As fans and seasonal followers alike hold their breaths in anticipation of the kickoff of the world’s most significant sporting event – the FIFA Football World Cup on Thursday in Russia – a few national crickets who frequently share their perspective on the sport, were invited by Stabroek Sports to weigh in with their predictions.
For anyone who spends any lengthy time around the national unit that has been dominating regional cricket over the last four years, you would quickly recognise that football is very much a part of the team’s culture.
Ironically, football is used as a ‘warm-up tool’ before matches and is often played with much eagerness and in some instances, cheekily attempt to do so which is met with much laughter among their peers.
In this regard, skipper Leon Johnson, who shied away from making any predictions, indicated that he favours Guyana’s neighbour to the south, Brazil as his team for the tournament.
“I don’t have any predictions, but I can tell you that my favourite team is Brazil,” Johnson, a batsman with nine Test caps, disclosed.
“I would have checked a couple of websites and found that Brazil and Germany are the two odds-on favourite to win the tournament, so that’s a good sign for me,” the Jaguars skipper added.
Johnson, a staunch football fan, who also prides his support of Chelsea FC who plays in arguably the
toughest football league in the world – the English Premier League (EPL) – said that he still wears scars of Germany’s 7-1 drubbing of Brazil in the semis of the last World Cup at home in 2014.
However, his assessment of the team which is now assembled with the likes of Neymar, Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho who have been acquitting themselves well in Europe, has rekindled his hope in “The Selecao” to lift the Cup for the sixth time.
Speaking briefly about the integration and influence of football into the national cricketing setup, Johnson said it is primarily used for players to match their talk with skill during their warmup sessions.
Meanwhile, Vishaul Singh, Guyana’s most recent Test Player who made his debut for the Caribbean side in 2017, had a bolder take and leaned more towards the ‘Lionel Messi Hive’, favouring the Argentines to lift the cup.
He argued that while it is essential for him to win a major title, it doesn’t take away from his greatness if Argentina doesn’t.
Either way, it’s a tough task for both Brazil, one of the pre-tournament favourites and Argentina since only one South American team has ever won a title on European soil, which happens to be Johnson’s Brazil who defeated Sweden 5-2 in their backyard in 1958 final.
Robin Bacchus also had his say and added that while he is a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, his team for the tournament is Eden Hazard’s Belgium, one of the dark horses in the tournament who he believes can spring a few surprises.