Will Belgium Lead the Way in the 2018 World Cup UEFA Qualifying Group H?
Before we take a look at 2018 World Cup UEFA qualifying group H lets fast-forward to last year’s tournament. The Belgium national football team brought one of the most interesting narratives to last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, returning to the tournament after two consecutive failed qualifications, and going all the way to the quarterfinals. After Belgium missed out on the event in both 2006 and 2010, no one was quite sure what to expect from the team going into the group stage. But the Belgians won all three of their group fixtures (scoring triumphs over Algeria, Russia, and South Korea), and went on to beat arguably the best team the United State had ever sent to the World Cup in the round of 16. Belgium ultimately lost in the quarterfinals—to eventual tournament runners-up, Argentina—but still left the tournament as a soccer team to watch in Euro 2016 and beyond.
Fast-forward to now, and Belgium are currently ranked by FIFA as the second best team in the world—behind Argentina, but ahead of 2014 WC victors Germany—and have turned in two of the biggest wins of the Euro 2016 qualifiers (a 6-0 victory over Andorra, and a 5-0 win against Cyprus). Needless to say, the Belgian national football team are in a great place right now, and their draw into UEFA’s World Cup Qualifying Group H reflects that fact.
Indeed, Belgium are the clear frontrunners in Group H, which also includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, and Cyprus. Unlike groups A through G, Group H only includes five teams instead of six, giving Belgium’s Red Devils an even clearer advantage over the proceedings.
Even without their recent successes taken into account, Belgium would still be the obvious World Cup qualifying choice from Group H. The Red Fury have appeared at 12 Cups over the years, scoring their best finish (fourth place) in 1986. In the qualifiers for the 2014 tournament, the Belgian soccer squad won eight of their games and drew the other two, winning direct qualification into the event from a group that also included Croatia, Serbia, Scotland, Wales, and Macedonia.
Only time will tell if Belgium’s current FIFA ranking reflects their actual level among the world’s best soccer teams. If it does, could we be looking at a first-ever WC victory for the Red Fury in Russia three years from now? In any case, there is no doubt that the Belgians have earned default frontrunner status in Qualifying Group H.
The Rest of the Field
Belgium’s road to Russia 2018 is an easy one for two reasons: first off, they are a good team that have recently hit their biggest peak in nearly 30 years; second, the rest of the field in Group H is relatively weak, devoid of any football team that would be a clear challenger for the top spot.
For instance, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus are both in Belgium’s Euro 2016 Qualifying Group, and neither have shown that they have what it takes to beat the Red Fury on the global soccer stage. Bosnia-Herzegovina are coming off their first-ever WC appearance in 2010, though (they won a game against Iran in the group stage, before being eliminated), and might be a decent bet for second place in Group H. The Cyprus national football team, meanwhile, have never qualified for a World Cup.
Greece also made an appearance in Brazil in 2014, and actually did surprisingly well, beating out Japan and the Ivory Coast to make it past the groups, and only losing to Costa Rica narrowly (on penalty kicks) in the round of 16. However, the Greeks have been a wreck in the qualifiers for Euro 2016, scoring zero wins and picking up five losses in their first eight games. In other words, it’s tough to say how they might perform once WC qualification rounds get underway in September 2016.
Estonia, finally, are like Cyprus in that they have never qualified for the World Cup.
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