Articles related to sport actually seem to repel viewers of this website from what the stats tell me, but I do love me some of that World Cup. As per the last two major footballing tournaments, I think I’ll keep up by habit for offering some (brief) commentary on the matches played, rounding off with my own rankings and then awards.
But, before all that, it behoves me to get my predictions into the public record ahead of time. So, some very brief preview material:
Brazil, on home soil, with that squad, against this opposition, should have a relatively easy task to get to the top of the group. From there, it’s a question of whether Mexico’s dire qualifying form or Croatia’s inexperience with the South American heat will come out on top, and I’d favour Mexico, just. Cameroon I simply don’t rate on the international stage.
I think this tournament will be the toppling of Spain, who were a little bit iffy in qualifying and whose star performers are older and slower than they were in South Africa or Poland/Ukraine. They’ll still qualify from this group though. The Netherlands have a disaster to make up for from 2012, but I think they’ll struggle against the more acclimatised Spanish. Chile are decent on their day, but did lose a truck load of qualifying games against worse opposition than they’ll face here. Australia drew the short straw in the draw and their FA are probably more interested in a potential replay of the 2022 host voting right now.
The most wide open group, in my opinion. Columbia’s attacking flair will be offset by the loss of Falcao, Greece are no longer the defensive rock they once were, and both the Ivory Coast and Japan stuttered at big moments in qualifying. Have a feeling the Japanese might surprise people this time around.
A tough one to call. For Uruguay, a lot will depend on Suarez’ fitness, for England, a lot will depend on keeping their defence as solid as it was in qualifying, for Italy, a lot will depend on that attack gelling. For Costa Rica, the World Cup is a far harder prospect than CONCACAF qualifying.
I think Ecuador’s squad isn’t that impressive, as their away form in qualifying showed, but they have a certain spark. France have such enormous talent, but still struggle at times, and with Ribery out all bets are off. Honduras are going nowhere fast, I don’t care if they beat Mexico in qualifying. The Swiss are a strong side, and real dark horse candidates for a lengthy run.
Will this finally be the year Argentina, and Messi, pull it together? For the sake of entertaining football, I hope so. Bosnia and Herzegovina might flounder on the grand stage, but have a favourable group. Iran are perennially out of their depth at the World Cup. Nigeria are the best of Africa, but are far from best in this group.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
If the heat doesn’t get them, Germany are my favourites to win the whole thing, and I think they’ll be fine in this misnamed “Group of Death”. Portugal might take points off them on their way out I suppose, and may even top the group. The USA, as ever, think too highly of themselves, and they’ll be doing spectacularly well to get to the second round. Ghana are alright, but not even the third best team in this group really.
Belgium are that strange kind of team, that you would expect to do well given their talent, but you’re not quite sure of. Russia are quality, and there will be big expectations with their hosting of the tournament in four years time. South Korea were unconvincing in qualifying. Algeria are going nowhere but home, fast.
Some juicy ties coming soon, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not quite sure of the scheduling for reviews yet, considering the times that the matches will be played, but I’ll probably throw things up the morning after as opposed to the evening of the same day. Until Thursday.