MUMBAI: Former India football skipper Baichung Bhutia is backing reigning champions Germany and former champions France and Spain to lift the FIFA World Cup beginning on June 14 in Russia.
But Belgium could be the dark horse, he thinks.
"Surprise, for me, it could be Belgium. It is one thing that I feel they have the talent. Big names like France, Germany are the favourites to win it, but teams like Belgium (can spring a surprise)," Bhutia told reporters here today.
The `Sikkimese Sniper' was speaking after official broadcasters Sony Pictures Networks India launched a promotional campaign, "Meri Doosri Country", ahead of the mega event.
Bhutia also said that hosts Russia could go past the Group stage while Spain are also capable of lifting the Cup.
"They will go past the group stages - the Russians would do well. They have the players to take them to the pre-quarters. Spain is always a team that is a favourite to win, but again, the World Cup is a tournament where you can have a great league (stage) and then one bad match and you are out of the tournament," he said.
Asked about his favourite World Cup memory, Bhutia said it was Argentine legend Diego Maradona's stupendous goal, beating a host of defenders with the ball seemingly tied to his shoelaces against England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, a game that beamed live in India too.
"I have never been to a World Cup. My first experience -- as a kid you don't remember much -- but I remember Maradona's goal against England and Maradona lifting that World Cup in Mexico....that can't beat any (other) World Cup (memory)," he signed off.