Roger Cohen has a fascinating article on the New York Times relating his conversation with Henry Kissinger. Kissinger summarizes the world’s three soccer powers:
Brazil has played the most beautiful football, while Italy has specialized in breaking the hearts of its opponents, and for Germany everyone attacks in a way suggestive of Erich von Falkenhayn’s huge flanking movements in World War I — and everyone defends.
This is a fine summary, except, of course, as Cohen notes, this year Brazil’s strength is not in her offense, but in her defense:
Brazil has never had a better defense, yes defense. Its goalkeeper, Júlio César, is the world’s best. So is its right back, Maicon (they both play for European champions, Inter Milan, as does the buccaneering center back, Lucio). A Brazilian victory — always a distinct possibility — would be based this year on the part of the game it has traditionally neglected.
Cohen’s prediction is mine also, though I think South Africa would be a likelier surprise than Ghana:
My own prediction? The winner, in order of likelihood, will come from: Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Argentina, Italy, Germany. Possible surprise? Ghana.