I had meant to make a more throrough analysis of prospects for the World Cup, but haven't even had time to write regular blogs, so this is going to be brief.
--the winner will be one of Brazil, Italy and Germany: simply because of the weight of history, ability both to defend and score goals, and the mental strength to do what it takes to win. Italy seems the weakest of the three at the moment, but then no one really rated them before the 2006 tournament either.
--dark horses are Argentina and France: the former because of a wealth of attacking talent, the latter because despite all their problems, they are solid in most areas and have a talented squad. Both sides seem to be undermined by their coaches, but if could go all the way if they manage to address their obvious weaknesses (Argentina in defense, France in scoring goals).
--Spain, most people's favourite, will crash and burn, somewhere between the second round and the quarter-finals. I'd love to be proved wrong, but think they will struggle when they meet a tactically-astute, physically strong side that knows how to throw up a solid wall of defence. Anyone wanting to know why I make this prediction should watch the two legs of the Barcelona-Inter Milan Champion's Leage semi-final or Spain's 0-2 defeat to the USA at last year's Confederation's Cup.
--at least one African side will make the semi-finals: Ivory Coast seem the most likely, but Nigeria or Ghana could also surprise.
--Hosts South Africa will do much better than expected and will be carried to the quarter-finals on a wave of home support.
--England will go out on penalties in either the second round or the quarter-finals, amidst an injury to Wayne Rooney, a controversial sending-off, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The Netherlands will become one of the favourites after stellar performances in the first round, then will lose limply in one of the knock-out rounds to one of the eventual finalists.
--New Zealand will lose all three games. Relative success will be scoring a couple of goals.
--Chile and Mexico will win admirers with their attractive style of play, but will be knocked out unluckily or unjustly
--The USA or Greece will cause a pretty big upset somewhere, and will go much further than expected