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FIFA 2018 World Cup Group Guide & Predictions

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It’s almost time for the World Cup! As the draw was announced we put together a guide for every World Cup Group and a rundown of their chances in 2018, featuring the key players to look out for:

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World Cup Group A

 

RUSSIA

FIFA World Ranking – 65

 

Hosts Russia haven’t fared too well in World Cups since their impressive semi-final run art Euro 2008.

Failed to qualify in South Africa 2010 or Germany 2006.

Their run up to the world cup has been marred by unsatisfactory results and fan violence at Euro 2016

This meant they were close to being disqualified from the tournament because of this.

They haven’t gone further than the World Cup group stage since 1986 Mexico

A home turf world cup win for the country will be a highlight for Russia natives.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Igor Akinfeev – CSKA goalkeeper and captain for both club and country. Has won six Russian Premier League titles, six Russian Cups and a Europa League in 2005 (at 19 years old!)

Prediction – Group Stage knockout

 

SAUDI ARABIA

FIFA World Ranking – 63

 

Saudi Arabia’s national team are one of the most successful teams in Asia as three time winners of the Asian Cup.

They reached the Last 16 of the 1994 World Cup in the USA; however, they aren’t expected to get too far in this world cup so getting to the knockout stages will be a big bonus.

They’ve dismissed two managers in the run up to qualification and have lost friendlies to Portugal and Bulgaria.

New manager is the Argentinian Juan Antonio Pizzi.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Mohammad Al-Sahlawi – With 28 goals in 35 caps for Saudi Arabia the country will definitely be looking toward their star man for some goals.

Prediction – Group Stage knockout

 

EGYPT

FIFA World Ranking – 31

 

As 7 time Cup Of Nations Winners – “The Pharaohs” as they are natively known are the most successful team in Africa.

They are also one of only three teams to ever break through the top 10 of the Fifa rankings.

This will only be their 3rd appearance at the world cup and their first for 18 years

Manager Hector Cuper prefers a counter attacking style that will surely make use of some of the potent threats in this team.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Mo Salah – The Liverpool attacker has been recently crowned African footballer of the year. He has scored 18 goals in 20 appearances at the time of writing and doesn’t look like slowing down.

Prediction – Last 16 (2nd in Group)


URUGUAY

FIFA World Ranking – 21

 

Urugay have won the Copa America cup the most time at a whopping 15 occasions

They’re also a recognisable name in the World Cup. As two time winners Uruguay hold the record as the country to have won the world cup with the smallest population at (under 2 million in 1950!).

Their record is easily the strongest in this group and they should sail through. Last records have been Last 16 in Brazil 2014 and a fourth place position in South Africa 2010

As an ageing squad they are looking to rebuild with fresh talent from regular youthful starters Vaverde and Nandez.

KEY PLAYERS

    • Luis Suarez – The former Liverpool and current Barcelona stalwart doesn’t need much introduction. Famous for his tenacious appetite for goals and more controversially human flesh. Alas with 49 goals in 95 caps for Uruguay and a devastating run of form at Barcelona let’s hope he can be on his best behaviour…

  • Edison Cavani – The prolific PSG goal scorer will surely be hoping to replicate his glistening club successes at this World Cup and being the top scorer of the south American qualifiers we can guess there will be even more to look forward to in Russia.

Prediction – Last 16 (1st in Group)

 

World Cup Group B

 

PORTUGAL

FIFA World Ranking – 3

 

Portugal are a team that has an excellent record in tournament football

Reached the semi-finals in the 2006 world cup

Champions of Euro 2016 – they will be taking a very experienced side into this tournament.

Plus, beating France in the final as underdogs with an injured Ronaldo has already proved they have the spirit to win with the odds stacked against them!

KEY PLAYERS

  • Ronaldo – 5 time Ballon Do’r Winner, arguably the best footballer in the world. Capable of spearheading his country to win tournaments. Whilst good by most player standards he hasn’t been finishing for Real Madrid with the frequency of earlier seasons so this could be the start of his decline as a player.
  • Pepe – Coach Fernando Santos is a stickler for defence so it makes sense to have this man in the team to enforce a confident pressing defence

Prediction – Semis (1st in group)

 

SPAIN

FIFA World Ranking – 6

 

Spain, The Tiki-Taka kings of the game have regressed from a period of dominating world football

From 2008-2012 they won the Euros twice and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Times have changed a little bit since then after not making it out of the group stage in 2016’s Euros.

With a plethora of huge names in World Football it remains to be seen whether Morata who has been on a sporadic run of form at Chelsea will be selected to head the attack at the Cup.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Andres Iniesta – winning goal scorer of the 2010 world cup and still a lynchpin in midfield. As an ageing player his contribution may not be the same as in past few tournaments
  • David De Gea – Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now with his reflexes and shot stopping abilities second to none which will definitely come in handy at the World Cup.

Prediction – Quarter Finals (2nd in Group)

 

MORROCCO

FIFA World Ranking – 40

 

Having only participated in the world cup five times Morrocos chances of winning are slim.

Their most notable achievement in this tournament is reaching the second round in 1986.

They do have some influential players to look out for with Ajax youngster Hakim Ziyech’s ability to create chances.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Medhi Benatia – as captain of the team and first choice Juventus centre back, Benatia will provide the experience and security needed in a group full of quality opposition goal threats. The Moroccan defence didn’t concede single goal in qualification.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

IRAN

FIFA World Ranking – 32

 

Ranked as the top team in Asia winning three Asian Cups and Qaulified for the World Cup five times.

However they have only ever won one game at the World Cup, beating the United States in France ’98.

Like Morocco, Iran focused on a strong defence to reach qualification but they will be playing with nothing to lose which can always be an ace up a sleeve against countries with high expectations in the group like Portugal and Spain.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Sardar Azmoun – A striker who has come up through the Iran ranks since U17 level and has scored 22 goals in 30 appearances for the senior team. Azmoun has creativity aplenty and is also an aerial threat.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

World Cup Group C

 

FRANCE

FIFA World Ranking – 9

 

Winners of one World Cup, two Euros and an Olympic tournament.

France’s successes from 98-2000 have been followed by long period of with near misses.

Lost out to Portugal in the final of Euro 2016

Before that they did well to reach the Quarter Finals in Brazil 2014 (losing out to the eventual winners, Germany) and losing a penalty shootout in the 2006 World Cup Final to Italy.

This stylish side will provide some good games for sure, with depth of talent in this squad with the  creativity and flair of players such as Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, the attacking tenacity of Benzema and Olivier Giroud.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Kylian Mbappe – The PSG forward (on loan from Monaco) is one of the world’s best young talent’s at 18 years old. Described as a future Messi or Ronaldo for good reason. Defender’s in this group are sure to be wary of him.

Prediction: Semi Finals (1st in Group)

 

AUSTRALIA

FIFA World Ranking – 39

 

Drawn against a tough group in 2014, Australia played valiantly losing 3-2 to Netherlands, 3-1 to Chille and 3-0 to previous winners, Spain.

With manager Postecoglou resigned six days after beating Honduras to secure qualification to the 2018 World Cup

Looks like Australia are in for a reshuffle of playing style as the tournament looms closer.

Likelihood of progression is slim, but they could be a wildcard

KEY PLAYER

  • Tim Cahill although 38 will provide experience to the squad and will be looking to improve his tally of 50 goals for his country at the upcoming tournament


Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

PERU

FIFA World Ranking – 11

 

Beating off rivals Ecuador, Paraguay and Chille for the South Americas spot in qualification, two time Copa America winners, Peru, have a style of play characterised by fast build

They are likely to soak up pressure against the likes of France in this group and attempt to bully them on the counter attack with players like Farfan, Andy Polo and Andre Carrillo leading the charge with their lightening pace.

KEY PLAYERS

  • Jefferson Farfan – the Locomotive Moscow wide player will be a lychpin in attack renowned for his pace, technical ability and a talent for racking up assists.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

DENMARK

FIFA World Ranking – 12

 

On top of being winners of the 1992 Euros in Sweden and reaching the quarter finals in 1998 (losing out 3-2 to Brazil) Denmark have almost always been in contention for international competitions.

Unbeaten as a team since 2016, this team will be centered on playmaker Christian Eriksen whose vision of the game could be a make or break factor in this team’s success in the tournament.

KEY PLAYER

  • Eriksen – The creative ability to thread through near impossible passes is going to be a massive asset to the team as well as his proven goalscoring ability. It’s likely that everything will go through him but this may also make him an easy target for the opposition as his performance may be the deciding factor for Denmark.

Prediction: Last 16 (2nd in Group)

 

World Cup Group D

 

ARGENTINA

FIFA World Ranking – 4

 

This is one of the teams you just don’t want to be drawn against in any competition. 14 time winners of the Copa America, 5 time world cup finalists (winning it twice) and 6 time winners of the South America Championship, these team isn’t really to be messed with. If those weren’t enough to be a afraid of thy have a front three consisting of Aguero, Di Maria and Messi.

Without winning a World Cup, the argument of whether Messi’s career has been the greatest of all time will always be marred by this. So if he was ever holding anything back before it’s unlikely that will happen, especially when we’ve recently seen him be able to pull hat-tricks out of the bag to secure qualification for his country.

It’s not a one man show however and the Argentina squad will be buoyed by defender Otamendi flourishing in form for Man City under Pep Guardiola which should help bolster a defence that hasn’t been at the very top level in recent times.

Key player: Lionel Messi
Heralded by many as the best player in the word with only Ronaldo to compare with, this forward is capable of being the reason why Argentina win the world cup if it happens. He just hasn’t replicated his Barcelona form in an Argentina shirt. Can this tournament be the change?

Prediction – Quarter Final (1st in group)

 

ICELAND

FIFA World Ranking – 22

With a population of 330,000 (for perspective, this is the same size as Coventry) Iceland have been enoying relative successes in the last few years. In Euro 2016 they bagged home and away wins against the Netherlands and beating England in the last 16, they progressed  as far as the quarter finals losing 5-2 to France.

A team that is recognised as being the smallest population to qualify for a World Cup they will be looking towards Everton’s Gylfi Sigudsson as an attacking midfield threat to give them the best chance at this tournament. As well as their 12th man – the ultra dedicated squad of football fans the “Tólfan”, categorised by their Viking War Cry.

Key Players: Gylfi Siggurdsson
Everton playmaker may be the striking force needed for Iceland to progress out of the group

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

CROATIA

FIFA World Ranking – 17

Croatia is another international team that is solid in how frequently they are involved in major tournaments. Finishing 3rd in France ’98 and reaching quarter finals in Euros 2008 and 2016 they aren’t a team to overlook and have a good chance of the getting out of this group.

A team that is capable of big wins (se Croatia vs San Marino 10-0), captained by Real Madrid’s eagle eyed passer Luka Modric with extra attacking prowess from the likes of Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Barcelonas Rakitic; expect to see some entertaining games wherever this team is involved.

Key Player: Luka Modric: The passing abilities of Modric will be instrumental in feeding some of the attacking strengths as this team has plenty

Prediction: Group Stage knockout


NIGERIA

FIFA World Ranking – 50

The three time Africa Cup Of Nations winners are also a team that seems to always come up against Argentina in group stages of major tournaments, to the lament of Super Eagles fans. A team that’s had some iconic players through the years such as Jay Ja Okocha and who can forget Yakubu’s legacy? Even if it includes that horrendous open goal miss.

Nigeria is a team that will want to improve on reaching the last 16 of the last world cup (losing out 2-0 to France). There are attacking threats from Leicester’s Iheanacho, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and added stability from captain Mikel.

A recent friendly win against Argentina could be a prelude for some World Cup glory for the Super Eagles:

Key players: Victor Moses
An attacking threat that shouldn’t be ignored if he can replicate last season’s form at Chelsea for Nigeria.

Prediction: Last 16 (2nd in group)

 

World Cup Group E

 

BRAZIL

FIFA World Ranking – 2

Winning it five times, Brazil are the most successful team in World Cup history, producing quality players and teams over the years including the likes of Pele, Zico, Ronaldo, Garrincha, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and the list does go on.

England fans should look away at the below video…

It will be hard to get the taste of losing 7-1 to Germany out from their mouths (in a world cup which they were hosting) but with that in recent memory it probably wise to consider Brazil the poked bull of the tournament, ready to be uncaged…

Key Player: PSG’s Neymar made the move away from Barcelona and is in prime position to take over the dominance of the steadily ageing Ronaldo and Messi as the best player in the world. He’s in firing form as usual and has the ability to devastate teams without too much assistance.

Prediction – Winner

 

SWITZERLAND

FIFA World Ranking – 8

The Swiss team has had a history of qualification into the world cup culminating in reaching the last 16 at the 2014 tournament.

Historically solid defensively, they were bizarrely knocked out of World Cup 2006 – losing on penalties to Ukraine – without conceding a single goal.

World Cup 2018 Qualification saw them miss out on the top spot on goal difference to Portugal meaning they had to fend off a strong Northern Irish side in the playoffs winning 1-0 on aggregate and securing their place to Russia 2018.

Key Players: Xherdan Shaquiri, the former Bayern Munich and Inter man plays with flair and has serious technical ability. Currently enjoying tough premier league football for a typically hard to beat (especially whilst its cold and rainy) Stoke City – Premier League grit may prove essential in this group and as the top scorer for Switzerland in this current squad it seems as though he  will be the man to turn to if things get difficult.

Prediction – Last 16 (2nd in group)

 

COSTA RICA

FIFA World Ranking – 26

Football is way of life for this Central American team and with reaching the quarter finals after getting out of a group with Italy, England & Uruguay; Costa Rica must be taken as a serious contender for success at this World Cup.

Key Player: Joel Campbell, with one of the best goals to game ratios for Costa Rica and still not having peaked yet as a footballer, the Real Betis loanee (Arsenal being his parent club). Although a string of injuries this year have left him with the possibility of missing out on some important friendlies so his involvement isn’t certain.

Prediction – Group Stage knockout

 

SERBIA

FIFA World Ranking – 37

The recognised successor of Serbia and Montenegro and Yugoslavia, Serbia  has played as an independent country since 2006. A team that is a pleasure to have in these games, their most notable achievement comes from a 1-0 win over Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Key Players: Branislav Ivanovic enjoyed a successful time at Chelsea as a core defensive choice at centre-back (winning 10 trophies, including a champions league, three premier leagues and an FA cup title) which means there’s no surprise that he captains the team from the back for native Serbia. As underdogs in this group, they will be looking to him for security.

Prediction – Group Stage knockout

 

World Cup Group F

 

GERMANY

FIFA World Ranking – 1

One of the most successful national sides – this is a country that focuses a lot on their youth teams, they have more coaches than any other country bar Spain, a breadth of homegrown players playing in the Bundesliga (47% compared to England’s 30%), and tough competition for places in the side make them the favourites for this competition, and as cup defenders you wouldn’t be surprised if they made it to the final once again.

The list of players that can change games and secure back lines is extensive, meaning a so called german “second team” could probably still do well. A confederations cup win also allowed late bloomer Lars Stindl to flourish giving even more depth to their attacking line.

Key Players: Thomas Muller – having returned from injury missing games in the season it’s highly likely that Muller will be the focal forward man of the squad, being used to playing a multitude of forward positions he’s a threat from anywhere, this is probably unfortunate news for the other teams in this group as we’re confident in seeing Germany rank top of theirs but, as we all know, anything can happen in football…

Prediction – Final – Runner Up

 

MEXICO

FIFA World Ranking – 16

Mexico are a tricky side to beat, however there is a fifth game curse with this team, as in they always make the round of 16 but dramatically get knocked out to rarely ever make the quarters. This has been the case in the last 6 World Cups, so it’s likely they will make it out if this group depending on what kind of form the Swedish are in.

Key Player: Javier Hernandez has been called back up to the side being the all-time highest scorer with 100 caps and 49 goals. A wealth of experience, scoring profusely in multiple world cups and international leagues, you can definitely he is their most potent goal threat.

Prediction – Last 16 (2nd in group)


SWEDEN

FIFA World Ranking – 18

A team that are up for it, qualifying by matching the Netherlands points, just beating them on goal difference and then going into playoffs to knock Italy out of the running for qualification, a feat that surprised the footballing world. Talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimović, stopped his national duties in 2016 and his ongoing recovery from his ACL injury is positive but he’s not starting at club level, which means he isn’t likely to be a last minute call up. But will he?

Key Player: Sweden will look to the striking abilities of Marcus Berg who was instrumental in the qualifying stages scoring 6 goals.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout


KOREA REPUBLIC (SOUTH KOREA)

FIFA World Ranking – 60

Many will remember South Korea’s run in the 2002 World Cup – beating a nine-man Portugal, then advancing onto the semi-finals by after beating a top level Italy side and holding Spain to a penalty shootout which they lost gallantly! A great showing, but in recent times this team has generally been poor, typified by circumstantial qualification this year, depending on Iran to hold off Syria and drawing to Uzbekistan by a goalless draw.

Key Players: We’ll be looking out for Tottenham’s Son Heung-min who has racked up 20 goals for his country so far and has the premier league record as the highest scoring Asian player. Equalling fellow countryman Park Ju Sung at the time of writing (19).

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

World Cup Group G

 

BELGIUM

FIFA World Ranking – 5

This team has a wealth of talent. They did exceptionally well by getting to the Quarter finals of the World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016. Managed by Roberto Martinez and captained by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (the team also features his brother Thorgan in attacking midfield). They’ve got Courtouis in goal, big man up front Romelu Lukaku is the country’s all time highest goal scorer with 31 goals and they have the technique and vision of De Bruyne to dictate the game like he has been doing so for Man City ever so well. This team could go very far and will likely top this group.

Key Player: The team will be buoyed by the form of Kevin De Bruyne who has found lightening form under Pep Guardiola and shows a maturity and finesse that will be invaluable for their tournament hopes.

Prediction: Quarter Finals (1st in group)


PANAMA

FIFA World Ranking – 55


It been tale of heartbreak for Panama in the every qualification up until now, so it’s good to see them get through, even in bizarre fashion secure their first ever spot at the World Cup. Usurping USA’s seemingly secured spot with a dubious touchline goal debate…

Key Player: Blas Perez has scored “two” crucial goals recently for Panama and is the second highest scorer for the team. Panama will be looking towards players like this to stand any change of getting out of the group.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

TUNISIA

FIFA World Ranking – 27

 

They’ve qualified for four world cups but they have ever made it out of the first round. They do hold the record for being the first African team to win a World cup match, thrashing Mexico 3-1 In 1978. They also won the 2004 Africa Cup Of Nations.

In qualification into this World Cup they topped group A fending off the likes of Congo, Libya & Guinea.

Key Players: As a solid defender on loan currently to Marseille from Valencia, Aymen Abdennour will be a core of Tunisia’s game plan as they do their best to win a game at the world cup.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

ENGLAND

FIFA World Ranking – 15

 

England is the oldest national football team in the World, joint with Scotland. It’s been a tumultuous decade of expectations and disappointment for England; even Pep Guardiola stated he didn’t know why England’s golden generation (which included Rooney, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Ferdinand, Terry & A. Cole) didn’t go on to be as successful as the Spain team that dominated world football from 2008 to 2014.

Have a look at this classic moment:

That being said England have to put all of that in the past and focus on a new era of football that is based around building the current talent and youth in the squad. The pace and technical skill of Lallana, Walker, Sterling, Alli, Rashford & Kane to name a few are all threats to other teams when in form and injury free at the same time this is all circumstantial and this team will do very well to reach the levels of quarter final expectation that the country previously had as a minimum.

This is all typified by a lacklustre display in Euro 2016 against Iceland in the Last 16 under Roy Hodgson, however new manager Gareth Southgate is making bold decisions and if these players can replicate the same form they are showing for their clubs they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Unless it goes to penalties.

Key Player: Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. His international form hasn’t quite been the same as club but he can prove he is truly World Class for England if he can lead the country to success.


Prediction: Quarter Final (2nd in group)

 

World Cup Group H

 

POLAND

FIFA World Ranking – 7

 

Poland will be looking to at least improve on relatively poor World Cup results in neighbouring Russia. Lewandowski, Pizcek and Blaszczykowski will all be looking to make a mark at what will likely be their final World Cups after doing so well to reach the quarter finals of Euro 2016.

Key Player: Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich forward is a potent goal threat who has already scored over 20 goals this season for club. He is Poland’s highest goal scorer and the ountry will be hoping he is in form so they can move out of the group stages.

Prediction: Last 16 (1st in group)

 

SENEGAL

FIFA World Ranking – 23

 

Senegal will be hoping to replicate the wonders of their first World cup appearance in 2002 where they beat defending champions France in the opening games and managed to reach the semi-finals in the process. Following Ghana and Cameroons legacies in reaching the semi-finals as an African team.

Key Player: Sadio Mane, part of Liverpools False 9 he’s capable of decimating defences and has proven himself in the national team too scoring 14 goals.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

COLOMBIA

FIFA World Ranking – 13

 

The Colombia national team is one that breathes football and reaching the quarter finals in 2014 was a testament to this. A team with James Rodriguez, Cuadrado and Falcao is one for opposition defenders to be wary especially if they all find form at the right time in 2018. Time will tell.

Key Player: James Rodriguez, a player who lit up the World Cup in 2014 before signing for Real Madrid. The result of the transfer hasn’t been the most positive and he is currently on a loan spell at Bayern Munich with 2 goals and 4 assists in 20 appearances at the time of writing. Might be a case of new year new me…

Prediction: Last 16 (2nd in group)

 

JAPAN

FIFA World Ranking – 57

 

A team with notable names of Kagawa, Leicester’s Okazaki, Southampton defender Yoshida, this team doesn’t have the quality on paper to progress to the group stages but will definitely be hoping for an iconic World Cup win.

Key Player: Shinji Kagawa, Borussia Dortmund creative midfielder enjoyed a spell at Manchester United before going back to Dortmund and with 89 caps for country he is definitely one of the leaders of the squad with technical ability.

Prediction: Group Stage knockout

 

Who will get to the final? Predict below

Embrace the world cup! This tournament means everything to get there

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