World Cup Qualifying from the Group
The 2018 World Cup takes place in Russia and begins on June 14th in Moscow. The competition will be viewed worldwide with the tournament showcasing the best soccer players in the world competing on the same stage. They teams have been separated into eight groups and two sides will qualify from each of these sections. We take a look at which sides are likely to progress beyond the group stage and book their place in the knock-out round.
Brazil, Germany, France and Argentina are amongst the favourites in the betting markets and bookmakers in South Africa have priced up these sides to dominate the tournament. Can these big-names qualify from their group with ease? Will we see any shocks in the opening couple of weeks?
Group A Predictions
Group A looks suitably competitive with Russia and Uruguay predicted to fight it out for a place in the round of 16. The South American side were no match for Brazil during their qualifying campaign but they were consistent and are deemed strong enough to finish above the hosts. The two-time winners of the tournament have Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani and won’t be short of firepower and that gives them the edge.
Russia have already lost a number of players to injury including Zenit’s Aleksandr Kokorin and that is likely to affect their chances. They should still have enough to qualify but may have to play second fiddle to Uruguay.
Egypt are odds-against to qualify but could be dark horses and progression would not be completely unexpected. They are a compact unit who rely on moments of brilliance from the mercurial Mo Salah. They will be waiting to bounce should Russia slip-up at any point.
Saudi Arabia have been deemed the least likely to qualify and despite enjoying a relative trouble-free qualification passage, they are unlikely to be strong enough.
Group B Predictions
Group B looks fairly straightforward with both Spain and Portugal predicted to encounter very few obstacles en-route to the knock-out rounds. Bookmakers in South Africa have priced up a Spain/Portugal straight forecast and that is an extremely popular option.
Spain look strong and they’ve continued their fine form in friendlies under Julen Lopetegui. They have the dancing feet of David Silva pulling the strings alongside the cultured Isco. Alvaro Morata may not have impressed at Chelsea but the former Real Madrid man always performs on the International stage. They are worthy favourites to finish top of the standings.
Euro 2016 champions Portugal are predicted to follow their near-neighbours into the knock-out stages. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to grab the headlines and although the remainder of their team look remarkably average, CR7 has enough star-quality to ensure his side make it through.
Morocco are likely to be tough to break down and could provide a few problems for the big two but are tipped to just fall short and the African side may have to settle for third place.
Iran were one of the first team to qualify for the tournament but have been dealt a tough draw and despite having some players who regularly compete in the Netherlands, they have been given very little chance of progression.
Group C Predictions
Despite their problems at the back, France are expected to completely dominate this section. Man-for-man, Les Bleus have the best squad and they possess an enormous wealth of talent. Didier Deschamps’ men are the third favourites for the title according to South African bookmakers and they are likely to reach the next stage without any issues.
Denmark could be dark horses to reach the latter stages of the competition and Age Hareide’s side are predicted to follow their fellow Europeans out of Group C. Christian Eriksen comes off the back of a fantastic season at Spurs and he is the key man for the Danes. They will need to ensure they don’t lose their opening game against Peru.
Peru come into the competition as an unknown package. They were the last side to qualify for the tournament after beating New Zealand in the play-offs and there’s a small chance that they could sneak into second. They have a number of talented players including Edison Flores who should provide plenty of threat throughout the tournament.
Australia struggled during qualification and they will need to show significant improvement in Russia. The Socceroos are widely predicted to finish bottom of Group C but they should provide plenty of entertainment along the way.
Group D Predictions
Similarly to Group C, one team dominate this section. Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina are the team who should qualify for the knock-out round with relative ease. Lionel Messi is the star attraction and is the favourite in the top goalscorer market and many punters in South Africa will have already backed the Barcelona magician.
Croatia have a talented squad but regularly underperform in these major tournaments. They rarely get out of first gear despite possessing the likes of Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic. They have been given a decent chance of qualifying from Group D but it’s a tough section and they can’t afford any underwhelming performances along the way. A fast start is imperative.
Iceland are the dark horse in this section. Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men are dangerous opposition and after their performances at Euro 2016, they should not be underestimated. With Argentina expected to dominate, they are likely to be competing for second place only.
Nigeria are regularly drawn against Argentina and they rarely get much luck against the South American giants. The Super Eagles are a decent young side but they’ve been dealt a horrendously tough group and they aren’t expected to qualify.
Group E Predictions
Brazil have been given the best chance of any side to secure their place in the round of 16. Tite’s side flew through qualification and it’s no surprise to see bookmakers in South Africa pricing up the 2002 winners as the joint favourites for the tournament. They have an embarrassment of riches to choose from and should have too much for their Group E opponents.
Switzerland have underwhelmed at recent tournaments but they remain strong and have some incredibly talented players. They perhaps look light up front and will rely on goals from midfield with Xherdan Shaqiri likely to impressive. Vladimir Petkovic’s side are expected to be in a battle for second position. Despite this, they’ve been given the edge in the qualification market.
Serbia have been tipped for big things over the next couple of years and have a talented young squad who should give Switzerland a run for their money. It looks a straight battle between the two European sides with both outfits unlikely to catch Brazil.
Costa Rica impressed during qualification but they’ve been handed yet another tough group. They came across Italy, England and Uruguay in 2014 and this doesn’t look much easier. They are expected to finish bottom of Group E.
Group F Predictions
Current holders Germany have been dealt a kind draw and they are expected to dominate Group F. Joachim Low’s side are clinical and should have too much for the three teams alongside them. Timo Werner is expected to fill the void left by Miroslav Klose and he is expected to thrive on the world stage.
Sweden eliminated Italy during the play-offs and they shouldn’t be underestimated here. They are predicted to follow Germany into the knock-out rounds and they are an extremely well-organised side who will be hard to break down. They don’t just rely on this however as they also have flair at the other end and look a decent bet to qualify for the round of 16.
Mexico had an easy qualifying campaign but this looks much tougher. They are always entertaining but as they displayed at the Confederations Cup, they were often outclassed by the more-organised sides. Many will fancy them to sneak through and they should provide decent competition for Sweden.
Korea Republic have already been written off and they seem unlikely to crash the party. They have one or two decent players but they might find it difficult in Group F.
Group G Predictions
Group G looks fascinating. Belgium and England have been drawn together and it’s these two sides who are expected to dominate. Roberto Martinez’s side are favourites and have a number of talented performers with the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens coming off the back of good seasons domestically.
They could outscore England who will be looking to make up for their 2014 disappointment. The Three Lions are a younger, more cohesive unit under Gareth Southgate and they should be able to book their place in the next round. A lot will depend on the fitness of Harry Kane.
Tunisia could be dark horses in Group G with the African side much improved in recent years. They are tough to break down but also possess a ruthlessness in the final third. They could capitalise on any slip-ups and will be hoping to dent England’s chances when the pair meet in the first group game.
Panama have qualified for their first ever World Cup and they will relish every second. They have been outclassed in some recent friendlies and are unlikely to have enough here.
Group H Predictions
Group H appears to be incredibly competitive and it’s difficult to separate Colombia and Poland. The latter have Robert Lewandowski and he could prove the difference. Adam Nawalka’s side were very entertaining during qualifying but their defence is leaky and that could be a hindrance in their quest for progression.
Colombia look a hugely entertaining but unpredictable side but they possess enough talent to secure their place in the round of 16. James Rodriguez’s form has dipped since he burst onto the scene but he still possesses plenty of quality and Radamel Falcao is a seasoned goalscorer.
Whilst the top two are difficult to separate, Senegal are aiming to surprise once again. The African side are always entertaining and will be aiming to break up the dominance of the top two. They enjoy tournament football and may just sneak a place in the next round.
Japan have been given the lowest chance of qualifying for the next round but they shouldn’t be completely written off. They had an easy ride in qualifying and they will see this draw as a great opportunity to progress.