Pele picks his faves for 2018 World Cup victory
2018-03-01 16:15:00 -

The 2018 Fifa World Cup may still be three months away, but soccer enthusiasts are already looking forward to the tournament.


In a bid to ramp up excitement ahead of the June competition, Fifa continues to conduct its trophy tour of 50 countries across six continents that began in Moscow, capital of host country Russia, last September.


Currently in Africa, the World Cup Trophy is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of fans for an up-close look – though only former World Cup winners and heads of state are permitted to touch the trophy.


Between 2006, when the trophy tour was established, and the last tournament final in 2014, the World Cup had visited 90 countries, with over 1.3 million fans having their photos taken with it.


Meanwhile, three-time World Cup winner Pelé has predicted that Germany, Argentina, and hosts Russia are his top contenders for the title this summer.


“You always have to respect Germany. Even Russia, who often have a strong team and will have the advantage of playing at home. In terms of Latin America, Argentina tends to be the team who have what it takes to go all the way,” he told


The Brazilian soccer great also expressed frustration with the level of readiness of his home country’s side, though he refuses to rule them out.


“Brazil always have a team capable of winning the World Cup. However, we’ve come unstuck at recent tournaments because of our preparation time,” he said. “The majority of Brazil’s players are based abroad. It was very different back in our day. We had a lot more time. It makes life very hard for the coaching staff, as it’s difficult to build a team. 


“Things have changed, it’s not as easy as saying ‘This will be our team.’ But individually speaking, I have no doubt that the best players in the world are Brazilian … If Brazil is given time to prepare, they will always be capable of winning the World Cup.”


The 77-year-old, whose name remains synonymous with the Fifa World Cup, said he looks forward to participating at this year’s tournament as well as future events. 


“I’ve got so many World Cup stories to tell,” he said. “We never had it all our own way in those tournaments, but we always came out on top. 1958 was a dream: I was still a kid, and nobody thought we could go all the way.


“They used to question [Brazil team manager] Vicente Feola, asking him how he expected to win the World Cup in Sweden with a 17-year-old in the team. But we did it. Then in 1962, when Brazil was in good shape, I picked up an injury, but we still managed to win the tournament. In England, I broke my meniscus and we fell short. But I played every game in 1970. It completed a perfect cycle for me: I started and finished as a champion.”


Asked what he thought about the final against Sweden in 1958, when he scored a celebrated goal after flipping the ball over the defender’s head in the spot, Pelé said: “I’d be lying if I said that it was all pre-planned … It was spontaneous. Thankfully, that was one of my strengths as a player: improvisation, the ability to come up with things off the cuff.


“Right at that moment, I had to act quickly. I managed to control the ball on my chest but, given the defender was coming to pressure me with his leg raised, I had to flick it over him. It came from God. I didn’t have time to think it through.


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