This year the United States opted to tank for draft picks instead of qualify for the World Cup. The Americans were a team stuck in the no man’s land of the second round. This day and age, you’re either all in or all out and The Red, White, and Blue had no choice but to go all out and hope to land the number one overall pick. That said, The World Cup must go on and it’s time for soccer fans to learn why every nation has a chance to win it all this summer.
The Russians are led by striker Fedor Smolov and carry the hopes of a nation that basically qualified for the World Cup because they are the host country. That has to be their biggest advantage, and history has shown us the value that home field has for the Russians (Battle of Stalingrad). Who knows what Putin has working behind the scenes.
The Saudis are on their third coach in less than a year which means they carry the element of surprise. A group of players used to playing together such as Yahya Al Shehri have been fortunate enough to learn 3 different systems and can combine what works. Meanwhile, opposing coaches will be kept guessing on a game plan. Let’s see what Juan Antonio Pizzi and The Green Falcons are able to do.
You build a pyramid brick by brick and you win soccer games goal by goal. The big question mark is the shoulder injury to Mohamed Salah. Lucky for him and his team, soccer is played with your feet. In a country filled with camels, it’s time to find out if Egypt can get over the hump in a weak group.
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez should be able to score more than enough goals to advance to the knockout stage. From there anything can happen.
Cristiano Ronaldo needs to look at his watch and decide that it’s time to make a run in the World Cup. With one of the most electric players in the game, Portugal has hope. After failure to advance out of the group stage in the 2014 World Cup this team has played with a sense of urgency highlighted by the Euro 2016 victory. This year has all the signs of a last chance for the Portuguese.
Spain just fired their coach, Julen Lopetegui the day before the World Cup. That’s a bold move if I’ve ever seen one and forces the other 31 teams to throw out the years of scouting reports they’ve collected. For everyone who doubts a championship is possible, look no further than the 1989 Michigan Wolverines Men’s Basketball Team that won the NCAA Title after releasing Bill Frieder and replacing him with Steve Fisher prior to the tournament. Comparisons are already being drawn by the Spaniards themselves. Andres Iniesta and the Spanish have the talent to win it all.
Morocco took one loss prior to this World Cup with the news of a joint USA-Canada-Mexico 2026 World Cup bid. The methodical Moroccans will be tough to score against and while the Atlas Lions face a tough group, you have to beat the best to be the best. Hakim Ziyech is the player worth keeping an eye on.
After cupcaking their way to qualification in soccer’s version of the Eastern Conference (Asia), Iran’s confidence should be at an all time high. Alireza Jahanbakhsh can provide some scoring for a team that is pretty disciplined on the defensive end.
Egotistical French stars Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappe have the ability to compete with anyone in the world if they can stop competing against each other. This is basically a Duke basketball team, mentally weak but physically imposing. France hopes the latter emerges in Russia.
Get Kangaroo Jack in a jersey and see what happens. But for now, it will be Aaron Mooy trying to have his team jumping for joy and leaping into the knockout stages. Don’t underestimate the Socceroos from the Land Down Under.
Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan will be responsible for the offensive attack on a tight-knit group from South America. Peru has a great chance at advancing to the knockout stage which would be an accomplishment for a team that hasn’t been to the World Cup in 36 years.
The conversation around Denmark starts and ends with Christian Eriksen. How far can a superstar take you? I guess it depends on the sport.
Lionel Messi. (It’s time to finish the job)
Deception is the name of the game with Iceland. They tricked everyone with the whole Iceland vs Greenland name swap and have people overlooking them once again. After the unforgettable Euro 2016 run and the Viking War Chant, Iceland is ready for the World Cup. Gylfi Sigurdsson leads a group of underdogs, but we all know what they say. “A hungry dog runs fastest.”
A midfield of dreams featuring Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic give Croatia a chance in any game they play. Nobody really knows what to expect out of this team which could be their greatest advantage.
John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi, and Victor Moses give Nigeria a chance to make some noise in an unpredictable group. They will have to manage the goal differential and cover up the goalkeeping issues to survive.
Watching Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany was one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched on live television. Brazil always confuses me because I have to guess if the name on their jerseys is their first or last name. Seems like there is a heavy emphasis for the name on the back rather than the name on the front. Brazil is loaded with stars, none more obvious than Neymar and can win the World Cup on talent alone.
Their flag is the first aid symbol which coincides with the amount of pain they hope to cause opposing fans. We’ll have to figure out if the Swiss can find holes in a defense like they do in their cheese.
Keylor Navas is one of the top goal stoppers in the world and has the fate of the Ticos in his hands.
Young weapons Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic lead the Serbian attack. It’s likely a battle for second in this group and the difference could be European fundamentals.
They won last time.
El Tri has taken the idea of building a wall to the soccer pitch. Defense has been the calling card for the Mexicans on the road through qualifiers and will need to be stronger than ever if they hope to advance to the quarterfinals. I would love to see the reaction here in Texas if Mexico actually can make something happen. I also watch the World Cup on Telemundo.
Fresh off winning the IIHF 2018 Hockey World Championship, the Swedes are looking for the sweep of the summer this time on the pitch. Sweden, known for Swedish Fish, was struggling with an unwanted catch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his selfishness. With Ibrahimovic gone, The Blue-Yellow are playing for the name on the front. Sharing the ball helps win games, a revolutionary concept still not fully realized on pick-up basketball courts across America.
After hosting the Olympics, South Korea hits the road for this one. They won’t have their Olympic mascot Soohorang the White Tiger with them but they will have Son Heung-Min, a deadly forward.
Belgium makes the Belgian Waffle and Kevin de Bruyne makes the Belgian National Team go. Belgium plays hard and can put themselves in position to win it all. If they get one upset win deep in the tournament, they could be the last ones standing.
Could this be the year of the expansion team? Las Vegas made quite a run in its first NHL season and the Panamanians have the opportunity in front of them at their first world cup. Expect the unexpected.
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed in Tunisia.
They invented the sport so they should have it down by now.
Robert Lewandowski gives Poland the star power needed to compete. He scored 16 goals in qualifications. Poland is a dark horse.
Sadio Mane has a great opportunity to be embraced on the world stage representing Senegal.
Colombia expects James Rodriguez to deliver. After 2014, Rodriguez left us wanting more. Los Cafeteros have the roster to dream of winning it all.
As the old Japanese proverb says, “If you do not enter the Tiger’s cave, you will not catch the cub.” Japan has nothing to lose, so into the World Cup they go. A veteran team will rely on its wisdom for guidance during pressure situations.