Alarm bells ringing for World Cup teams

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 PM ET

The question is open to debate.

Just how much significance should anyone put on whatís happening on the world soccer scene with two months until the World Cup begins?

Is it of massive import?

Or does it mean nothing at all?

The answer lies somewhere in between.

No doubt some of what is happening now will have lingering effects in South Africa, both good and bad.

One of the most shocking actions comes from a team that was perhaps the best hope Africa had of making a good showing at the World Cup.

The Ivory Coast is in the Group of Death, having to beat out one of either Portugal or Brazil to advance to the next round. The countryís soccer association was scheduled to announce the new coach Friday. Association president Jacques Anoma has said he wasnít in a rush to do so.

Thatís indeed strange.

It was expected to be one of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Mark Hughes or Bernd Schuster, who will be the one.

But waiting as long as it did, the association had better pray the new coach finds that he has a quick and healthy relationship with the players, otherwise itís going to be a short stay for the Elephants.

If the World Cup had started a year ago, England would have been a pretty good bet to win.

The English still will be among the favourites come June, but some troubling signs are appearing in the England camp.

While the good news is that striker Wayne Rooney is in peak form, other key members of the England squad are not.

That includes defender John Terry, who has without question been troubled by the pressure surrounding his love rat activities off the pitch.

Steven Gerrard also is off-form.

When you toss in the unsettled situation with Ashley Cole, who is injured (and has also been involved in extra curricular love-rat activities), and the failure of any goalkeeper to step up and claim the No. 1 spot, England has some issues to resolve.

The biggest is Terry. He must be at the top of his game.

Another question: Can the Netherlands finally win a major tournament? The best team never to have won a World Cup has some things going for it.

In previous major tournaments you always would find the Netherlands near the top of the list of favourites. This time, you would have to go somewhere around No. 8 to No. 11 to find them.

Thatís a good thing because they wonít be at the centre of things.

Several Dutch players are playing as well as they ever have, most notably Interís Wesley Sneijder. If he can get along with everyone else, his team might make some noise.

Speaking of favourites, most betting houses have a combination of Spain, Brazil, England and Argentina in the top four. They are followed by the likes of Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Which brings us to Argentina. The reason for their status as one of the four favourites, even though they struggled to qualify, can be put down to one player: Lionel Messi.

Along with Rooney, the most dangerous player in the world. He is head and shoulders the No. 1 player as far as being the total package.

Will that translate into a strong tournament for Argentina two months from now? It depends if they find anyone to play with him.

When itís all said and done, all of the above might be vital to who wins the World Cup.

Or it might mean nothing.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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