The World Cup is finally here as soccer fans can finally revel in the best competition the sport offers. While it feels weird to not see some countries in the World Cup like Italy, Netherlands, and U.S.A., but expect this to be a very exciting one. With that let’s preview each group and each nation in this year’s World Cup.
The hosts of the World Cup will get their chance to shine as they boast a lot of veterans to lead the way. Led by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, Russia poses a good chance of getting out of the group, but age could be a factor. Home field advantage could also play a part in Russia’s performance. Being the host nation does not automatically mean the team will do well (South Africa, for instance, did not get out of the group stage in 2010), but there is a correlation between being the host country and that team’s advancement.
After a strong showing in World Cup qualifying, Saudi Arabia is a huge underdog as they are put into a strong group that could hinder it’s chance of advancing. Watch out for their talented top goal scorer in Mohammad Al-Sahlawi.
The African nation that excelled so much the last few years, but never seemed to make the World Cup will finally get there and have a chance to advance. They are led by phenom Mo Salah who torched up the Premier League for Liverpool this past season, though he may still be recovering from an injury sustained during the Champions League final just a few weeks ago.
The favorite to win the group as they boast a ton of talent and are a very strong side. With Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez leading the offense, they are a force to be reckoned with and could even make a surprise run to winning the World Cup
James Rowe: Winner is Uruguay and also advancing out of the group will be Egypt. It’s pretty clear that Uruguay is strongest side here, but I like the talent Egypt has as I feel like they are the second best team here.
Tali Raphael: Winner is Uruguay and also advancing out of the group will be Russia.
Thomas Martin: Winner is Uruguay and Russia milks the home-field advantage to also come out.
John Illg: Uruguay and Russia. And none of the games will be particularly enjoyable. Some will be downright ugly.
The reigning Euro 2016 champions look to build off that success and hope to win the World Cup, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way in what could possibly be the last for him in what has been an incredible career. They will have to face their arch-rival Spain for the winner of the group. Luckily, the top two teams advance, so they should be safe to get out of the group.
After an embarrassing 2014 World Cup campaign, Spain is one of the more balanced squads in the World Cup. Spain is looking to win it’s second World Cup in three tournaments, something that has only been done by Italy, Brazil, and Argentina. This will be the last hurrah for Andres Iniesta in what is an illustrious career. Expect them to advance.
Had a strong showing in World Cup qualifying, led by an awesome defensive performance. They aren’t expected to advanced, but do expect them to play each nation hard.
Iran has shown that they are strong nation in Asia as they are making their second consecutive World Cup. Their defense and counter attacks are strong, but are looked as underdogs. They are unlikely to advance with Portugal and Spain sitting atop the group, but they should make for some surprisingly fun games.
James: Winner is Spain and also advancing out of the group will be Portugal. It’s not a question as to whom moves out of the group, but the only question will be who wins the group. The first game between Spain and Portugal pretty much will decide it.
Tali: Winner is Spain and also advancing out of the group will be Portugal.
Thomas: Spain and Portugal advance. Whether Spain wins or Portugal wins, I have no idea. But these two are the ones who make it in the end.
John: Spain and Portugal. But Morocco makes it really scary for one of them.
On paper, France is a very strong side and could very well be hoisting the World Cup Trophy when it all ends. With talented players like Olivier Giroud, Alexandre Lacazette, Antoine Griezmann, and Paul Pogba, watch out for what Les Bleus do in this World Cup. They could possibly win it all, so expect them to advance.
Now making their fourth straight appearance in the World Cup, the Land Down Under has proven to be a soccer nation as well and have a very interesting team that could even advance out of their group. Aaron Mooy is looked to be the next Tim Cahill and even scored 11 goals during qualifying. Don’t sleep on these guys.
Peru had a strong showing in World Cup Qualifying that even knocked Chile out of qualification. And now with Paolo Guerrero allowed to participate, this could be a fun team to watch. They will be fighting Australia for advancing out of the group, but expect them to have a strong showing.
Denmark barely made the World Cup after defeating Ireland in playoffs, but here they are expected to compete. They will be led by Christian Eriksen, however, their defense could be their Achilles Heel. They allowed eight goals in 10 matches during Qualification including one in their playoff with Ireland. There is still a possibility that they could be the dark horse of this tournament, but they will have to stop the ball from getting in their net first.
James: Winner is France and also advancing out of the group will be Australia. France is clearly the strong side here and should have no problem advancing, but the match between Australia and Peru should be the one that decides who advances. I think Australia will win it because I am not confident that Peru truly is as strong of a side as the qualifying campaign made them out to be. Plus Aaron Mooy is truly special to watch.
Tali: Winner is France and also advancing out of the group will be Peru.
Thomas: France wins, and Denmark squeaks it out of the group.
John: France and Peru. And there will be a lot of goals.
The clear favorite to win the group, they are also another front-runner to win the World Cup. This will most certainly be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup in what has been a remarkable career, but they have a lot of fire with players like Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, and Sergio Aguero on the squad. When they are playing, make sure you are watching.
After making an incredible run in the 2016 Euros, the tiny nation will now be making their first World Cup appearance. They have a good chance to make it out of the group, which is considerably weak, and with a player like Gylfi Sigurdsson leading their nation, it could be an exciting team to follow.
Nigeria keeps getting stronger and stronger in Africa, where many think they could soon become a football powerhouse. With players like Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel leading this team, expect this talented squad to fight for advancing out of the group.
No one should sleep on these guys, as they have a strong side and play a very similar style to that of the Spanish. Luka Modric will be leading his nation and looks to advancing out of the group. The men in the checkerboard shirts could very well make it out of this group.
James: Winner is Argentina and also advancing out of the group will be Croatia. Argentina is the best squad in the group, but I had a hard time picking between Nigeria and Croatia in advancing. I ultimately came with Croatia because Luka Modric is a very tough player to beat.
Tali: Winner is Croatia and also advancing out of the group will be Argentina.
Thomas: Argentina wins, and Iceland become the darlings of the world as they advance.
John: Croatia and Iceland. There were many problems with Argentina’s qualification run, and while I love Jorge Sampaoli’s management, fierce high pressing with a slow back line is dangerous. Croatia have elite ballplayers in midfield to resist that press and Iceland are extremely diligent defensively and will prove difficult for an incoherent Argentina to break down. This is all to say…unless Messi rains down divine light upon the tournament again.
The clear favorites to win the group and a favorite to win the entire World Cup, this might be one of the best squads that the nation has ever assembled. They had an extremely strong World Cup qualifying campaign that it seems like they might be incredibly hard to defeat. When you have Neymar as your primary goal scorer, that’s a good thing, but this team could still win without him. Having not appeared in a final since they won the world cup in 2002, Brazil will look to get out of the group and try to show everyone why Pelé called it “the beautiful game.”
Switzerland in the rankings looks great, but on paper they look weak. It’s truly a squad that has a lot of question marks. There is some great talent on this team with Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, but the rest of the squad seems average. They might have a good chance of making it out of the group stage, but won’t likely progress farther than that.
After an incredible run in the 2014 World Cup, the Costa Ricans look to progress on their success in this year’s World Cup. They are very experienced and boast a top notch goalkeeper in Keylor Navas, so this could be another dark horse in this version of the World Cup.
Serbia tends to produce a lot of great talent, and in this year’s World Cup, they have a strong chance at showing how talented they are. There is a good chance that they will advance out of this group. They have a lot of experienced players that are still in their primes, but none more so than Nemanja Matic, who is one of the best players in the Premier League.
James: Winner is Brazil and also advancing out of the group will be Serbia. Brazil is clearly the strongest side here, but I also think that Serbia is much stronger than the rest. At least on paper they do.
Tali: Winner is Brazil and also advancing out of the group will be Serbia.
Thomas: Brazil wins and Serbia makes it out as well, edging out Costa Rica.
John: Brazil and Switzerland. Shaqiri has to get out of Stoke somehow and enjoy his last World Cup.
Clearly the strongest side in the group, this might also be the best team in the field. They could also be a realistic shot at being back-to-back champions of this tournament. Joachim Löw is now coaching his third World Cup and for good reason, as he is one of the best soccer coaches in the world. His team is led by superstar Thomas Müller. Germany is known to be a machine, but they must act like it if they want to win the tournament again.
The Mexicans have a very strong side that could actually make some noise. Their head coach is known to be a mastermind, but he also has Javier Hernandez and up-and-coming star, Hirving Lozano, leading the offense. There are also other great talents like Hector Moreno and Andres Guardado in this squad, which gives this team a great chance at winning a lot of games. This team is a great dark horse pick.
No, there is no Zlatan Ibrahimovic on this squad, so many suspect they will not do well. But there’s a reason why they are in the World Cup. Emil Forsberg is a rising star and looks to hopefully take advantage of the situation. However, don’t take this squad too lightly. They had a strong World Cup qualifying campaign, so expect them to fight hard.
Many feared this team so long ago. While not as strong as the recent teams in the past, this is still a talented one. Son Heung-Min plays for Tottenham and is also the 2017 Asian Player of the Year. He’s truly a one of a kind talent, but the squad might rely on him too much. It’s going to be tough for them to get out of the group with Germany and Mexico banging on the door.
James: Winner is Germany and also advancing out of the group will be Mexico. Germany is my opinion is the best squad in the entire field so I have no problem picking them. That being said, I truly think Mexico is the strongest side out of the other three. This is also my pick as the “Group of Death” as I feel like these are all strong enough squads to compete in the Knockout Stage.
Tali: Winner is Germany and also advancing out of the group will be Mexico.
Thomas: Germany wins and South Korea advances, stunning El Tri.
John: Germany and Sweden. Germany, because death and taxes. And Sweden played strongly in qualifying and are relatively settled. Plus, I believe in the Ewing effect.
In the “Golden Generation” of Belgian talent, there are still some questions about them. On paper, this is arguably one of the better sides in the tournament, but form could be a problem. With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and Eden Hazard on the roster, this team should make it out of the group, but with all the question marks surrounding them, keep a close eye on them.
Making their first World Cup ever, expect this squad to play with beautiful naïveté. They have lots of experience outside of the World Cup, though, and are quite talented —especially with the likes of Luis Tejada on the team. But don’t expect them to do too much more. It will be fun to see what they do in this World Cup.
Probably one of the biggest underdogs in the whole field, Tunisia is expected to struggle. However, they have grinded out so many games that they could take that to their advantage. Expect them to play hard.
England should not be cocky about this group. While it doesn’t look like they will have any problem advancing, they have played beneath their ability in the last two World Cups. There is way too much talent to list here, but a name to watch out here for is Harry Kane as he has dominated the Premier League, year in and year out. England has not won a world cup since 1966, but this team could be fun to watch.
James: Winner is Belgium and also advancing out of the group will be England. Belgium looks good on paper, but their inconsistencies troubles me. England seems to always underperform, but this should be an easy enough group for them to advance out of.
Tali: Winner is Belgium and also advancing out of the group will be England.
Thomas: Belgium wins and England advances.
John: England and Belgium. Belgium’s fullback/wingback areas are a problem. Rinse. Repeat.
This group might be up for grabs, but Poland has a huge advantage when it comes to strikers, boasting probably one of the best in the world with Robert Lewandowski. He will be the key to what Poland does in the World Cup.
Not many think of Senegal as a strong soccer nation, but when you have players like Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, and Sadio Mane leading your squad, there are a lot of high hopes. This group is wide open, so expect them to compete.
With players like James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, and Juan Cuadrado on the roster, there is a lot of optimism here. With a strong attack, expect them to score a lot of goals. Colombia is favorites to advance, but how they do it is a big question.
With Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, and Shinji Kagawa leading this offense, expect them to put up a fight. Many pundits have them as future top soccer nation, but they can’t seem to quite get that status at present. However, in this group, they have a great chance at showing how good of a soccer nation they really are.
James: Winner is Colombia and also advancing out of the group will be Japan. I think Colombia is the strongest team in the group, especially with James Rodriguez as their main man. However, I had Japan advancing because of their experience and I also think they are talented, though Senegal could sneak by them.
Tali: Winner is Senegal and also advancing out of the group will be Colombia. This is also my pick for the “Group of Death.” As for why I picked Senegal to win the group, that team is loaded. It’s my upset pick. As for why I think it’s the “Group of Death,” Poland has Lewandowski, and is generally seen as a solid European program, making the last eight Euros. Colombia is a South American stalwart, with James Rodriguez as one of the worlds best players. Senegal is the sleeper, but with Mane, Idrissa Gueye, and Koulibaly, they have some absolutely brilliant players in their setup. And Japan is there too, with Kagawa and Okazaki who are very solid players as well. There is no weak team. Any one of them could go to the knockout round.
Thomas: This group is really up for grabs. Winner is Columbia, also advancing is Senegal.
John: Colombia and Senegal. And this will be the most entertaining and competitive group.