World Cup soccer: Local experts on what to expect

The Fresno BeeJune 10, 2014 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Peeve's Public House would not be open Sundays for World Cup games.

Less than one day away from the first game of the biggest sporting event in the world, The Bee tapped local soccer personalities for their take on this year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The Bee asked them four simple questions:

1. Which team is your favorite to win the World Cup?

2. What's your can't-miss game of the group stage?

3. Which player are you most excited to watch?

4. Which team is this year's dark horse?

Femi Olukanni

Boys soccer coach at Edison High, 48, and a former player for Fresno State and Nigerian national team in the 1980s

1. Brazil. I've always been a fan of Brazil because I love their style of play.

2. I can't miss Ghana vs. the USA. They are are both good teams with a history. I believe the winner of this game will make it out of the group stage and into the next round.

3. Lionel Messi. With a very talented team, they (Argentina) have a strong chance in this year's World Cup.

4. If it's not Brazil or Argentina, it will be Uruguay. History says if the Cup is in the Americas, it's a team from South America. If the Cup is in Europe or Africa, it's a European team. One of the South American teams will win it.

Omar Santoyo

Fresno Fuego midfielder, 22, and a product of Roosevelt High and Fresno City

1. Spain. They won the last one and the Euro in 2012. They have the team to repeat. Brazil is the next-best contender by playing at home.

2. Brazil-Mexico. There's a history between the two teams and I think El Tri can pull off something special.

3. Andres Iniesta and Neymar. Iniesta is the main reason for Spain's successes, and all eyes will be on Neymar. He won't let his home fans down.

4. Mexico. I know they have doubters, but I believe they're going to do well. They are a young team with veteran leadership. I think they can make a run outside of the group stage.

Jordan Wiebe

Fresno Gooners president, 28

1. Germany. Right blend of world-class quality, experience and youth. Looking at their side, it's hard to see any obvious weakness.

2. England-Uruguay. There's nothing like Luis Suarez against England and, by extension, the UK media.

3. Mario Balotelli. Had a great Euro 2012, but Italy fell short against Spain in the final, and he didn't take it well. He's capable of magic … or being non-existent.

4. Everyone says Belgium; I say France. See: 8-1 over Jamaica in their final pre-World Cup friendly. I know it's Jamaica but still. If they can leave egos at the door, they'll have a chance.

Edward Stewart

President of the American Outlaws' Fresno chapter, 38

1. Brazil has got be the favorite — great players, great team and at home. That also brings a lot of pressure. People will want to see if they have the strength and discipline to win it all. When it's all said and done, it's hard to see who beats Brazil.

2. The first can't-miss match has to be Spain-Netherlands, a rematch of the last final on Friday. Then, of course, there is USA-Ghana on Monday. Not only is it the Americans' first match, but it's also the team that has knocked them out of the last two Cups.

3. Lionel Messi. He's been the best in the world for many years and about the only thing he hasn't won is the World Cup. This may be his best chance.

4. I would say Belgium is a dark-horse team, but really, they are so stacked with young, top league talent that they shouldn't be considered a dark horse. Which is why I'll go and say the U.S. Advance from the group, and then it's a matter of do or die. The Americans are going to shock quite a few people this summer.

Tom Gleason

Owner of Fresno Indoor Soccer, a Fresno Fuego assistant and a former Fresno State soccer player in 1980s, 50

1. Uruguay. They had a strong showing at the last World Cup. Looking at their roster, they have three players on Atletico Madrid, who lost in this year's UEFA Champions League finals, and with Luis Suarez on top. They have a lot of experience. It just seems when the World Cup is in South America or Mexico, somebody from South America always wins. That's what history says.

2. United States-Germany. It's Jürgen Klinsmann against his home country. He seems to get the Americans ready for games pretty well, so I'm looking forward to that one the most.

3. Adnan Januzaj. He's a 19-year-old Belgian international and seemed to be the only consistent player for Manchester United this season. I think that as Belgium gets further and further in, he'll get more playing time and break out for something special.

4. Belgium and Ivory Coast. I have the Belgians losing in the semifinals. Ivory Coast and Yaya Toure — I'm not sure who's going to stop him — will make it all the way to the quarterfinals.

 

Know of other World Cup happenings around the Valley? Let us know at amoreno@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6401 or @anhelllll on Twitter.

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