Past champions betting on Brazil to win 2014 WCup

Past world champions gathering in Brazil for Friday’s World Cup

draw are betting on the hosts to win next year’s tournament on home

soil.

A day before the draw that determines the tournament’s schedule,

some former players gave their opinion on what might happen when

the competition starts in just over six months.

England striker Geoff Hurst, who netted a hat trick for England

in the 1966 final, said Brazil will be the team to beat.

”I think for me Brazil, being the home country, with a

fantastic record, must be looked at as favorites,” Hurst said. ”I

think that for anybody looking to succeed in the World Cup, they

will have to beat Brazil to do it. They are a formidable opposition

on their own grounds.”

Brazil striker Bebeto, who won the 1994 World Cup, told a news

conference the home crowd will make a big difference and give

Brazil a huge boost next year. Carlos Alberto Torres, who won the

1970 title, was not so optimistic, saying there was a lot of work

left for the Brazil squad.

The 2014 World Cup will feature all teams that have won the

tournament in the past, dating back to 1930. It will also unite

most of the top players in the world, with the most significant

exception being Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Among the stars in Brazil will be Lionel Messi of Argentina,

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Brazil’s young sensation Neymar,

who is key for the host’s hopes of lifting the trophy.

”If Neymar plays at his best and is the player of the

tournament, then Brazil will win the title,” said three-time FIFA

player of the year Ronaldo, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994

and 2002.

Friday’s draw will determine where and when all the past

champions and their stars will be playing next year.

”Of course there will be tough national teams, but playing at

home with the support of the fans is something that is priceless,”

said Bebeto, Romario’s partner in Brazil’s attack in the 1994.

”This Brazilian group has shown that it has what it takes to win

and the fans will make all the difference.”

The Brazilian crowd gave Brazil a huge boost during this year’s

Confederations Cup, a tournament it won with five straight wins,

including 3-0 against Spain in the final. Fans had been jeering the

national team in friendlies, but were fully behind it as soon as

the warm-up tournament started.

France was the last nation to win the World Cup at home when it

beat Brazil in the 1998 final. That Brazilian team was coached by

Mario Zagallo, who said Brazil ”is improving gradually” and will

be a top contender next year.

Right back Torres, Brazil’s captain in 1970, was the dissenting

voice.

”There is still a lot of work to do in the national team,” he

said. ”We’ve had better national teams which were not able to win

the World Cup. Playing at home with the support of the fans doesn’t

guarantee that we will win the title. I’m optimistic, but I’m also

realistic.”