By Zoran Milosavljevic
MANAUS, Brazil, June 19 (Reuters) - Germany are the top contender to win the 2014 World Cup with success now based on speed and dethroned champions Spain's "tiki-taka" tactics now a relic in modern day football, former Croatia striker Goran Vlaovic told Reuters in an interview.
Vlaovic, who scored one of Croatia's goals in a famous 3-0 win over the Germans in the 1998 tournament when the Balkan nation finished third, assessed the Spaniards were undone by their own tiki-taka style which had served them so well.
"They were undone by their own game, the tiki-taka, which has become a relic in modern-day football as it is based on jealously keeping possession when a quick transformation from defence to attack is required," said Vlaovic.
"Speed has become the most important factor in modern-day football and this is where Spain have failed.
"Football keeps evolving and although it hasn't changed much tactically in the past 16 years the pace is incomparably faster. Hence I see Germany as the prime candidates to win the tournament."
The youthful-looking 41-year old, who netted 15 times in 52 international appearances, was speaking shortly before Croatia's 4-0 rout of Cameroon in Manaus which left his country in contention to reach the last 16.
Adding that Croatia had the potential to emulate or even surpass the 1998 feat, he was especially impressed by underdogs Costa Rica and Chile after their shock wins over Uruguay and Spain respectively.
"It's been a wildly entertaining tournament full of surprises so far, having produced an avalanche of goals and all the thrills and spills fans would have hoped for.
"South and central American teams have flourished as they are all playing on familiar soil and in a familiar environment.
"Some of them, notably Chile and Costa Rica, have exceeded expectations and shown that they can mix it with big boys, namely the top European teams as well as Brazil and Argentina.
When asked about Netherlands' chances to win their first World Cup after a blistering 5-1 mauling of Spain followed by a rollercoaster 3-2 defeat of Australia, Vlaovic said:
"The Dutch have lit up the tournament with their free-scoring bravados but I don't think they have it in them to become world champions.
"I could be wrong." (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, Editing by Nigel Hunt)