Friday, May 25, 2018

World Cup 2018 - Group Stage Predictions

Group A: (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)

Host countries usually do well in the World Cup. Even USA got out of the group (with a surprise, and later tragic, win over Columbia) in 1994. Remember Korea's magical run in 2002, and Japan qualifying for the second stage as well? However I don't expect Russia to repeat those feats. Uruguay will easily top this group, but expect Egypt's Mo Salah to carry them through. Maybe it's my romanticism of being a Salah fan, but I don't think Russia has it.

My picks for this group: Uruguay, Egypt.

Group B: (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran)

This is almost a no contest. Portugal are the Euro 2016 champions. They still have Ronaldo. Spain - despite being a pain to watch - are still Spain. Iran, Morocco - thank you for coming. Hope you enjoyed the goal fest. Have a safe trip home.

My picks for this group: Portugal, Spain.

Group C: (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)

It’s hard to look past a strong Danish side with an on-song Christian Eriksen, but Peru are ranked 11th, ahead of Denmark. Yes, football rankings are a bit hit and miss, but Peru had a great qualifying campaign. Australia are no slouches, but they don't have the pedigree in soccer they have in other sports. They always manage to give a good fight and then lose. Cahill or no Cahill. France will blow everyone away in this group.

My picks for this group: France, Peru.

Group D: (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)

I actually expect Argentina to win it all again this year (and hopefully in a final against Germany), so will pick them to top this group (and also, Messi). The second place is a harder pick. The young Croatia squad is a strong one, while Nigeria is also no slacker. It’s hard to see Iceland getting much out of this group. Their dream ends here. Croatia vs Nigeria will decide the 2nd place, and I expect Croatia to win it. With probably a disputed penalty in the 90th minute.

My picks for this group: Argentina, Croatia.

Group E: (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)

Well, Brazil, despite the painful memory of 7-1 against Germany, is still Brazil, so expect them to top this group. The question is who will join them. Costa Rica may have done us all a favour by denying the Americans a World Cup place, but I don't see them repeating their 2014 heroics. Serbia hasn't been a power for so long, so it has to be the Swiss.

My picks for this group: Brazil, Switzerland.

Group F: (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Korea)

They say football is a game of 22 players kicking a ball and in the end, the Germans win. So expect the defending champions to get out of their group in pole position, but they won't have it easy. All the other three sides are equally competent and would have gotten out of the group had they been in ANY other group. What a waste! I would have to pick either Mexico or Sweden, and I think it has to be Mexico for their firepower up front.

My picks for this group: Germany, Mexico.

Group G: (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)

This should be a straight forward campaign for England to get out of their group. Should be. Then again, this is England. Expect Belgium to top the group, and the English to huff and puff their way into second place. The heart wants Tunisia to qualify, but it probably won't happen.

My picks for this group: Belgium, England.

Group H: (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

This is the hardest group to pick. Any one could beat anyone. Who cares though? None of them are strong enough to win the Cup. But they can all win their group. I would have to go with the flair of Senegal and the hardwork of Colombia.

My picks for this group: Colombia, Senegal.

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