With the FIFA World Cup 2018 just around the corner, we have decided to give you a lowdown on each team taking part in the competition.
Group A – Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Despite being the hosting nation, the Russian side taking part in the competition lacks any big names. Only Alan Dzagoev, the playmaker from CSKA Moscow, is their best chance at creativity. As a result, there’s a very good chance that they might join South Africa to become the 2nd host nation in World Cup’s history to be eliminated in the group stage.
Uruguay, meanwhile, are twice World Cup winners in 1930 and 1950 and contains a multitude of star players including Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and PSG’s Edinson Cavani. They also have a formidable defensive prowess, hence the reason why Uruguay are expected to top Group A.
For Egypt, it is only the 2nd time in their history that they’ve made it to the group stages of the World Cup. However, that doesn’t mean that anything more would be a bonus. With a star player in Mohamed Salah – who scored 32 goals last season with Liverpool in the Premier League – they are hot favorites to join Uruguay in the knockout stages.
On paper, Saudi Arabia has more experience at this level than Egypt, as they made it to the Round of 16 in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Their star player is Mohammad al-Sahlawi who scored 16-goals in the qualifying round and has 28 goals in 33 appearances for his country.
Group B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
The Group B contains reigning European champions Portugal who are coming into the competition having won 9 out of 10 qualifying games. Their star player is obviously Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored more goals for his country than any other player in history.
Hoping to dent the enthusiasm of Portugal will be the 2010 World Cup winners in Spain, who have taken a hit even before the start of World Cup. Their manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked just one day before the start of the World Cup. Still, with the number of star players Spain have at their disposal, they should breeze through the group stages.
Battling it out for the third spot will be Iran and Morocco, two teams who couldn’t have wished to be in a worse group than this. While Iran has made 4 World Cup appearances, Morocco’s best performance came in 1986 when they reached the Round of 16.
Group C – France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
France is one of the most feared teams in this World Cup as they have a team full of match-winners at every position. Still, as their performances in the qualifying round showed – where they were defeated by Sweden and held to a draw by Luxembourg at home – this French team is still some way short of the 1998 team which lifted the Cup.
After France, the next big name in Group C is that of Denmark, whose best performance at this stage came in the 1998 World Cup when they made it to the quarterfinals. With Christian Erikson marshaling their midfield, the Danish side is favorites for the 2nd spot in this group.
Among the other two sides, Peru has the pedigree to be the surprise package of this group. That is despite the fact that this is their first appearance in the World Cup in 36 years.
Group D – Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Containing Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Paulo Dybala, the Argentine side is one of the hot favorites to lift the cup next month. Just like France, they have a match winner at every position. However, unlike France, the Argentine players know how to perform when the heat is on.
Croatia has the firepower in midfielder Luka Modric and striker Mario Mandzukic to be the surprise package of this year’s World Cup. Though they are likely to face a tough test from the Nigerian side which contains several quality players including John Obi Mikel and Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi.
As for Iceland, their victory against England in the 2016 Euro Championships means this team can perform on its day. And even though they have Gylfi Sigurdsson in their midfield, the strength of this Iceland team lies in their collective.
Group E – Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
With five-time World Cup winners Brazil in this group, it would be a huge folly to tip any other team to finish atop Group E. Their form has taken an upturn ever since the sacking of former manager Dunga, with Brazil unbeaten in the qualifying since the appointment of Tite.
As for Switzerland, they contain at least two-star players in ex-Bayern man Xherdan Shaqiri and AC Milan’s free-kick specialist left-back, Ricardo Rodriguez. However, if their recent history in this competition offers a clue, the Swiss are tipped to be knocked out in the group stages.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, was the surprise package in 2014 when they reached the quarterfinals. They have a truly world class player in goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who plies his trade with the European club champions Real Madrid.
Serbia has an uncharacteristically solid midfield and defense as it features veterans Aleksandar Kolarov, Nemanja Matic, and Branislav Ivanovic. They have what it takes to turn the Group E into a group of death for Switzerland and Costa Rica.
Group F – Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Germany is coming into this year’s competition as the reigning World Champions and there is no reason why they cannot repeat their performance from last World Cup. They have a star-studded squad, a manager who knows how to win trophies, and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in a fit-again Manuel Neuer.
Mexico has two accomplished performers in Hector Moreno and Javier Hernandez. They might fancy their chances to make it to the round of 16, but standing in their way is a Sweden side which might suffer from the absence of one Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Just like Mexico, South Korea has two-star performers in Tottenham’s Son Heung Min and captain Ki Sung-Yeung. Given the way they performed in the qualification round, do not rule out a respectable showing by South Korea in the group stages.
Group G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Featuring two heavyweights in Belgium and England, Group G might be in for some fireworks. The English team, which has been underperforming at major competitions since 1996. They don’t have the star-studded cast of yesteryears but what they do have is a plethora of young players eager to make their mark on the International arena.
Belgium, meanwhile, will be entering into this World Cup with their golden generations still intact. With Eden Hazard providing the pace down the flanks, Romelu Lukaku outmuscling the opponents in the main striker role and Thibaut Courtois as their goalkeeper, the Red Devils are tipped to top this group.
As for Panama and Tunisia, both of them will be hoping for an English slip-up. Otherwise, both these teams might be heading to the airport at the culmination of the group stages.
Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Poland will be looking towards the goal-scoring prowess of Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski to ease them through Group H. They have another, highly-rated player in Piotr Zielinski whose uncanny ability to score long-range goals makes him a threat.
Senegal has the pace and flair of Liverpool forward Sadio Mane who is currently enjoying the best form of his career. The 26-year-old former Southampton forward scored 20 goals and assisted another 8 in all competitions last season.
As for Colombia, their main hope, now that James Rodriguez has lost his form which turned him into a sensation in the last world cup, is the striker Radamel Falcao. He missed the last World Cup due to ACL tear and will look to use his time at Monaco to make amends here. With three such good teams in the mix, it seems that Japan might finish bottom of Group H.