WORLD CUP 2018 PREVIEW
(Editor’s Note: Saipan Tribune will run a series of stories leading up to the World Cup 2018 that will be held from June 14 to July 15 in Russia)
With the World Cup 2018 just around the corner, various polls are everywhere, asking who they think will hoist this year’s gold trophy, while wagers have been placed to teams who are favored to rule the biggest tournament in football.
Whether it’s just a simple poll or bank-breaking bet, five names are often mentioned every time the World Cup 2018 is discussed: Germany, Brazil, Spain, France, and Argentina.
The defending champion Germany had a perfect 10-0 record in the World Cup qualifier, making the team just the second squad to earn that distinction. Spain did it in 2010. Joachim Low’s Germany has a solid roster with majority of the players who defeated Argentina in 2014 back to play in Russia along with some fresh leg from its Euro U-21 champion team. Oddmakers have Germany winning it all 9/2.
If there’s one team that can dethrone Germany, it’s Brazil—the top finisher in CONMEBOL qualification series, way ahead (10 points) of second placer Uruguay. A healthy Neymar would make the South American nation a big threat to Germany’s title defense bid.
Spain has not lost since Euro 2016 under new manager Julen Lopetegui and just like Germany, the Furia Roja’s roster has depth. Spain has Isco, David De Gea, David Silva, and a handful of steady defenders.
France is loaded, too with Didier Deschamps having Olivier Giroud, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele, Anthony Martial, Kante, Pogba, Griezmann, and Mbappe. These outstanding individual talents if able to work together could give France its second title.
A team with Lionel Messi on its lineup will always be a favorite. And not having won the World Cup is Messi’s biggest motivation this year—which could be his last playing for the White and Sky Blue.
Argentina will be tested early, as it is in the Group of Death with Croatia, Nigeria, and Iceland (Group D).
Portugal is with Spain in Group B, making the Ronaldo-led team one of the underdogs in Russia. However, the Selecao win in Euro 2016 should serve as warning to favored teams that Portugal can beat the odds.
Uruguay and England are the other dark horses in Russia. And with no high expectations from the Three Lions, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, leaving their opponents clueless on how England will play in every game.
Uruguay placed second to Brazil in CONMEBOL qualifier and with two of the world’s best strikers on its side—Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani— the Celeste could gate crash the party.
This year’s World Cup will be without the U.S., Italy, Chile, and the Netherlands. In their place are Panama, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, and Peru, which will try to prove they belong in the big stage despite having the lowest odd of winning from both betting companies and polls.
Playing on home soil, Russia’s pride is on the line and it should get past the group stage to somehow save face amid doping allegations against its players.
Russia will host the tournament that has a record prize money of $791 million—with the champion getting $38 million besides its share from the $288 spread out to the 32 competing teams in group stage up to the quarterfinals.