We sit here on the eve of opening of the Grandest Stage of them all, the pinnacle of world football, it of course is the World Cup. For the next four weeks 32 of the planet’s best international sides fight it out for the title of World Champions. But how will the tournament unfold?
Well here at Severn Sport we will look at the sides and players who can have the answer. We called upon friends of Severn Sport to provide their thoughts and opinions on different categories, so joining Ryan and Kelsey are Tyrell Foster, Severn Sport Tipster League resident tipster Damon Highet and Longlevens & Titan Training’s Luke Kavanagh.
Ryan: Even before today’s drama I liked the look of Spain. They have been unbeaten in competitive football for a while now and have a very decent group draw. If they can get the better of Portugal on Friday night I can’t see them winning the group and with a fairly weak Group A they could find themselves in the quarter finals before they even have to play well.
Tyrell: Despite the fact the South American sides don’t tend to do well on European soil it is hard to look past Brazil. They are a maturer side than the one who were demolished by Germany in 2014, they have licked their wounds and they will be turning up in Russia to win it.
Damon: Brazil for me. It might not sound too original but I think that they have the realization now that this group of players are going to have to work super hard and grind every game rather than rely on being more skillful that their opponents. I am expecting them to reach the final as the minimum.
Luke: Brazil. I’ve given it a lot of thought and with the players at their disposal then they have the power to blow anyone away. I think Neymar getting injured at the last World Cup killed them so if they can keep their key players fit this time round they are the front runners for me.
Kelsey: England. This is it boys, it’s coming home!! Southgate has a squad of players with no fear who understand the system and aren’t afraid to play. It’s time. Three Lions. Hold & Give. We’re on the ball. C’mon the boys!
Team To Watch
Ryan: Looking at the groups I think that a couple of sides will slip under a lot of people’s radar until the quarter finals and one of those in particular is Uruguay. They are in one of the weaker matched groups with Egypt, Russia & Saudi Arabia so if they win that group they could play either Spain or Portugal in the next round. With the front two of Luis Suarez & Edinson Cavani they have serious fire power. They could go far.
Tyrell: The team to watch, either positively or negatively will be Belgium. So much is expected of them they will either achieve greatness or disappoint.
Damon: I can’t separate two so I am going a joint Serbia & Croatia. Both of these sides are naturally and subconsciously underestimated or overlooked. They both have Champions League experience in their squads, high quality players and they deserve respect. Both sides are capable of knocking out a contender.
Luke: France. A lot of people’s top to win it. I don’t think they will as all round there are better teams with more World Cup experience in the running but they will certainly go close. Just by looking at the players they’ve left out you know they will be strong.
Kelsey: Argentina. Low-key think that Lionel Messi & co could do some special things this year in what could be the Barcelona star’s last real chance at winning the World Cup and truly joining the elite.
Team To Struggle
Ryan: I think a lot of the pre-tournament media around Sweden and the constant reminder of Zlatan Ibrahimovic not being included (because that kind of what retirement means!) will be a distraction. The fact three Scandinavian’s sides are in this year’s World Cup is great for that area of Europe but I can Sweden finishing the worst of the three.
Tyrell: There is a lot of pressure on a lot of sides and that includes Russia. Before a ball has even been kicked so many people don’t like the fact they are hosts. There will be a lot of judging of Russia as a nation throughout and if the side fail to achieve anything the scrutiny will be worse.
Damon: It has to be France. They have a super talented side and plenty of depth but I just fancy them to bottle it. Most of their team is, in my eyes, young talent. I think they may come unstuck if they conceded something early and them panic. I don’t think they’ll struggle as bad as 2002 but I don’t think they will go as far as they should.
Luke: Russia. We are used to seeing the host nation do pretty well in recent World Cups but I think that this year will buck the trend. No real stand out players in their squad and the majority of the play Russia produce aren’t pulling up trees. They must win the opening game otherwise they won’t get out of the group…although they could still win it and still go out….expect that.
Kelsey: This is difficult. Like seriously difficult. We could all pick Iran to struggle because they probably will but in terms of teams that should do better that won’t I am looking at Switzerland. They don’t look much for a pot 1 team and realistically they might not even make it out of the group.
Player To Watch
Ryan: It is all about Neymar for me. He is finally the main man, seen as many as the next non-Messi or Ronaldo Balon D’Or winner and he will be looking to make amends for the way Brazil’s home World Cup ended. He is the most expensive transfer in the world and this is his chance to back up all those years of hype.
Tyrell: The boy wonder, Marcus Rashford. He has looked effective and fearless since he broke onto the scene in 2016 and if he can be let off the leash he can make his mark on world football.
Damon: Neymar. He is the poster boy for Brazilian football and a lot of Brazil’s hopes rest on his shoulders. He can take over games and got injured last time out so this is his chance to shine.
Luke: Antione Griezmann had a great season with Atletico Madrid, scoring 20 plus goals from a No.10 role. He was a star for France in the Euros and has another couple of years experience ahead of the big one. He seems to be ready.
Kelsey: Paul Pogba‘s stock isn’t massively high at the moment but I do think that he is set for a big tournament. It depends on how the Manchester United midfielder is deployed.
How far will England go?
Ryan: Quarters for me. We have a decent squad that the manager trusts. We could turn some heads!
Tyrell: I am hoping for us to be playing some knockout football. Our squad is better now so Quarters should be the aim.
Damon: You’d be hopeful to get out of the group stages and depending on who we get in the next round we could make it to the Quarters. That is where it will probably end though.
Luke: Quarter Finals. The route looks capable to this point. I think we can win the group but a top team may be just too far for us.
Kelsey: Winners. Obviously….or dumped out at the quarters by Germany.
Pre-World Cup Top Tip (all prices taken from Sky Bet. Subject to change)
Ryan: Peru to qualify from Group C (13/8)
Tyrell: Antione Griezmann Top Goalscorer (12/1)
Damon: Croatia to win the World Cup (each way @ 33/1)
Luke: Romelu Lukaku Top Goalscorer (16/1)
Kelsey: Sergio Aguero Top Goalscorer (28/1)
That’s it. One more sleep and the big day is upon us. There is also a big day for us at Severn Sport on Saturday 23rd when Ryan, Kelsey & Tyrell will all be involved in the charity match at Longlevens AFC’s Saw Mills. A Longlevens XI take on an E.G. Carter XI that includes former EastEnders actor Matt Lapinskas and members of the men’s team on ITV2 reality show, Survival of the Fittest. Come on down and help raise money for some great causes.