Ronaldo this is, in fact, the last chance to shine. I personally like him very much. The rest of the Portuguese team is not as strong as him, but I will not be surprised at seeing them in a semifinal. In contrast to, for example, the Argentinean national team, I think that the Portuguese have a better defense. If anything, that is why Ronaldo has more chances to shine than Messi.

Steven Gerrard
The only problem England might face, I think, will be with Gerrard's fitness. As of this year, he has been somewhat demoted as a playmaker, but is second to none in the team. Therefore, I hope that the legend of Liverpool will have no injuries and will be healthy. Otherwise, England risks having a serious problem.

I was very surprised that Ashley Cole was not selected. He might less frequently play for Chelsea, but international experience is of the utmost importance in the World Cup. Baines is indeed not a bad footballer, but when it comes to the World Cup, I think that Ashley Cole should have been in the squad. I therefore consider this to have been a mistake.

England is lucky to have its first game against Italy, a team which traditionally starts badly. I think that from this group England, together with Uruguay, will move up. After that, it depends on whom England's team meets in the next stage. However, it is not doomed to fail against anyone in any specific match.

Dato Porchkhidze, musician

I think that there is a crisis in football today – a form of double governance. There are two superstars in the tournament, which was not the case in 2006. If Ronaldo's Portugal succeeds in moving up from its group, then it may take its normal path, but in any case we cannot predict a huge success for it. As regards Messi's Argentina, I do not expect it to encounter any problem until the quarterfinals.

When some people say that they are fans of South American football because it has more beauty and individualism, these statements no longer touch me. The balance has been upset; various schools no longer exist; everything has become mixed and the winner will be the team that plays better in any given match.

France proved lucky in terms of its group and, moreover, it does not have a bad team. I am not speaking about them becoming champions, but Deschamps' team can go far. I do not see the French failing to advance from the group stages, especially considering that this team is no longer overly self-confident, as it was in 2002. My prediction for France is that it makes it into the quarterfinals.

Franck Ribéry
As always, the French national team has a good goalkeeper, an incredibly good halfback and is in good shape with Benzema as a forward. It is a little unclear who will form the center defense, but there will not be a big problem here either. One problem is that the team does not have a figure of the likes of Zidane. Ribéry can never take on such a role, regardless of the fact that he is a very good player. Both Messi and Ronaldo are better than the French – they are of the type that can decide the fate of an entire match. In general, I would say to those who compare Messi or Ronaldo with Zidane that even the first two combined would not have even the slimmest chance against Zidane. Ribéry is still Ribéry and one cannot disregard him, but he can only work within the limits of his capabilities. All in all, I do not expect anything great from France, but I think that the French will still upset many other teams in the Mundial.

As regards the world's best footballer, I think that the Messi who once used to bamboozle the entire field and score goals has come to an end and will never be repeated. We have to get accustomed to a Messi who is still very good, but who can no longer score as many goals as before. Such a Messi – a deliverer of passes and a team player – is no less interesting, and this is exactly the player that I am expecting to see during the World Cup. However, I bet that the Argentinean will definitely score two or three goals during the championship. Messi will necessarily score a goal in the first game.

Giorgi Janelidze, comedian

I am sure that the World Cup will be interesting. I am also sure that the winner will be from among those nations that have won the tournament before. The only team that I think has a chance of competing with such teams is Belgium, which has a good composition. The Brazilians have a good chance to win; Argentina is in a good group, whilst Uruguay is in a bad one. The Columbians have good players when taken separately, but let us see what they can do as a team. Chile also has a decent national team, but has found itself in a difficult group. If the old rule were in place, when good third place teams in the group stages were allowed to move up, it would be more interesting – I am kidding. I do not expect anything extraordinary from the Netherlands because the composition of that team is not very impressive.

Today, football receives such extensive coverage that I do not expect a new star to be discovered in the World Cup at all. We know everyone from the good national teams, whereas bad national teams rarely have such players and, even if they do, they also remain unknown to us.

Andrea Pirlo
As regards the current national team of Italy, it has claims to everything. I will not be caught by surprise this year, like I was by the 2006 Squadra Azzurra. They have Balotelli as a forward and, no matter whom they place in defense, the Italians know this job perfectly well. Pirlo is a midfielder who, I think, knows more than anyone else in the world today about what to do with the ball at any given moment. I do not know what kind of relationship the rest of the team have with each other, but, unlike England, at least we have not heard rumors of players having relationships with each other's wives. Notwithstanding that, in any case, I think that Italia has a better chance in the World Cup than England.

Last year, I watched the Italian side play in Yerevan. This team is built on Pirlo and he perfectly performs the functions of a leader. He delivers perfect passes and I think that no matter who the forwards are, it will be a great comfort for anyone to have a partner like Pirlo. We must thus expect everything from the national team of Italy.

Giga Bokeria, politician

This may not have a very rational explanation, but if we look back we will see that World Cups always prove to be better when they are held in a footballing nation. Therefore, there is an expectation that we will witness yet another great and remarkable tournament. There is no problem with time zones either – when I looked at the schedule, the timing of the games are normal. In short, I hope for a very good Mundial.

I cannot say that I am expecting to see any new star emerge that I have not already heard of. Because of the abnormal situation that we, unfortunately, do not have our own national team in the World Cup, since childhood I have been a fan of Argentina. Nevertheless, I would like to see Suárez play well. He is a distinguished player who had a very good season and Uruguay's group is also very interesting. In general, this team is quite cohesive and has a fighting spirit, which makes it more attractive.

The main surprise for me was the refusal to select Malaga's goalkeeper, Caballero, for the national team of Argentina. Romero may be a good goalkeeper, but selecting him as first goalkeeper after he skipped a season does not seem to be the correct decision.

Lionel Messi
It is also very strange that Cambiasso was not selected. Gago has to heal from his injury and, against this backdrop, there will be problems if something happens to Biglia or Banega. I think the decision not to use a footballer of Cambiasso's class and experience is, of course, incorrect. I personally also consider the non-selection of Icardi to be a problem. He would have been a perfect substitute for Higuain. There are no surprises as concerns the Argentinian defense – Demichelis and Gonzalo were logical choices. The only other weakness for the team is the left wing. All in all, the biggest problem is midfield. The physical condition of Gago, Biglia, and Banega are serious risk factors.

What will please me is Argentina becoming the champions, nothing else. Failing to make it into the top four will be a catastrophe. Especially considering that, for as long as I can remember, Argentina has never had such a weak team. The chance for Argentina to clash with a strong team in the final eight does not actually exist: it turns out that Argentina can expect to play its first serious game in the quarterfinals. Therefore, not making it into the top four would be a catastrophe.

During the World Cup qualifying stages, I saw Messi take on the role of leader for the first time. The team also played well, save for two games, and Messi showed the qualities of a leader in the key games. Therefore, the cliché that Messi fails to play well for his national team does not have any justification. He is well adjusted to those whom he plays with on the forward position, which gives grounds for optimism. The only negative is that he has not been in good shape of late and his psychological state also leaves much to be desired. However, I still believe that Messi will not have any problems and that this will be his best championship. My expectation is that, working together with Messi, there will be beautiful offensive plays from Higuain, Di Maria and Agüero.

Aleksandre Iashvili, footballer

In the World Cup I have a personal interest towards the national team of Cameroon. The manager of this team is Volker Finke who, apart from being my coach in Freiburg for 11 years, is now my friend. I therefore support the Cameroonians and would like to see them move up from their group. The Belgian national team is also interesting because at the qualifying stage it was one of the best European teams and is manned by a number of strong young footballers.

When I moved to Germany to play, the German national team played a different type of football. The team was dependent on leaders: Kahn, Zimmer, Effenberg – these were the footballers whom others relied on. In the following years, Ballack was another such a footballer that I can recall. Since then, the system has gradually changed and Klinsmann and Löw have been blamed for that. When plays do not prove successful in such important games as in semifinals or finals, where the team badly needs a leader, people blame this on the absence of such football.

herefore, the demands placed on Schweinsteiger or Lahm – footballers who have achieved success at the club level – will be higher at the upcoming Mundial and they are expected to achieve the same heights in the national team too.

Reus and Götze
As regards the head coach, Löw, and the manager of the national team, Bierhoff, they say that their aim is to win the World Cup. This is something that everyone, of course, expects and will demand is achieved.

I have played with the majority of footballers in the current German national team. Reus, Kroos, Müller, Schürrle, Götze – these guys are, I think, the best young players in the world. Germany does not have Messi or Ronaldo, but their strength is in having two or three strong players for every position. Moreover, the Bundesteam plays very well together. I think, therefore, that Germany is one of the favorites.

I remember that when former Spanish manager Aragones did not select Raul for the World Cup in 2010 he came under a barrage of criticism. However, as Spain went on to win the championship, it turned out that the manager had been correct in his decision. Today, one can also hear criticism of Löw for not selecting Gomez and instead naming four young footballers, including Leon Goretzka who played with me in Bochum last year. I think the important thing is to first see how the team plays and what it can achieve, and only then discuss what the coach did right or wrong.

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