ESPN Analyst Predictions for the 2010 FIFA World Cup

fifa-logo-previewESPN’s 2010 FIFA World Cup analysts – many of whom are former national team players who have competed in the World Cup themselves – offer their predictions for South Africa on the eve of the tournament.

ESPN match analysts:
Efan Ekoku (Nigeria 1994 National Team player)
Final: Spain defeats Netherlands. “Spain will beat the Netherlands because the Spanish team have a greater belief in themselves, particularly because of their European Championship success. They are a better balanced side all round. The Netherlands will have to play to their maximum ability to beat Brazil if they meet in the Quarter Finals.”

John Harkes (USA 1990, 94)
Final: Brazil defeats Spain. “Brazil have an impressive number of players (depth of talent) that can be on the field at any time. The mental approach and ‘swagger’ that they have in their approach to every game will bring them the victory in the final. Spain — if healthy — have the quality and confidence carried forth from their European title in 2008. Two entertaining teams that play the beautiful style of soccer with flair, creativity, and conviction will be on display.”

Ally McCoist (Scotland 1990)
Final: Brazil defeats Spain. “No European team has won a World Cup in the southern hemisphere, and I don’t think that will change. Brazil is the strongest of the other teams and has the most skill. Of the European teams, the strongest challenge will come from Spain, the European champions, but Brazil will win.”

Robbie Mustoe
Final: Spain defeats Brazil. “Brazil has nice balance between talented flair players and tough defensive players. They have real quality in most positions, plus the experience of winning this tournament many times, but Spain will win because they have the best and deepest squad in the competition – two of the best goal scorers in the world in Villa and Torres, an incredible midfield with Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso, and a sound defense with Iker Casillas behind them. Winning the Euros (2008) will give them the confidence and belief that they can beat anyone.”

ESPN studio analysts:
Shaun Bartlett (South Africa 1998)
Final: Spain defeats Argentina. “With the squad Spain assembled and the quality they have, they will make it to the final. Argentina’s chance of getting to the final coincides with the form of the attacking force with the likes of Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Milito can provide the goals they need to regain the World Cup since ’86.”

Ruud Gullit (Netherlands 1990)
Final: Netherlands defeats Brazil. “The Netherlands is a good team. They play very good football, the most attractive football of all the teams. It doesn’t always happen, but one would wish that the team that plays the most effective, most attractive football would win.”

Alexi Lalas (USA 1994, 98)
Final: Netherlands defeats Spain. “In the irony of all ironies, the team that is supposed to finally realize their potential doesn’t, and the team that has suffered for so long with such incredible talent finally reaches the promise land.”

Roberto Martinez
Final: Spain defeats Brazil. “The way Spain are playing and the way the groups are lined up, with Spain avoiding Brazil and England on the way to the Final, paves the path for Spain to win the World Cup. The Spanish team’s style of play is so different from the other teams and that is going to help them to the Final.”

Steve McManaman (England 1998)
Final: Spain defeats Brazil. “Spain has the best players, they’re the strongest squad and, as we know, they’re the current European champions.”

ESPN Radio match analysts:
Tommy Smyth
Final: Germany defeats England. “They have received a lot of injuries along the way, but I picked Germany after the last World Cup – they were fantastic. I don’t think Brazil is as good as it usually is. If Spain clicks and has enough heart – but the thing that’s killed them over the years is that they don’t have enough heart. If it becomes physical, they have all kinds of problems.”

Kyle Martino
Final: Spain defeats Brazil: “This will feel like a scene from ‘Groundhog Day,’ but I see Spain beating Brazil in the Final. That is, if the two don’t see each other in the round of 16 – boy, would that shake things up. Spain is, without a doubt, the best team in the world. If Cesc Fabregas can’t start for them, then teams all over the Cup should wake up in a cold sweat when thinking about their midfield. Brazil has plenty of talent as always — the list is longer than the line outside a SoHo theater for ‘Sex in the City 2’ — but this is the best team Spain has fielded since I have been alive.”

ESPN International / ESPN Deportes studio analysts:
Shaka Hislop (Trinidad & Tobago 2006)
Final: Brazil defeats Spain. “The Brazilian squad’s style of play is the most adaptable of all the teams in this tournament. They are also the most experienced group on the big stage and this makes them able to cope with the expectations better than Spain. Brazil is also, for the first time, not coming into a World Cup with a marquee striker, but I expect Luis Fabiano to establish himself as just that in the next month.”

Mario Kempes (Argentina 1974, 78-Champions and 82)
Final: Argentina defeats England. “Argentina arrives at the World Cup not as a favorite to win the tournament. This squad has stellar players and a coach who has numerous World Cups as a player and who has learned from previous defeats. Argentina – since it doesn’t have the pressure that other teams have – will play in a manner that will help them get to the Final. Of course, they will have to overcome many obstacles since they’ll face tough competition.”

The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off Friday, June 11 at 9:30 a.m. ET with the opening match – host nation South Africa vs. Mexico — live on ESPN from Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa 2010. For more information on ESPN’s planned coverage, click here.