OK, I admit it. There is a good reason to watch the World Cup: it's the surprise. Even with Brazil's dominance, he cup format does allow for some surprises. Herewith, my choice of black-horse teams.
Ukraine. They are more than just Andriiy Shevchenko. In fact, going back to the glory days of Lobanovsky at Dynamo Kiev, Ukranian football has always been about teamwork. Admittedly, the Ukranian game is fairly soulless. Those of you who remember Korea’s 2002 performances will know what I mean. FourFourTwo recently published an article comparing the Ukranian style to that of Dutch “total football”. If so, this is total football by athletes rather than by artists, and works by brute force rather than intelligence.
Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Because Angola and Togo really are crap, there’s been a lot of noise about how poor the African teams in this tournament are. Don’t be fooled. The Ghanians arguably have the best midfield in the tournament; the Ivoirians are strong defensively and with Drogba up front have the ability to score goals through sheer brute force. Both countries have strong squads capable of making the quarter-finals.
Spain. Sure, historically, they choke. And, sure, Aragones’ decision to stick with Raul up front when he’s been out of form for going on three whole freakin’ years now borders on criminal negligence. But, collectively, Spain’s footballers had better seasons than most, their keeper is as good as any in the tournament. And if striker David Villa can maintain anything like the form he had for Valencia this season, this team can go to the final.