The greatest test yet of Brazil’s World Cup resolve is set for Fortaleza when the hosts take on goal-crazy Colombia, meaning a mammoth effort will be required from the man who’ll lead the 11/4 tournament favourites onto the Estadio Castelao pitch.
Thiago Silva is by some way the shortest-priced defender to be named player of the tournament at 40/1, and with good reason after the Paris Saint-Germain captain’s superb marshalling of a shaky Selecao backline at the samba jamboree.
Not since Uruguay’s Jose Nasazzi in 1930’s inaugural tournament has a defender won the Golden Ball, and with the last three players of the World Cup lining up in goal, midfield, and up front, it’s past time for some backline brilliance to adorn the trophy.
Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro came the closest to ending defenders’ barren run when Marcello Lippi’s side lifted the trophy for the fourth time in Germany, claiming the Silver Ball after missing out on the big prize in an uber-tight contest with Zinedine Zidane.
Brazil’s route through the World Cup thus far is not too dissimilar to the road the Azzurri travelled in 2006, with both countries winning their opening fixtures by two goals, before drawing their next games and then restoring proper order with an easy victory prior to progression.
Compare the Selecao’s fraught penalty shoot-out triumph over Chile in their last match with 10-man Italy’s 1-0 win over Australia eight years ago, when they needed a Francesco Totti goal from the spot in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Cannavaro really began to catch the eye after that victory in Kaiserslautern when, in lockstep with eventual Golden Glove winner Gianluigi Buffon, the skipper led his defence through a 3-0 win against Ukraine in the quarter-finals, before breaking hosts Germany’s hearts in the semis.
Napoli’s finest had lost too much ground to Zidane in the Golden Ball stakes by then, as the Gallic maestro had captained France majestically through wins over Spain, Brazil and Portugal before the final in Berlin.
While World Cup 2014 has exceeded all expectations in terms of excitement, a Zizu-like figure is yet to emerge and the player making all the running in the Golden Ball betting, Colombia’s 3/1 shot James Rodriguez, will face-off against Silva directly in the next round.
If Brazil, and the man dubbed ‘O Monstro’ during his time at Fluminense, come through that test with their World Cup statuses intact, you can bet your bottom dollar Silva’s tournament top-player odds will fall off a cliff.
With Canarinho one-man-attack Neymar struggling for fitness and looking more and more exhausted as the World Cup progresses, the next Brazilian in the Golden Ball market rates a value bet to make history at this juncture.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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