The moment has finally arrived, with one sleep to go until the entire world will be infected with a dose of football fever as the quadrennial World Cup hits our TV screens from Russia with love. Who will win? Who will score the most goals? Who will be the surprise package? So many questions, but luckily I’m here to answer them all for you:
Runner Up: Brazil
Third Place: France
Fourth Place: Argentina
Top Scorer: Neymar
Golden Ball: Mueller
Surprise team: Iceland
Whipping Boys: Panama
Best young talent: Mbappe
Group A: Uruguay and Russia
This group contains the hosts, two time champions Uruguay and a distinct arab flavour with both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Uruguay are the clear stand out here, many players plying their trade in Europe, the best of which is the firepower up front in Cavani and Suarez. Whilst Egypt have their own attacking weapon in Salah, I think the home crowd will get behind the Russians and they’ll just scrape through the group along with Uruguay.
Group B: Spain and Portugal
Iran will feel aggrieved to have got the short straw on this one having to deal with both Iberian countries with Morocco making up the group. Cristiano Ronaldo and his boys will be out to prove the Euro championship was no fluke. Spain is always a formidable proposition, although the sacking of their coach at the 11th hour will affect them in the knockout rounds I feel.
Group C: France and Denmark
This one is a tricky one. France of course are the stand out and will top the group, but who will join them in the next round? Interestingly none of the other teams qualified automatically, all had to take the indirect path through playoffs, so none really give me any confidence. Denmark however do have experience in the big European leagues across their squad and if they can gel I see no issue with them getting past Australia and Peru.
Group D: Argentina and Iceland
Death, taxes and Argentina/Nigeria in the same group! The last realistic chance for Messi to shine on the world stage. This one is big for him and I expect him to win this group in a canter. I have Iceland as the surprise second place finishers in this group. The game in the country has improved leaps and bounds in recent years. Their performance in Euro 2016 captured the hearts of many and qualifying for this tournament shows it was no fluke. Perfectly capable of getting a result against Croatia and getting past Nigeria to qualify with Argentina.
Group E: Brazil and Switzerland
This one is probably the toughest to call. Brazil of course are favourites, but Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica all have strong claims for second place. The latter had a fantastic run in the 2014 World Cup. Switzerland stands out for me here though, even though Serbia qualified automatically it was in an easier group, while Switzerland only missed out on goal difference to Portugal. While Costa Rica did ever so well in their qualifying, I don’t see a repeat of 2014 happening.
Group F: Germany and Mexico
Another tough one to pick. Germany speak for themselves, but Mexico, Sweden and the Korea Republic more than capable to fight out for second place. Mexico have a habit of getting out of whatever group they get given at World Cups and I think their experience will get them over the line here.
Group G: Belgium and England
Surely England can’t stuff this one up. Always the one to flatter to deceive, you’d think they’d have the firepower to see off Tunisia and debutants Panama. Belgium with their Golden Generation will be looking at topping this group and being a threat in the knock out rounds also.
Group H: Colombia and Poland
Senegal are back in the big time for the first time since they shocked France back in 2002. They’re joined by Japan, Colombia and Poland. Colombia should not have too many issues here especially with they way they qualified and how they performed in the last World Cup. Poland should have too much experience for their African and Asian rivals.
Top scorer: Neymar
You want to pick a guy who’s team will go deep into the tournament, who’s group is easy to navigate and a guy who scores the majority of his team’s goals. That guy is Neymar.
Golden ball: Mueller
This guy just can’t help but shine at World Cups. He is a pivotal player for Germany and will not only assist his team mates, he will slowly creep up to his compatriot and Ronaldo as one of the greatest World Cup goal scorers in history.
Surprise team: Iceland
I am banking on this team continuing on their recent success and continuing the fairytale that started in Euro 2016 onto this historic qualification. A team with nothing to lose they’ll fancy themselves against Nigeria and Croatia. They did after all beat Croatia in qualifying.
Best emerging talent: Kylian Mbappe
Already having achieved so much at a young age, he’s been selected in the French squad ahead of the likes of Lacazette and Martial. This tournament could be his first of many and he could truly announce himself to the world.
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