We are barely weeks away from the most thrilling sports tournament in the world. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated events to rock the scene. All this culminated especially with the World Cup draw 2018 which saw some of the biggest countries make their way into the groups. World Cup draw 2018 saw the likes of Argentina enter into the ‘death group’ while other countries make a debut for the first time in the World Cup history. We saw a spirited fight and battle of wits during the World Cup qualifiers 2018 and this was just a tip of the iceberg.
The stakes of winning has never been higher with any of the team having equal chance to take home the most coveted trophy in the history of football. Germany will be playing favorites this time around as it would be thrilling to see if the can retain the title for two times in a row, a record held by only Brazil back in 1962. But it is anyone’s game in the World Cup qualifiers especially with the fall out of the big names by the small countries during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The fact that it is no man’s game is what makes it even more thrilling.
2018 World Cup
All the teams had gone through the World Cup qualification phase which saw them face each side in back to back matches. This included 32 teams with the exception of the host team Russia which automatically qualified. Out of the total 32 teams were engaged in back to back matches. This would be a great moment for countries like Iceland and Panama who would be making their first appearance in the tournament. The FIFA World Cup 2018 will see a total of 64 matches played in the 12 venues.
2018 FIFA World Cup
Will England end there near 50 year long dry spell or will the fate catch up with them. Will Brazil pick and dust themselves following the humbling at their own back yard at the hands of Germany? Is there any chance that France can relive their old glory days in 1998 when they clichéd the title? All these questions will be answered in less than a month when the best of the best from each country all come together to give us a moment in lifetime. The tournament has already gone down in the history books for being first time it is being held in Eastern Europe spread through the 12 cities. The final will take place on the 15th July, Luzhniki Stadium.
2018 World Cup draw
The World Cup draw was held last year on the 1st of December at the Stake Kremlin Palace in Moscow. All the qualifying 32 teams were drawn into eight groups of four teams each. The draw was made using four pots which was based on the FIFA World Rankings. The first pot contained the host nation Russia who was automatically selected for the FIFA World Cup 2018 with the other 7 best teams. The second pot had the next best eight teams followed by the third and fourth pot. This was different from previous draw which only utilized only one pot that was based on the FIFA World Rankings while the remainder was based on the geographical considerations.
It was compulsory for each of the team to come up with a preliminary squad made of 35 players each. After the preliminary squad, the team will present a final squad made of 23 players with three goalkeepers by the FIFA deadline. If there is any serious injury picked up during the match, the players must be replaced 24 hours prior to the kickoff the team’s first match. We have compiled a comprehensive breakdown of the eight groups for the tournament which kicks off with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium on June 14th.
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World Cup qualifiers tables
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Russia will kick start their campaign with home advantage over Saudi Arabia. Many people have taunted the success and failure of Russia to South Africa back in 2010 when they fell out of the group stages. It would mark their 11th World Cup appearance with past failure in the 2014 World Cup where they lost to Belgium and failed to edge out South Korea and Algeria. Saudi Arabia had a spirited fight during the qualifications finishing second behind Japan. They were better placed over Australia due to a better goal difference.
This marks the third appearance by the Pharaoh’s who have had a phenomenal qualifications beating Uganda, Ghana and Congo and losing just a single match. They would rely on the expertise of Mohamad Salah who has a record breaking season with 32 goals making him the PFA Player of the year. Uruguay has picked up the title two times and this time round they will be looking to relive the moment. PSG’s Cavani and Barcelona’s Louis Suarez who is prone to controversies each tournament will be the key men to look out for.
Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
The Iberian derby will be a match not to miss as it pitches Spain and Portugal. It was former Barcelona’s midfielder Anders Iniesta who scored the closing goal that earned the Spaniards the title in 2010 but the side has faced numerous changes in their team. Spain has always had it in for the Portuguese beating them 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup in South Africa and edging them out of the Euro 2012 on penalties. It will be amazing the see the skill set and prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo who always proves people wrong when it comes to the pitch.
Morocco and Iran would have to put up a strong defense to frustrate the opponents who are better placed in the group. It would be a moment in life of the game when Juventus Medhi Benatia faces off against former team mate Thiago with eyes of Moroccans on Sofiane Boufal to pull of an amazing victory. Morocco had an interesting entry into the stages after drawing three of the matches but not winning a single match. Iran would mark their 5th entry into the tournament and had an amazing run in the qualifications without losing a single match.
France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
France will be playing favorites this time around backed up by some of the best goal scoring international players from the various sides. Despite the poor results in the Euro 2016 under home ground this time they won’t have to struggle past the group stages. They succeeded in the qualifications ahead of Sweden and Netherlands with a total tally of 18 goals. Peru would mark their 2nd appearance in the tournament after 36 years of staying outside. There greatest performance came during the quarter finals in 1972 where they were edged out by Brazil.
Australia headlined their 5th appearance in the tournament in the country’s history. The last World Cup saw the side struggle in the group stages after losing out to Netherlands, Chile and Spain. The team looks to pick up from the 2006s team that advanced past the group stages. Denmark pulled off a surprise victory over Republic of Ireland in the play-offs. Tottenham’s Erkisen was the man of the match conceding 8 out of the 10 goals scored for his side. It will be nice to see if the side qualifies past the quarter finals for the first time in their history.
Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Fast forward to the ‘Death Group’ will be one of the highlights of the tournaments as each of the team has a reputation of advancing past the group stages. Even with the expertise of Lionel Messi, Argentina has had a rough time during international tournaments while losing the World Cup final to Germany in 2014 and losing out on the consecutive Copa America finals to Chile both in 2015 and 2016. Iceland pulled off the shocker of the decade by edging out England from the European Championships.
Croatia had their moment in the tournament back in 1998 where they finished off second runners up. This would be there 5th attempt at the title. They have a formidable midfield with the likes of Luka Modric and Rakitic and forward Mario Mandzukic. Nigeria has always been a team to give a strong opposition to the big teams but have never moved past the round of 16 despite winning the African Cup of Nation in three occasions. All eyes will be on Arsenals Alex Iwobi who scored the netted the qualifying goal against Zambia.
Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Brazil has proven to be a formidable team throughout the tournament but was met by surprise following the 7-1 defeat to Germany in their home soil. It was a heartbreaking moment. It will be a tough time for Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia who will be battling it out tooth and nail to the round 16. The Swiss had a good run in the qualifications finishing behind Portugal on goal difference. Costa Rica outdid them last World Cup managing to beat both Uruguay and Italy before being held to a barren draw by England.
Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Germany will be looking for their second consecutive title win which will end the streak of Brazil back in 1962. Mexico however will prove to be a tough nut to crack following their impressive matches in the qualifications with Javier Hernandez really leading his team to victory. South Korea under new management following the disbandment of coach Uli Stielike following the offal results by the team. Sweden let go of Zlatan Ibramohivic in the lineup to pave way for new talent in the squad.
Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Belgium has a formidable forward with the world’s best players including Kevin De Bruyne, Romen Lukaku and Eden Hazard. They had a good performance in the qualifications with Lukaku scoring 11 goals. Panama will be making their first appearance into the game and hoping to put up a defensive format to guide them forward. England has always had good players but have over 50 years failed to qualify to the finals. This time they have ncluded young blood like Sterling, Rashford to the mix. Tunisia are will eventually pull of a surprise if there are any mistakes.
Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Colombia will be depending on the services of James Rodriguez who took the Golden Boot during the last tournament. Senegal will have Sadio Mane who has had an impressive season at Liverpool alongside Mohamad Salah. Poland will be all over Robert Lewandowski who is currently leading in goals during qualifications with 16. Japan have a uniquely spread team but lack star players to really make it count but they can rely on Maya Yoshida and Shinji Okazaki for ultimate team experie
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