When it comes to tournament or knockout football, there is always the possibility of a shock result or a team rising up to the occasion. In the 2018 World Cup, battle lines will be drawn as the top contenders strive to live up to their lofty standards. As expected, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Portugal and France are the traditional favourites to win it. The stage is set for these teams to step it up in Russia.
For the last couple of years, Belgium has had probably the best squad in terms of depth and technically gifted players. It is therefore of little surprise that the team was ranked first by FIFA in 2015. Yes, there has been a lot of criticism regarding what informs these rankings. Currently, they are ranked third in the world. Barring any catastrophic results in their upcoming three friendly matches, the team should remain in the top three.
A fully assembled Belgian starting 11 is something that most national coaches would lick their lips for. The likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku at just a glimpse, offer a vicious attacking threat to just about any opposition. On paper, Roberto Martinez’s side also has solid defensive options Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen among others. Basically, they have quality players on all fronts that if left unchecked, could cause lots of problems.
After a disappointing World Cup (2014) and Euro 2016 campaigns that both ended in quarter-final defeats, it is safe to say that the team is now ready to mix it up with the big boys. Things even get better if you have a 330-goal machine (Thiery Henry) as an assistant manager right?
The Three Lions have a point to prove in Russia in order to move away from the shadows of their 1966 World Cup winning side. In recent memory, this will be first England side to enter a major competition with completely raw talent. The players that have served their country for a lengthy spell like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are long gone.
This has paved way for a new breed of young and talented players. Just like the young German team of the 2010 World Cup that introduced us to Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira, England too has the chance to give the nod to budding youngsters. Marcus Rashford, Delle Alli and Harry Kane represent this current crop of players who carry the hopes of the next generation.
The North Africans finally overcame their lacklustre performance during World Cup qualification campaigns. This is despite dominating the continental stage with three titles in the last seven editions. It is therefore a safe bet to say that The Pharaohs are Africa’s wild card. To cap it all, the team will bank on the impressive form their near 50-goal weapon Mohamed Salah in their quest to shine at the global stage.
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”