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
In Brazil, the Red Devils managed to get to the quarter-finals, their best result since 1986 (semi-final) for a team often advertised among the favorites. Belgium’s third place in the FIFA ranking gives them hope to push a little further. And looking at this squad, we can easily imagine the cup in their hands on July 12th. Belgium has players in the biggest teams in Europe, Manchester City and United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG to only name a few, an astonishing result for a country of 13 million inhabitants. But the challenge of head coach Roberto Martinez, new in international soccer, will be to find the cohesion between these stars scattered throughout Europe. Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Mousa Dembele, Eden Hazard, Thomas Vermaelen and Thibault Courtois, a dream team on paper that must prove its value on the ground. The Red Devils are very often their worst enemy.
The other team, along with Iceland, who will make its World Cup debut is Panama. It’s a first qualification that has caused more chatter than their last victory 2-1 over Costa Rica, the latter being already qualified, eliminated the United States ending the seven consecutive presences of the Americans. It was the goal of Roman Torres at the 87th minute that propelled Panama to Russia, but it was the “phantom” goal of Blas Perez at the 54th which raised the passion. In any case, Panama has taken third place in the CONCACAF. He will have to rely on the experience of his coach Dario Gomez who flew Colombia at the 1998 World Cup and Ecuador in 2002.
Tunisia return after 12 years of absence for a fifth participation. Never out of the group stage, his only victory was won at his first presence in 1978 against Mexico. Since then, Tunisia has accumulated 7 defeats and 4 draws. In the absence of the top scorer of the selection Youssef Msakni, wounded in the knee, it will be necessary to count on Wabhi Khazri who’s success in Rennes should help the team win a second victory.
The Three lions, like those adorning the crest of England, will arrive at this edition of the World Cup with an inflated heart of hope. If their game is based on the U-20 and U-17 teams that won their respective World Cup, and from the U-19 who won the Euro, all in 2017, they could arrive up all the way to the top 4 remaining teams, something they haven’t been successful since 1990. Hastily released from the World Cup in Brazil, without accumulating a win and only scoring two goals, they once again have a talented team on paper, led by a Harry Kane who turned heads last year. They have often disappointed in the last few years, but this time we feel a little something different. We’ll see…