First, I want to give a special shout-out to the Golden State Warriors. They were kind enough to expedite their dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers. You’re probably thinking “There are no sports to watch now!”. Well, wrong. The greatest tournament of The Beautiful Game is on the horizon. Every four years, nations from all over the world battle it out for supreme glory. If you’re not used to the World Cup, I’m here to get you acclimated. For my predictions, I used FIFA Bracket Challenge. Feel free to play along and tweet us your results if you’d like.
Predictions for Groups A – D
Barring some unforeseen shenanigans, Group A should be the easiest to call. Uruguay boasts a powerful roster with and Egypt has a Mohamed Salah. He’s definitely not 100% after getting knicked up in the Champion’s League Final but if he’s good to go, he should still be effective. If the best player on your team is your keeper (Minus the likes of De Gea and Neuer) you’re in big trouble. Russia doesn’t have enough to get out the group. Saudi Arabia is pretty awful so I don’t expect them to advance.
No surprise here but Spain will win this group and will do so in convincing fashion. They have the best goalkeeper in the tournament, one of the best back lines, a midfield of legend and a few decent options at forward. This Spain team will dominate.
Portugal is usually Ronaldo & Co. but they have a few exciting players this time around. Bernardo Silva, Joao Mario, and Gonçalo Guedes will all have opportunities to get yelled ay by CR7 for not feeding him an assist.
France has one of the most talented rosters heading to Russia. They’re nearly two-deep at every position and have attacking options for days. What could go wrong? Well, they’re managed by Didier Deschamps. Interestingly enough, he left Anthony Martial at home but still, France should win this group easily.
Denmark is going to be fun because of Christian Eriksen. I really like Eriksen but he never gets to put his full skills on display in England due to his role of supporting garbage time stat stuffer Harry Kane. Wouldn’t shock me if he’s one of the best players in this tournament. Our bottom two, both pretty bad but fun. Tim Cahill has to give us one more classic goal before riding off into the sunset.
I don’ think there’s an obvious ‘Group of Death’ for this World Cup but Group D is definitely the top candidate. Argentia should go far. They have some guy named Lionel Messi. Croatia can never put it all together but if they can, they will be dangerous. Luka Modric is the maestro but watch out for Ivan Perisic. I spent all last summer praying my club didn’t follow through on their interest in him but I expect him to have a big tournament. One team that has gone from emergence to prominence is Nigeria. Just four years ago, this would’ve been unimaginable. Now with the youthful boost of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho, they’re a team to watch out for. Last, Iceland. The 2016 Euros wasn’t as eventful as it should have been but Iceland was fun. Was it a fluke? Can they have success? Does every last name on this roster have one ‘S’ or two? These questions remain to be answered but they’re depending on Gylfi Sigurdsson to answer them.
Predictions for Groups E – H
Brazil easily has the talent to coast through this group and when they get to the knockout rounds where they’re outcoached tactically, they still have Neymar. He remembers the jokes and memes and I doubt he’s going to face that embarrassment again. Switzerland will depend on the best calve muscles in the group, Xherdan Shaqiri, to get them out the group. Serbia’s midfield looks like a group of power forwards with but I don’t think they have the firepower to make it out. Lastly, poor Joel Campbell. I’ll always wonder where it all went wrong. Costa Rica isn’t getting out of this group.
Die Mannschaft will roll again, that’s to be expected, but who is coming for the runner-up spot in Group F? Sweden is missing Zlatan (Although this probably makes them a better team?) so all eyes are on Emil Forsberg. Javier Hernandez is starting to get on the downward trend of his career but he can still be a deadly poacher from time to time. If Mexico isn’t too tired, they can make it out of this group. I’m not expecting big things from South Korea but I am excited to watch Son Heung-min on the big stage.
Apologies because I don’t know a single Tunisia player nor will I pretend to. Excuse my ignorance. What I do know is Group G will be a funny one. Why? I expect England to lose a match they have no business losing. Even though this is one of the worst English rosters I’ve ever seen, I can totally see Panama taking it to them. Belgium is another case of “good roster, bad manager”. I remember that one year Roberto Martinez’s name rang through the Premier League…seems like so long ago. On paper, Belgium has the talent to easily dominate this group. Hidden Hazard. Kevin De Bruyne is playing at the top of his game. Lukaku learned some finer nuances of the game this season. It’ll be interesting to see if they can gel as a team and bring all this talent together.
Colombia became the darlings of the 2014 World Cup. The beautiful fans, the dancing, and James Rodriguez. James hasn’t quite morphed into the star he was tapped to be after 2014 but he’s still pretty good. This Columbia team isn’t anywhere as good as that 2014 team but I think Rodriguez has enough to get them over the top. My second-place team in this group will be Senegal. Sadio Mane is just too damn good. Robert Lewandowski will surely give us a wonderful goal this tournament and Japan is just along for the ride.
The knockout round is where things get interesting. I took a gamble in my round of 8 by having Nigeria advance. My mind is saying I’m crazy but my gut says go for it. Unfortunately, their journey comes to an end once they face Uruguay anyway. Two fun matchups will be Brazil vs Belgium and Spain vs Argentina. It’s going to be fun seeing Leo Messi trying to run circles around the La Liga all-stars. Spain advances so does Brazil. Uruguay will fall flat against Brazil and I think Germany edges Spain. Now, for the final. Brazil vs Germany. How surprising. I’m putting it all on Brazil this time around.
Golden Ball: Neymar (Lionel Messi, Isco)
Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku (Timo Werner, Gabriel Jesus)
Golden Glove: David De Gea (Manuel Neuer, anybody not named Hugo Lloris)
Best Young Player: Gabriel Jesus (Ousmane Dembele, Marcus Rashford)
I think Neymar will be the best player in the tournament. I expect him to score a lot and record a few assists. Timo Werner is my wildcard for Golden Boot because he has the easiest job in the world but I have it going to Lukaku. Absent is Antonio Griezmann because I think he disappoints in this tournament. Harry Kane is absent because you shouldn’t be counting on him anyway.
Golden Glove is easy. De Gea should have time to get some light reading in. Best young player, I had to check this for eligibility but I think it’s Gabriel Jesus. He was 20 in January so he’s eligible. Given what I’ve seen from France’s friendlies, I don’t think their starting XI is intact. I expect either Dembele or Lemar to sneak their way in. If Dembele gets the nod, he’s an eligible candidate. And Marcus Rashford, the kid can do it all. He’s too good to remain on the bench.
Ron’s Breakout Team
My breakout team is a mixture of emerging young stars and stars who are already established but will make a name for themselves in this tournament. Eriksen and De Bruyne fit this mold. They’re already well known to the knowledgeable soccer fan but I think they can become the household names of this tournament a la James Rodriguez in 2014.
Christian Eriksen (Denmark) — 2018’s Winner of the James Rodriguez “Where Did He Come From???” Award
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Gonçalo Guedes (Portugal)
Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
Thomas Lemar (France)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)