Russia 2018 comes down to 5 clear candidates, some surprises and many failures.
Four years ago, nobody would have guessed defending-title Spain being eliminated in the group stage, Costa Rica surprsing the world while defeating Uruguay, Italy and Enlgand in the death group nor Brazil losing in its home by 7 goals to 1 against an unstoppable German team. And that’s why Brazil 2014 FIFA WC was one of the best ever: It was unpredictable. The only two teams which met the predictions were champions Germany and finalists Argentina, and even this pair didn’t play at their best level: Germany was the best team troughout the tournament but it had difficults while playing against weaker teams such as Ghana and Algeria,; while Argentina won all of its matches just because of a 1-goal difference despite it had the best player in the world.
But this fall I can already see that Russia 2018 is going to be totally different. I guess the strongest candidates are going to live up to expectations while we are not seeing teams such as Costa Rica, Panama, Iceland nor Morocco doing incredible performances again. This doesn’t mean the WC is going to be worse than last one though. There are teams that have incredibly increased their level in the last 4 years and many big names will be playing under the russian sky in two months.
Now, let’s start with the prediction itself.
Teams with expectations that really will not satisfy them.
Two-time winners won’t really do a great performance in this WC. Despite its big names such as Cavani or Suarez, Uruguay has shown a loss of its football level in recent years. Despite its great performance in South Africa 2010 and its victory in the Copa America Argentina 2011, this generation of great world-class players such as Forlan, Suarez, Cavani, Muslera and Godín seems to have no more to show as a team. I risk saying that there will again be controversy surrounding its elimination (probably in the quarterfinals).
The last European champions simply are not a team with chances to win a World Cup. Having Cristiano Ronaldo is interesting, but not enough. The improvement of the collective game in the last few years will only help to pass the group stage, but I risk saying that they will lose in the second round, probably against Uruguay.
England is always a big name in the football world, well they are the creators of this wonderful sport. But they have not really been a football power for a long time and their performances in the world have always been miserable (not counting their only title in 1966, which was somewhat controversial to be sincere). The team has been renewed and I admit that I like how it plays, but it’s still weak. They will improve their performance in contrast to those of the last world cups. I predict a elimination in Quarterfinals.
The Polish team simply will not achieve anything concrete in Russia, I doubt that they can make it to the Round of 16. Polish fans and fans of Lewandowski, don’t get angry; it’s just a prediction.
Everybody’s talking about them. Yes, it’s amazing what they have achieved in 10 years. The debutant team will not reach the round of 16, but it will be a historic event for Icelanders and any football lover to watch them play in the most important event of the sport.
Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic and Perisic. An interesting generation to say the least. As they are rivals of my team, I have seen their friendly matches of the last month and really their game has left me unsatisfied. It seems to be one of those teams with great players that fails in effectiveness. Like the next one.
For the majority, one of the candidate teams to win the tournament. Before Brazil 2014, I had been amazed with the excellent players the best European leagues that form the Belgian team. Hazard, Mertens, Naingolann, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Courtois and many more. Simply incredible. Since then I have watched all their matches as long as I could and I must say that Belgium is the biggest lie in football. How such great players together in a team in the largest generation of Belgian players can play so miserably? It is something similar to what happens with Argentina, but at least Argentina manages to reach important phases of the championships that it plays. As in Brazil 2014, they will make it with luck to the Quarterfinals. A real shame for all football fans.
-Teams that are going to make great performances even though they are not in the spotlight right now.
-Morocco and Senegal
IMO they won’t make it to the Round of 16 but they have interesting teams.
The quality of the football team led by James Rodriguez has made them have gone from being one of the best teams in the world in 2014 to another South American team of which there is not much to be expected. I have always believed that this selection integrated by James, Bacca, Ospina, Falcao and Cuadrado had not finished surprising the world and its last victory against the French selection candidate has finished convincing my affirmations. They will not make it to the semifinals, but they will shine again in Russia.
Nigeria is in a group next to the always Argentina candidate, the team that everyone loves: Iceland and the star-studded Croatia. Nobody talks about them. Today, Nigeria is not even among the 32 best in the FIFA Ranking. However, the Super Eagles have that seasoning that makes the South Americans great and the Europeans lack: passion. Any South American knows that in a duel between a team with passion and a team with star players, the one that plays to die will always win. And in their international performances they have shown passion. In spite of their bad moment, they will go along with Argentina to the Round of 16 and will make the game difficult for all their opponents. After all, they beat Argentina 4-2 4 months ago.
The Pharaohs’ agonizing qualification for the World Cup in a drastic game against Congo has been perhaps the emotionally strongest moment of all African qualifiers. Although they are not among the 32 best in the world according to the FIFA Ranking, in their first participation in a FIFA World Cup after 28 years, they will reach the round of 16 for the first time in their tournament together. to Uruguay, beating the weak Saudi Arabia and the locals Russia. This feat will be possible thanks to the Liverpool star Mohammed Salah and the direction of the Argentine Hector Cuper.
My favorite team in this World Cup. Why? They are simply the team with the most passion. The qualifiers were not easy for Peru, but with great passion they managed to reach a defining match against New Zealand. Agonizingly, they qualified for the World Cup after 36 years of waiting. Farfan and Guerrero may be the only big names on the team, but their defensive aspect has been great through the playoffs. Peruvian fans have waited years for this moment and know that they will not go to Russia without leaving their mark. Together with France, they will easily qualify for the round of 16, eliminating the lower Australia and Denmark. Probably its fourth game was played against Argentina and, you know what? They have many chances to win it. Definitely, I predict that it will be the revelation team of 2018.
Now, finally, my top 5 definitive candidate teams to win this FIFA World Cup.
NUMBER FIVE: ARGENTINA
For those who ask what my team is, I am Argentine and I will support the Argentine Soccer Team of course. Since the defeat against Germany in the last World Cup, Argentina has lost the finals of two consecutive America Cups against Chile (which did not even qualify to the World Cup). Accusations have crossed from one side to another, the fans began to get nervous about the game of the team, 3 technical directors in 3 years led and fail in the selection and even Messi has threatened to leave the team. This unique generation of players like Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and Mascherano has not yet been able to get a title, losing finals in 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The pressure is greater every time. After a bad performance in the qualifiers, Argentina secured its place in the World Cup in the last match against Ecuador. When it seemed that qualifying for Russia 2018 had improved performance and collective mood, the defeat against Nigeria 4-2 in November and the humiliation of losing 6-1 to Spain two weeks ago again showed the many defensive and offensive failures of the team. My fears of being eliminated in the round of 16 or in the quarterfinals are becoming more concrete. With this context, why is Argentina still a candidate to win the World Cup?
Argentina is Argentina, despite losing in the key matches, the team always managed to give quality flashes and reach three consecutive finals after 25 years of bad performances.
Argentina is one of the most passionate teams in the world of football, just look at the fans in the stadium. And, as I said, that is the most important factor that should be in this sport.
Argentina has many players who shine in Europe but none compare to Lionel Messi. Definitely one of the best players in the history of football, Lio will not leave for any reason that he and his golden generation of players who play together since 2007 lose their last chance to be world champions. As Aguero said, no one in the team imagines a situation other than winning the World Cup.
If we fail again again, it may be the biggest failure of a generation in soccer history. Messi, passion and hunger for glory are the factors that can put Argentina back on top of football after 32 years. This will only happen if the necessary changes are made. And that is, stop calling the disaster of Gonzalo Higuain and completely change the midfield.
My team alignment would be:
Defenders: Mercado, Otamendi, Fazio and Tagliafico.
Central midfielders: Acuña and Bustos.
Offensive midfielder: Lanzini.
Front strikers: Messi and Di Maria, Meza or Perotti
Front Central: Aguero.
May Sampaoli reflect and make these changes that will surely give the team a change of scenery and manage to reinforce the possibilities of Argentina to go far.
NUMBER FOUR: FRANCE
Yes, surely you saw it coming.
The French national has managed to overcome the failed participation that has tended in the world cups since losing the final of the World Cup Germany 2006 by penalties against Italy. Well, it was a tough defeat that put an end to the best generation of French football led by the eternal captain Zinedine Zidane.
Now, France is without a doubt one of the top candidates to shout champions in Russia next July 13. This was possible thanks to the great renovation of players that we have seen in the last years. Names that shine in Europe as Griezmann, Mbappe, Lloris, Pogba, Payet, Giroud, Koscielny, Matuidi and Martial are part of a large group of players that make up this promising list of top-level footballers. France has managed to form not one or two but 3 teams of players between holders, substitutes and reserves who are qualified to play a FIFA World Cup.
At first, France was my main candidate. I have come to state publicly that I could bet anything that Les Blues would win the tournament. However, the last two games they played made France lower in my ranking of candidates. Is that France has a problem similar to that of Belgium: lack of passion and synchronization between players. But unlike the Belgians, this situation is reversible.
With football quality ready, Didier Deschamps will only need to psychologically prepare his world class players through motivational talks that encourage the team spirit. Thus, the French national team will again give flashes of quality and will rise with its second World Cup in history.
NUMBER 3: GERMANY
Well, this was pretty obvious to choose. Under the mandate of Joachim Low more than ten years ago, Germany has formed a unique generation of players that will remain as one of the best national teams in history. In this way, Germany has undoubtedly become the greatest power in the world of football. And the culmination of this German odyssey was clearly on July 14, 2014, when in the Maracana Stadium in front of 80000 people crowned world champions for the fourth time. A long road with a satisfaction.
However, the offensive aggressiveness and the accuracy of the German game has declined slightly since 2014, probably due to the wear and tear of this golden generation. In addition, we can say that the rest of the teams (especially Argentina and Brazil) are fed up with the German football hegemony and will give everything to prevent the Teutons from rising again with the cup.
Even so, the champions of the title remain the most technically effective team in the world and each of the 23 players summoned constitutes a threat to the rest of the world.
If Muller, Draxler, Neuer and company manage to regain control over the rest of the football world, Russia 2018 will be their fifth WC and they will reach Brazil as the greatest winners of all time. Thus, the phrase “football is a sport in which Germans always win” would be a fact.
NUMBER 2: SPAIN
All football fans know the hard road that Spain had to travel under the direction of Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque to forget their frustrated past by winning several international tournaments one after another, including the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010. That memorable goal scored by Iniesta at the Soccer City Stadium in the Netherlands at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg remains the biggest soccer milestone for Spain.
However, the Spanish golden age seemed to have a clear end to be eliminated in the group stage of the last World Cup in Brazil.
This defeat distanced Spain from the spotlight of the soccer world, but it also produced a healthy renewal with the arrival of Julen Lopetegui as director. Lopetegui through strategic changes has achieved in the last year to get that technical efficiency that led to the Red Fury to the highest in 2010. With great performances of Iniesta and Isco, the Spaniards returned to give soccer classes in the eliminatory and in the last friendly matches. If you are not sure of the Spanish renovation, just look at the last two games against the finalists Germany and Argentina, which won (to Argentina 6-1). The total pressure of the Spaniards leaves the opponents without possibility or vision of game, added to their precise attack and their unbreakable defense constitutes the solid Spanish football base that, to continue like this, will calmly manage to take the Spanish national team to the top by second time.
I’m sure Iniesta and his friends still have more to prove.
NUMBER 1: BRAZIL
In addition to being Argentine, I am as objective as possible. And yes, I am aware that this year Brazil will most likely win its sixth World Cup. Yes, the Brazilians will prevail after 16 years as the greatest power in the world of football. Yes, everything will go back to normal. As long as neither Germany nor Spain, nor France or Argentina prevent it.
But at what precise moment did the Brazilians manage to put on the embarrassment they suffered while hosting the last World Cup in which they lost 7-1 to Germany and to the two failed participations in the Americas Cup 2015 and 2016? The answer is easy: Olympic Games in Rio. By winning the gold medal, the Brazilians won the only international title they still needed to win and revived the hopes of millions from Porto Alegre to Buzios.
This victory and the change of face for Brazil that led was largely thanks to the new coach Tite, who reaffirmed the new football strength of Brazil through the successful eliminatory and friendly.
Effective, fast and imposing: the historical characteristics of Brazil that managed to recover. Luckily for football, Brazil returns to please with his game. Could Neymar Jr. raise the cup at the Luzhinki Olympic Stadium next July? Only time knows, but I think it’s the most likely. (I hope not)
Oh, and about passion; Well, I do not think it’s something that Brazil doesn’t have.
Thanks for reading my prediction, I would like to know what you think. I hope you do not go crazy with some of my opinions. Football is something wonderful, but it’s just a game. Respect at all coasts.