In Part 1 of this blog, we read about an interesting match-up in each of Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D. In this section, the next four groups from Group E to Group H will be covered the same way as we count down the days to the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Group E – Brazil vs Costa Rica
Costa Rica made plenty of heads turn with their performance in the 2014 World Cup. One of the teams in what was labeled to be the ‘Group of Death’, Costa Rica went up to the quarterfinals in what was a stunning, all-around performance. However, with a squad, accomplishing that again will be an uphill task. In goal, they have Keylor Navas, who is coming off a Champions League winning season with Real Madrid and the likes of Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Cristian Gamboa and Giancarlo Gonzalez are expected to line up in front of him. In midfield, Celso Borges, Christian Bolanos, and David Guzman are likely to feature with their celebrated captain, Bryan Ruiz leading the frontline along with Joel Campbell, Johan Venegas, and Marco Urena. Brazil, on the other hand, have arguably one of the strongest teams going into the World Cup.
Between the sticks, Roma’s Allison and Manchester City’s Anderson will be fighting it out for a spot while it is likely that Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Filipe Luis will line up in defense. Brazil has an abundance of talent in midfield. Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho, Fernandinho, Willian, Fred, and Paulinho are all viable options in the center of the pitch and are orchestrators in their own sense. Their attacking options to exude talent and on their day, the likes of Neymar Jr., Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa can decimate oppositions. The match is bound to be an end-to-end encounter, but Brazil will hold the upper hand.
Group F – Germany vs Mexico
2014 World Cup Champions, Germany, find themselves in what is a relatively easy group for the quality of football they play. However, Mexico is one team that can definitely cause them problems. Guillermo Ochoa, who was outstanding last World Cup will take his place in goal. In defense, Hugo Ayala, Carlos Sacedo, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno and Rafael Marquez are all above-average options. The midfield is expected to be held together by Hector Herrera, the dos Santos brothers, Jonathan and Giovani, Marco Fabian and Andres Guardado. Their attack will be led by Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, with support from Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta and Jesus Manuel Corona. Germany, meanwhile, have a bunch of brilliant players in all positions.
In goal, they have two players who are undoubtedly among the best in the world in Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, along with Kevin Trapp for backup. FC Bayern trio, Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels and Joreme Boateng, are expected to form what looks to be a stealthy defense along with the likes of Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, and Antonio Rudiger. In midfield, the Germans possess both creativity and exuberance in Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler, Sami Khedira and Ilkay Gundogan. The attacking lineup is brilliant too with the seasoned Thomas Muller, exciting Timo Werner, brilliant Marco Reus and experienced Mario Gomez. With a team like this and the depth the Germans have in their ranks, it is difficult to see them lose a game in their group, but Mexico can definitely spring up a surprise.
Group G – Belgium vs England
Belgium and England are two teams that have displayed some top-quality football in recent times, but somehow have failed to live up to their potential and perform on the big stage. In Group G, where the two teams are placed along with Tunisia and Panama, critics, fans and players alike expect these two to make it out of the group comfortably. However, who will take top place will depend on this fixture. In Thibaut Courtois, Belgium has a dependable pair of hands in goal. The defense consists of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Thomas Meunier. The midfield boasts of an exceptional quantity of talent, with Kevin de Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Yannick Carrasco, Adnan Januzaj and Mousa Dembele, as does the attack with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Michy Batshuayi, and Thorgan Hazard.
England, too, has a good set of options between the sticks in Jack Butland, Nick Pope, and Jordan Pickford. Their defense looks robust with the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Danny Rose, Garry Cahill and Ashely Young and the midfield, like Belgium’s, is filled with quality players in Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson, though the extent to which these midfielders can ply their trade together will decide a lot of things for the Three Lions. The burden of goal-scoring is likely to be placed heavily on the shoulders of Harry Kane and he will look for support from Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck and Marcus Rashford. Out of all the 7 fixtures we have looked at so far, this game could well prove to be the most exciting one if both teams are able to play to their potential, given that the game will have some of the best youngsters in action.
Group H – Colombia vs Poland
It is difficult to determine whether Poland or Senegal will provide more headaches to Colombia, who are favorites to top their group, but Poland’s outstanding run in the Qualifiers leading to a first-place finish in their group and direct qualification to the World Cup makes them a force to be reckoned with, despite the individual brilliance Senegal boasts of. Poland is likely to start Wojciech Szczęsny in goal and his performances in the recent past between the sticks will be extremely reassuring to a team that will be worried about its defense. In front of Szczesny, Łukasz Piszczek, Jan Bednarek, Maciej Rybus, Artur Jędrzejczyk and Michal Pazdan are options that are reliable but might struggle to withstand pressure from quality attackers.
The midfield is likely to be composed of Jakub Błaszczykowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kamil Grosicki and Sławomir Peszko, while the attack will be headed by Robert Lewandowski along with Arkadiusz Milik and Łukasz Teodorczyk. Colombia, on the other hand, will look up to David Ospina to keep the goals out with his gloves, with help from a defense consisting of Cristian Zapata, Yerry Mina, Oscar Murillo, Davinson Sanchez and Frank Fabra. In midfield, James Rodriguez will be the chief orchestrator, along with Juan Cuadrado, Carlos Sanchez, and Abel Aguilar as they look to supply the talented front line of Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao, Luis Muriel and Jose Izquierdo. This fixture also has the potential to be an end-to-end, entertaining encounter and a lot will depend on how both the teams contest the game in midfield.
These 8 games could not only turn out to be exciting but can also be ones that might change the balance of the tournament as a whole. These games do have a tendency to get cagey in the beginning, but as it progresses, there is every chance that the spectators will get to see a mouth-watering, nerve-wracking game with the adrenaline and tension pumping up to great heights.