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BW Businessworld

Viva La Brazil

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You know World Cup fever is in the air when everyone from your 16-year-old neighbour to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is predicting (and probably betting) on who will take home the cup.

Hawking put his money on Brazil, in a commentary hammering his native England’s chances, much to the chagrin of the English soccer fans. Their cause was not helped when legendary footballer, Sir Robert 'Bobby' Charlton, warned that England lacked the world-class players needed to win the cup.

Hawking’s prediction has the backing of the bookies. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has Brazil as favourites with odds of 3-1, followed by Argentina at 9-2, and Germany at 11-2.

And if that’s not enough, Brazil is also the clear-cut favourite to win the sixth title according to a global survey of over 120 football-loving market analysts. Brazil was the best bet for over half of the respondents, way ahead of Germany and arch-rivals Argentina.

But there are some who believe the Brazilians will not be taking home the cup this year. German economists from the Deutsche Institue fur Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) or German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin have used the monetary value of footballers to predict a Spain-Germany World Cup final. They have based their model on the market value of each team, using the transfer fees of the players.

According to Gert Wagner, one of the economists behind the study, “If the prediction is correct, the Spanish would be the slight favourites, but it has been a long time since the chances of the German team have been this good in a World Cup.” Wagner and his two colleagues from DIW — one of the best-known economic research institutes in Germany — have dubbed their system “money scores the goals”.

While Spanish fans would obviously want their country to retain the cup, ground realities and history suggest Spain won’t win it this time. First, no team has retained the title since Brazil in 1962 and second, when the tournament has been played in South America, a team from that continent has always won it. Nevertheless, Spain remains the world’s strongest side at the international level and if they can cope with the Brazilian climate in June-July, the defending champions may just add a second star to their shirt in Rio.

Another team worth considering is Portugal — after all, any team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo must be taken seriously. Obviously, much will depend on the Real Madrid forward who scored all four goals in Portugal’s World Cup play-off victory over Sweden. However, there are concerns over his fitness due to a thigh problem which limited his impact in the final weeks of the club season.

While there seem to be various contenders for the cup, Lionel Messi, the Argentinian is expected to win both the Golden Ball (awarded to the best player) and the Golden Boot (given to the top goal scorer). The only one who may ruin Messi’s party is Brazilian striker Neymar.

Unless you have a lot of money riding on it, don’t be too concerned with who will take home the cup. Instead, just sit back and watch some of the top players in action. Fifa World Cup 2014 promises to be full of thrills and excitement.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 30-06-2014)