World Cup Q&A
This week some of our regular bloggers will be answering your World Cup questions. South American expert Tim Vickery is first to put his neck on the block.
Q. Who do the bloggers think will be the real surprise package this time around - both overachieving and underperforming?
A. The World Cup qualification campaign in South America is so long, with so many games to follow that, to be honest, my knowledge outside the continent is very sketchy.
I had a quick look at some of the African sides in January and I am watching a few warm-up matches but, in general, I will get to know the other teams during the competition.
I cannot give an authoritative reply but I think and hope that the surprises this time round will be for positive reasons. In 2002, I thought that in general the surprises were negative. Almost everyone who had come through the European season was physically on their knees and the quality suffered as a result. There was a levelling down.
Fifa had tried to protect the World Cup since, with the cut-off point for the club season, trying to give players more time to recover. So now I hope that any surprises will come from the fascinating dynamic of international football - the fact that players from all over the world gain top-level experience in Europe, which widens the spread of nations who can be competitive.
Q. Which unheard of players will shine in this tournament?
Chile's Alexis Sanchez could make a big impact at the World Cup
Q. In its current format the World Cup is predominantly made up of teams mainly from Europe and the Americas. Do you think it's time Fifa changes the rules so that more countries from Africa and Asia participate in the finals. After all it is the 'World' Cup?
A. I would have thought that since the expansion to 32, both Africa and Asia are adequately represented and that there is no longer a problem in this area, although I would welcome comments from people who disagree. Certainly, I agree with the statement that it should be a 'World Cup' - ie with all the continents represented.
There is a case for arguing that in the Stanley Rous years FIFA was not sufficiently active in developing the less traditional continents - if they don't come to the party, lose and learn from their mistakes then how are they going to grow?
Q. Do you think England have a good chance of winning the World Cup?
Luke Anderson, England
A. I have seen very little of them and nothing at all in qualifying so it is hard to give an opinion. Winning the thing might be expecting too much but I am hoping for a better level of performance than in recent World Cups.
I wonder if the Sven-Goran Eriksson years were undone by that 5-1 victory back in 2001. It ended up being a good result for Germany - they finally had to get to grips with learning how to defend with a back four. And it seemed to leave England stuck in a groove of trying to sneak one on the break.
The team ended up playing such pallid, negative stuff that to my mind was a poor fit with the English mentality. I would like to see something more aggressive this time.
Q. What do you reckon about the United States? I think they have what it takes to progress from the group. What do you guys think and what do you think the future for football in America is?
A. I have never been to the place, so again it is not a very informed opinion, but they have clearly reached the level of competence that is good enough to think in terms of getting out of the group. Have they got enough real quality to take it further? It is here that I have my doubts.
Long term, with the size, resourcefulness and mentality of its population, it is not hard to imagine the US becoming a serious power. If they play their cards right they should be able to blend European and South American styles.
Q. Is the vuvuzela trumpet going to put you off the World Cup at all?
A. Here in Rio one of the things that is already coming across is the sheer joy of the South African population in hosting the tournament and if that is expressed with the vuvuzela, then fair enough.
The World Cup is a global party, with people from all over the planet, and in the middle of all this I think a bit of local flavour is important.
Q. Which coach is under the most pressure - Diego Maradona or Dunga?
Cleo Sharp, United Kingdom
A. Maradona only has 40 million Argentines to pile on the pressure - Dunga has 195m Brazilians! Also, Dunga is hopeless at schmoozing the press.
He receives some intelligent constructive criticism from the Brazilian media as well as a lot of unintelligent stuff and he puts it all in the same basket.
After the excesses of the 2006 campaign, he has cut back massively on press access to the players - all of this means that he makes enemies.
Q. In refusing to select Ronaldinho, is Dunga being wise or just stubborn?
Mitch Holder, Mansfield, England
A. Now that is a great question and one that can only be answered definitively with hindsight.
Wise? Well, Dunga was patient with Ronaldinho for three years while the player was a pitiful apology for a professional player, frittering away his immense talent.
No-one seemed to be able to get through to him - he is obviously a much more complex character than the happy, smiley image. So Dunga lost patience and the team gelled better without Ronaldinho. And for Brazil the lesson of 2006 was that stars might win matches but teams win titles.
Stubborn? Under the guidance of Leonardo and motivated by the World Cup, there was a return to some kind of form this season, although that old acceleration seems to have gone forever. Brazil do appear to lack a plan B and Ronaldinho on the bench would be an interesting option.
For what it's worth, I think he should have been included but I think a coach should live or die by his own convictions. Once he lets the media start picking his team, it is all over.
Q. Even if Brazil win the 2010 World Cup, do you agree that Dunga's example of coaching the Brazil team should not be allowed to be repeated? Brazil are (were) the last ambassador of 'the beautiful game' and should remain as such.
Yulian Totev, Bulgaria
A. Interesting that this one comes from Europe. Dunga sees this kind of talk as part of a European conspiracy to ensure that Brazil play pretty pretty football and do not win.
For my own taste, the current team is too limited in central midfield but I have spent years criticising Dunga and he has spent years winning matches and that, after all, is his priority.
Post 1982 there does seem to be a belief in Brazilian football that some kind of contradiction exists between playing well, or certainly playing expansively, and winning. I would love this to be reassessed; to my mind, the main reason to play well is that it offers the best chance of winning.
It will be interesting to see what happens if Brazil are not successful in South Africa but the current Dunga side are nothing if not difficult to beat.
Q. What do you think Maradona's starting XI will be for the World Cup and how can he keep all of these players happy?
Also the same question about Dunga's Brazil, what do you think his first choice XI would be? Will there be a place for the impressive Nilmar or will he not be given a chance despite his hat-trick against Chile last year?
Sam Rodger, England
A. I expect Brazil to line up without Nilmar:
Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos; Elano, Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Kaka, Robinho; Luis Fabiano.
Argentina - Romero; Otamendi, De Michelis, Samuel, Heinze; Gutierrez, Mascherano, Veron, Di Maria; Messi, Higuain - with a possible variation of Gutierrez dropping to right-back and Maxi Rodriguez coming in on the right of midfield.
Q. Diego Maradona has the potential to destroy one of the best teams at the World Cup. Can the players rise above the situation or does he ultimately wield too much influence? How do the people of Argentina perceive it?
A. At the moment they seem to be rallying to the cause, although in a nation of football coaches, there are many disagreements with his selections. But the signs are that things are dropping into place.
It is easily forgotten that Maradona inherited a team in crisis - only one win in seven. With more difficult fixtures he won four in eight to get them over the line.
It was not always pretty but his floundering reminded me of Brazil in 2001 when Luiz Felipe Scolari, a much more experienced coach, was all over the place with a Brazil side in trouble - and we all know how that one ended up.
The test of Maradona's work comes this year - choosing a philosophy of play, selecting his players, establishing variations and fostering team spirit. He appears to have done all that. By no means all of his choices would be mine but for the moment I cannot see the disaster that so many appear to want.
Q. I believe that Chile have the potential to progress far and I don't think I'm alone in thinking this.
I've caught glimpses of them and their attacking options can be scary at times (especially Alexis Sanchez). However, from what I understand, the earthquake somewhat hindered their preparation. What is your opinion of them and how do you think their attacking, free play will match up in South Africa?
M Hunt, UK
A. I wrote about this a couple of weeks back. They are perhaps the most fascinating side in the field.
Alexis Sanchez is indeed the genuine article and I hope that with all the nerves jangling they have the courage of their convictions and really give it a go. I cannot see them going all the way, though - their defence is too suspect, especially in the air.
Q. What do we think of Uruguay's chances in South Africa? I personally think they are capable of a semi-final place. They have extreme firepower with Diego Forlan, Sebastian Abreu, and the unsung Luis Suarez. They potentially have the next world star in Nicolas Lodeiro. Where is all the hype?
Tom Campbell, England
A. No hype I suppose because they are in a tough group, it is 40 years since they have done anything at a World Cup and because they only slipped in through the play-off. They have made progress since then, though, and I agree that this is their best chance of doing something in years.
Question marks - Lodeiro provides extra subtlety but might have had the edge taken off his game as a result of his settling in period at Ajax. Can Nacho Gonzalez tip the balance at the highest level?
And there are some defensive problems as well - the centre-backs Lugano and Godin can struggle against quick, mobile strikers and there is space to be found behind Maxi and Alvaro Pereira at either full-back or wing-back.
Q. What chance if any do you think Paraguay stand of success at the World Cup and have they shown already, by rivalling teams such as Brazil and Argentina, that they are capable of doing this to other big nations in South Africa?
A. Some of the warm-up results have not been great but I wouldn't read too much into that. Paraguay are traditionally poor in friendlies, they have been working with all 30 players and experimenting with personnel and systems.
The build-up, though, has given them one huge plus - recently naturalised striker Lucas Barrios (Argentine with a Paraguayan mother) has had a dream start - one game versus the Republic of Ireland, 20 minutes against Ivory Coast and two cracking goals.
With Santa Cruz starting to find some rhythm, some other interesting strikers and Christian Riveros to support from midfield, they carry some firepower.
They have a good coach, Gerardo Martino, who is keen to replace Paraguay's typical World Cup timidity with something more aggressive. The draw has been kind, too. They have never reached the quarter finals - maybe this time.
European football expert Phil Minshull will answer your questions on Tuesday.