So who will win?

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ALEXEI SAYLE

Star of Alexei Sayle's Merry Go Round.

The loser in this World Cup is going to be the proletariat, because football only exists to divert them away from Marxist revolution. England are mercurial - you never know what they're going to do next. They might lose that first match against the Republic of Brunei. Judging by the players they have at Arsenal and Chelsea, France are pretty hot - and they have home advantage. Everyone fancies Brazil, but no matter how many times he tries, Ronaldo keeps missing that shot at the airport in the commercial. So maybe he isn't so good after all.

FRANK SKINNER

Presenter of Fantasy World Cup.

I'm unable to be rational about football - which is why I could never be a football reporter. I have this dream of England winning. So I could talk about Brazil this and France that, but what's the point? Football is a sport for romantics and dreamers - not statisticians. You could quote millions of examples of teams which weren't the best in the world winning. I'm a reformed alcoholic. I haven't had a drink since September 1987. But if England win the World Cup, I'll have a legitimate reason to start drinking again. The gutter is starting to miss me. Ten and a half years of thirst never stopped me dreaming.

BRUCE RIOCH

former Scotland World Cup captain

I will go with history and take Germany. The Europeans do best on their own soil and you cannot argue with their record of rising to these competitions. Holland have tremendous talent, with my old Arsenal player Dennis Bergkamp as good as anyone. Scotland's key match is against Norway, even if they drew with Brazil it is still the second game that matters. Craig Brown has done exceptionally well which such a small pool of players. I sincerely hope they go further than ever before.

WARREN CLARKE

Star of In the Red

You've got to fancy Germany - they're that machine that just keeps trundling along. You've also got to fancy Brazil. Mind you, I think there's going to be a very exciting game on the opening day - those Jocks can turn it on. I'd love England to get through to the final, but hand on heart I can't see it. I'd love Glenn Hoddle to prove me wrong, though. What with golf and the World Cup, it's going to be the perfect summer for me. I don't know what the wife's going to do, though.

PHIL CORNWELL

Impressionist and star of Stella Street.

In my head, Spurs will win the World Cup. Actually, the Coca-Cola Cup would be enough. I have a sneaking feeling Argentina will win. They're a great young team. They've got a young lad called Ortega who can put the ball in the back of the net. It sounds obvious, but the winning teams always have someone who can score six or seven goals. England could do well, because Shearer might get some service. Anderton crosses beautifully. Leaving Gazza out was a good decision because he would have been more of a liability than an asset. As a Spurs fan, I do trust Glenn Hoddle, because he is God.

NEIL MORRISSEY

Star of Men Behaving Badly

Everyone is crying out to get to this World Cup. I went to three games at Wembley during Euro 96, and there was an almost magical atmosphere. Against the Dutch, as far as an England team is concerned, it was the best performance I have ever seen in my life, including the 1966 World Cup Final. We were magic. This time round, I think Hoddle's the man, and we've got some class players. You've still got to rate Shearer, and you've got to rate Adams and Beckham.

STEVE LOMAS

Northern Ireland captain

I saw Spain at first hand last Wednesday and they have a large squad full of talented players. They won comfortably and still had five or six of their best man out of the side. However I still think Holland are the team to follow. Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars were probably the two outstanding players in the Premier League and if they recapture that form, and stay fit, they could add the World Cup to the double.

DESMOND LYNAM

Presenter of the BBC's World Cup coverage

This World Cup is going to be the biggest sports event of all time. England are there with a decent team and have a good chance of doing well. The whole nation will be on Glenn Hoddle's back, but if he can't take a joke, he shouldn't be doing the job. If I was a betting man - which I am - I'd have a couple of bob on Italy. You heard it here first. So now they'll get knocked out in the preliminary stages.

DAVID SCHNEIDER

Star of The Friday Night Armistice

I want all the teams with difficult names to go as far as possible - to give the commentators a hard time. So I'm hoping for a South Korea v Iran final. Sadly, I think England will go out in the first round, but Scotland might do well against against Brazil. Overmars will be the star, because he's young, free and single - and I've heard of him. The other star will be Eileen Drewery. This is the World Cup for holistic therapy.

ARTHUR SMITH

Author of An Evening with Gary Lineker and My Summer with Des

The World Cup is a lacuna in one's life. It's like a little dream. It's a very intense month where you can suspend everything else. No doubt Brazil will score from the kick-off in the opening match against Scotland - one man's glory is another's misery. I think England will get through the first phase, and then we'll get knocked out by Argentina. I had a dream the other night that the final was France 1 Brazil 2.

SAMMY McILROY

former Northern Ireland World Cup player

I have just put a bet on Argentina. Their team is full of strong, skilful players. Their temperament used to be suspect when they travelled, but now so many play in Serie A that they are used to the demands of European football. They have so many match winners and big game players like Batistuta and Ortega. The only country with a similar depth of talent is Holland, but I would still rate them behind the Argentines.

So who will win?

DAVID BADDIEL

Presenter of Fantasy World Cup

If England won, it would make me very happy. It's not impossible, but we've made our job more difficult by leaving Gazza behind. It's a poor decision, motivated by the wrong criteria. In fact, it's the worst decision that's ever been taken by an England manager. I can't believe they're taking Eileen Drewery and not Gazza. There are lots of teams that could win it. Holland have brilliant players, and Yugoslavia are meant to be really good. But, even though they've lost Romario, Brazil are still most likely to win.

GLENN MURPHY

Star of London's Burning

I'm curently holding a replica of the 1966 World Cup Winner's Medal, which takes pride of place in my bedroom. I want England to win, of course, but they've got no chance until there are three West Ham players in the side. Look at 1966: Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. They won the World Cup for England, and they all played for West Ham. Still, Glenn's made a start - he's got Rio Ferdinand, which is brilliant. Got to get the claret and blue in.

GRAEME SHARP

former Scotland World Cup striker

I can't see beyond Brazil. There is so much class about them, technically they are the best. Romario has gone, but they will come up with another just as good. Their form may not be ideal just now, but they will peak. Argentina are good outsiders, but I have not seen enough of them to be sure. England may reach the later stages but not the last four and Scotland will find it difficult. We must get something from the Norway game although even afterwards Morocco won't be easy.

MIKE BATT

Founder of the Wombles pop group and composer of Germany's World Cup song

I want England to win, but I've told the Germans I hope they are runners- up on penalties. They'd think I was lying if I told them I want them to win. I've been invited to see Germany play a first-round match in Paris, and I have to say they are on pretty good form. I must be the only person in England who has sympathy for Germany - although because of his dad, my ten-year-old son likes them as well. He hasn't been beaten up yet.

VICTORIA SMURFIT

Star of Berkeley Square

I think Gazza will be a World Cup winner because he won't have to play footy. He can stay at home, maybe peroxide his hair again, and have a life. I will definitely be avoiding all the preamble and the preliminary matches, which won't be too difficult as I'll be spending the summer putting in my belly-button ring for the part of Orla O'Connell in the new series of Ballykissangel. If England do get through to the final, though, I'll be watching that game in the pub, and joining in the excitement.

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