Emmanuel Petit: Brazil are the favourites, but don’t write off Croatia

Emmanuel Petit, World Cup winner with France 20 years ago, takes a look at the remaining teams in the tournament, and says a surprise may be coming...

I’m not surprised about what happened to Germany because it reminds me of what happened to us in 2002.

It’s exactly the same body language, the same spirit, the same behaviour. They look very heavy on the pitch – without inspiration, no creativity, no anger, no desire any more.

Most people are not the same as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for example. Every single year they raise their level and they have no limits, those guys. Ninety-nine per cent of the population are unlike this, it’s human. When you earn so much money and win so many trophies, at the end of the day you want to rest a bit and enjoy your life. This is exactly what happened to Germany.

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Now, this tournament is very open. Brazil are probably the most competitive team. They are getting better and better with each game and Neymar is coming back to his best. They are very powerful.

And so are Croatia. I saw the Croats play during qualification and I remember thinking after they won the first game 4-1 that they were brilliant. I wondered to myself, ‘This team didn’t qualify straight through the qualifying group?!’

Brazil, Croatia, Belgium, England, France. It’s weird because in the past we could say with certainty that five or six teams could win the World Cup,  but it’s quite different this time. Of course there are some favourite teams but you could imagine a surprise during this World Cup. It’s so refreshing as well; it’s not the same any more and I like it.

With regard to the so-called ‘easier’ draw, it’s ridiculous. Of course it is better to have challenging matches — we have seen that since the beginning of the tournament.

When the favourites play against smaller teams they struggle because the opponents to try to defend and play on the counter-attack, or from free-kicks, set-pieces. They put importance into the small details, prioritise a fighting spirit, and are very well organised tactically – bigger teams are suffering against them because the game is closed down.

When you are a ‘big side’ and play against teams that have similar potential it is easier.

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