With the World Cup in Russia fast approaching, there are lots of talk amongst supporters about who the stronger teams are this year. From previous winners to new comers, it is truly anyone’s game. Within the post we will try to establish who the main competitors are this season for the trophy as well as addressing who the underdogs could potentially be.
Established in 1930 the first ever World Cup took place in Uruguay and has since been hosted in a variety of countries across the globe. In history 5 countries have lifted the cup more than once, with the most wins being Brazil with 5 tournament victories. Below we will look at the break down of the winners in history:
- Brazil – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002
- Italy – 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
- Germany – 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014
- Uruguay – 1930, 1950
- Argentina – 1978, 1986
- England – 1966
- France – 1998
- Spain – 2010
The group stages of the World Cup in Russia take place on the 14thJune starting with the home country vs Saudi Arabia and ends on the 28thwith the last match being Panama vs Tunisia. Let’s take a brief look at each of the groups and see who has the most potential to make it to the next round.
- Saudi Arabia
Uruguay is the strongest going by historic play, winning the cup in 1930 and 1950, they are back again for their 13thtournament. Despite their 12thplace in 2014, they also reached 4thin 2010. Behind them in tying for quality is Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Russia are the host country and having the backing of their home may be a fantastic motivator for the squad, as well as this they have striker’s Fyodor Smolov and Artem Dzyuba who have an international goals scored total of 33. Standing out at the moment is Saudia Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Sahlawi who has netted a total of 17 goals for his country. However, they have not appeared in a cup tournament since 2006.
And finally, Egypt is looking to be the weakest of the group. With it being their first cup in 6 seasons and the fact they have never reached above 13thplace, means they are the underdog of the group A. Although their lack of placements could make them more motivated to succeed and surprise us all.
- IR Iran
Top runners Portugal and Spain are rumoured to be the favourites to make it through this group stage. With Cristiano Ronaldo captaining the Portuguese national team and a 2016 Euros win under their belts, they are certain to make it out of the group stages and advance onto the knockout rounds.
World Champions in 2010, Spain took a surprising turn in 2014 when they were knocked out in the group stages and took 23rdplace. However, with Silva and Costa being reputable players and scoring a total of 13 goals in the qualifiers we can definitely see them progressing on.
Morocco and IR Iran are at a lower ranking within this group, due to Morocco’s lack of experience after not making it into the past 4 tournaments and never placing above 11th. And IR Iran have only placed in 4 competitions and acquired positions such as 14th, 20th, 25thand 28th.
France are one of the favourites to win the entire tournament so we definitely expect to see them advancing on from the group stages by the end of June. With an impressively strong side, France are a renowned attacking team with various methods to beat a variety of club’s tactics.
It is between two teams who will be predicted to join France through these rounds. Australia has a poor historic placement for World Cups whereby in 2014 they gained 30thplace, however Tim Cahill has managed to net 18 goals for them in the qualifying rounds. On the other hand despite Denmark only competing in 4 tournaments, they have majority of the time made it into the top 10. Although, 2010 saw them take 24thplace.
The dark horses of this group is Peru. They have not competed in the games since 1982, which means that their team may be inadequate when it comes to experience. However, in their previous World Cup forays in the 1970s they had ventured through to the quarter finals but lost out to Brazil.
Champions in 1978 and 1986, Argentina are a strong competitor in Group D. Top players Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi have been picked for this year’s team and they are sure to not disappoint. With a collective amount of 30 goals between them in the qualifiers, Argentina is certainly set for success.
Croatia’s greatest achievement was in 1998 whereby they took third place in France. But since then they have not secured above 19thposition. Making top 10 in 1994, Nigeria is in the same standing as Croatia as they have yet to gain close to the top rankings in the past decade.
Newbies Iceland have never competed for the FIFA World Cup, because of this they have a long shot at making it through and shocking all spectators and supporters. In the 2016 Euros, they made 8thposition.
- Costa Rica
Brazil are sure to fly through the group stages as they have successfully taken the trophy on 5 occasions, making them a strong competitor. Never ranking below 14thplace which was seen in 1934, Brazil has stayed on top of their game over the past 4 decades remaining within the 10thposition bracket.
Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia are all in the same situation whereby they have only acquired top 10 team status a few times. Going by most recent performance, Costa Rica is highest as they took 8th place in 2014, whereby Serbia did not qualify and Switzerland were in 11thplace.
- Korea Republic
Consistently within the top 10, coming 1ston four occasions, and one of them being the most recent games in 2014. Germany are back to defend their Champions title and within this grouping, are certain to glide through nicely.
Repetitively missing out on the highest rankings, Mexico could be a contender, but we do not expect them to take the trophy, however we do see them around 10thplace mark.
Gaining 3rdplace in 1994 was the closest Sweden has ever been in the past two decades at lifting the trophy. Not making the qualifying cut in 2010 and 2014, could of made them thirsty for victory or leave them just scraping by. Similar to this is Korea who got 4thin 2002, however since then has remained in the low 10s and 20s when it comes to placing.
With Eden Hazard captaining the Belgium national team this year we are in for a treat when watching their matches. Already securing 8 goals for the team Chelsea forward will definitely benefit the team during this competition along with Manchester United player Lukaku who scored 2.
Frequently in the top 10, despite a hiccup last time where they were knocked out in the group stage and taking 26thplace. England is back and ready to take on whatever happens this year. Expecting to regain their higher ranking status like in 2006 where they took 7th. We can expect great things from them captained by Harry Kane.
Least likely to progress through the group stages is new comers Panama and Tunisia. Failing to qualify for the past 2 cups and never achieving above 24thplace, Tunisia is considered one of the weakest teams in this group. Alongside them is Panama, who have never competed before, so could either switch things around and pull it out the bag or let stronger teams like England and Belgium fly past them.
After their 3 seasons of no qualification between 2002 and 2010, Colombia certainly came back fighting going from 21stplace in 1998 to 5thin 2014. Along with Colombia, Japan are certainly one to watch out for, their history has been very fluctuating which saw them take 31st, 9th, 28th, 9th, 29th. Does this mean that they are to make the top 10 this season?
Poland are not one of the strongest in this group when looking at previous statistics. Despite securing 3rdin 1974 and 1982, Poland has struggled to qualify and move above 21stplace in the past two decades. Failing to qualify since 2006, Poland still have chance to turn it around.
Senegal is among the weaker sides of this group, only qualifying once back in 2002 and getting 7th. It is highly unlikely that they will make it through this round with the likes of Colombia and Japan in the running.
Ones to Watch
With their strong attacking side, France are confirmed as a favourite this year and will most definitely be a team to watch out for this year.
In just the qualifying rounds alone Mueller has netted 9 goals for his country and is sure to bring them to success this year. Teamed with Werner who gained Man of the Match status after the team’s 3 – 1 victory against Cameroon, the club is guaranteed to be one to keep your eyes on this season as they aim to maintain their Champion status.
One of the most highly achieved teams, Brazil has 5 trophies already under their belts and who is to say that they won’t be gunning for another one?
Iceland and Panama
Although they are new on the World Cup scene, this does not pit them out of the running completely. Fresh to the pressure and accuracy needed when competing, these teams could really be dark horses in this competition.
What are your thoughts on these predictions?
After reading all of these items of information of the teams taking part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, who do you think will be likely to make it into the top ten. And most importantly, lift the trophy for their country beaming with honour and pride? Let us know by joining in the conversation over on our social media pages.
This article is exclusive to Soccer Box, and has been written by Loren Astbury. Shop with us for all your 2018 World Cup kits, we have the official kits for all the top runners and many more.