Ruud Doevendans


 
Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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The next world champions? Argentina! Who else?



    Is it possible to become world champion without having a great goalkeeper? That's difficult, on first sight. Remember Barthez, a rather eccentric but valuable goalie, and Taffarel, who was Brazil's saviour more than once. Illgner and Pumpido were sound goalies, Zoff world class and Fillol and Maier both decisive in their respective finals. On top of that, Banks, Gilmar, Turek, Maspoli, Olivieri, Combi and Ballestreros were all influential in their team's biggest triumphs ever. Only one missing: Felix, the man who kept goal for Brazil in 1970, was a poor goalie. But he played in arguably the best team ever. So it's possible, but the rest of your team has to be very good. Good enough to keep the ball away from their own goal. Brazil did it in 1970, I think Argentina will be the next world champion with an average goalkeeper. Who else?

    France? Okay, a candidate again, but will they still be as strong as they were in 1998 or 2000? Don't think so. Deschamps and Blanc, two leaders, are already gone. Vieira may be hugely talented but tactically he's no Deschamps, and Leboeuf is no Blanc by a mile. Desailly will be another year older and won't be the unbeatable rock forever. Much will rest on the shoulders of Zidane, after a presumably hard year to come. France has won everything recently, and their hunger must be over some time, that's natural. That's why I can not see them retain their title, although their overall qualities will get them far in the tournament, I'm sure of that.

    Germany? No, no, no. It's a good achievement in itself that Rudi Völler has been able to field a fresh and competitive side after the Euro2000-disaster, and Germany has a lot of decent players to choose from. But they lack the great players, they have no outstanding qualities on the essential, central positions. No great central defenders, no playmaker-type, and no world class strikers. Quarter-finalists, well possible, but no champions.

    Spain? A magnificent team, with top players. Hierro, a general on the field. Mendieta, beautiful skills. Helguera, the ultimate one-in-all midfielder. Morientes, a prolific scorer. Raul, just superb. But why is always something going wrong? Why do all their goalkeepers make silly mistakes? Why do they miss penalty-kicks when it matters most? Why are stars injured at the wrong time? Are they not as good as they seem? I don't know, but I won't put my well-deserved money on them. I did before, to my regret.

    Brazil? Will they qualify in the first place, with these difficult games to go? If they do, they are always capable of doing really special things. But on the other hand, it seems that the big guns are not likely to play for each other, it looks like the teamspirit is gone. Playing a role on the world stage is not only about skills, but also and mainly about putting things together, and neither Luxemburgo, nor Leao or Scolari seems to be able to do so. World champions are always team with fresh players, motivated from their head to their toes. I can't see Brazil that way. Although when they don't qualify, it will be an enormous miss.

    Holland? Forget them. This Dutch generation has had its chance to land an international title before. First: manage a win in Ireland. Second: qualify. Third: keep the big egos out of the team. Fourth: hope for an easy draw. And then: be thrown out of the tournament by a so-called less talented team with an inferior way of playing. As always. Cynical, but unfortunately for me and my fellow-countrymen, true.

    Italy? I have to admit, a contender for the first place. Magnificent defense, good strikers, creative Totti behind them. Very hard to beat. But then again, recently outplayed by Argentina. Italy's midfielders can never fully convince me, it's so often four or five players that provide more-of-the-same: the Zambrottas, the Albertinis, the Di Biagios, the Di Livios, the Pessottos. For the title, maybe just not versatile enough, but a good team for sure.

    What about England? With Sven-Göran Eriksson in charge, they are a solid team with a run of good results. But England is a team lacking a good goalkeeper, and I can't see them good enough to keep the ball away from old and tired David Seaman. And their strikers are not brilliant enough to score a goal at any time. And I think England is a team with 8-10 real good players, but in a World Cup you need more.

    Argentina has it all! Except the good goalkeeper. Whether it was Burgos, Bonano, Cavallero or even former international goalie Roa, neither of them could ever truly convince me, they will hardly ever win a point, and you're happy when they don't lose a point for you. But the rest of the team is great, just great! Samuel is one of the best defenders worldwide and Ayala is a rock when he doesn't have to play with too much space around him. Zanetti, Almeyda, multi-magnificent Veron and Simeone are experienced players with nothing to prove, and Crespo, Lopez and Batistuta are lethal finishers, who can score out of nothing. And Argentina has depth, many players who can be thrown into the team without real loss of strength, and regarding their Youth World Title recently there are some youngsters coming up, some of them have already found their way to European top teams. A sign for things to come? I would say: yes! World champion 2002? Argentina!


 

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