The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 21, 2013

World Cup crystal ball: 10 predictions for Brazil

(Continued)

PANEL: Only 5 of 14 agree Messi will flop.

DOMENECH: Disagrees. "He has time to get better, because he's getting injured now and the World Cup is in more than six months."

___

WHICH AFRICAN TEAM WILL FARE BEST? Didier Drogba will inspire Ivory Coast to the quarterfinals, matching the best ever performance by an African team. True, Drogba will be 36 and the Ivorians didn't escape the group stage at their two previous World Cups. But in the Champions League, playing for Turkish club Galatasaray, Drogba is proving he can still score against top opposition. This being his last World Cup and probably his last major tournament will motivate the striker and the team he captains. With a decent draw, and Yaya Toure in midfield, Ivory Coast will go furthest of the 5 African teams. By Gerald Imray in South Africa.

PANEL: 5 of 14 agree.

DOMENECH: No. "I think it will be Nigeria."

___

GERMANY'S "GOLDEN GENERATION" FINALLY WINS? No. Germany will start as always with a big victory and breeze through the rest of the tournament — until the semifinals. There, Joachim Loew's men will again fall short despite playing sparkling football, especially if the Dec. 6 draw throws up Italy as a likely semifinal opponent. Germany has never beaten Italy at a major tournament. Other teams are beginning to read Germany's game and won't give so much space to midfielder Mesut Ozil. Germany will have one of the youngest teams and will lack experience — except in attack, where Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez are aging and aching. Germany's defense is its biggest weakness. Loew's philosophy is to score more than concede, but squandering a 4-0 lead against Sweden for a 4-4 draw in World Cup qualifying exposed Germany's lack of a world-class defender, except Philipp Lahm. By Nesha Starcevic in Germany.

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