Argentina will lift the World Cup on July 13, 2014 - and the country's third triumph in football’s biggest tournament will be the sweetest of them all because it will come in the back yard of South American rivals and hosts Brazil.
Predicting the winner of a major sporting contest is a precarious business for a journalist at the best of times. We’re trained to report the facts, not interpret tea leaves or stare into a crystal ball.
The guessing game for a World Cup, even an educated one, is even harder when it’s done before the teams are drawn into groups – but that’s the task I’ve been given.
Better, then, to face it than live in fear of it. I’ve pinned my colors to Argentina’s mast because they have the will, the skill and the local knowledge to beat their rivals.
Alejandro Sabella’s side were top scorers in South American qualifying, by a distance, and only Colombia conceded fewer goals.
Any statistician will tell you that one of the main reasons the best team doesn’t always win in football is because the sport is a relatively low-scoring one compared to, say, basketball or rugby.
Argentina can swing the odds in their favor thanks to impressive attacking firepower: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria are just some of the stars who can win a game on their own.
Now, I’ll admit the “we-can-score-more-goals-than-you” approach is doomed to failure in a season-long league campaign. But it is far better suited to a knockout tournament with a short group phase.
Ultimately, Argentina’s chances could hinge on four-time world player of the year Messi. Criticized in the past for failing to reproduce his club form at international level, he is finally delivering his best for Argentina in the same way he does for Barcelona, and scored 10 goals in 14 games during the qualifying competition for Brazil 2014.
As I write, the diminutive genius is injured and not for the first time this season. However, I view that enforced absence as an advantage, possibly ensuring he will arrive at the World Cup finals more refreshed than he otherwise might have been - his physical frailty may stop Barca coach Gerardo Martino from overplaying his key forward as the Spanish club chases trophies.
The case for Argentina isn’t watertight but the other reason I’m backing them is because of the even stronger doubts hanging over the other contenders.
Spain’s squad remains astonishingly talented but I feel the reigning world and double European champions will finally be undone by their lack of goals.
In 2010, they lifted the title after four consecutive 1-0 wins in the knockout rounds. La Roja looked uninspiring at Euro 2012 until their demolition of Italy in the final, and during world cup qualifying they managed just 14 goals in 8 games – only the 25th best scoring performance in the UEFA zone.
Germany, by contrast, were top scorers in the European section with 36 goals. They have a mouth-watering mix of young talent and experienced campaigners.
However, 16 other countries had better defensive records and the Mannschaft’s matches against Sweden showed a worrying frailty at the back.
Italy, world champions in 2006, can never be discounted but the lack of a genuine star player - Andrea Pirlo will be past his 35th birthday and questions remain about Mario Balotelli's temperament - could count against the losing Euro 2012 finalist.
And what about the host nation? Brazil has a huge opportunity to remind the world why we fell in love with its brand of football but the country’s passion for the game could count against the team.
When Brazil last hosted the tournament over 60 years ago, they were beaten to the title by Uruguay. The scrutiny will be a hundred times stronger this time.
Neymar is their key man but his move to Barcelona is yet to be deemed a resounding success. Brazil must also contend with the double-edged sword of not having to qualify for the tournament.
The hosts were always guaranteed a spot but this year's Confederation's Cup, which Luis Felipe Scolari's team won, is the only competitive football they have played in recent years.
When discussing the contenders who could upset my pick, Argentina, you’ll notice I’ve gone for former champions. After 19 World Cups, we’ve only ever seen eight different nations triumph.
The case could be made for a first-time winner. Belgium and the Netherlands have talented squads, while the top African nations – Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana – all have the potential to reach the latter stages.
Colombia is, arguably, the pick of the candidates to win a World Cup for the first time, especially with a mean defense and a prolific forward like Radamel Falcao leading their attack. However, in my opinion, no country has a more compelling case than Argentina.
The 1978 and 1986 champions are poised to end a wait of more than a quarter of a century to lift football’s biggest prize.