The World Cup is less than 48 hours away. The guessing games and predictions start here. Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD presents five teams with a realistic chance of lifting the trophy.
Germany are the current holders of the World Cup. Since Brazil defeated Czechoslovakia 3-1 to clinch their second consecutive World Cup title in 1962, no country has ever equaled that feat. Germany, blessed with abundant talent at their disposal, face a herculean task of winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as no team has successfully defended their title in the last 56 years.
The Die Mannschaft are the current FIFA Confederations Cup champions and they have in their ranks some of the best young talents coming through the ranks such as Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, all of whom are ready and able to contribute to the team’s impending title defence while not forgetting the wealth of experience the likes of Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Nuer, Thomas Muller bring to the team.
For a player like Leroy Sane to be left out of the World Cup squad shows the depth in quality at the disposal of Joachim Low. Hopefully they don’t end up joining Brazil (1966), France (2002) and Italy (1950 and 2010) in the dubious club of defending champions bowing out of World Cup in the first round. Also winners of the “warm-up” tournament never follow up by lifting the World Cup and that’s another record for them to break.
Two-time champions Argentina struggled through qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. But, with Lionel Messi in the La Albiceleste side for the World Cup, they remain a force to reckon with in Russia. In 2014, Messi led them to the final of the tournament, but they lost 1-0 to Germany. Argentina will need more than Messi to lift their third World Cup title in Russia. The La Albiceleste have reached the quarter-finals in their last three appearances.
Messi’s support cast of Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Serigo Aguero and Angel Di Maria must be prepared to make a difference when the Barcelona superstar is having an off day in Russia.
Argentina launch their campaign against Iceland on Saturday, with games to follow against Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.
The five time World Champions are a team that is mixed with flair, grit and organisation. Coach Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, commonly known as Tite has abundant talent at his disposal. Regardless of the fact that Neymar may not be at his optimal best, the Selecao boast of the likes of Willian, Philippe Coutinho, Jesus, Neymar in attack and the steel of Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulinho in midfield while Marquinhos, Miranda and Thiago Silva in defence look solid, not forgetting their flying full-backs Danilo and Marcelo, you have to give Brazil a big chance of repeating what they did in 1958: win a World Cup on European soil.
The team also boast of two of the best goalkeepers in Europe this season Alisson of AS Roma and Ederson of Manchester City. Brazil have won 17 of their 21 games since Tite took over two years ago and lost only once. They have scored 47 goals, conceded just five and kept 16 clean sheets. The last time the crashed out from the group stages was in 1966.
The Spanish team have immense experience and technical qualities to win the World Cup in Russia despite leaving out eight of their big stars. Alvaro Morata, Perdo Rodrguez, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, Marcos Alonso, Ander Herrera, Javi Martinez and Atletico winger Vitolo who scored four goals in five appearances in Spain’s qualifying campaign are the biggest stars left out of the World Cup party by Spain.
But they have impressive names in their World Cup bound squad like David De Gea, Sergio Busquets, David Silva, Isco, Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta and possibly a fresh Diego Costa up top. As Lionel Messi said: “You’d rather not face them.”
The Spanish team bowed of the World Cup in 2014 in the first round, joining Brazil, France and Italy as teams who failed to defend their World title by crashing out in the preliminary round. With the new generation of players spearheaded by old warhorses Andrea Iniesta and Diego Costa, Spain will be a force to reckon with. Their defence line is marshaled by Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, not forgetting Sergio Busquets, Spain will be a top contender for the title in Russia.
Portugal Morocco and Iran won’t stop them in the group stages.
Les Bleus have the most exciting young talents emerging in World football today in Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti. They are not short of quality and depth considering their pool of talent.
They also have well experienced players who have tasted glory at club level so it remains to be seen if these bunch of French stars can replicate the glory of 1998 when France hosted and won the World Cup.
Didier Deschamps could become just the third man to win the World Cup trophy as coach and player after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer if he leads his side to glory in Russia.