The biggest sporting event in the world rumbles its way into town as Russia hosts the World Cup. 32 nations take on the biggest challenge of beating the other 31 so as to grasp that sexy golden piece of gorgeousness.
Ideally the World Cup would be given to a nation worthy of hosting it, instead it has gone to Russia. In theory I have no issues with Russia the nation getting it, however to give it to this Russia is a slap in the face to the work football has been trying to do with racism and homophobia. This combined with the mess of a political situation in Russia and interference the country is having in other countries all adds up to a bit of a mess. In many ways giving the World Cup to Russia legitimises everything that the regime is doing and that is sad. It’s crazy to think that the last World Cup which was held in a sensible country was 2006, this has been followed by South Africa, Brazil, Russia and Qatar for 2022. It’s sad that it will take so long for the World Cup to find itself in a country which is not corrupt, it is an indictment of FIFA.
This group is made up of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay who are the 8th, 8th, 6th & 5th in their respective pots.
I do wonder how hot those balls were when they were making the draw because this is about as good as it gets for the hosts. This is probably the worst group of the entire draw, it really is terrible. Honestly I don’t know who will go through from this because outside of Uruguay there is a distinct lack of quality. Uruguay should win the group, however the other spot will be between Egypt and Russia, neither being particularly good. I imagine Russia will take it in front of Egypt, primarily because they are the home nation and should receive a boost from that but also because Egypt will be lacking their best player. The problem for Egypt being that they play the two best teams in their group first and assuming Salah isn’t going to be ready, their other players aren’t good enough to pull them through.
Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran make up group B which ranks at 5th, 1st, 5th & 8th respectively.
When you’re a first seed and you see Spain come out of one of the other pots, you must wonder to yourself what you’ve done to deserve this. If you’re looking for the positives Portugal fans, at least you know you can’t meet them till the final. There’s no real point of talking about the other two teams, they’re there to make up the numbers, neither will likely do anything of significance. The real battle is between Spain and Portugal for first in the group, the positives for both teams is that they play their counterparts from Group A, so both teams are likely to make the quarters. Spain are on paper a much better team than Portugal, who themselves are coming off the back of a Euros win. It’s quite interesting for both sides as they basically get four games before they will play a level of opposition which they could struggle against. I think Spain will win the group and Portugal will be happy to take second.
Both teams will be looking to be there at the end and with the favourable draw they have both received that is very much a possibility. Spain aren’t the team they once were, however they still have the quality of player which will put them right up there. Portugal on the other hand don’t really have the quality to go all the way, what they do have is Ronaldo and if they also got a little bit of luck in the same way as they did at the Euros, then you never know.
France, Australia, Peru and Denmark are the teams for this group, ranking at 2nd, 3rd, 7th & 1st respectively.
France are a quality side, you only have to look at the players that have been left at home to know what a goo squad they have. Every single position has a top notch player and at the very worst a solid back up. They have winners, world class players, game winners and a sexy Giroud, if only they had a half decent manager then I’d be saying I’m going France all the way for winning the championship. Sadly for France they are stuck with the wet sponge that is Deschamps, a man who inexplicably kept his job after a shamefully mismanaged Euros final where they lost to a bad Portuguese team who lost by far their best player. Even with a terrible manager France should still do well, they have too much quality not to, my doubts are created by Deschamps.
The quality of the group beyond France isn’t the best. Australia are piss poor, so it will likely be between Peru and Denmark. Denmark have been on a ridiculously good run going in to the tournament, as have Peru, the big difference between the two is that Denmark have a sneaky good team and Peru don’t overly. What I would say about Peru is that you don’t qualify for the World Cup from CONMEBOL unless you’re a good side. The fact that Chile, who are the South American champions of the last two Copas, haven’t qualified tells you exactly this. I’m still inclined to think that Denmark with their better players, who also play France in the last game (beneficial when you assume France will have qualified) will just edge it.
Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria are the group D members ranking at 6th, 4th, 2nd and 2nd respectively.
I feel this group is a great example of the gulf in class of the top international teams and the rest. I don’t think this Argentina team is really up to much, however despite pulling Croatia who I think are the second best team in their pot I can’t see anything but Argentina winning the group. The problem with Argentina is that they don’t have a keeper, they don’t have a defence and they don’t have a central midfield, what they do have is Messi and a very strong attack. Now I know what you’re saying…that didn’t stop Liverpool from making a Champions League final!!! Which although true, pretty meaningless when they didn’t win anything. Argentina have a once in a lifetime player, however they no longer have the team to take him all the way. Messi can’t win this on his own and Argentina have shown that they don’t have what it takes, it’s a shame for his but it is what it is. It’s funny in a sense that Argentina’s chances in the tournament parallel Portugal’s. If they can win the group then they will have a good last 16 opponent and if the draw falls their way then you never know, I have my doubts.
Croatia will likely take the runners up spot, they’re a very good side who play nice football. Iceland will just be happy to be there and Nigeria despite being one of the best teams in their pot really aren’t up to much. Croatia will look to push Argentina for the top of the group because it is likely they will play France otherwise. Croatia are the sort of team that you don’t want to meet, there are teams who are better than them but on their day they can definitely cause an upset.
Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia rank out at 3rd, 5th, 3rd & 1st respectively.
Brazil will look to recover from the humiliation of being thumped in their backyard at the last World Cup. It isn’t the most talented team in the tournament but they aren’t overly far off. I don’t really see a stand out team this year, which means that Brazil will have a chance. Having said that I do find it odd that Brazil are so heavily favoured as I don’t see them as that at all. They have good players in middle of the pitch going forward, however defensively they look weak. In other years I wouldn’t give this Brazil team much of a chance, however in with the quality of opposition this time they will have a chance.
The other side could really be any one of the three. Costa Rica have the worst squad, however they have World Cup pedigree and regularly outperform their squad. Switzerland are a team which is always high up the rankings but one which is generally lacking in quality. Serbia have a nice mix of young players and experienced guys, however probably the more important thing for them is that a World Cup in Russia is as close to a home tournament as they’ll ever get and it’s because of that that I think they’ll cause a mini shock and take the runners up spot in this group.
Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea are your teams for Group F, ranking at 1st, 8th, 2nd and 6th respectively.
The defending champions have pulled an ok but tricky group. Germany should win the group easily, however both Mexico and Sweden could cause problems. Ultimately Germany won’t be looking at the group so much as what will happen in the latter stages. In my opinion Germany are the best side in the competition, for all the world I would be saying that they are my definitive pick to win it all, yet I have my doubts. The World Cup has been retained twice in history, once by Italy in the thirties and the other by an incredibly special Brazil side in 62. Retaining the World Cup isn’t easy, the fact it hasn’t been done in over fifty years tells you exactly that. You only have to look at Spain in 2014 to know that it is by no means a given that a really talented side will be able to wander through unchallenged. Everyone wants to beat the world champions in the World Cup, you’re a target before a ball has been kicked. What Germany do have going in their favour is that they have a very similar team to the one which won the World Cup and the core of that team is now at peak age. There’s no reason Germany can’t go on and win the tournament, they had the squad and experience to do exactly that, the thing which stands in their way is history.
The runners up spot will be between Sweden and Mexico, both teams play better than the sum of their parts, however Mexico will likely take the spot due to their greater experience at this level. They play each other in the last match of the groups, which should make for a good match as I don’t think there is that much between the two. South Korea are pretty terrible.
Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England make up the penultimate group which ranks at 4th, 7th, 6th and 3rd respectively.
This is it for Belgium’s golden generation, if they don’t do it now then they aren’t going to do it at all. They have one of the best first elevens in the competition but the squad isn’t nearly at that quality and the manager seems completely out his depth. It’s a shame for Belgium as they really should be right up there with their first eleven, they have quality in nets, defence, midfield and up front but there are too many holes for them to make it through the full tournament. Belgium shouldn’t win the World Cup, yet despite saying that, they’re the fifth best team in the competition which means they’ll have a chance. They will need luck.
England will take the runners up spot due to the other two teams being shit but they shouldn’t take too much solace in that. England aren’t anywhere near the quality required to win the competition, they have some good players and as always they go in with blissful ignorance, but the team overall isn’t good enough to take them further than the quarters. They’re lucky that the teams in Group H will give them a shot at the quarters, which would be a very good tournament for this side.
Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan make up the final group ranking at 7th, 7th, 4th and 4th respectively.
If it wasn’t for the hot ball group at the other end of the draw then this would be the weakest in the tournament. I like Poland, they are a good side with some good players and have been performing well for a few years now. This is probably this generation of Polish players last World Cup, so they will be looking to go out with a bang. Good side but they’re weak for a first seed, I think they’ll probably finish second.
Colombia will be very pleased with their draw, Japan and Senegal aren’t up to too much and Poland are by far the second weakest team in the competition. Colombia are essentially the South American Poland, good side with some good players who have been performing well for a few years. Colombia are slightly better than Poland in my opinion, so I think they’ll likely finish top but there really isn’t much in it between the two.
I do think the general quality of the World Cup this year is poor. There are four quality teams who are the most likely to win it (Germany, France, Spain & Brazil), Belgium who if they’re lucky with injuries could enter the elite group, then there’s a gap to Argentina and Portugal who aren’t really good enough but have once in a lifetime talents so with a bit of luck could do it and then there’s a reasonable list of outsiders who could maybe do something if everything goes there way (Poland, England, Colombia, Uruguay and Croatia). That’s twelve teams and I think realistically you can cut that down to seven and that’s being generous. It doesn’t feel like even the very top teams are that great, which is a shame. This World Cup reminds me a lot of the 2006 World Cup and in terms of team quality that isn’t a compliment.
Round of 16
So if you’ve been paying attention then this is how I think the last 16 will look.
Uruguay v Portugal
France v Croatia
Brazil v Mexico
Belgium v Poland
Spain v Russia
Argentina v Denmark
Germany v Serbia
Colombia v England
A few good games in there, Uruguay-Portugal, France-Croatia and Colombia-England should all be interesting matches.
I would say that looking at the teams who I have making the knockout stages doesn’t quite seem right. Despite the fact that I feel I picked the right teams, I do find it slightly unlikely that no Asian or African teams will make the knockouts at all. We shall see but I’m either grossly under rating them or it doesn’t say much about their quality.
Portugal v France
Brazil v Belgium
Spain v Argentina
Germany v Colombia
If this is the quarter finals then we’re in for a treat as all four games look great. Portugal-France in a repeat of the Euros final, Spain-Argentina in the what if match for Messi and Belgium getting a chance to show why they’re the golden generation.
France v Brazil
Spain v Germany
I found the top half of the draw very hard to predict, I don’t have confidence that France and Brazil will get the job done but both are better than their opponents. Similarly I have the four best teams in the competition making the semis and I have my doubts that realistically that will happen because somebody always causes an upset. I do feel that this World Cup isn’t too dissimilar to the Euros in 2016 in the way that Portugal and Wales made the semis against the run of play. I do feel that these four teams are better than the rest by a good bit, however Brazil and France in particular have vulnerabilities which I find hard to ignore. Having said all that, if this is the semis then I don’t think you can complain, these are the four best teams in the world.
France v Germany
The best team versus the best set up in the competition, that’s my final. Both teams have quality throughout the squad, one is the best young team in the world and the other is the most experienced side in the competition. France are coming off the back of Euros heartbreak and Germany are only four years away from doing the impossible by winning the World Cup in South America. The old guard against the young upstarts.
It’s been an unusual few years in football, so why not make it a little bit more unusual? I think Germany will retain the World Cup because they know how to get the job done and France will be let down by limp management. Germany are the ultimate game managers, whereas France are the opposite. You know the moment won’t be too big for Germany, however France have already shown that they can be overawed when it really matters. Five time champions of the world, watch out Brazil they coming for you.
So leave a comment about how you think the 2018 FIFA World Cup will go? What teams do you think will be lifting the crown? Leave a comment and share those thoughts!