WITH just five days to go before the world's most popular team sport kicks off, there is this feeling of excitement and impatient expectancy among the diehard football fans around the world.
The FIFA World Cup held once every four years starts this Friday (Fiji time) with host Brazil taking on Croatia in the opening match.
Here at home, most of the talanoa sessions lately have been centered on the World Cup — who will win? Who will score the highest goal? Which team will create the biggest upset? And so on.
It sometimes turns into a heated debate when there is a slight suspicion that your team is being underrated by others.
Most common in Brazil fans. No offence.
Anyway, it's quite amusing to note such interest from our people although Fiji maybe miles away from playing in the tournament. Such is the popularity of the beautiful game.
Those who are certain of their team's chances have already started placing their bets while there are others waiting to see how their teams do in the opening round of the tournament before investing their dollars.
Most common these days are in-house betting.
Family members or employees get together and put in a fixed sum with their teams of choice and the winner walks away with the total sum at the end of the World Cup.
In the last World Cup in 2010, there was this brainy octopus who sort of gave the betting houses a good run for their money with his predictions.
Some punters are believed to have made good money relying on this eight-tentacled creature's prediction.
Paul the octopus, who lived in a tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Center in Western Germany, is said to have correctly predicted eight 2010 World Cup matches by choosing between flags placed on top of boxes containing food.
This including Spain's win over Netherlands in the final.
Unfortunately, Paul the octopus passed away few months after that World Cup and the search is on for the next prognosticator.
Apparently China has claimed that they have the next World Cup predicting animal.
A group of baby pandas are reportedly predicting the outcome of the game by choosing food from bamboo baskets and racing up trees marked with different national flags.
Nelly the elephant from a wildlife park in Germany is predicting winners by using her trunk to knock the ball in one of the two nets indicating the teams.
She is said to have predicted correctly 30 of the 33 results from the women's 2006 FIFA World Cup.
That's for the fans that don't trust in their instinct.
This week Times Sport will bring you the predictions from the local football experts.
We start with the man of the moment — Vodafone Fiji under-20 coach Ravinesh Kumar who guided the team to the first-ever FIFA World Cup.
Fiji Times: which team(s) do you think will win the World Cup and why? Which team(s) will create upset?
Kumar: "I would go for Brazil, Germany and Argentina. Brazil because of their form in past world cups and performance of the players in their development squad like under-17 and U20 teams. They have some of their players from these teams in their World Cup squad. As the host they also have an advantage. I think Neymar will be their best player. Germany because they have a good mixture of young and experienced players. They also have a very strong competition in Bundesliga. The player to watch out for is Miroslav Klose. Argentina has a very good record as well and if you look at their team list, they have a set of high quality players. I think Messi will be the best performer for the Argentines. I think Uruguay is the underdogs in this world cup considering their performance lately."
By the way, Kumar is a fan of England team. They have very little hope.