Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. Wherever possible I focus on the positives. The good stuff. And there’s plenty to be upbeat about what with the 2014 World Cup just round the corner.
However, I’d like to remove the rose-tinted spectacles for a moment. Here I will bemoan the fact that some of the best players on earth won’t be involved in the greatest tournament on earth in Brazil this summer.
So, get the box of man-sized Kleenex at the ready and prepare to weep at the prospect of a World Cup without the following four movers-and-shakers of the beautiful game…
Speaking to the media after Sweden failed to qualify for Brazil, Ibra said: ‘One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch so it is not worthwhile to wait for the World Cup.’
Clearly, Ibra is not short of self-esteem. And his cock-sure attitude, commensurate with a player who has cost over £133m in transfer fees during his career, is not to the liking of everyone – you either love him or loathe him.
The 32-year-old is as divisive on the field as he is off it – some label him one of the best strikers in the world, while others would argue that he’s one of the most overrated. It’s a debate that’s gone on for years.
I fall into the former camp: in my opinion he’s a prodigious talent. And though consistency isn’t necessarily his forte, when he’s on-song he does things with a ball that belies gravity, hence the nickname ‘Ibracadabra’.
Ibrahimovic has scored some of the most wondrous goals you’re ever likely to see. One in particular that springs to mind was his 30-yard overhead kick against England in November 2012 – it was beyond breathtaking.
I believe the Swede allowed his ego too much rope when suggesting that the World Cup will be a non-event due to his absence, but his sheer flamboyance and unpredictability will be sorely missed in Brazil.
2014 World Cup betting odds: Reckon Portugal, the side that knocked Sweden out in the play-offs, will go on to triumph in South America this summer? If so, Paulo Bento’s men are 33/1 with bet365.
Whereas Zlatan’s inclusion within this list may not be met with universal approval, one thing I’m sure we’ll all agree on is that it’s a crying shame Gareth Bale will not be competing in Brazil.
When he made the mega-money switch to Real Madrid last summer following an outstanding season with Tottenham, many feared that being a smaller fish in a bigger pond – and there are few bigger ponds than the Bernabeu – would be overwhelming for the Welshman.
However, he has pretty much made a seamless transition to life in Spain and, though Cristiano Ronaldo is still very much top dog within the Los Blancos pecking order, Bale hasn’t been overshadowed by the world’ best player. He has held his own alright.
Given that he’s only 24, there is a strong chance that the winger will still have the opportunity to strut his stuff in a future World Cup. But it is nevertheless disappointing that we won’t be seeing Bale in Brazil this summer.
2014 World Cup betting odds: Bale’s Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo is available at 14/1 with Sky Bet to emerge as the tournament’s top goalscorer.
Colombia are an up-and-coming force in the international football arena and are quietly fancied by many a good judge to give a good account of themselves in Brazil this summer. However, it’s a bitter blow to the South Americans that their star man Radamel Falcao looks set to miss the tournament.
Falcao is one of the most coveted strikers in the game – Chelsea, among others, have been pursuing the 28-year-old for the past couple of seasons – and this year’s World Cup represented a golden opportunity for him to make an impact in the tournament while in his prime.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Monaco forward suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage during a Coup de France tie in January, and has subsequently undergone surgery. Falcao has not given up on his World Cup dream, but the recovery time for an injury such as his is usually between six and nine months.
Unless he is able to miraculously recover in time to take part in Brazil, it will not only be a blow to Colombia as a nation, but also to the tournament as a whole. Falcao is undoubtedly one of the most complete strikers in football at present.
2014 World Cup betting odds: If you believe Columbia can make a big impact in Brazil, despite Falcao’s likely absence, Los Cafeteros are 5/1 with Betfair to reach the semi-final.
But, I hear you cry, Sneijder will be in Brazil. Holland qualified! He isn’t injured. He will be there! He won’t be, actually. At least, not the same Wesley Sneijder that played in the 2010 World Cup.
Four years down the line, I’m still scratching my head; still trying to figure out what happened to that Wesley Sneijder. He was the player of the tournament in South Africa, and appeared to have the world at his feet – he was the hottest property on the planet in football terms.
He was being pursued by pretty much every club in Europe. At one stage it is believed that Sir Alex Ferguson was willing to move mountains – and hair-dryers – to lure the Dutchman to Old Trafford, at a time when Manchester United were contenders for silverware on all fronts.
However, if the rumours are true Sneijder, now 29, developed something of a diva attitude when it came to salary expectations. And, to cut a long story short, he ended up joining Galatasary in January 2013, subsequent to which he’s drifted well off the radar.
Holland coach Louis van Gaal has reportedly warned the playmaker that, unless his club form improves between now and the end of the Turkish domestic season, his place in the 23-man squad for Brazil could be in jeopardy. Honestly, what has happened to the real Wesley Sneijder?
2014 World Cup betting odds: With or without Sneijder, if you believe Holland can finally end their World Cup hoodoo the Oranje can be backed at 33/1 with Bet Victor.