June 16, 2018

You can’t top World Cup excitement

by Dan Bilicki In: Picks, Soccer

It has only been two days and the games, aside from Portugal-Spain, haven’t been the most exciting affairs, but you just can’t top the feeling that settling down to watch the biggest tournament in the world gives you.

We’ve seen a blowout, some late-game heroics, an upset and a top-class thriller between two contenders. What more could you want? We’ve seen some sensational goals and saves, and a pretty bad howler.

But the joy of cheering on national teams is like no other. This isn’t like watching the Champions League final, where one side had a frontline of a Frenchman, a Spaniard and a Portuguese while the other trotted out a Brazilian, an Egyptian and a Senegalese winger.

There’s no going out to buy a replacement if your keeper isn’t up to snuff, you have to rely on what you have.

But it’s more about the childlike joy of supporting your country – or where your parents are from – and watching them take on the world.

And for the next month, we’ll sit on the edge of our seats as they do so, fighting for the hardest trophy on earth to win.

Our 2018 World Cup predictions

Group A: Uruguay, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Everything seems to already be playing out to plan. Unless we see Egypt upset the Russians – but who knows if that can happen with Mo Salah obviously still hurting – then Uruguay and the hosts will duke it out for top spot.

Group B: Spain, Portugal, Iran, Morocco

We’re cheating a bit on this one, given the opening game results. We had originally tabbed Morocco as second over Portugal in an upset, but now the North Africans will be lucky to get two points in Russia. Spain should take first on goal differential.

Group C: France, Denmark, Peru, Australia

The French have stumbled before, but the distractions seem to be at a minimum this year. Denmark and Peru are neck and neck for second and we’ll how that plays out Saturday morning.

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland

Lionel Messi and Co. shouldn’t have too much trouble going through, but the team to watch here is Croatia. We think the checkerboard-clad team has enough talent to make a nice, long run in Russia. Nigeria could derail that all and Iceland also has potential to steal a couple points.

Group E: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Costa Rica

Brazil should crush this group and is our pick to win it all. Serbia sliding past the Swiss is an upset that could happen. Los Ticos won’t be able to pull off the same magic they did in Brazil.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

The defending champs have been underwhelming in the lead-up to Russia, but shouldn’t have too much trouble in this group. Mexico gets the edge over the Zlatan-less Swedes while the Koreans don’t have much talent other than Son Heung-min.

Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama

The Red Devils will win the group, but they’ve been known to falter when the pressure is on. England is heading for another predictable knockout phase elimination, likely on penalties. The less said about the other two teams here, the better.

Group H: Colombia, Poland, Senegal, Japan

This should be the tightest group of them all. Excluding Japan, the three other teams will have to be on guard every time out. One slip up could cost anybody.

Semifinals: Brazil-France, Spain-Germany

Final: Brazil 2, Spain 1 – Sure, we could’ve changed this after that opening draw, but we’ll just chalk that up to opening day jitters under a brand new manager for the Spaniards.

Golden boot: Neymar, Brazil – Our pick for the champs will be led up front by the PSG star.

Golden ball: Neymar, Brazil – If you’re the best player on the best team, you should win this one.

Golden gloves: David De Gea, Spain – Some minor regrets over this pick already.

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