Brazil are the most successful team in world cup history winning the trophy 5 times and are the only team to win outside of their own continent. Brazil are everyone's second favourite team, unless you are Brazilian... This current Brazil team are not as other-worldly, happy-go-lucky, football-from-another-planet as they were in the past, or as perfect as this incarnation of the seleção. The decision to leave Ronaldinho behind is emblematic of the new pragmatism that coach Dunga has tried to instil in his team. Arguably Brazil's best player, Kaka, has had a difficult first season at Real Madrid but promises he is ready to deliver for the national side. This team are built around a solid midfield and central defence and boast possibly the two best full-backs in the tournament. Maicon, of Inter and Dani Alves from Barcelona. Much of Brazil's attacking will come from these two overlapping the wide midfielders, it's a shame they both play in the same position. Their strikers aren't bad either, Grafite of Wolfsburg scored the goal of the season before last, plus Robinho, Ramires and Luis Fabiano. Compared to England's group of strikers, I know who I would rather have. Brazil finished top of their qualifying group, losing twice to lesser teams but will have enough to qualify from this group.
The Ivory Coast, despite being managed by this man (who currently is flirting shamelessly with a once proud football club more used to the attentions of A-list suitors), and despite possibly missing their best player and captain Didier Drogba, have a great chance to do well in this tournament. The Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo and Salomon Kalou make this an already formidable team plus the greater determination to do well in Africa with or without Drogba mean they stand a good chance of going through to the next round. They finished, undefeated, at the top of their qualifying group. Bad luck with the draw put them in this difficult group and finishing second may mean they will face Spain in the next round but I think they will beat Portugal to the second spot in this group.
No-one in North Korea is allowed to travel to South Africa to support their team, and no-one at home will be allowed to watch on the TV. South Korea provide the live TV signals to the North and relations currently are a little frosty to say the least, causing the South to stop their TV broadcasts. Their Dear Leader will decide if it is in the national interest to replay the games a day or two later, and given that they will play Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast it is difficult to see how any of these games will be in the national interest. To further complicate matters the North Korean coach thought up a cunning plan to get more strikers in their team, they named only two goalkeepers and then picked a striker as their third goalkeeper. Unfortunately FIFA rules mean Kim Myong-Won can now only play as a goalkeeper... Brilliant. There is only one other cunning plan I can think of that is better than that one... I don't think I am sticking my neck out when I say North Korea are going to get a pasting.
Portugal... I would like to like them but this man makes it impossible... The best player in the world in his own head, in the real world some way behind Messi. Ronaldo has a lot to prove on the international stage and I hope he doesn't do it at this World Cup. Ronaldo's supporting actors don't have what it takes to outfight the Ivorians or outplay the Brazilians, they will beat the Koreans though. They couldn't beat Cape Verde last week, a side ranked 117th in the world and had to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina in a play-off to make it to the finals.
So Brazil and Ivory Coast to go through and Portugal and North Korea to miss out.