Itay are a solid team but I cannot see us getting beyond the semi-finals as Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain are stronger. We do not have a lot of cover in defence and Pirlo is injured right now. Without him (and at 35 can he last in the heat?) we lack creativity in midfield.
Pepito Rossi will make a huge difference as a forward and Pasquale and Aquilani of Fiorentina should make the squad. Cesare Prandelli, the national team manager who was the boss at Fiorentina, is excellent technically. The defence will be from Juventus – Buffon, Banuuci, Barzaglio and Chiellini – and it’s a mean well-drilled unit. Italy will have a five-man midfield with Pasquale on the left and Marchisio, Pirlo -the deep-lying creator – and Daniele de Rossi. If Pepino di Rossi gets injured there is no obvious alternative striker other than the mercurial Balotelli.
The extreme heat in the north and a one o’clock kick off will favour the slower Italian style. I can see the first game against England ending in a draw (as we will be cagey) and then Italy overcoming Uruguay and Costa Rica, but I am afraid I do not think England will get through. The strike force of Cavani , who once played for Napoli, and Suarez is the best in the world. This is the first time 3 World Cup winners have been in the same group with one necessarily eliminated.
I predict the host nation Brazil as winner and my long shots are Belgium, who are in a soft group and have assembled a talented team many of whom play in the Premier league.
England, for all the hoopla that traditionally accompanies the build up, are not a great tournament side . Traditionally we go out in the quarter finals on penalties. We are short on world class players, the centre-back paring of Cahill and Jagielka will not cope with the type of striker they have to mark at the highest level, and goalkeeping will be a problem too.
Fulham will be represented by our ex manager Roy Hodgson and on the World Cup pitches by Kasami and Senderos for Switzerland, Karagounis for Greece, and Bryan Ruiz, the captain of los Ticos, Costa Rica. I recall Clint Dempsey scoring for USA against England in the last World Cup.
The extreme heat will not suit England’s more frenetic style but traditional Italian caution, and the first match might make for a draw against Italy. Uruguay will be a problem. I know they only qualified by the play-offs, but Suarez and Cavani could wreak havoc with our immobile centre-backs. The traditional English disease of failing to retain the ball will be shown up all the more.
My prediction is Argentina as winner and Chile as a long shot. A European side has never won in South America and I cannot see that changing.