My dear readers, with great anticipation, the Groupings for the 2018 Men’s World Cup* — the most popular sporting event in the world – have been released!!! (See Chart Below).
That means prediction time. So allow me to provide you with my moderately educated predictions for each of the two teams that I see emerging from each Grouping to compete in the Round of 16 elimination games. I am basing these predictions on only 3 things:
- My perception of a country’s historical strength in soccer / futbol
- How much the geography of playing in Russia, as well as Russia most certainly cheating, will affect certain outcomes… Ok. One outcome
- My straight-up gut feeling / guessing!
And yes — I DO notice the conspicuous absences of the U.S., as well as historical powerhouses Italy and the Netherlands. But among those who did qualify for the Group stage, so much can happen between now and the start of this once-every-four-year extravaganza (beginning in June), that these predictions could end up being laughable. Then again, I may be proven an “accidental genius.” We can look back at this column next year with a chuckle, amazement, or a little of both. But until then, here we go!
*Why is the world cup called “The World Cup” for men, and the “Women’s World Cup” for women? Especially for us Americans, where our women embarrass our men, we should be calling each Tournament what they really are – “The Men’s World Cup” and “The Women’s World Cup.”
Uruguay – Always tough, plus they have the ear biter
Russia – Home country full of likely dopers
Spain – Historically better than Morocco or Iran
Portugal – Same, despite that horrid pretty boy who won’t play defense
France – Vive la France!! (MAJOR Todd Flora bias)
Denmark – Fun fact: not every player on this team is white! I also see them edging out upstart Peru this year, whose biggest victory may have been their rivalry win over who they see as the “Smug Chileans” to earn their birth
Iceland – 2014’s publicly funded super team, developed from near nothing, will be even bigger in 2018. To their rabid, traveling-willing fans, Russia isn’t much further away than Germany was in 2014. Expect big crowds chanting in support
Argentina – Messi.
Brazil – practically a World Cup requirement
Costa Rica – I see this scrappy, tourist-friendly crowd edging out the Swiss for some reason.
Germany – Where did these guys come from? Who knew Germans could play!? (See “Brazil” comment)
Korea – The Koreans can practically see Russia from their bedroom window. I expect legions of fans venturing to Russia to give this team the edge over surprising Sweden and a Mexico team I expect to underachieve (I take no pleasure in saying so)
Belgium – A bunch of really good, arrogant guys who have a superiority complex… AND soccer skills
England – Based on their international play in 2017, England may finally be worth talking about again
Columbia – these guys can be really good when they aren’t committing cheap, dirty penalties
Senegal — the home country of my favorite international player, Sadio Mane! (former Southampton Saint!), Can this wizard of the pitch carry Senegal to “household name” status?!?
Of course, from here, the Round of 16 could be wild. I dare not predict some of those results yet. But as far as the Group Rounds are concerned, where do you agree with my guesses? Disagree? Who is your “upset” team? What unheralded national team do you think other squads secretly “don’t want to face?”
I hope you’ll share some thoughts in “Comments.”