Canyon Echoes

Full World Cup 2018 Preview

Andrew Bailey, Reporter

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This the moment everyone has been waiting for. Four years of excitement, buildup, and qualifiers. But now, all eight groups are set for the World Cup in Russia. But now it’s my turn to decide: what will go down in Russia 2018? And who will hoist the trophy and become the best pronation in the world?

Group Stage

Group A: Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay

This group is one of the easiest to predict in the tournament. Russia may have the home-field advantage, but they still are one of the worst teams in the tournament, and unless they can pull off a major upset, they will miss out on a round of 16 berths. Saudi Arabia is a good team, but they do not have enough overall quality to progress out of the group. Egypt is a good team for what they are: defend deep, tackle strong and hit you on the break with the pace of  Mohamed Salah and skill of Ramadan Sobhi. And Uruguay is a real contender for the title with their potent forward duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and center back tandem of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.

Prediction: 1. Uruguay 2. Egypt 3. Russia 4. Saudi Arabia

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

Easy. Spain is still in their generation that won the 2008 EURO, 2010 World Cup, and 2012 EURO, and have talent in every position. Portugal is famous for playing down to their opponent’s level, but they are the reigning EURO champions and have the reigning Ballon D’Or winner in Cristiano Ronaldo. Iran has a young talent in striker Sardar Azmoun and Morocco have a combination of youth (Amine Harit) and experience (Medhi Benatia), but it will not be enough to knock off the Iberian duo.

Prediction: 1. Spain 2. Portugal 3. Morocco 4. Iran

Group C: France, Australia, Denmark, Peru

France is the clear favorites to get first in their group, and because I believe that France has a very high chance of going deep into the tournament, I have them pegged as first. The real question is who gets second- Denmark or Peru? Denmark has more star power, but Peru is stronger as a unit. I’ll take Christian Eriksen and the Danes over Paulo Guerrero and Los Incas. Australia has no hope with an aging squad and no real standout talent outside of midfielder Aaron Mooy and goalkeeper Matt Ryan.

Predictions: 1. France 2. Denmark 3. Peru 4. Australia

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

This is the Group of Death. Argentina is a talented team, but have troubles with becoming overconfident in their abilities. Croatia has talent in all areas of their squad but has no real international pedigree. Iceland is the new guys on the block and has such a great team spirit, but lack firepower up front and a standout goalkeeper. Nigeria is a young team, but their best players have still yet to hit their peak. All four teams could beat each other up in this group. I’ll go with Argentina and Croatia, but don’t be shocked if I get this group completely wrong.

Prediction- 1. Argentina 2. Croatia 3. Iceland 4. Nigeria

Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Serbia

This group is a battle for second place, really. Brazil is one of the best teams in the tournament and a team who many have pegged to win it all. But all three other teams have the potential to get out of the group with them. Switzerland undeniably has the most amount of talent between the three, but Serbia never go down without a fight and Costa Rica always over-perform in the World Cup. Give me Brazil and Switzerland by a hair.

Prediction: 1. Brazil 2. Switzerland 3. Serbia  4. Costa Rica

Group F: Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico

Easy group for the holders Germany. Easy three losses for South Korea. Is the question of Sweden or Mexico? Personally, I believe that if Mexico can shut down Emil Forsberg in their game against the Swedes, then they can win. But, if Sweden can quiet the three-headed monster of Jesus Corona, Hirving Lozano, and Javier Hernandez in that match, it’s Sweden’s to lose. In the end, Mexico will have too much for the Baltic nation and come second to the four-time champions.

Prediction: 1. Germany 2. Mexico 3. Sweden 4. South Korea

Group G: Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia

This is another group that is easy to predict. The two big teams in the group, England, and Belgium, would be shocked if they failed to make it into the knockout rounds. Panama and Tunisia are big underdogs in this group, and in the end, will not have enough to dethrone the Red Devils and the Three Lions. But who will get first? I say Belgium, purely because they have too much talent in their midfield and are less susceptible to mistakes on the big stage.

Prediction: 1. Belgium 2. England 3. Tunisia 4. Panama

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

If you’re looking for another Group of Death, this is it. Three of the four teams could all get through to the second round. Poland lacks real talent in the wide areas, but their strike force of Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik is deadly. Colombia is the reigning Fair Play Team of the Tournament after making it to the quarterfinals in 2014, and have experienced stars in James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. Senegal doesn’t have anyone real star or main goalscoring/chance-creating threat, but what they lack in skill they make up for in hard work and tenacity, highlighted by them being the most-carded team to qualify for the World Cup. Sorry, Japan, but you’re not going to make it through. And sorry Poland, too because you will draw with Japan to end your qualification hopes.

Prediction: 1. Senegal 2. Colombia 3. Poland 4. Japan

Round of 16

Game 1: Uruguay vs. Portugal

This is one of the better early-round matchups. Portugal may come second in their group, but their skill is playing to the level of their opponents. Uruguay’s team is on the decline, and Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. Give me Portugal in a tight, high-scoring affair.

Prediction: Portugal 3-2 Uruguay

Game 2: Egypt vs. Spain

I have two main dark horse candidates for the round of 16, and one of them is Egypt. Even if they do go out, it will be tight. La Roja has the most talent on paper, but I believe if Egypt can keep a clean sheet, then they will win. Eventually, I think that Spain can outlast Egypt, but it won’t be in regulation

Prediction: Spain 4-2 Egypt on penalties (1-1 After Extra Time)

Game 3: France vs. Croatia

Croatia does have the skill in midfield and attack to defeat most teams in this tournament. France is not most teams.

Prediction: France 3-1 Croatia

Game 4: Denmark vs. Argentina

Denmark really is a spirited unit, and Christian Eriksen, Yussuf Poulsen, and Pione Sisto could definitely do some damage against a weak Argentine defensive unit. But in the end, Lionel Messi will not be denied the chance at a maiden World Cup title to the Danes. It might take a while, however.

Prediction: Argentina 3-1 Denmark (AET)

Game 5: Brazil vs. Mexico

Mexico is a very good team, and in another situation, might have gone deep into this tournament. But Brazil is a great team with great players, and Mexico is only a very good team with very good ones. But watch this game. The goals will flow in this match.

Prediction: Brazil 4-2 Mexico

Game 6: Germany vs. Switzerland

This German generation is one of the best overall talented squads in the history of soccer. It’s so good, in fact, that Champions League winner Sami Khedira and three-time Bundesliga champion Mario Gomez will almost certainly miss out on the squad. No way Germany lose to Switzerland.

Prediction: Germany 2-0 Switzerland

Game 7: Belgium vs. Colombia

This may be one of the most intriguing matches to watch this tournament. Belgium has so much talent, but cannot perform on the big stage. Colombia has much less talent but went to the quarterfinals in the last edition of this tournament. I lean towards the way of the Belgians, but it will take longer than just 90 minutes to win this match.

Prediction: Belgium 2-1 Colombia (AET)

Game 8: England vs. Senegal

England is one of the most disappointing nations at the World Cup. Year after year, they pull something that leaves the British public calling for more. Senegal is this year’s roadblock for England. The Africans play incredibly well as a defensive unit and know how to attack well when necessary. They will frustrate the Brits in normal time and nick a goal on the counter, and one off a set piece. Harry Kane will draw one back, but it won’t be enough.

Prediction: Senegal 2-1 England

Quarter-Finals

Game 1: Portugal vs. France

A rematch of the 2016 EURO Finals, Portugal and France will be a very interesting game. Portugal has great firepower between Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, and Andre Silva, but France is too talented overall not to beat Portugal. Look for France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to keep Ronaldo and co. at bay throughout the 90.

Prediction: France 2-1 Portugal

Game 2: Brazil vs. Belgium

Another fantastic attacking matchup pits the South American nation against a European counterpart. Once again, this will be a high scoring match. Both sides look about even on paper, but Brazil have one man that will make the difference for them: superstar winger Neymar Jr, who I think will provide the assist for the game winner as Brazil leave it late.

Prediction: Brazil 3-2 Belgium (AET)

Game 3: Argentina vs. Spain

The goals may flow in the other matches, but in this one, not so much. However good Argentina think they are, Spain will test their resolve and look to continuously possess the ball and keep it away from the Argentinians. Messi may be the greatest soccer player of all time, but even he can’t beat Spain alone. And La Roja’s defense, led by center back Sergio Ramos, will keep him at bay, and Spain will win.

Prediction: Spain 2-1 Argentina

Game 4: Germany vs. Senegal

Germany is one of the best teams in the tournament and have a real shot at winning the whole thing. Senegal is a fantastic unit, they defend well, and Sadio Mane will cause the Germans trouble throughout. But for them to beat the reigning champions just doesn’t make any sense.

Prediction: Germany 1-0 Senegal

Semi-Finals

Game 1: Brazil vs. France

Brazil and France are two of the most historic rivals in World Cup history. The two nations have met four times in their many matches. France holds the all-time record, 2-1-1. With all the talent on display in this fixture, it really could go either way, depending on who you ask. But give me France, purely because Paul Pogba has to do something incredible before people can truly take him seriously.

Prediction: France 2-1 Brazil (AET)

Game 2: Spain vs. Germany

The 2010 World Cup champs versus the 2014 World Cup champs. Spain and Germany are very similar- they both have experience in every position, as well as a young player who could be the future in the same spot. They both love to pass the ball around, and they both know how to get it done when called upon. So who is better, Spain or Germany? I say the latter.

Prediction: Germany 1-0 Spain

Final

Here we are, the game everyone has been waiting for. The World Cup Final. The two best teams in the World fighting to claim the sole title of World Cup champions. France is much better than they were four years ago, and Germany didn’t need to get any better because they are the best. But the time has come. Who will win? France? Germany? The (fake) winner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is….

Prediction: France 5-3 Germany on PEN (2-2 AET)

 

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