Former Charlton manager Chris Powell admits England face a tough task to land the World Cup in Brazil.
The globe’s biggest sporting spectacle finally gets underway tonight when the tournament’s hosts nation take on Croatia.
And Powell, who won five England caps during his playing career at The Valley, feels either they or fellow South Americans Argentina have what it takes to lift the trophy, not England.
Speaking in his role as one of Prostate Cancer UK’s big-name ambassadors, the ex Addicks chief said: “I’m as patriotic as anyone else and would love England to do well, but I think the conditions are against us.
“I think we’ve got a nice, vibrant squad of players that I feel can really do themselves justice, but I think you are looking at a South American side namely Brazil or Argentina to win the World Cup this year.
“I definitely feel that Germany will be there or thereabouts, similarly Spain.
“Not so many people are talking about them, though.
“You have to remember they are World Champions, they are the holders, and they won the Euros two years ago.
“They are a side that will always be a force.”
But deespite going for either Argentina or Brazil, Powell is also tipping another South American nation to cause a stir.
“I think the interesting side for me will be Chile,” he explained.
“They had a really good qualifying campaign.
“Looking at it them they will be used to the conditions.
“I think a lot of people are underestimating what the conditions will be like out there, especially with teams going from Rio to Sao Paulo to Manaus and those other areas as well.
“It’s going to interesting to see how Chile and Uruguay do.
“Colombia would have been a side that would have made an upset here and there but sadly for them (Radamel) Falcao is injured and it doesn’t look as if they will go anywhere fast.
“So aside from the big two, I think the teams to watch will be Germany, Spain and I really think that Chile could cause a bit of an upset and make a name for themselves.”
Powell played with current skipper Steven Gerrard and Men United team-mate Michael Owen during his brief international career.
And although not featuring in a major tournament for his country, the stylish left-back also played a World Cup qualifier for the Three Lions alongside Owen and Gerrard when they came from behind to beat Finland at Anfield in March 2001.
Thirteen years on, the man who led Charlton to the League One title in 2012 will be working for Sky Sports during the tournament, proudly sporting his Man of Men badge in the process, and believes England’s fate hinge on their middle clash with Uruguay.
He said: “I think the big thing is going to be the second game.
“I feel against Italy, even though they might not be the force of old, they always cause problems.
“They have got some very creative individuals in (Andrea) Pirlo, (Mario) Balotelli and (Ciro) Immobile.
“It’s a shame that we don’t play Costa Rica until our third game and it could be out of our hands by then.
“If we would have played them earlier we would have had at least three points on the board.”
Powell added: “We need to get something from the Italy game but I think that will be a draw, so it will all be on the Uruguay game – and Luis Suarez.
“After all that’s happened, and most recently him being named player of the year, he undoubtedly will be fit.
“He’s a very good player. I’ve got a feeling it may rest on that game with regards to our qualification.”
Delving deeper into Group D, Powell has selected a player from each nation to keep an eye on – and believes Lionel Messi will dazzle in Brazil.
He said: “I mentioned Immobile for Italy earlier, and I think Edinson Cavani for Uruguay is a very good player.
“A lot of players will be wary of Suarez and forget about him; he’s a very talented player.
“For England I think if Ross Barkley gets a chance, he could really light up the tournament in fits and starts.
“In his cameos he’s played so far he has looked very good and is technically gifted.
“And for Costa Rica Joel Campbell is an Arsenal player who hasn’t played for them, but he is a very good player who will get goals out of nothing.”
As for the big hitters, Powell added: “Everyone talks about how Messi is not world class because he hasn’t done it on the world stage but I think he will turn up for this tournament.
“Similarly with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Big name players are always renowned for their World Cup appearances and what they have done in those tournaments.
“It hasn’t really happened for those two but I have a feeling that this could be the year, especially Messi being in South America.
“I think we are going to see a different Messi and a different Argentina for sure.”
Powell is an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK and has spoken regularly about the dangers of a disease that affects one in four black men.
“I’m proud to be a patron for Prostate Cancer UK and it’s amazing to see how the Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign has taken off,” he said.
“For too long it was an illness and a cancer that not too many people talked about and not too many people knew about it, especially in my case when one in four black men are affected.
“I’m sure a lot of people didn’t realise how badly affected black men have been, and can be, so in that respect for me just knowing those facts were amazing.
“It’s serious. We are losing men daily with this illness, but now we are trying to do something about it.
“I know of people that have been checked and caught it early and have recovered and it’s vital that we keep making people aware of the risks.”
For more information on Prostate Cancer UK, visit prostatecanceruk.org or follow @ProstateUK on Twitter.