2010 World Cup: Alexi Lalas talks favorites and dark horses


If Alexi Lalas was a betting man, he'd probably put his money on Spain or Brazil to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

But he wouldn't have a whole lot of fun doing it.

"You can't go wrong betting on Spain and Brazil right now because a lot of people are doing it, but you're not going to win a lot of money," he says, laughing. "So if you want to look at something where it's not necessarily a complete dark horse but not a lot of people are picking them, I like teams like a France or a Germany.

"I think that the European teams have a real distinct advantage in terms of the climate that exists during this World Cup," he says of the cooler environs of host nation South Africa. "For the first time in a real long time, we're going to have a World Cup that's going to be played in very mild temperatures. You know, usually World Cups are very, very hot, and that affects the style of play, and it affects different players differently. So I'm really interested to see how a lot of these European teams play when they're really in their environment, literally, in terms of the weather."

Soccer's showcase tournament gets under way Friday, June 11, on ESPN from South Africa with the opening match between the host nation and Mexico. Thirty-two countries will compete in the 64-game tournament in nine South African cities. Teams are divided into eight groups of four, with two from each group moving on to the round of 16, followed by the quarterfinals, semis and final. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will offer comprehensive coverage of the monthlong event in high definition.

Lalas, who serves as a studio commentator, sees Spain coming into this tournament on a roll. The defending European champions won all 10 of their World Cup qualifying matches and have never lost to any of the other three teams -- Switzerland, Honduras and Chile -- in their Group H.

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