The FIFA World Cup 2018 is just around the corner and almost every football fan is bound to be filled with excitement and also a pinch of tension and nerves. The World Cup is every team’s dream achievement and this year too, the international competition, that every country looks forward to, definitely promises a lot of thrills, footballing genius and magical moments that will find their places etched in World Cup history. As the anticipation hits extremely high levels, we look at 8 games (one from each Group) out of the 48 group-stage games that could prove to be crucial, as well as a treat for the fans:
Group A – Uruguay vs Egypt
Though the home team, Russia, is in Group A too, the match-up between Uruguay and Egypt could prove to be the most exciting one in the group. While Uruguay has a solid squad with an abundance of experience, Egypt is very much capable of springing up a surprise. While Uruguay has as many as 10 players in their World Cup squad who contested in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season, Egypt has just 5 in Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Hegazi, Ali Gabr, Mohamed Elneny and Ramadan Sobhi. However, the very first name in that Egyptian list, the mercurial Mohamed Salah, who was pivotal in Liverpool’s brilliant 2017-18 season and Egypt’s World Cup qualification, is a force to be reckoned with and it is expected that Egypt’s team strategy will revolve around their extraordinary forward. Uruguay, meanwhile, boasts of quality in all parts of the pitch. Fernando Muslera is a safe goalkeeper, while Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez will marshal the defense along with Martin Caceres and Sebastian Coates. In midfield, Carlos Sanchez, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Matias Vecino are all capable of setting things in motion and in the attack, Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain attacker Edinson Cavani can be lethal, along with the promising Maxi Gomez and reliable Cristhian Stuani. All in all, the match-up proves to be a high-voltage encounter, though Uruguay definitely seems to hold the upper hand.
Group B – Portugal vs Spain
Spain, the 2010 World Cup winners, pitted against Euro 2016 champions, Portugal, is bound to be the most exciting match in Group B. Both teams boast of world-class players, though their driving mentality is vastly different. While Spain, in the recent past, has always looked to control the game by holding on to the ball and patiently building their forays forward, Portugal looks to a more frenetic, racy transition and is good on the counter as well. Spain possesses a formidable back line consisting of David de Gea in goal, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in the center and Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal on the flanks. Their midfield and attacking options are no less spectacular with the likes of David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Marco Asensio, Thiago, Koke and Saul Niguez all vying for a spot in the middle of the pitch, while Diego Costa, Lucas Vazquez and Iago Aspas leading the attack. Portugal, meanwhile, has a safe pair of hands in goal, in Rui Patricio. The defense, however, is not the greatest, but the likes of Pepe, Jose Fonte, and Raphael Guerreiro are all decent options. They do possess quality midfield options, though, in Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes and Adrien Silva. Portugal is also proud owners of an extremely talented front line, led by the explosive Cristiano Ronaldo, with Ricardo Quaresma, Andre Silva, and Gelson Martins, all providing able support. This game promises much and we expect it to be an absolute blockbuster over 90 minutes.
Group C – France vs Denmark
Group D – Argentina vs Croatia
Argentina against Croatia is definitely the game to look forward to in Group D, though the group also consists of Iceland and Nigeria, who have shown they are capable of springing up surprises. Runners-up in the 2014 World Cup, Argentina have seen 2 more managers leave the helm after Sabella stepped down after the World Cup final. Lionel Messi and his team’s quest to be in the midst of international glory again continues to be blocked out in the finals time and again, but there is not an iota of doubt about the quality they have in their team. With Sergio Romero out injured, Franco Armani is expected to don the goal-keeping gloves after a good 2017-18 season with River Plate. In defense, Javier Mascherano, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and Federico Fazio will have to give it their all to keep their opponents from making dangerous inroads. The midfield, led by Angel Di Maria, also boasts of talent in the form of Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini and Christian Pavon. Argentina’s strength, however, is their exceptional attacking quality. With the extra-terrestrial Lionel Messi leading the line along with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, and Paulo Dybala, who have all proved that they can score goals in Europe, the Argentine team is capable of causing several problems to their opponents. Croatia, too, boasts of extremely good players, who have plied their trade in various leagues. Danijel Subasic, Lovre Kalinic, and Dominik Livakovic will fight it out for a place in goal, while Šime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren and Ivan Strinic will be expected to lead the defense. In midfield, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric will be expected to control possession and supply changes to the forwards along with Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic. Croatia’s attacking options are well above average too, with Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, and Andrej Kramaric all performing well for their respective clubs when called upon in the recent past. Thus, the game promises to be an exciting one and will definitely promise to be one of the best encounters in the group stage.
Wondering where the remaining 4 match-ups are? Well, stay tuned because they will be covered in Part 2 of this blog!