Predictions for this year’s World Cup
Group A includes Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Uruguay. The Uruguayans will be heavy favorites in this group, and it should come down to Egypt and Russia for 2nd-place. Russia obviously has the home crowd advantage, but I expect Egypt, led by Liverpool talisman and Premier League Golden Boot winner Mo Salah, to edge out the Russians and advance to the Knockouts.
Group B may be the most clear-cut group on paper. Barring a massive upset, Portugal and Spain should advance here over Morocco and Iran. The only hope for the two underdogs may be playing bunker ball and hitting back on the counter.
Group C is an interesting one. Though it would be stunning to see France not win this group, Peru, Australia, and Denmark will be in an intense fight for the runner-up spot. Denmark may have the slight edge on paper, but Australia have gotten through as underdogs before, and Peru got here by qualifying out of CONMEBOL, quite possibly the toughest road to the World Cup in the entire world. Though Peru and Australia will present a challenge, I have the Danes advancing.
Like Group C, Group D has one heavy favorite, but then three teams who could all realistically make a run at that runner-up spot. Argentina shouldn’t have much trouble winning this group, but Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria could all make a case to advance. Will it be the loaded midfield of Croatia, the fighting spirit of Iceland, or the daunting attack of Nigeria that advances? Croatia has the best team of the three on paper, but matches aren’t won on paper. For the sake of these predictions though, I’ll go with Luka Modric and Croatia.
Group E includes Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. Brazil is the obvious favorite to win the group, but 2014 Cinderellas Costa Rica and a talented Serbian squad should make things difficult for the Swiss. In the end though, I think the Swiss prevail.
Any group that contains Germany is pretty clearly advantage Germany, but Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea will make things difficult for “Die Mannschaft”. Mexico has a Round of 16 reputation to uphold, but South Korea and Sweden have both showcased great all-around team play, with stars like Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) and Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) leading the way. Second place in Group F seems wide open, but I’ll go with Sweden.
Another group that seems pretty clear cut, as Belgium and England should advance from the group without much issue. Panama and Tunisia will try and present an obstacle, but in the end, they just don’t seem to have enough talent to keep pace with Belgium or England.
A very intriguing group with no clear favorite, Group H includes Colombia, Poland, Japan, and Senegal. Many will give the Colombians the edge here, and I do too, but Poland and Japan could fight with the Colombians for the two advancement spots. Even underdogs Senegal could present could play spoiler, though they probably don’t have enough firepower to advance from this group. Alongside Colombia, I like Poland to advance here.
Round of 16
Portugal 2-1 Uruguay
France 2-0 Croatia
Brazil 3-0 Sweden
Belgium 2-1 Poland
Spain 3-1 Egypt
Argentina 1-0 Denmark
Germany 2-1 Switzerland
Colombia 2-0 England
Portugal 1-3 France
Brazil 1-2 Belgium
Spain 1-1 Argentina (Argentina 5-4 on PKs)
Germany 2-1 Colombia
France 1-0 Belgium
Argentina 1-2 Germany
France 2-1 Germany