Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit thinks there are “too many questions around players” for England or France to win the World Cup this year.
The World Cup starts on Sunday at 4pm when Qatar face Ecuador in the opening match of the tournament with Brazil, Argentina, France and England the four favourites to win with the bookmakers.
However, both England and France have been hit by injury issues and other concerns about their squad and World Cup-winner Petit reckons Brazil will win the competition.
Petit told CasinoEnLigne.ca: “For the last 20 years a European country has won the World Cup, because it’s been 20 years since Brazil won it. So there’s big pressure on Brazil.
“This is the first time in modern history we’ve seen a World Cup midway through a season, it’s something I’ve never experienced before. But I would put Brazil as favourites. There will always be European countries who are title contenders as usual, but there are so many players missing for them.
“It’s been a long time since a South American country won the World Cup, and Europe has been dominating for so long so I feel the balance is now with them. The motivation will be different, especially with top players like Neymar.”
On England and France, Petit added: “For France, when you are a favourite, they hold the trophy and no one in modern history has won it back-to-back. They are also missing important players, especially in the midfield area. Most of the time you control a game in the midfield area.
“N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba were brilliant in Russia, but they are injured and we have questions surrounding other players too. Karim Benzema also has an injury, and these players are the leaders of the team as well. It’s not the best way to prepare for a World Cup, and I’m sure for Didier Deschamps this is the first time he’s facing so many challenges.
“England are also struggling with injuries as well, especially in defence, and there are many questions facing players. They reached the semi final of the last World Cup, then got to the Euros final, they’re always there. But they are missing something to reach the final and lift the trophy, even though they are contenders. Just like France, there are too many questions around players.
“Reece James and Kyle Walker are two players injured, and you look at the centre-backs and ask if they’re going to play with Harry Maguire. He hasn’t been playing and his confidence is low. I’m convinced if you want to win games, you build from the back and you need to have a strong defence.”
Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo has been at the centre of contoversy today and Petit doesn’t even mention the Portugal international in his thoughts about who is the greatest player of all time.
Instead, the former Arsenal midfielder talks about Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Pele and Diego Maradona. Petit continued: “For me Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time. It’s a joy to watch these guys.
“I remember playing with Zidane and in so many games, I was watching him like a fan in the ground and I’m thinking ‘Manu, you’re playing with him, stop looking at him just try to play with him!’
“But it’s different now, it’s a different generation, it’s not the same football anymore.
“The consistency of Messi during his whole career is just unbelievable, the way he is just enjoying himself on the pitch, the way he has given fans emotions and the rest of the world, he’s an artist and when you’re an artist you are not the same as other players.
“You cannot be treated the same way because you are an artist. At any time on the pitch, they find a solution. So you don’t manage and treat those players the same way.
“It doesn’t mean you have to be at the top of the team, because Zidane was never the top of the team, he was always another player in the team. But we all knew, and so did the manager, that in one moment he can change the game. Because his ego was not that big, it was not a problem in the dressing room.
“But I can understand when some players show too much ego it can be a problem for the players and manager in the dressing room as well.
“It’s not the same football anymore. When Maradona played, it wasn’t the same football, the same pressure. Now the pressure on players is unbelievable. I spoke to Eidur Gudjohnsen and Freddie Ljungberg recently and we all agreed, it’s not the same football anymore, it’s not the same industry anymore.
“So if you compare those generations, for me I wouldn’t take those players from previous eras, even though all of them were magnificent players.
“I think Messi is the best ever in terms of consistency, dealing with the pressure on his shoulders all the time. Maradona was not consistent, but he touched people outside football with his personality and his character.
“Messi is very shy, he only talks to people who love football. Maradona and Pele are not the same. If you are talking just about football, for me Messi is the best ever.”
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