Carabao Cup Semi-Final Preview
Not long to wait now until the start of the eagerly-anticipated World Cup in Russia and I’ve made my predictions for the greatest tournament in international football.
In recent weeks I have gone off the chances of both World Champions Germany and the much-vaunted French and my two nations against the rest in Russia are Brazil and Belgium with preference for the five-time World Cup winners.
The ‘Selecao’ have experience and quality in abundance throughout the squad and I feel they can exorcise that 7-1 semi-final humiliation from four years ago on home soil against Germany.
At twenty-six Neymar already has 54 international goals and the good news for fans of Brazil is that the PSG forward will be fresher than most, having missed the last few months of the European domestic season following a foot injury he picked up in February. At the time there were fears he would miss the tournament, but he showed he was back to his brilliant best at Anfield in a recent 2-0 friendly success over Croatia.
This looks a beautifully balanced Brazil side who don’t need good luck to lift the Trophy – they just need to avoid bad-luck. I’m looking forward to seeing how the mercurial Philippe Coutinho dovetails with Neymar in tournament competition and Brazil look worthy 4/1 favourites.
Belgium are another side who have quality in abundance although their “Golden Generation“ have underachieved in major tournaments – until now. In Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard the Red Devils have two potential match-winners of their own.
Roberto Martinez will want to see Romelu Lukaku back to his best having only been considered fit enough for the bench against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final last month. The Manchester United striker looked rusty in the recent win over Egypt, but he looked back to his best when scoring twice and having an assist in Belgium’s final warm up game – a comfortable 4-1 win over Costa Rica earlier in the week.
Their critics will suggest Belgium have defensive frailties and there are concerns surrounding the form and fitness of both skipper Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld, but Jan Vertonghen had a terrific season for Spurs and I know Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan has had an outstanding campaign for Borussia Monchengladbach. He will be a real threat from the bench.
To win the World Cup:
Golden Ball (Player of the Tournament)