World Cup 2014
Across Europe, attention in the football world is turning to the European Championships which will be held in Poland and the Ukraine this summer and the focus won`t switch to the 2014 World Cup until that tournament has reached its conclusion. In other parts of the world however, qualification for the next World Cup in Brazil is already underway.
With over 200 teams on six continents battling to be a part of Brazil 2014, it is important that the qualification process gets underway as early as possible and while the football season might be coming to a close in Europe, that isn`t the case elsewhere and this is another reason why World Cup qualifiers have already begun.
Much of the early action has come from Asia where the likes of Japan and China have already been battling it out for a place in the last 32. Soon however, the focus will switch to South America where a whole host of games will take place in June and then Europe will finally catch up when qualifying reaches the continent in September 2012.
As for the tournament itself; which nations are likely to be among the favourites to lift the famous trophy? Brazil have a clear home advantage and being hosts, they don`t have to go through the qualifying process. Throughout the history of the World Cup, host nations have often emerged triumphant and that factor could definitely have an impact on the outcome of the next tournament. Brazil are a strong and talented side in any event but the fact that they are hosting the event has already made them clear favourites with most bookmakers.
Spain are currently the World Cup holders and the European Champions and should therefore be considered as a serious challenge to Brazil when the tournament comes around. There was a time when it was fair to suggest that European teams couldn`t play on South American soil while the South American nations would also struggle when they came to Europe.
However, by winning in South Africa, Spain proved that they can cope with the severe heat which will undoubtedly play a part in 2014. With a settled and strong side, they are rightly second favourites behind the host nation.
Alternatively, Argentina are undoubtedly talented but inconsistency has been their downfall at recent tournaments. However, they too will benefit from playing in South America and if Lionel Messi replicates the outstanding form that he has shown for Barcelona, the Argentineans could be worth an outside bet.
As for the rest of the European nations, as any football expert knows it would be foolish to write off Germany. Although the country has underachieved at recent tournaments they have a strong squad who could be peaking at just the right time.
England are sixth favourites and fancied by some experts but by the time 2014 comes around, they may need to replace players such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard who have been at the heart of the side for so long.
The next World Cup in Brazil may seem a long way away but with qualification already underway the excitement is building. Betting markets are also open so this is a good time to do some research and look for football betting tips before staking some money.