Group A: The Minnows
(The worst group)
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
This group is frankly the most boring. Saudi Arabia is arguably the crappiest side in this tournament and the hosts aren’t anticipated to exceed any expectations either. However, In first place will be Egypt. The Pharaohs are on fire and they have Liverpool superstar and Egyptian King Mohammed Salah who picked up an injury in the Champions League final in May. If he recovers in time, Egypt will reign supreme in this group. Uruguay will come in second. They finished second in South American World Cup qualification, and the attacking duo Luis Suarez (FC Barcelona) and Edison Cavani (PSG) could be lethal to their opposition. The hosts have never been impressive in any way in Euro 2016 or recent International friendlies so they will be third. As far as the Saudi national team goes, they lost all their friendly matches this year, thereby proving blatant inferiority.
Group B: The Iberian peninsula
(Portugal and Spain are adjacent countries and Morocco is an hour away by ferry from Gibraltar)
Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Neighbouring countries in the Iberian Peninsula are in this group. Ronaldo is the best player in the world and he will lead Portugal to the top. If Silva, Quaresma and his other teammates support him, they could go on to win this tourney. The second team I’m favouring is Morroco. The North Africans are a solid team who have been playing quite well. In 2018, they’ve been lossless coming into the tournament with wins against Nigeria, Slovakia, and Serbia under their belt. think they might do something special. Spain imbecilically and perhaps suicidally sacked their coach a few days prior to the start of the tournament which will be a big blow for them. Unless the assistant coach can rinse and repeat Lopetegui’s tactical genius that thrashed Argentina, and drew to Germany and Switzerland this year, I think the demons from their last World Cup flop might consume them. Lastly, despite Iran being the top team in Asia, I haven’t heard of a single Iranian player playing for a big club anywhere. Furthermore, Iran haven’t won a match in the World Cup in 20 years therefore, they are the worst in this tight group.
Group C: Underdogs
(Apart from the French, the rest of teams are expected to do little)
France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Despite my label of this group and respect for the French national team, I think they’ll underwhelm this year. “Haters gonna hate,” as the cliche colloquialism goes, but Peru is gonna top this group. They are a gritty, exciting, and formidable South American side. With Captain Paul Guerrero’s doping ban lifted, the Peruvians haven’t been more confident going into a World Cup. They’ve also been on a lossless international streak this year. France, while having significant individualism and at least a dozen and a half of big-name players have been a bit tenuous lately. They lost to Colombia in a March friendly at home, and most unexpectedly, tied to the U.S in their last warm-up game for the World Cup. (Still deeply pissed off at the fact that my favourite team, the US, didn’t qualify). The French, however, still deserve the second spot and the Danes, while being a valiant side, will fall really close. Christian Eriksen and Kasper Schmeichel are key players to watch though, nonetheless. The Socceroos (Australian national team) will just be another mediocre team although I do want to see Tim Cahill lace up for his last tournament and bang a couple of otherworldly golazos.
Group D: Group of Death
(Any team could be a the bottom, and any team can very well be at the top)
Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
In every World Cup, there is that juicy group of death. This year, I’m pumped to announce it’s this one. All teams can potentially beat each other. No nation is substantially better than the other. If this were the Argentina of four years ago; an organized and respectable side, I would put them at the top. Coming into this cup, however, they lost to Nigeria in November and were raped by Spain 6-1 in March. Jorge Sampaoli has to figure out a way to unify his talent-laden ship including Messi of course, Higuaín, Di Maria, Dybala, Aguerro, Masacherano etc. For the lack of confidence I have for their team, unless Messi can carry a Titanic on his back and take them to the dub, I put them second to finish. In first, I put Iceland. They are my number-one Dark Horse for this tourney. After beating England, and tying with the winners of that championship at Euro 2016, they are going in with more hype and excitement than any other team in this World Cup. They will either flop hard, or succeed shockingly. Its tough to say, but I’m buying the latter. Despite having arguably the best African team in this group, I don’t see a very different Nigeria from the one in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. I believe they’ll finish third. They’re a solid team, especially in their region but they have a history of underperformance at the international stage. That being said, if John Obi Mikel, Iwobi, and Musa can build some kind of lethal chemistry in front of goal, who knows what records they’ll break for Africa. The mighty Croatians are another team that are jacked with talent. With the likes of Rakitic, Modric, and Mandzunikic, they’ll be a formidable team at this tournament but with the perilous nature of this group, I have to put them in last.
Group E: Brazilian Christmas
(Brazil’s gettin’ it hella easy this time)
Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
If you’re Brazilian, you are loving this action right now. Undoubtedly, Brazil will top this group. Even if they’re without Neymar, their squad is star-studded with talents like Coutinho, Danilo, Marcelo, Allison, Jesus etc. The second choice is difficult but Costa Rica will do it. They are among the best in CONCACAF and they stupefied me in the last World cup by getting to the quarter-finals and only losing a spot in the Semis because of losing in a penalty shootout against Holland. While the Swiss have always been a robust group, they lack in ferocity and grit. They’ve just been that team that always has to make it from Europe but fail to make any kind of headlines. They will finish third. Although the Serbians are competent and could possibly even beat a rusty Costa Rican team or an offensively tenuous Swiss side, they’ll come last.
Group F: 50/50
(Two shitty teams, two really good teams)
Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
This group can conveniently be factored into two small groups: The two good teams we wanna watch and the other two the lay soccer fan doesn’t give a shit about. (You can infer which is which) Germany will obviously top this one. The World Cup title-holders have a team with both experience and fresh talent. Toni Kroos, Mueller, Ozil, Reus and even aging Mario Gomez are all in the squad: guys who have been in the same spot before. Alongside them, they have prodigies like Kimmick, Werner and Draxler. Mexico, while dominating CONCACAF qualification, are no match for the Germans. In their last three games, they were beaten by the Danes, tied to a lackluster Welsh team, and barely scratched out a 1-0 win against Scotland. In the second division of this group, I see the Koreans beating the Swedes. Call me biased because I love the legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but when you totally disregard and disrespect such a great player by excluding him from your team, I wish you the worst. Zlatan deserved better.
Group G: Critic’s Choice
(All teams have to prove their skill)
Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
All teams here have to prove that they are worthy. Belgium has never dominated but they are irrefutably in the Golden era of Belgian football thanks to players like Lukaku, EPL winning Kevin De Bruyne, Neopolitan luminary Mertens, and stalwart goalkeeper Courtois. They’re the favourites in the group and they’ve got to impress. Also, French legend Thierry Henry is on the Belgian coaching staff which I am personally excited to see. Tunisia will finish second. If I were to pick two dark horses in this tournament, this team would be my second. They impressed me in the African Cup of Nations in 2017 when they made it to the quarterfinals and that has extrapolated into this year, tying to Portugal 2-2 in May and defeating strong Costa Rican and Iranian teams. All they have to do now, is showcase that formula on the biggest stage. England is a team who is notorious for its disappointment-proclivity in International football. I have relatives in England and very European championship or World Cup they get all hyped up and buy the new jerseys and wear the pretense that England is a football powerhouse. They will underwhelm and underperform again, finishing under the North Africans in their group. Panama are an exciting team, qualifying for the very first time to the World Cup finals but they haven’t convinced me yet nor the critics. Seattle Sounders starter Román Torresand, apparently the heaviest player at the tournament, is a player to watch but they won’t have anything on the other teams in this group.
Group H: Best of Each Continent
(Not only are all the teams pretty even, but they bring the best from each region on the globe)
Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Poland is one of the best in Europe and Senegal is one of the best Africa. Also, Colombia finished fourth in CONMEBOL and Japan will always be in the top 5 in Asia. Clearly, this is the most internationally rich and diverse group. The Poles will top this one with some substantial momentum coming into their first World Cup since 2006. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski spearheads the side and he’s certainly proved his proficiency at the German club. Hull City winger, Kamil Grosicki is also on my radar and he’s got a knack for whipping pinpoint crosses in the box. Senegal is a team I’m strongly rooting for. I think they have what it takes to advance to the next round. Liverpool attacker Sadio Mané will lead his side and they have some significant raw talent playing for Everton and some for a few of the lower teams in the French league. They’re definitely a team to watch. Colombia is a pretty strong team too, I won’t deny that but I think Senegal and Poland will squeak out the top two spots. Japan are another kind of nondescript team to qualify without any kind of conviction, so they’ll finish fourth.