Lit­tle Ponies and Chi­huahuas

The Economic Times - - Sports -

Ch e l s e a’s m a n a g e r J o s e Mour­inho is the undis­puted win­ner of the equine anal­ogy of the year. Early in the ti­tle race this sea­son, he called his team “a lit­tle horse that still needs milk and to learn how to jump, a horse that next sea­son can race”. Liver­pool man­ager Brendan Rodgers in re­sponse de­scribed his team as a “Chi­huahua that runs in be­tween the horses’ legs.”

As far as equine metaphors go, “dark horses” is a fairly overused phrase in sport. This year’s World Cup cer­tainly has its lit­tle ponies and small dogs. Here are two teams that could of­fer an un­ex­pected chal­lenge. ca­pa­ble deputy for the in­jured Chris­tian Ben­teke.

Man­ager Marc Wil­mots should ex­pect his team to top a group that in­cludes Rus­sia, South Korea and Al­ge­ria. The qual­i­fiers fromtheir­grouphave­been­draw­na­gain­sta groupthat­in­cludesGer­many,Por­tu­ga­land Ghana.ABel­gium-Por­tu­galtiecould­beone of the top clashes in the sec­ond round.

The Bel­gians find them­selves in the un­usual po­si­tion of be­ing a pop­u­lar choice for the “dark horses” tag. This team how­ever should be far more com­fort­able be­ing la­belled as a “lit­tle horse or Chi­huahua.” the young play­ers to watch out for at this year’s tour­na­ment. Pacy and in­tel­li­gent, he is a mes­meris­ing drib­bler. How­ever, the more ex­pe­ri­enced Mathieu Valbuena, an­other won­der­ful cre­ative mid­fielder, is likely to start on the right hand side. The de­fence also looks good. Keeper Hugo Lloris has been one of the few to im­press for Tot­ten­ham this sea­son, while France’s cur­rent crop of cen­tre­backs are blessed with strength and pace in equal mea­sure. Mathieu De­buchy and Pa­trice Evra, who bring vi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence to the de­fence, will likely start as full­backs. Deschamps has switched to an at­tack­ing 4-3-3 for­ma­tion from a 4-2-3-1 to get the best out of his young team. The French could be the sur­prise pack­age in Brazil.

Bel­gium's Eden Haz­ard

France's Franck Ribery

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