The World Cup has finally arrived! Families will gather around the TV to support their country, or nationality in most cases, and watch some exciting soccer. Here are groups A-H and the predictions as to how they will pan out…
Group A- Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
- No surprise here; Uruguay is way too talented to not come out on top of a group like this. With an attack led by Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, and a stout defense with Atlétco Madrid centre-backs José Giménez and veteran Diego Godín, Uruguay should be just fine in this group stage of the World Cup.
- Home pitch advantage is not why I am picking Russia; they are simply more talented than the two remaining teams. Beloved CSKA Moscow goalie Igor Akinfeev and 22 year old midfielder Aleksandr Golovin are the key players for Russia. Even if they play well enough, it will not be easy for Russia to come out of this group despite a less than 100% Mohamed Salah from Egypt.
Group B- Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
- Now before you close this tab at the sight of Spain being number two in this group, hear me out. Portugal has one of the best defenses in this World Cup led by Pepe and Southampton right back Cédric Soares. The midfield also has the defensive minded William Carvalho to help counter Spain’s uber-talented offense. And it would be a crime for me not to mention the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be motivated to defeat Spain and get revenge against the team that defeated them 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup Round of 16 game and the 2012 Euro semi-final in which Spain won 4-2 in penalties without Ronaldo shooting a penalty shot.
- While I do not have Spain beating Portugal, it would be foolish of me to not have Spain going through to the next stage of the Cup. Spain has the talent and experience to make a serious run in this tournament. What worries me about this squad, however, is the recent drama surrounding their former manager Julen Lopetegui. Lopetegui took the Real Madrid job without telling president Luis Rubiales, and was promptly fired and replaced by Fernando Hierro. Coming a couple days before the World Cup, this spells trouble.
Group C- France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
- The European Championship runner-ups come rolling in off of a first place finish in the World Cup qualifiers with 23 points. Goalscorers in Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Olivier Giroud will run through this group easily. Midfielder Blaise Matuidi, defender Raphaël Varane, and outstanding goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will also be major factors. Give me France every day of the week.
- Prior warning: do not be surprised by Denmark. They have Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen on their side along with centre-back and captain Simon Kjaer. Eriksen impressed so much in club play that Real Madrid offered to trade Tottenham Christian Bale for him. He could be one of the big surprises in this World Cup on a true underdog team that just defeated Mexico 2-0 last Saturday on home turf.
Group D- Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
- Another easy one to predict here. Argentina simply has Lionel Messi on their side along with Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María. While Argentina has a tendency to disappoint in big tournaments like this, I do not see that happening this year as their best player should be more fit than ever after an early exit by Barcelona in the Champions League.
- There was a lot of deliberation here deciding between Croatia and Nigeria. Ultimately, Croatia was the pick as they have the experience and a couple of star players on their side. They have played well as of late as they have defeated Mexico and Senegal and played decent against an unbelievable Brazil squad. Nigeria could give them fits in their first match, but I like Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić to weather the storm and get their team through to the next the round.
Group E- Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
- I can go on and on about Brazil here explaining how great this team truly is, but I will keep it simple. Neymar, Fred, Coutinho, Marcelo, Willian, Silva. These players are all stars and will be leading this Brazil team onto the next round.
- I know many of you are probably wondering right now what I am doing here predicting Serbia to advance over Switzerland. Well, the Swiss are missing two key strikers in Eren Derdiyok and Admir Mehmedi, so their attack will obviously be weakened. Now, this Serbian team is full of experience and is coming into this tournament red hot. Serbia lost only one game in the World Cup qualifiers, proving that chemistry is truly undervalued. Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic is playing in his third major tournament and will be helped out by veteran defensemen Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic. I like this Serbian team to shock a lot of people and potentially make a run in this tournament.
Group F- Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
- One of the favorites to win, Germany will be riding a bunch of familiar faces to help bring them the trophy for the second straight World Cup. Midfielder Mesut Özil, forward Thomas Müller, and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be key for this team. While Germany has taken a step back over the last couple years and has not looked so good as of recent, losing to Brazil and Austria, I still fancy them to come out on top of Group F.
- Mexico is always an interesting team to me. When they are hot, they look like one of the better teams in the world, but they struggle a little too much for me to trust them fully. They are talented enough to get out of this group, though, as they are lead by midfielder Héctor Herrera, forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. While they will gain enough points to earn them a spot in the next round, look for them to play close games.
Group G- Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
- One of the more talented teams in the country, Belgium will have no problems landing atop this group. Players like midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, along with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois have all been here before, and they don’t seem to have any issues when it comes to the group stage portion of the World Cup. The elimination games are a different story for this team, but in terms of their group, they will come out on top of this one.
- England, in my eyes, is similar to Mexico. They play close games and are a streaky team. An attack lead by Harry Kane, however, will prove to be too much for Panama and Tunisia, but do not expect this to be easy for England. The experience of this team, though, will prove to be the difference maker here.
Group H- Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
- This group might be the hardest to predict. A draw here or there could prove to be fatal for any one of these teams, but I believe Colombia will muster up enough points and pull out a big win to put them atop Group H. Midfielder James Rodríguez put on a show last World Cup and reliable goalkeeper David Ospina will lock down the fort on the other side of the ball. Colombia will squeak by here in one of the toughest groups in this tournament.
- It has been 16 years since Senegal has made the World Cup. For those that remember, Senegal made a cinderella run in their first World Cup appearance ever in 2002, eventually losing to Turkey in the quarterfinal in extra time during the “golden goal” era. Lead by Liverpool winger Sadio Mané, who is coming off of a 10 goal season, Senegal is hungry. I like them to pull off an upset against Poland and advance into the next round.