With the first ever African FIFA Senior World Cup almost here, the right time for book makers to prove their worth either in expertly analyzing based on what they have seen of all the team selections or of shortlisted players for various countries coming to the South Africa party, the expected eventual winner of the first ever senior world cup to be hosted on African soil.

I am not a professional book maker, but I love the game of football and have seen in previous editions how the predictions of our so-called book makers have failed to provide the eventual winners. There judgment though has always been based on what they see of the pedigrees of the team coaches, the caliber of players paraded by the various teams and maybe the football history of the teams at the mundial.

In recent past, many of our football analysts or book makers had tipped counties like Spain, England and even Germany to win the world cup but at the end most of the tipped teams crash out the tournament in a woeful manner. Who would have given it to Italy in the last edition held in Germany; although these so-called experts are not answerable to anybody as they are only involved in expressing their personal views which in no way has anything to do with the outcome of the tournament.

In predicting the outcome of a tournament as big as the world cup, so many factors would have to be considered. I will discuss a few of these factors for the benefit of my readers;

1. THE LUCK FACTOR: Most countries lose the very best of their players playing top flight football in Europe, South America and all other continents where well organized club football are played to injuries before major tournaments like this one. Let us consider the cases of Chelsea’s Michael Ballack who happens to be the captain of Germany, the other time it was about the much hyped David Beckham of England, Michael Essien of Ghana and so on, the list is endless. It is therefore the luckiest teams which have got a very large chunk of their star players injury-free that stands a better chance of making meaningful progress and impression in the world cup.

2. OFFICIATING: I do not intend to crucify the match officials as they are mare humans that are not immune to mistakes. Quite often we see terrible officiating that are so obvious but because the man at the center has the final say, nothing ever happens there-after. I have never seen the outcome of a football match over-ruled because of officiating errors; so, most good teams could become victims and whoever benefits from these flaws advances in the tournament. We have seen clear offside goals being allowed due to the error factor which can never be ruled out; after all it is one of the excitements of the game as they become talking points there after. Also clear appeals for penalties are often punished with cards because, in the judgment of the referee, simulation had taken place. Even when there are cases of play-acting on the part of some clever players, some referees get easily fooled to issue cards to purported offenders who where in the true sense innocent of the offense they are being punished for. So many teams have had their best players sent off the pitch for offenses they never committed.

Goals have also been scored with hands; for instance the famous ‘Hand of god’ goal scored against England by Diego maradona was a talking point in the very vocal British press and world over, but did that change the outcome of that match? NO. FIFA have failed to provide any answer for this kind of awkward way of winning a football matches. Recently, in the journey to qualification to this year’s world cup in South Africa, French player; Henry Thierry in their match against Ireland, used his hand to bring into play a ball that was outside bound before scoring the goal that got France their qualification thereby denying Ireland a fair chance of playing in the biggest football event in the universe. Did FIFA do anything to see that justice was done to Ireland? NEVER! So France qualified in a questionable circumstance. Whoever must win must win fairly, otherwise all the noise about Fair-Play could just be mere hypocrisy.

3. THE TEAM UNITY FACTOR: The team with the most united front has the greatest chance of moving ahead in the tournament. Once there is a crack within the players or between the technical team and the players or between the teams and their administrators, the kind of issues that crops up in most African teams to major events like the world cup. It ranges from unpaid match bonuses, non-kept promises, ego issues where some players see themselves as super-stars who deserve VIP treatment and others as minors. This breeds acrimony in teams and make them lose focus. Any team that must do well must be a team of united gang of players with a single motive and business like attitude devoid of any distractions.

4. SURPRISE FACTOR: Who would have ever dreamed that South Korea of all countries would get to the semi finals of Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World cup which was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea?

The progression of Korea in that edition of the world cup came as a big surprise to the football pundits’ world. Who would have also predicted that Ghana could go all the way to win the last edition of FIFA under 20 world cup hosted by Egypt at the expense of great football nations like Brazil, Spain, Argentina and even Nigeria that has a pedigree in youth football tournaments having won the maiden edition the under 16 world cup which was hosted by China a championship they have won thrice, also having won silver medals at various editions of the under 20 world cup and in 1996 winning the soccer gold at the Atlanta Olympics, the only soccer glory that has eluded the almighty Brazil who nearly won in 1996 only to be denied by Nigeria. Winfair88

In 1994 no one gave it to Nigeria against Bulgaria, but Nigeria went ahead to win convincingly with the best ever set of football players to come out of Nigeria coached by the Dutch tactician Clemence Westerhof. In 1998, no one ever thought Nigeria could ever match up against one of that year’s favorite team; Spain, but Nigeria dealt a big blow on Spain’s ambition beating them 3-2. I will never forget in a hurry that long range volley from Sunday Oliseh that proved to be the winner.

Lastly amongst other great surprising upsets, is the famous humiliation of the defending champion to the 2002 world cup having won the previous edition they hosted in 1998 by unknown Senegal that came to the tournament just to acquire some experience and enjoy themselves.

All book makers gave that match to France, but Lo and Behold, the much dreaded France was beaten by Senegal with a group of average players. It turned out to be one of the greatest upsets of the world cup of that year. The surprise factor therefore could play a role in producing the eventual winners.

In conclusion, on paper one would be tempted to simply hand over the world cup to the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England, Portugal, Italy, Germany based on current forms of there various players. I will like to take a look at the various teams and predict which team would eventually make it to the second round of this year’s world cup.