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2014-07-03

Brazil for the cup? Olympic and Paralympic athletes share their FIFA World Cup tips

Rio 2016 asked 15 athletes from around the world for their predictions as one of the best tournaments in history enters the final straight

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Olympic and Paralympic athletes from around the world picked their World Cup winners and top scorers (Photo: Rio 2016)

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup entering its final stages, fans in Brazil and around the world are gripped by what is being described as one of the best tournaments of all time. The winner will be decided on 13 July at the Maracana Stadium in Rio – the same venue that will stage the opening and closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Olympic football tournament – and everyone has their own opinion on how the competition will pan out. With the quarter-finals due to start on Friday (4 July), rio2016.com asked a range of Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their predictions.

Brazil were the overwhelmingly favourtites, Neymar and Co tipped by 10 of the 15 athletes polled to earn their country a record sixth world title. Perhaps unsurprisingly, eight of the 10 Brazilian athletes who participated backed the host nation, with only gymnast Arthur Zanetti and Paralympic sprinter/long jumper Verônica Hipólito, who both backed Germany, going against the seleção.

Germany had three votes in all, with the Netherlands being backed by two athletes. The Dutch, already the team that has finished runners-up the most times (three, in 1974, 1978 and 2010) were the side most tipped to finish second in Rio, with eight votes. Five athletes tipped Argentina to be the unhappy team on 13 July, with France and Germany polling one vote each. As for the top scorer, Brazil icon Neymar was the favourite, with James Rodríguez (Colombia), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Arjen Robben (Netherlands) and Karim Benzema (France) also being backed.

The athletes also said how much they have enjoyed the tournament so far – and how it is whetting their appetites for the Rio 2016 Games. Tony Azevedo, the USA water polo captain who was born in Rio to a Brazilian father and American mother, is currently playing for São Paulo team SESI. He backed Brazil to beat the Netherlands in the final and said his favourite moment so far was Brazil’s penalty shoot-out win over Chile (see video below of Azevedo celebrating with his family and friends).  

“My excitement is huge for the Rio Games,” Azevedo said. “Everyone said there was going to be problems at the World Cup, but not only have there been no problems but the people have been so excited and happy. I think Rio is going to be amazing, an Olympics to remember forever.”

Chad le Clos, the South African swimmer who beat the legendary Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the London 2012 Games, also tipped Brazil to beat the Netherlands in the final. He highlighted the atmosphere that has been seen in Brazil during the tournament, and believes it bodes well for Rio 2016. “The atmosphere has been incredible, Brazil is such a vibrant and fun country and you have seen this throughout the tournament. I have always enjoyed coming to Brazil and the World Cup has definitely made me more excited about the Olympics.”

Melissa Tancredi, the Canadian footballer who won bronze at London 2012, backed the Netherlands to beat France in the final. She praised the quality of football at the tournament and highlighted the level of attention it has received in Canada and the USA as a possible breakthrough moment. Tancredi, who also won bronze at the Rio 2007 Pan-American Games, is looking forward to playing at Rio 2016. “I've always loved spending time in Brazil and of course look forward to playing in their incredible stadiums in front of insane crowds. The love for the game is palpable, and it inspires anyone who steps out on the pitch.”

Fernando Fernandes, Brazil’s four-times paracanoe world champion, said: “The Brazilian people are putting on a great show in terms of hospitality – it’s really the cup of cups. I know the journey from here to Rio 2016 is not easy, but I believe we’ll overcome the challenges and put on a great show, not just in hospitality but also in terms of organisation.”

See the table below for the World Cup tips from all 15 athletes:

AthleteWinnerRunner-upTop scorer
Chad le Clos
Chad le Clos
Swimming
South Africa
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil
Verônica Hipólito
Verônica Hipólito
Paralympic sprinter
Brazil
Germany
Netherlands
James Rodríguez
Colombia
Arthur Zanetti
Arthur Zanetti
Artistic gymnast
Brazil
Alemanha
Germany
Argentina
Neymar
Brazil
Sanne Bakker
Sanne Bakker
Sitting volleyball
Netherlands
Netherlands
Germany
Robben
Netherlands
Felipe Borges
Felipe Borges
Handball
Brazil
Brazil
Argentina
Messi
Argentina
Melissa Tancredi
Melissa Tancredi
Football
Canada
Netherlands
France
Karim Benzema
France
Fernando Fernandes
Fernando Fernandes
Paracanoe
Brazil
Brazil
Argentina
Neymar
Brazil
Tony Azevedo
Tony Azevedo
Water polo
USA
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil
Poliana Okimoto
Poliana Okimoto
Swimming marathon
Brazil
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil
Cesar Castro
Cesar Castro
Diving
Brazil
Brazil
Argentina
Neymar
Brazil
Sarah Menezes
Sarah Menezes
Judo
Brazil
Brazil
Argentina
Neymar
Brazil
Lucarelli
Lucarelli
Volleyball
Brazil
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil
Müller
Germany
Tyla Nathan-Wong
Tyla Nathan-Wong
Rugby sevens
New Zealand
Germany
Netherlands
Müller
Germany
James Rodríguez
Colombia
Larissa
Larissa
Beach volleyball
Brazil
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil
Lorena Molinos
Lorena Molinos
Syncronised swimming
Brazil
Brazil
Netherlands
Neymar
Brazil

 

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