Xabi Alonso is a successful footballer, a midfield maestro, a level-headed leader, and sports one of the most perfect beards this side of the Atlantic. But how is he as a bookmaker?
Well, he’s certainly taken the middle ground in admitting that any of a number of teams could win the upcoming World Cup, including hosts Brazil.
“Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy … historically they might have a chance but today everything is very tight and I’m not ruling out a surprise,” Alonso said in a Marca story this week.
Alonso, for what it’s worth, will be in Brazil with Spain defending their victory in the 2010 World Cup, likely bearing scars from when Nigel de Jong studs-up ninja-kicked him in the chest during the final match. The Basque midfielder also holds winner’s medals from European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
However, after a poor loss against Brazil in the final match 2013’s Confederations Cup — a tune-up held in the host country a year before the World Cup itself — Spain are not quite the dominant favourites in the same manner they once were.
Alonso believes that La Roja must have a sharp mentality headed into their opening match on June 13, which, coincidentally, happens to be a rematch of 2010’s final versus the Netherlands.
“[Spain] have to know how to manage the pressure of defending the trophy and not seize or get nervous,” he said in Marca. “I believe this team already has enough experience and can play these championships.”
Beyond the Netherlands, Alonso and his teammates face matchups against Chile and Australia to secure a passage to the knockout rounds.
“[Not getting out of the group] would be a disappointment,” he said. “We have to prepare well because it’s a tough group.”