This world cup should be a reflection period, and a time to look back at the once great nations that were at the forefront of football and have seen themselves fall in the recent years. Both Italy and Holland have failed to it out of the qualifying round, trumped by the unspoken gems like Sweden, Croatia and Iceland. Whilst we can sadly forget the good times we experienced with greats like Andrea Pirlo, Johan Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp, we also need to the remember the flurry of young players who are taking the world by storm like the world-beating talent of Kylian Mbappe. It’s about time someone stepped up to the plate and tried to take a blind stab at who will the World Cup will swallow as it’s next victim of failure or who it will bathe with in the waters of success.
The Big Guns
The first thing you think of when you think of the world cup are the biggest teams that have done well and have taken the opportunity presented to them and have snatched it up like a predator of the night. The early favorite of the competition so far is France, you only have to take one glance at the talented players that France have at their disposal to see why the bookies are already tipping Le Bleus for World Cup Glory, with Lloris, Varane, Pogba and Mbappe only to name a few, this team could be ready to bask in success before the Cup has even started. One of the other big boys who are looking at the bigger picture is Belgium who are lining themselves with Kevin De Bruyne, Nainggolan, Hazard and Lukaku all waiting to prey on any unprepared defences who stand in their way. The pride of Southern America and veterans of the tournament, Brazil are also a strong contender for this year’s tournament, although the last time we saw the Samba’s in the world cup was a 7-1 thrashing by the mighty Germany (more on them later) but now with Neymar, David Luiz and Coutinho all showing improvement since the dreaded 2014 World Cup they may be in with a slightly bigger chance especially considering they already hold 5 World Cups under their belt. Now onto the previously mentioned and reining Champions Germany and the stats suggest that they are still good enough to rival any team that they come up against as they came out of the qualifying stage with a 100% record, showing that they still have an urge to go further and become what they want to achieve. Greatness.
The One Trick Pony’s
It would be wrong of me to talk about the greatest footballing competitions without talking about the greatest footballers and whilst sadly Darren Fletcher didn’t make it, Messi and Ronaldo certainly did, and Portugal, whilst being the champions of Europe, are still lacking the final detail that can push them on to becoming world’s best, and as for Messi’s native Argentina, as strong as they are in attack with players like Pablo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and of course Leo himself they seem to be lacking in areas like the midfield and the defence, disregarding a few standout players, but after making it to the final in 2014, they may be able show the world that this time, they can conquer the footballing world.
The Long Shots
The restructuring of the Icelandic youth system has proved them worthy of success in recent years, and whilst they may not be suppliers of any massive names in football, they still have one of the best performing teams in the national competitions, beating England in the Euro’s of 2016 shows how far they have come for a nation with a population of only 300 thousand, and if they can perform anywhere near as good as they did against England that night, they could prove to be a real handful for the bigger nations. I feel like to be truly patriotic, I also feel like obliged to put England in this category as a proud Scotsman, rather than give them a bigger chance, however I feel they may be in with a shout if they can hold their nerve and not concede any last minute free kicks to Leigh Griffiths, they should be good. Another team who have fell behind recently is Spain, after being crowned champions of the world and of Europe in 2010 and 2012 respectively, they fell away, presumably due to the retirement of the midfield magician Xavi and the determination of the great Andres Iniesta, but if they can regain a decent run of form with the new players like Isco and Marco Asenjio coming through the ranks, they could surprise a few unsuspecting foes.
With all that being said it seems that there should not be any nasty surprises awaiting the big boys, of course it’s still only February and a lot can change until the first whistle blows to signal the start of the tournament but I think that France should take the crown, as they have one of the better teams, but many players could have a late blossom or a late injury, and with many teams only having one player who they rely on, it could mean that teams like Argentina and Portugal could fall to the hands of the smaller nations. And that is why we love the tournament that can only be described with one word. Unpredictable.