Predicting the 2018 World Cup

Earlier this morning, the draw was held to determine the groups for the 2018 World Cup. Obviously the United States won't be participating, so instead of focusing on how they would have done, let's take a look at the tournament as a whole.



 --- Group stage ---

The lack of a true group of death means Cinderellas will be less likely and big time, big money favorites will go deep, ensuring FIFA's pockets get deeper.

Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay


Somehow not even a top-three contender for the most controversial host of this millenium, the Russians drew a fairly easy group to contend with. I'm sure that sits well with Russian football authorities who will be hoping the national team can advance to the knockout stage for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

Arguably the strongest contender in the group is Egypt. Riding a wave of momentum through the African Cup of Nations to make their first appearance at the world's largest sporting event for the first time in 28 years was a huge accomplishment for a nation whose recent struggles on the pitch and far beyond have been nothing short of monumental. Led by otherworldly talent Mo Salah, the Pharaohs will be solid bets to make it through the group with relative ease.

Egypt
Russia
Uruguay
Saudi Arabia


Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran


Look at this and tell me this doesn't make for one of the best storylines of the entire event:



That's right. A triple (quadruple?) geographic rivalry for the ages.

First there's the heat on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain itself has been going through a lot since the Catalan region tried making a push for secession and independence. Nothing pretty about that. 

Then, right across the border is Portugal. These two have been battling for centuries, and though things have been far more diplomatic as of late, there will always be an increase in interest whenever these two nations meet at such a prestigious event.

Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and heading south you'll find Morocco. Sure they're not exactly the soccer powerhouse their European neighbors are, but there's bound to be plenty of talk and hope heading into the tourney that they might be able to spark up something. Though there have only been two all-time meetings against each other, with Spain picking up 1-0 and 3-2 wins in an inter-confederation to qualify for the 1962 World Cup.

While it was rumored that these three might consider partnering up for a joint bid to land the 2026 World Cup, it doesn't seem like they're quite as good of friends as the North American bidders.

Spain
Portugal
Morocco
Iran


Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark


With no American team to root for, the Aussies will be receiving my support this time around. A lot of people are hopping on the Iceland bandwagon for their cool clapping and Nordic heritage and whatnot, and that's fine, but it's really hard not to love a country that uses this



as their unofficial flag for all international sporting teams.

France
Peru
Australia
Denmark


Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria


The group every casual sports fan with a Twitter account will be talking about. Iceland has been such a hot topic lately that they opened a store in the Galleria Mall not too long ago. As the smallest country (pop. 334,252) ever to make it to the World Cup, that means it's technically the most talented soccer country per capita (1 national player per 14,000 citizens) on the planet.

Argentina barely made this tournament by the skin of their teeth (teeth have no skin, which just shows exactly how close they came to missing it entirely). Croatia finished just two points behind Iceland in their group and made it in by taking down Greece in the playoff, while Nigeria topped their qualifier handily, going 4-2-0.

Nigeria
Iceland
Croatia
Argentina


Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia


Brazil is the only country to ever qualify for every single World Cup tournament there has ever been. Dating back to 1930, they've won it all five times, but absolutely imploded on home soil last time around.

The Swiss actually tied Portugal in UEFA qualifying with 27 overall points, but since their goal differential was much less impressive, they had to go through the playoff and beat Northern Ireland - which they did on a miniscule 1-0 aggregate.

Brazil
Costa Rica
Switzerland
Serbia


Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea


Some have labeled Group F as this year's Group of Death. I don't buy it. Germany is a usually strong competitor and will easily top this group. But beyond that, the other three countries are simple, fine participants who probably won't get past the Round of 16. If you remove the Germans from the equation, I think you're left with arguably the most evenly-matched, competitive group in the tournament. It's not worthy of being called the Group of Death. More like the Group of Unfortunate Placement.

Germany
Mexico (unless Ibrahimović comes back)
Sweden (if Ibrahimović doesn't come back)
South Korea


Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England


England really should've taken a lesson from the Americans and missed out on this tournament altogether. Sure they won the group, but they played in what was probably the weakest bunch in UEFA. Second-place Slovakia was the only runner-up to be left out of the confederation playoff, if that tells you anything about the quality of their competition.


The Three Lions haven't had a truly impressive World Cup showing since their fourth-place finish in 1990, and Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds have seen so much agony in the years before and since then that they had to write a song about it.






And then another.






And still another.





The acceptable level of play in England is obviously much higher than in the United States, and I'm of the opinion that if they had missed out on the World Cup like the Italians, they could've been able to kickstart a rebuild that would've had them in the semifinals in 2026. A country so wild about a team that excels at disappointing is pretty relatable for some reason.

Belgium
England
Panama
Tunisia

P.S. Was that John Oliver in there?





Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan


You couldn't pick out a less threatening group if you walked into Build-A-Bear. Top to bottom, this group will be the most unpredictable and probably the most fun.

Senegal
Poland
Japan
Colombia

--- Round of 16 ---

Mo Salah or not, I just can't see an upstart Egyptian team making it past Ronaldo.

Egypt
Portugal


The magic runs out on the media's darling.

France
Iceland


El Tri? More like El Nice Tri.

Brazil
Mexico


I just don't smell an upset here.

Belgium
Poland


Unless there's some funny business (and it's Russia so I'm sure there will be).

Spain
Russia


If they were playing Australia like my gut said they would, the Nigeria would win. But they won't, so they won't.

Nigeria
Peru


Easy pick.

Germany
Costa Rica


Saving the heartache for the latter stages just intensifies the pain.

Senegal
England


--- Quarterfinals ---

I don't know, man. I hate Ronaldo as a player but I have a feeling.

Portugal
France


Neymar says Brazil is back. I buy it.

Brazil
Belgium


Eh.

Spain
Peru


Until they prove they can actually do it all, I can't honestly say I think England can do it all.

Germany
England


--- Semifinals ---

The great thing about history and an international event like this is that they often clash in fun ways (i.e. Group B). Now we'll have a former colony and the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America thanks to the Treaty of Tordesillas will beating the ancestors of their original colonizers.

Portugal
Brazil


The top-ranked country in the world will not falter here.

Spain
Germany


--- Third-Place Game ---

The Battle on the Iberian returns with much more on the line. Thankfully, Ronaldo keeps his shirt on this time.

Portugal
Spain


--- Final ---

It won't be 7-1, and Germany won't tie Brazil's all-time World Cup count.

Brazil
Germany

Popular posts from this blog

Embarrassment of richest

The IOC did better (this time)

Jake’s Takes: Dealing Kane offers plenty of upside