The World Cup is TOMORROW! First match is at 8AM PST, Russia vs. Saudi Arabia. I haven’t missed a match since USA 1994 when I was only a little kid. I’ve skipped class and even watched matches on my phone during finals! The two teams I’m going to be rooting for are Germany and France.
Germany has been my mom’s favorite team since I was young so it rubbed off on me. Love the way they play, very team oriented. France is my team as well because, fun fact, I’m part French.
That said, here are my completely impartial and objective picks. (Disclaimer: just like chasing FURU alerts, don’t blindly call up your bookie and bet the farm on my picks, but I’m sure you guys are already smarter than that)
Funny how people talk about Russia doing some shady stuff and here they are somehow ending up with one of the easiest possible groups with some people say this is possibly the weakest group ever assembly in a FIFA World Cup. But that said, Uruguay are the major beneficiaries here being drawn into Russia’s group. They clearly have too much for the other teams to handle with seasoned vets like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani leading the line and up and coming players like Juventus starlet Rodrigo Betancur. It’s a crapshoot for 2nd but I think Russia will escape by the skin of their teeth with the home field advantage. My man, Mo Salah and his Egypt will give them a run for their money though but we’re not sure if he’s truly 100% and after watching Egypt play without Salah in their friendlies, they did not look too convincing.
Spain and Portugal are the class of this group by far and don’t need any introduction but don’t count out Morocco, which finished qualifying with an unbeaten record and has several European-based players, many of which are in France. Iran is probably the strongest Asian side in the tournament but it will be a tall order for them to get a result from Spain or Portugal.
France should dominate this group, but they did look shaky in their last friendly against a USA team that basically fielded a bunch of kids. Regardless I expect them to show up when it counts. With so much quality in their squad and having to leave the likes of Martial, Lacazette, and Rabiot at home, their depth should take them through with ease. A tough call for 2nd but I have to go with the Danes on this one. They have not lost a competitive match since late 2016 and looked really good in their last friendly against an uninspired Mexican side. Peru should be in high spirits being in their first World Cup since 1982 and they did look good in their warm up matches but I just feel their main players such as captain Paolo Guerrero’s and Jefferson Farfan’s age will show when they have to keep up with a younger France or Denmark over the course of 90 minutes.
Argentina’s performance will be scrutinized heavily as this is possibly Messi’s last chance at a World Cup realistically as he will be 34 the next time around and past his prime. They struggled in qualifying but should have enough to see past this group. The decision to leave Icardi at home is questionable, however but supposedly Messi doesn’t like him. Iceland is my surprise package in the group stages. After getting to the quarters in the Euros, drawing Portugal and beating England in the process, they finished first in qualifying in a group with Croatia already and they have a legit shot of repeating that feat here. They got great team spirit and unity from top to bottom and definitely will be a great team to support if you’re a neutral. Nigeria is no push over. It’s really tough to put them in last here. They finished first in a tough qualifying group which included Cameroon and Algeria and their arguably will be the best dressed team at the World Cup, but being drawn in a difficult group like this likely will spell an early exit for them.
Brazil probably have the best team on paper from top to bottom with the only question for me is Danilo at right back after Dani Alves had to skip out due to injury. They finished first in qualifying by 10 points over the 2nd placed team Uruguay and have the luxury of calling on top players off the bench such as Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino to turn the game on a dime if needed. It’s going to be tough for them to pick and choose who starts and who sits. Serbia will be my pick for 2nd in this group with Switzerland a close 3rd. I just feel Serbia have some great players in midfield such as Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic and talented youngster from Lazio Sergej Milinkovic-Savic that will make the difference. Switzerland are pretty much showing up with the same team they’ve had for the past 4 years. A decent team but it will be tough for them. Costa Rica, I’m afraid, the magic is probably over. Great run in 2014 but they recently got outclassed by almost every team they played in their warm up matches even losing to Tunisia.
This is the “Group of Death”for me as outside of Germany almost surely finishing first, any of the other 3 teams could potentially finish 2nd. I’m going to go with Mexico, not just to appease my amigos, but because I do believe on paper they have great players. PSV’s Chucky Lozano is one player I’m very excited to watch. However, Mexico has a history of underestimating their opponents and it wouldn’t surpirse at all if they slip up against a Sweden team that allowed zero goals across two games in the two-legged playoff against Italy to even get here and a South Korean side that although isn’t the strongest in recent years, still has the likes of Son Heung-Min to call upon. South Korea has beaten Mexico in the past so if Mexico thinks they have an easy win there, it might come back to bite them. It might all be for nothing though as the runner-up from this group probably ends up on a date with Brazil in the Round of 16.
Belgium look to escape the “dark horse” label and make it out of this group. They got the players for a deep run but don’t always look too convincing as it wasn’t too long ago that they crashed out to Wales at the Euros. England are a perennial disappointing at major tournaments but luckily for them being drawn with the likes of Tunisia and World Cup debutantes Panama, should allow them a relatively easy path to the knockouts. Tunisia did manage draws against Portugal and Turkey and only lost 1-0 Spain in recent friendlies but I don’t think they have enough to get past Belgium or England. Panama, well done getting here but I think they’ll just be able they earned a spot at the world’s biggest stage.
This should be an interesting group to call as I feel both Colombia and Poland have a shot at finishing first here. Colombia managed a come from behind win on the road against France, which was impressive but then weren’t able to beat Australia or Egypt but I do feel a full straight Colombia squad should eek out pole position here. Poland definitely have the players with Robert Lewandowski being one of the top strikers in Europe if not the top striker and several good players in support from the midfield such as Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski and experienced former captain Jakub Blaszczykowski in midfield so they should give James and Falcao a run for their money for sure. Don’t count out Senegal which has a full squad comprised of players playing in Europe but I think they will come up just short. Japan is basically fielding a similar team they did 4 years ago except now those same guys are 4 years older, going to be tough for them in this group.
Here’s my knockout bracket. No crazy surprises, except maybe Colombia taking out England but England crashing out at the Round of 16 is almost expected nowadays. Portugal and Uruguay is a really mouthwatering match in in the Round of 16, which can go either way but I feel like Uruguay have a more complete squad and should make it through.
Spain vs. Argentina in the quarters is another tough call but that recently 6-1 thumping by Spain, even though against an Argentina squad without Messi, still is inexcusable. Spain definitely exposed some flaws in their system.
A pair of Semi Finals that include a France vs Brazil match up and a Spain vs Germany match is just insane. France has beaten Brazil the last two times they played at a World Cup and this should be a great match but that was when Les Bleus had a certain Zinedine Zidane in their ranks and I feel this time around Brazil just has too much depth, especially if the game goes to extra time, they will just have that extra push to get to the final.
Germany and Spain play a rematch of 2010’s Semi Finals except this time I feel that Spain has the slightly less experienced side than that did in 2010 and Germany now has the veterans to give them that X-factor and they should get through, albeit it will be very close.
Brazil will look to get some revenge for that 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Germans on home soil 4 years earlier and I feel this time they have a much stronger team and they’re in amazing form and when it comes to football it’s all about being in form. I will be cheering for Germany but I think Brazil will take it this time because they just simply look like the strongest team both on paper and based how they’re performing right now.
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