With the World Cup just two days away we preview the tournament with a roundtable discussion from our writers. We posed a number of questions about each of their predictions for our World Cup Prediction contest so they could each justify their attempt to make sense of the topsy-turvy tournament ahead.
If you haven’t already, be sure to join our prediction tournament hosted on FotMob. It’s free to enter and the winner will receive two tickets to the September 15 home match against Seattle Sounders.
You can join our 86Forever league by entering the following code: BUHMJVE on FotMob once you’ve made your selections.
Now - on to the discussion! As always, be sure to let us know your take in the comments!
Which group is this year’s most difficult? A.K.A. ‘The Group of Death’
CWilkins: The most difficult group is group D. Any of the two teams could qualify and I wouldn’t be surprised. Argentina are the best on paper but they were far from impressive in qualification and almost didn’t make it. Nigeria has a solid squad that work well together and are very underrated in my opinion. Croatia have some world class players like Modric and Mandzukic who’s influence you can’t discount and Iceland of course have the viking clap and magic.
Consolation prize goes to Group E with the 2nd (Brazil), 6th (Switzerland), and 23rd (Costa Rica) ranked teams. Sentimentally, I want Costa Rica to do well, but I am afraid that group is death for them!
TDahl: In my opinion there is no one group that has three or four deadly teams in it. I would say groups C, F and E are the most wide open groups (France in C, and Brazil in E not withstanding).
IanJones: I’m going with Group E. Sure, Brazil is #2 in the world right now, but South American teams never fare the best in European-hosted world cups, so its reasonable to think they could potentially fall to second in the group. But who’s to beat team? I can see Switzerland, Serbia, and Costa Rica all theoretically beating one another.
Samuel_Rowan: For me it’s group D. Argentina and Croatia are proven top class teams and Nigeria has enough squad depth to make a strong push to get out of the group stage. While Iceland doesn’t have a great team on paper and Sigurdsson’s health is going to be a concern, it’s hard to count them out after their Euro 2016 performance.
Jitsuo: It’s Group F for me, Mexico, Korea and Sweden are all capable of getting out of the group, and they’re mixed in with the holders Germany. Honourable mention goes to Group H where any of the 4 teams could make it into the knockout rounds.
Who are your surprises to not to get out of their group, if any?
CWilkins: Mexico usually makes it out of the group but I think their squad is weak and Sweden has an exciting young squad. I can also see South Korea possibly taking a point off them as Mexico doesn’t have a player as good as Son. Though South Korea apparently has some intra squad dram because the manager favours the players playing in Europe to the domestic league and that might hurt them
AtlantisB: Peru: Their first match against Denmark (12th ranked) will be key. If they lose, I say the 11th rank club doesn’t get out of their group.
TDahl: Can we say England here? I wanna say England here... Even though I have them getting out of the group stage in my prediction, I would never put actual money on them making it out of the group stage.
IanJones: Out of all the seeded teams, Argentina. Nigeria shouldn’t be a problem for Messi et al, but Croatia is never a push over and I’m reaalllllllly hoping we get to see another deep Iceland run, like at UEFA Euro 2016. That, coupled with at that whole travel ish, could see Argentina fall early.
Samuel_Rowan: Croatia and Mexico are probably my biggest surprises who might not get out of the group stage.
Jitsuo: I have Argentina failing to get out of their group. They barely scraped through qualification, and while they have the attacking talent to score enough and potentially cover their defensive frailty, I think there isn’t enough cover at the back to prevent shock results - see the 6-0 suffered against Spain.
Which team is your dark horse, which could surprise people?
CWilkins: Looking at my picks I think my most surprising are probably Uruguay getting to the quarter finals and Nigera getting to the round of 16. They both did very well in very difficult qualification routes and have very potent attacks.
AtlantisB: I want to say Iceland, but I think Poland might surprise. Namely because I don’t think people give them enough credit. Plus, with Robert Lewandowski as your striker, anything is possible.
TDahl: If you can call the Euro champion a dark horse, I will say Portugal. Christiano Ronaldo has had a fantastic season and I don’t see any reason why he can’t carry Portugal very deep into this tournament.
IanJones: I’m going with Egypt. Mo Salah has had a hell of a year in leading Liverpool to the Champions League final, and arguably was a dislocated shoulder away from winning the European title. Though the injury puts a damper on Egypt’s return to the World Cup, their soft Group A schedule (playing, in order, Uruguay, Russia, and Saudi Arabia), I doubt it will be enough to keep The Pharaohs out of the second round.
Samuel_Rowan: I would say Uruguay, who I have going to the semi-finals. Underrated squad depth paired with one of the most dangerous attacking duos in the tournament (Cavani + Suarez) gives Uruguay a great chance to do some serious damage.
Jitsuo: I have England as a surprise. No I don’t think they’ll win the whole thing, but people don’t expect them to make it out of their group let alone top it. Gareth Southgate has them playing the best football the national team has played in a long time, and if they get there, they could surprise whomever they meet in the quarter finals where it will most likely be Germany or Brazil.
Which team do you have winning the tournament and why?
CWilkins: Brazil - They won the South American qualifying group by ten points which is huge. This time around there’s an embarrassment of riches at every position. The squad is not only good but also well balanced. There is a lot of the classic Brazilian flair in Neymar and Coutinho but there are also players with some steel like Paulinho and Fernandinho. Critically they also have, in my view, a much better manager this time around in Tite.
AtlantisB: GERMANY!!! I am totally biased, but I think they have a strong shot as they are always competitive. I have seen their B and C teams beat up on competition. That is impressive!
TDahl: I have Argentina on top, as I think that Messi will take what is likely his last shot at World Cup glory and seize it. He is in my opinion the GOAT and I think he has it in him to prove that in Moscow.
IanJones: Portugal, but it’s complicated. Originally, I was going to say Costa Rica or Iceland, but not for a soccer-related reason. You see, it feels like incredibly unlikely events often happen in threes, and I realized we were on the precipice of a bona fide, bonkers, bat sh*t crazy year of sports.
Besides, look at the run they went on to win the ‘16 Euros. Besides, they can bunker-and-counter when they have to, and Cristiano Ronaldo keeps winning everything, so why not?
Samuel_Rowan: Germany. They won the Confederations Cup last year with what was essentially a B team, their midfield depth is second to none and Timo Werner is poised to become a breakout star.
Jitsuo: France - this is a team that just went to the final of the European Championship, and didn’t have space to include Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette and many others. They’re the most complete team at the tournament, and while they didn’t get over the hump two years ago, I think they’ll have what it takes to win it all.