2018 FIFA World Cup Preview
The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup is on our doorstep. The most publicized sporting event in the world… Yes, yes, even before the Olympic Games, will once again bring together the countries of the planet around the same passion. THIRTY-TWO nations have qualified for this great tournament, some for the first time, others are accustomed and some that… will shine by their absence. Over the next few weeks, before the start of the “beautiful game” tourney, FanPicks will cover every nation participating in the group stage. Don’t forget to enter the World Cup contests at fanpicks.com
The national team is that of Russia, the host team of the tournament. As such, they have by default been qualified. They’ve played only one preparatory tournament, the Confederations Cup on their floor to test some facilities, and did not exit the group stage. They haven’t even done so in its ten previous participation’s in the World Cup. The fate of Russia will rest in part on the shoulders of its captain, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, considered among the best in the world.
Absent from the last two editions of the World Cup, the Green Falcons is a highly prized animal in this country of Arabian Nights. A Saudi prince having even traveled his 80 birds aboard a regular flight from Qatar Airways, booking a seat for everyone! It is also the nickname of Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman. Let’s get back to football. It will be the fifth participation of the nation, its best having been in 1994 while the team was coached by an Argentinian, Edgardo Bauza, and they went all the way to the round of 16. Perhaps it bodes well for the sons of the desert, another pretty nickname of the team, since it is again an Argentinian who is at the helm, Jorge Solari.
Egypt was the first African team to qualify for a World Cup in 1934. They have waited 56 years for her second participation in 1990. Now, after 28 years, Egypt will participate in a world cup for the third time. The team with the most Africa Cup of Nations titles (7 crowns) has never won a match in the final phase of the World Cup, having accumulated 2 draws and 2 losses. In 1934, the round of 16 was accessed directly. Mohammed Salah, the current top goalscorer of the Premier League with Liverpool, is the star of the group. But Egypt has suffered 2 hard blows with the potential loss of Salah (broken shoulder in the UEFA Champions League finals) and the withdrawal of its keeper (rupture of the crossed ligaments) Ahmed El Shenawy. The replacement of the latter should be the veteran Essam El Hadary, who at 45 years would set a World Cup age record.
Nicknamed La Celeste (The Sky Blue) not due to the divine qualities of the team, but rather to the sky-blue color of his jersey. Uruguay was the first team to win the World Cup (1930) and repeated the feat in 1950. Since then, they have been three times in the semifinals, with the most recent being 2010 in South Africa. Edinson Cavani, the top scorer of the South American World Cup playoffs, and Luis Suarez will undoubtedly be the spearheads of this selection that seems a little above his group partners.