Nearly there folks, the World Cup starts today. Yes, that’s today, and next time you hear from me I’ll have some actual real actual football to talk about.

Just one more thing before we’re underway. As hopefully you’ll know by now, twohundredpercent is going to be a very busy place over the coming few weeks – our team of, uh, hand-picked experts will be providing the best coverage possible from the comfort of our own living rooms, and we thought it was only fair that we nail our colours to the mast first so that you know where we all stand. And so that you can gauge for yourselves just how little we know about football right from the outset. Ian has already given his more detailed predictions a couple of days back, but now it’s time for all of us to answer a few simple questions ….

Who’s going to win?

Ian: Five out of seven World Cups held in “neutral” countries have been won by them, and Dunga has picked a squad that is tailor made to win it rather than entertain whilst crashing and burning. It has be be Brazil, for me.
Rob: Netherlands
Ed: England. I’ve been saying that England will win the 2010 World Cup for the last two years and I can’t lose face and back down now. Rather, I’ll lose face some time in about 10-14 days.
Mark: Spain, beating Brazil in the final. Standard, I know. But I got Spain v Germany right in 2008, and my prediction rate IS once every two years, so…
Gavin: Spain. I’ve been tipping them for every World Cup and European Championships for a decade or two and now they’ve finally come good I’m no longer a lone voice in the wind but one of the crowd. I’ll stick with them.

Who’ll be top scorer?

Ian: A comfortable group phase for Spain should allow Fernando Torres to rack up a hatful in the early stages of the competition.
Rob: Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie or Diego Forlan
Ed: I think this is really impossibly hard to pick… this is, after all, a competition previously won by Toto Schillachi and Oleg Salenko. If Argentina do well, Lionel Messi. Otherwise, I’ll take Wayne Rooney for full integration with my two-year long delusion.
Mark: David Villa. Spain will play more games than 28 other teams. And Villa is due a goal or ten after a relatively frustrating La Liga season.
Gavin: Luis Fabiano

How will England do?

Ian: If they lose their opening match to the USA, the second round at best. Otherwise, no further than the quarter-finals.
Rob: Second round or Semi final
Ed: Win, end 44 years of hurt, spark mass-jingoism in the national press. Although, the latter is guaranteed however well England do.
Mark: Quarters or semis. And if semis, they’ll win the 3rd place match. In 98 and 02, England were actually quite good, despite what a lot of England fans and pundits seemed to think. And they’re due a penalty shoot-out win or ten after a relatively frustrating etc…
Gavin: Out in the quarter-finals again, but without the heartache of penalties this time.

The surprise package?

Ian: Serbia could be good for at least the quarter-finals.
Rob: Nigeria
Ed: I had previously thought Ivory Coast, but if Drogba doesn’t make it then I think they’ll flounder. United States.
Mark: Holland. No in-fighting. Robben starting to look his age at last, Van Nistelrooy playing in the right position at last…
Gavin: Uruguay. Any of the lesser South American sides are very capable of having a good tournament with a bit of luck, but Chile and Paraguay look to have tougher draws, in a potential second round as well as the groups.

Villain of the tournament?

Ian: I have a feeling that Didier Drogba may do something extremely unlikeable.
Rob: James Corden
Ed: Diego Maradona. Or the manager of whichever petrol station forecourt they bought the match ball from this time.
Mark: The ball. The World Cup ball gets a metaphorical booting before every tournament but it’s been particularly vitriolic this time.
Gavin: I know I just said England would reach the quarters, but can you just imagine how popular Harry Kewell would be if he does something a bit cheaty to knock them out in the second round?

First manager sacked?

Ian: It has to be Raymond Domenech, doesn’t it?
Rob: Kim Jong-Hun
Ed: Carlos Alberto Parreira
Mark: I’d say Parreira because South Africa will be the first team to go out. But he’ll resign. Domenech is going anyway, so he can’t be sacked, otherwise he’d be the obvious choice. So, Lars Lagerback, Nigeria. Or Capello… (light the blue touch paper, and retire…)
Gavin: Lars Lagerback

Anything else you want to mention?

Ian: Has any player ever been sent off twice in the tournament, or in successive tournaments? Wayne Rooney could manage both. [Rigobert Song was sent off in 94 and 98 – Rob]
Rob: The draw looks very lopsided to me. Group G has more strong teams than A-D put together, and A-D have to provide two semi-finalists.
Ed: There were no hattricks scored at all during the 2006 World Cup tournament. I fancy this balance will be redressed within the first few days (minutes?) of the 2010 tournament.
Mark: First sending-off will be for a tackle by William Gallas…on either Patrice Evra or Nicolas Anelka… France – the new Holland.
Gavin: Watch out for those South Americans, I’ll back all five to make the second round.

So, I think we’re all ready for the off. Enjoy your month ….

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