The only certainty — expect plenty of upsets in this year’s World Cup

2014-06-12 00:00

YESTERDAY was the four-year anniversary of that goal.

When Siphiwe Tshabalala’s cracker put Bafana Bafana 1-0 up in front of a packed Soccer City in the 2010 World Cup opener against Mexico, the entire nation came to a standstill. Most will remember exactly where they were that day and though the tournament did not pan out as we all would have liked for Bafana, that was a moment that will forever remain in the memory banks.

Sadly, Bafana will play no part in the 2014 spectacle in Brazil, which starts at 10 pm tonight when the hosts, and tournament favourites, take on an unfancied Croatian side.

The kick’off times in Brazil will make it difficult for The Witness to bring you all of the action. But we can guarantee that you will know, through this daily column and our dedicated daily World Cup page, what to look out for each day.

Somebody asked me this week who my pick was for this year’s tournament.

“I don’t know, I’m not an octopus,” was my response.

And while that may make me seem like a fence sitter, I truly believe that it is that close and that there are a number of teams who possess the ability to go the distance.

I think that tonight’s opener will be tighter than many think. An opening ceremony, including a performance from an ageing Jennifer Lopez, will set the stage and then it will be go time.

We saw enough in 2010 to know that Brazil, and Sao Paulo in particular, will be thumping tonight. A nation will be watching and expecting Brazil to win at a canter. But this might be easier said than done. A look back at France 1998 suggests that Brazil might not have it all their way. Playing on the opening day of that tournament as favourites and defending champions, the mighty Brazilians had to rely on a John Collins own goal 17 minutes from time to scrape past a motivated Scotland 2-1. They would go on to lose in the final against the hosts.

Many critics are fancying Argentina, and I do think that the South American teams — Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay — will be very difficult to beat. But there are no certainties. In fact, the only certainty is that there will be upsets. World Cups are just too important and players raise their games for them.

On the African front, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are our best bets to progress to the knock-out stages.

So get comfy on the couch and take lots of late afternoon naps. The World Cup is here and you will have to become nocturnal if you plan on enjoying it.

Today’s highlight

Brazil v Croatia (10 pm).

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