In a series of FIFA World Cup features on the UEFA Training Ground, former England manager Graham Taylor has been speaking about the chances of four of the top European sides, as well as the determining factors for success in South Africa.
Taylor holds Spain in particularly high regard after they ended their 44-year wait for a major trophy by winning UEFA EURO 2008. "For so long Spain failed to deliver but they've won one now, so will we see a run of Spain being the new Brazil? That's what they look like on occasions – the new Brazil," he told the UEFA Training Ground.
The former Aston Villa FC boss, though, knows that competition will be stiff and the claims of seven-time finalists Germany should not be discounted, citing their tournament mentality as one of their foremost facets. Defending champions Italy may also ruffle a few feathers according to Taylor: "They intrigue me, I know what they're going to be about, I know they're going to be hard to beat, but can they win it? Well, they did the last time."
Taylor never took England to a World Cup and the 65-year-old is keen to play down expectations this time around. "It is a big ask for England, whose record in the World Cup is not fantastic, to ask them to go to South Africa and win," he said.
One omen that does not bode well for any European side is the location of the tournament. As Taylor points out in his dissection of what it takes to win a World Cup, only Brazil have ever triumphed outside their own continent. Experience and a stellar performer, however, could make up for the geographical disadvantage of those European teams eyeing up the trophy. "What World Cup-winners generally have is a special player," said Taylor. "That special player has to perform and if he does those nations have the chance to win the World Cup."
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